The Australian Outback is a huge part of the country. However, a lot people go to Australia and never see it. In reality, if you want to see the real Australia, then step away from the edges. Y
es, the coast is gorgeous, yes the reef is amazing, yes the cities are lively, but the outback is where it gets interesting.
The heart of the Australian Outback is Uluru: the largest single rock formation in the world. There’s more than just a giant rock in this area. Called “the red center”, you’ve got canyons, gorges, camels, all near the giant rock that is Uluru.
Alice Springs to Adelaide
The first time I experienced the outback of Australia was on a tour from Alice Springs to Adelaide. This is a large chunk but still not all of the outback. Personally, I wish I had driven it myself instead of going on a tour, but more on that later.
Today I’m sharing my top ten experiences not to miss on the drive from Alice Springs to Adelaide. Plus, I’m dropping some serious knowledge when I tell you the best time of year to visit this part of the country. You’re not going to want to miss this.
10 Experiences Not to Miss
1. West MacDonnell Ranges
When starting in Alice Springs, you are actually about a five-hour drive from Uluru. Remember, I told you that the area is huge. Nevertheless, it’s worth flying into Alice Springs and staying at least a night to experience the West MacDonnell Ranges.
It’s easy to hit all the top places in this area in a day and have time for a few hikes and swimming. The places not to miss include the following: Ormiston Gorge, Ochre Pits, Ellery Creek Big Hole, and Stanley Chasm.
2. Kings Canyon
When leaving Alice Springs you can next hit Kings Canyon. It’s a bit of a drive (about 5-6 hours) so give yourself the day. It’s a super easy drive though. Think flat, straight, and nothing for a long time. However, when you do arrive at Kings Canyon you’ll see why it’s worth the trip.
A lot of people opt to do the rim walk. It’s steep at first to get up there, but then it’s a pretty easy hike at the top of the canyon. This hike is about 6 hours, so be sure you’re up to it and take water.
3. Uluru Hike
There’s a bit of debate when it comes to hiking at Uluru. At the time when I went, it was still legal to climb the rock. However, Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginal people and they ask you not to climb it. I’m not here to say whether or not you should or shouldn’t climb it. That’s up to you. I personally chose to walk around the base of it.
Honestly, it looked like a lot of work to climb to the top of the rock and when you get up there, there’s not much to see because you’re standing on the most interesting thing in the area. Regardless of what you decide to do, be sure you walk at least part way around the base of it. It’s really very interesting up close.
4. Uluru Sunset or Sunrise
It was actually a bit cloudy and rainy the first time I was at Uluru, but the sunsets and the sunrises were still worth it.
5. Kata Tjuta
Right next to Uluru, and often overlooked is Kata Tjuta. A lot of people who visit this area tend to like Kata Tjuta more than Uluru. To me, they are just different. Kata Tjuta is several different rock formations all sitting together. It’s not as well-known because it can’t claim to be the “largest SINGLE rock formation in the world.” It is, well worth visiting and hiking.
6. Camel Ride
Next, don’t miss the chance to ride a camel in the Australian Outback. We did the sunset tour and it was well worth a bit of extra money. They also provide free drinks and snacks afterwards.
7. Coober Pedy
After you’ve finished Uluru and surrounds then you’ve technically completed the “red center”. It’s then quite the drive down to Adelaide (about 10 hours). This is why most people don’t go beyond the red center. However, I definitely recommend continuing the drive.
Mostly because of what you find before Adelaide. I loved Coober Pedy. It’s an “underground” town and where most of the opals in the world are found. It’s very interesting and definitely the real Australia.
8. Kangaroo Orphanage
In Coober Pedy there is also a small Kangaroo orphanage inside one of the galleries. It’s really adorable to see the baby kangaroos up close. The people who run it are lovely as well.
9. Flinders Ranges
After you leave Coober Pedy, you’ll head down to Adelaide and meet up with Flinders Ranges. Flinders Ranges is the single longest mountain range in Australia. While I realize that most people don’t travel to Australia for mountains, these are still worth seeing.
10. Alligator Gorge Hike
Finally, right outside of Adelaide is the Alligator Gorge. It’s lovely and shouldn’t be missed. When we did it, it had rained quite a bit so we couldn’t actually do the whole walk but we did do quite a bit and it was well worth it, even though it rained on us a little.
When to Visit the Australian Outback
That sums up the 10 places you shouldn’t miss from Alice Springs to Adelaide. So moving on, when is the best time to visit the Australian Outback’s red center? Fall or winter. Absolutely, 100% would never go back in the late spring or summer. No, it’s not because of the heat.
I’m from Texas, I can take the heat and I love summer. I love that I got to swim in the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges, however, the flies are too much.
I don’t mean one or two flies coming around, think thousands. And they land all over you. I went back to this area with my parents in the “winter” and it was remarkable how much more pleasant it was. There were NO flies.
I really can’t explain the flies well enough, but if you’ve ever been on a ranch and you see how the flies land on cows, it’s basically the same. Except, they are landing on you. If you take nothing else away from this post, take this.
Beyond the Red Center
There is a lot more of the Australian outback than the red center. I would also recommend the Kimberleys, Francios Peron National Park, Shark Bay, Broome, and so much more. Click the prior links to find out more and stay tuned as I’ll be sharing more about the Australian outback in the future.
Me too. Let’s be friends.