Our Red Centre Road Trip. The best spots to visit in Australia’s Red Centre – Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, West & East MacDonnell Ranges & more.
After 2 cancelled trips in 2020 (thanks covid!), we finally made it to Australia’s Red Centre. A first for myself and a second trip for Chris, we were excited to finally tick this region off our travel bucket list as a couple. There’s a lot to see and do in this part of Australia. But it’s remoteness makes travelling here a little less accessible and a little more expensive. We had read about a drive called the Red Centre Way. From what we could see, this drive, along with a few extra bits, offered the perfect Red Centre itinerary!
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 1: Yulara – Alice Springs
Our first day was a pretty standard travel day, flying from Melbourne to Yulara, arriving at 11.30am. The flight took 2.15hrs and was the fist plane we had been on in over a year. We didn’t realise how much we missed sitting on a plane for hours on end! Flying directly into Ayers Rock Airport, the highlight of our flight was capturing views of Uluru on our descent. We already knew that the next 2 weeks were going to be epic!
After arriving, we passed through the necessary covid screenings before collecting our Toyota Prado from Hertz. The next 5 hours were a little less exciting as we drove the very uneventful 4.5hrs directly to Alice Springs. Apart from seeing a few rouge camels and a brief stop at the Mount Connor Lookout, the drive was very boring! Referred to a ‘Fooluru’, Mount Connor was a pretty impressive sight. We can see how tourists may mistake Mt Connor for Uluru… well, kinda!
We arrived at our very cute accommodation ‘Nature’s Delight Granny Flat’ in Alice Springs. After meeting our host Emma, we unloaded our car and stocked up on food and beer for the next few days. Day one ended with a little BBQ for dinner and the first of many ‘holiday beers’.
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 2: Alice Springs – Emily Gorge – Jessie Gorge – Trephina Gorge, East MacDonnell Ranges
To be perfectly honest, there wasn’t much that interested us in and around Alice Springs. We generally shy away from towns and cities as wildlife and the outdoors are what we love the most. So we kicked off our second day with an early morning visit to the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens.
Olive Pink Botanical Gardens
Olive Pink Botanic Gardens are not your typical botanical gardens. There was no lush green grass or manicured gardens here. Instead, they were replaced with red rocky hills and dry native plants. A perfect reflection of environment we were in. We arrived at 8am as the gates opened, hoping to spot some native birdlife and Black-footed Rock Wallabies. The gardens were actually quite small, but packed a decent punch! For anyone wanting to see Black-footed wallabies, we recommend climbing up Tharrarletneme (Annie Meyers Hill). Not only did we see a mob of Euro’s (Wallaroo’s) bouncing by, we also saw dozens of Black-footed Rock Wallabies. We got get pretty close to some, who where warming up in the morning sun. But others were a bit skittish as they protected their little joey’s snuggling in their pouches.
We found numerous native flowers and some beautiful birdlife too. These included Australian Ringneck, Western Bower Birds and Budgies, just to name a few. For us, it was a brilliant start to our day and our Red Centre road trip!
**Read the full blog: Olive Pink Botanic Garden – A must see for wildlife lovers in Alice Springs!
Emily Gap & Jessie Gap
Our next stop was Trephina Gorge in the East MacDonell Ranges, a short drive from Alice Springs. But we made 2 brief stops at Emily Gap & Jessie Gap along the way. Both gaps are small spiritual sites and were nice and peaceful, with no one else around. We walked along the dry river beds at both which didn’t take long. It’s possible to see rock art at Emily Gap. However as these are both sacred sites, photos are restricted at some points. We saw loads of colourful budgies here, which kept us and our cameras busy! But the highlight of the drive though was passing a Perentie to the side of the road. Perentie are actually the largest Monitor Lizard (Goanna) native to Australia and this guys was particularly photogenic!
Trephina Gorge – East MacDonell Ranges
Arriving at Trephina Gorge we found a place to park and pitch our tent at Trephina Gorge Campground. This was the bigger of the 3 tent friendly campgrounds. It offered better valley views and was located closer to the trailhead of a few different walks.
There were a number of walks available in the area and after settling in, we set off on the Trephina Gorge Walk. Wow, what a stunning start to our visit to the East MacDonnell Ranges! The 1hr loop offered stunning views over the deep red cliffs and dry river bed below, totally exceeding our expectations. After soaking in the vistas, we continued onto the Panorama Walk. This walk also offered beautiful views and from its peak, was a great place to watch the sunset. On top of the stunning outback scenery, there was an abundance of birdlife around too.
**Read the full blog: Trephina Gorge – East MacDonnell Ranges
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 3: Trephina Gorge – Simpsons Gap – Standley Chasm
After an early morning spent bird watching at a small water hole, we made our way back to Alice Springs. The next stop on our Red Centre road trip was the more popular West MacDonnell Ranges. So we stocked up on food, ice and refuelled, as we would have no access to shops for a while.
Our first stop in the West MacDonnell Ranges was Simpsons Gap, a short drive from the centre of Alice Springs. Simpsons Gap is a beautiful gorge, home to a permanent water hole with dramatic red cliffs towering above. As we stepped out of our car, we followed a well maintained path down to the water filled gorge. This was a really beautiful spot to spend some time and a perfect place to enjoy a picnic. When we arrived, there were very few other people around, giving us the opportunity to really soak in our surroundings.
After spending some time at Simpsons Gap, we continued on our Red Centre road trip to Standley Chasm, a privately owned and operated Aboriginal enterprise. The property consists of a grassy camp area, cafe, ablution block, 2 hot water showers and the chasm itself. Chris ventured off to check out the chasm before it closed for the day. There were no people down at the chasm, however as it was getting darker, he didn’t spend too much time there. The campsite was reasonably busy, but as most campers were Larapinta Trail hikers, we experienced a very quiet night.
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 4: Standley Chasm – Ellery Creek Big Hole
We visited the chasm as it opened at 8am, before the day trippers arrived. And we only had to share the experience with the outrageously strong wind which tunnelled through the chasm. The chasm is essentially another gorge, with 80m of sheer red rock face towering above. It was every bit as beautiful as we imagined and we would loved to have spent more time there. However the freezing cold wind gusts killed the moment. The chasm was in full shade, which we preferred in some ways as it eliminated any shadows in our photos. But the shade also made it pretty chilly!
Most people only visit the chasm and leave. But we were keen to explore the area a little more. So we hiked to a few viewpoints above and around the chasm for a different perspective. We first hike up part of section 4 of the Larapinta Trail to a lookout. The views were nice, but we wanted more! Following the path back towards the chasm, we found the trail leading to section 3 of the Larapinta Trail. We took the uphill trail until we reached a peak, which offer stunning views back over the West MacDonnell Ranges. We had read that this section of the Larapinta Trail is one of the most scenic and we can totally see why. However the wind from up there was relentless.
Before we left, we popped back down to the chasm. It was noon and we’d been told this was the best time to photograph the chasm as it would be in full sun. The chasm was now glowing a rich red, quite the contrast to the shaded colours we’d seen earlier. At this stage, we were wondering if the West MacDonnell Ranges could get much better?
Ellery Creek Big Hole
Continuing on our Red Centre road trip, we drove the short 40mins to Ellery Creek Big Hole. After claiming one of the few remaining campsites and setting up camp, we made our way down to the waterhole late afternoon. Again, we stood in front of another stunning water filled gorge, surrounded by native trees and birds. Ellery Creek is a popular spot for day trippers, especially in the hotter months. It was a little busy down by the waterhole and way too cold to swim. So we decided to hike the nearby Dolomites Trail. This was a really nice hike with some more beautiful scenery.
After capturing some epic views along the trail, we saw our first pair of Major Mitchell Cockatoos. These guys were so beautiful and as avid wildlife lovers, we spent some time following them around. As with everywhere we’d visited on our Red Centre road trip, the birdlife here was pretty good. It was the perfect way to end our day.
Red Centre Road Trip Day 5: Ellery Creek Big Hole – Serpentine Gorge – Ormiston Gorge – Fink River
One of the best things about camping for us, is that we tend to wake up early without an alarm. This is particularly helpful when we want to go sightseeing and beat the crowds. If you camp at Ellery Creek, we recommend heading down to the water early in the morning. Chances are you’ll have this magical place all to yourself, just as we did. Chris even braved the freezing cold water and went in for a morning dip…. although the water was so cold he didn’t make it the whole way in! There was no wind when we first arrived, but it didn’t take long for that to change!
After drying off, we packed up camp and continued on our Red Centre road trip. We were only a few kms down the road when we saw a Dingo in the bushes. This was a first for me; Chris had seen some years before on Fraser Island. We were both pretty excited to see a wild Dingo, as we’d only heard them howling during the night so far.
Our next stop was Serpentine Gorge. By the time we reached the gorge, the soft morning light had pretty much disappeared. Not the best time for photos, so we hiked up to the lookout above the gorge. This was our favourite part of this place, as the surrounding views were really beautiful. On our way down, we swung by the gorge for another look. This time, the light was little better, but we still preferred the views from above!
As we drove on towards Ormiston Gorge, we quickly pulled in to check out the Ochre Pits. It was interesting to see defined red walls of ochre, mined for generations by the local Aboriginal people. Ochre is a mineral with various earthy tones, with cultural importance in the Aboriginal community. It has been used for a range of different things in everyday life.
After reaching Ormiston Gorge, we noticed how busy the car park was. This was definitely the busiest attraction we’d visited on our Red Centre road trip. We wandered down to the gorge and wow, what a stunning place. Despite the chilly water, there were a few people swimming, with many others basking on the surrounding banks. As we’d experienced everyday so far, the wind was blowing through the gorge, ensuring we weren’t too hot! We decided to hike the Ghost Gum trail, which led straight to a lookout above the gorge. We followed the trail along the side of the gorge, but eventually came to a stand still. The trail was taking us right into the water. Not keen to wade through deep cold water to reach the other side, we doubled back, returning the way we came.
Despite not completing the entire loop, we’d recommend doing the first section of the trail as it offered some beautiful views. By this stage, it was late afternoon and most day trippers had left. This gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy the gorge pretty much to ourselves! Ormiston Gorge is actually quite big, so it’s worth allowing a good amount of time to explore the area.
It’s possible to camp at the gorge, however the campground was full and way too busy for our liking anyway. Chris tried to brave the cold water again, but still couldn’t fully submerge himself haha. After drying off, we hit the road.
Finke River 2 Mile bush camp
We drove a short distance to the nearby Finke River 2 Mile camping area and found a spot to camp. As a bush camp with no amenities, 2 Mile turned out to be our favourite camping spot. Not only was it peaceful, there were only a few other campers nearby and there were loads of birds around. Major Mitchell’s filled the trees nearby and drank at the rivers bank, whilst Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and budgies were flying overhead. We were able to have a small fire while we watched the sunset over the river, beer in hand. The best part was that it was free. Absolutely our kind of place!
**Read the full blog: Finke River 2 Mile – The best bushcamp in the West MacDonnell Ranges
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 6: 2 Mile – Glen Helen – Redbank Gorge
We were up before sunrise and drove a few kms to the Mt Sonder lookout. From here, we put the drone up at sunrise, catching a glimpse of our campsite with Mount Sonder in the distance. Such a beautiful lookout and a great start to our morning.
Glen Helen Gorge
Once we packed up our camp, we drove the few kms to Glen Helen Gorge. Due to Covid-19, the popular Glen Helen Lodge has closed along with the road leading to the lodge. Although access to the gorge used to be from the lodge, the gorge is still open. It’s now accessible via an alternative trail which starts right by the road block and next to an information sign.
Marked with blue arrows, the trail is a short and easy walk. However, the arrows eventually stop in the middle of a partially dry river bed. And from there, it took us a while to figure out where to go next. After walking around in circles for a few minutes, we finally found a way across the river and reach the gorge. We’re glad we made the effort to check it out as it was really beautiful. We spent an hour or so at Glen Helen Gorge completely alone, then continued on our Red Centre road trip to Redbank Gorge.
Redbank Gorge has 2 structured campgrounds. After doing a recce of both, we chose a secluded campsite at the Woodlands Campground. We pitched our tent, had lunch, then went to check out the gorge. The trail to the gorge cuts through a dry rocky river bed and requires a reasonable amount of rock hoping. Of course, it was well worth the while as the gorge was just stunning.
Chris braved the cold water yet again only this time, he fully submerged himself and swam right down the gorge. By the time he returned, the few other people who were around had left. The only downside with visiting Redbank Gorge late afternoon was that the sun had dropped below the gorge. On a hot day, this would probably be a nice relief from the heat. But as the temperature was only a little above 20°c during our visit, it was pretty cold, made even colder by the strong wind.
We had no real plans for the rest of the afternoon, other than to chill by our camp fire. We were keen to get an early night as we were going to hike Mt Sonder for sunrise the following morning!
**Read the full blog: Mount Sonder sunrise hike
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 7: Mount Sonder – Tylers Pass -Finke Gorge National Park (Palm Valley)
There is absolutely nothing appealing about a 2am alarm, especially when it’s a chilly 3°c outside! Feeling less than enthused, we dragged ourselves out of bed and made a coffee. Our plan was to hike Mt Sonder, reaching the peak in time to watch the sunrise.
Hiking Mt Sonder
The hike starts and finishes at the Redbank Gorge carpark and is actually section 12 of the Larapinta trail. Rated Moderate to difficult with a 3.5hr climb time, we started hiking just before 3am. We were conscious that hiking in the dark may take us longer and wanted to make sure we didn’t miss sunrise.
We need not have worried, as we reached the summit at 5.15am, over an hour faster than suggested. Sunrise was at 7am, which meant we had a loooong and extremely cold wait at the top. Of course it was the coldest morning of our travels, with the temperature dropping to about 1°. But the kicker was the gale force winds which made sitting still a truely awful experience! But it was all worth it in the end, as we witnessed the sun light up the sky. Gradually, about 30 other hikers appeared, who soon after the sun rose, disappeared en-mass. The vistas from the summit were breathtaking, making it hard for us to leave.
When we finally did start our descent, we got to enjoy the scenery we couldn’t see on the way up. Yep, another WOW moment! What a seriously beautiful hike. We would highly recommend hiking Mt Sonder if you’re in the area and want to witness some epic views of the Red Centre.
**Read the full blog: Mount Sonder sunrise hike
It took us 2.5hrs to reach the car and return to our tent. A shower at this point would have been amazing, but seeing as we didn’t have that option, we continued on our Red Centre road trip, leaving the West MacDonnell Ranges. But not before stopping at Tyler’s Pass where we took advantage of the views of the nearby Tnorala Gosse Bluff Conservation Reserve. The scenery we’d witnessed over the past few days was nothing short of incredible and we were excited to see what the rest of our trip would bring.
Finke Gorge National Park
At this point, we were a couple of days ahead of our schedule. So we decided to take the Inner Mereenie Loop to Finke Gorge National Park via Hermannsburg. This small outback town has little more than a fuel station, 2 small minimarts and a historical precinct. But we were able to grab some ice and a permit to drive the Mereenie Loop (more on that later), before making our way to Finke Gorge National Park. We found a spot to pitch our tent at Palm Valley Campground, right by the Palm Valley Creek, before tuning into a free nature talk hosted by one of the parks rangers.
Our excitement grew as we learnt about the hot showers which were waiting for us! I wasted no time in washing my Mt Sonder sweat away before heading off to explore the surrounding area. We had more Major Mitchell’s, budgies and water birds nearby to admire, along with the occasional lizard. But the best part of the evening was the spectacular sunset which came our way!
Red Centre Road – Trip Day 8: Finke Gorge National Park – Palm Valley
After yesterday’s early morning, we didn’t set an alarm. But of course we were up with the birds in time to see the sunrise. As we rolled out of our tent, we caught the colourful morning sky reflecting into the nearby creek. Palm Valley Campground was super peaceful in the mornings, especially down by the water.
Once we’d had our morning coffee and breakfast, we took the road to Palm Valley, located inside Finke Gorge National Park. This 4km stretch of road crisscrossed over thick sandy sections, steep rocky drops and dry river beds. A interesting and nerve racking drive for a novice 4WD driver! And no, there’s no way you could access Palm Valley in a 2WD! This road is strictly high clearance 4WD territory!
Once we reached the information board, we had 2 hike options. We of course did both, one shorter and one longer hike. The lower section which stretched along the valley floor, beside the Cabbage Palms, forming part of both hikes, was by far the most stunning part. These same Cabbage Palms are found nowhere else in Australia and is where the valleys name comes from. The landscape here was insane and such a welcome surprise. We weren’t really sure to what to expect from this part of the Red Centre, as we had done very little research on the area. It was a bit of a gamble for us which paid off big time. As it turns out, Palm Valley was one of our favourite spots on our Red Centre road trip!
The upper sections of the hike were less impressive, other than a view of the valley right at the end of the trail. But we did see a lot of native reptiles, which as always, we took the time to admire. After taking a gazillion photos, we finally retreated to the campsite for lunch and a rest. But not for too long. We still had so much to see!
The Mpaara Walk & Kalarranga Lookout
We set off on the 5km Mpaara Walk late afternoon, which took us along the road and up behind an area known as the amphitheatre. The first section of the walk was actually pretty boring and we were beginning to wonder if we were wasting our time? But as we started to climb up the surrounding hills, the scenery just got better and better. We reached a lookout over the amphitheatre with epic views across the red rock formations. And as the sun began to slowly drop, the colours of the rock developed a deeper shade of red. It was hard to drag ourselves away from this spot, but as it was getting darker, we eventually pushed on. The hike finished at the Kalarranga Lookout, for another stunning sunset.
After an epic day of hiking, we walked back to the campground and made the most of another hot shower! As we sat and reflected on our day, we couldn’t believe how stunning, yet underrated this area was. If you can squeeze and extra day or two into your Red Centre itinerary, we would definitely recommend a visit!
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 9: Finke Gorge National Park – Mereenie Loop – Ginty’s Lookout
Sadly, our time at Finke Gorge National Park had come to an end. We made a quick dash back into Hermannsburg for ice and fuel before continuing on our Red Centre road trip. Fuel in the the Red Centre, with the exception of Alice Springs, is pretty expensive. We had previously paid $1.42 for diesel in Alice Springs, but were about to pay $1.86 at Hermannsburg. And the prices escalated to near $2 a litre in Yulara. Yikes! After stocking up, we hit the road. We drove back along the Inner Mereenie Loop towards Kings Canyon. After seeing dozens of signs warning of Brumbies in the area, we finally saw some. They kept their distance, with the stallion carefully protecting his family, which loitered a reasonable distance away.
Driving the Mereenie Loop
We spent the next couple of hours driving the Mereenie Loop, a 160km stretch of predominantly unsealed road connecting the West MacDonnell Ranges to Kings Canyon. The road is rough and corrugated, sandy in patches and smooth in others. There’s a lot of flood zones and the road would be boggy in parts and possibly underwater in others after rain. A 4WD is recommended to drive this road. In fact, all rental car companies insisted on a 4WD for this section. We would’t have been insured in a 2WD. This area is quite remote and we had no wifi or phone signal for the duration of the journey.
A permit is required to travel on the Mereenie Loop, although we still aren’t 100% sure why? Permits can be purchased at Alice Springs Tourist Information and Kings Canyon Resort for $5, and Hermannsburg supermarket for $6.50. As permits are only valid for 3 days from purchase date, we couldn’t buy one in Alice Springs as it would have expired before we used it. Annoyingly, Glen Helen Lodge used to sell them, which made it convenient for travellers taking their time like us. But as Glen Helen Lodge was closed (at the time of our visit), travellers are forced to drive to Hermannsburg just to grab a permit, adding an additional 80kms to their journey. Luckily we wanted to visit Palm Valley anyway.
What is truely bizarre, is that no one checks the permits! Once you buy one, that’s it! We weren’t advised that our details were registered with authorities either. So from what we understand, no-one would have even known if we had used that road. If you plan on driving the Mereenie Loop on your Red Centre road trip, check the road conditions and drive accordingly. We found 80kms, give or take a touch, was the perfect speed.
Our initial plan was to drive straight to Kings Canyon Resort and stay 2 nights. But we followed the advice of a traveller we’d met the day before and pulled into Ginty’s Lookout instead. Ginty’s Lookout is a free 24hr rest stop, located to the side of a ridge with views of Kings Canyon in the distance. It was one of few rest stops that we came across which allowed camping. And wow, what an awesome place to pitch a tent! We shared our lunch with the resident flies of which there were many, whilst gazing out at Kings Canyon. The views of were pretty special and were only enhanced by a spectacular sunset! We had a small fire that evening and although there were a few other campers around, we enjoyed a peaceful night.
Red Centre Road Trip Day – 10: Ginty’s Lookout – Kings Canyon
The Red Centre sure knows how to put on a sunrise! And today was no exception. We woke to a beautifully coloured sky which lit up our camp. I don’t think we will ever tire of watching the sun rise or set, especially when it looks like this! The great thing about staying at Ginty’s Lookout was its short 28km drive to Kings Canyon Resort. Considering a nights camping in an unpowered site at the resort costs $25 p/p, we were pretty happy with our decision to ‘rough it’ for a night.
Kings Canyon – Watarrka National Park
After checking in and setting up our camp, we had breakfast and drove down to Kings Canyon, which is located inside Watarrka National Park. We noticed that the large carpark was quite full and it quickly became apparent that we had entered prime tourist territory! Haha. To this point, we’d mostly rubbed shoulders with Grey Nomads. But we were now seeing a lot of families and younger couples.
There’s a few hiking options at Kings Canyon. We elected to do the gentle 2.6km return walk to Kings Creek first. This was a nice way to start our day at the canyon and once complete, we quickly had lunch. After filling our bellies, we decided to embark on the spectacular 6km Rim Walk. And all we can say is wow, wow, wow! Every corner we turned unveiled another spectacular view. The most dramatic views were of the sheer cliff drops across the centre of the canyon. But the most serene spot was down the Garden of Eden.
We spent around 3 hours exploring Kings Canyon before making our way back to Kings Canyon Resort. The day passed so quickly and before we knew it, it was almost time for sunset. So we had a quick shower, grabbed a beer and headed to the sunset viewpoint within the resort. There were quite a lot of people there waiting for the sun to set and the very moment it did, most people left. We along with a few others stood and enjoyed the best part of any beautiful sunset – the afterglow. What an incredible day!
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 11: Kings Canyon – Yulara – Uluru
We only had one more area to tick off on our Red Centre road trip. Blown away with the beauty we had seen so far, we knew the best was yet to come! We made the 3 hour journey from Kings Canyon to Yulara. This drive was anything but exciting, broken up briefly by a stop at Kathleen Springs, only 23kms from Kings Canyon. When we finally got to Yulara, we went straight to Ayers Rock Resort, checking into the campground. We’d allowed 3 nights here, giving us ample time to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta at both sunrise and sunset.
Sunset at Uluru
We expected the Uluru sunset viewpoint to be busy. So we purchased our entry tickets online, grabbed some ice and made our way to the park. As one of the first to arrive, we got a great spot. We were hoping for a stunning sunset and boy did did we get one! We watched in awe as the colours of the rock glowed and changed colours as the sun dropped behind us. There is something quite mesmerising about Uluru and we couldn’t help but wonder if we could get a better view?
Just before the sunsets afterglow began, we decided to drive on and see if we could find a different angle. It was a gamble, as we didn’t know where to stop and if we’d left it too late. But our gamble paid off. Just around the corner, we pulled onto the side of the road with awesome unobstructed views of Uluru. And the best part was that no one else was around. The fairy floss like clouds lit up hues of pink and purple, leaving us speechless. Another big WOW moment on our Red Centre road trip!
Red Centre Road Trip Day 12: Uluru
We couldn’t visit Uluru without trying to see a sunrise. So we found ourselves at the sunrise viewing area super early, trying to find the perfect spot to settle into. This proved to be more difficult that we expected as the official sunrise viewing area consists of kilometres of walking paths, along with a viewing platform. At first, we couldn’t find the platform in the dark. And by the time we finally found it, the best spot was taken. So we had to settle for what seemed to be the second best spot. As the sun rose, the sky lit up deep shades of red and orange, with pinks and purples. This as always was the best time to photograph Uluru as the clouds and sky looked amazing.
But it wasn’t our day for an Uluru light show. The clouds rolled in and shaded the rock, eliminating any chance of Uluru changing colour with the sun. We guess you win some and loose some right?!
Uluru Base Walk
Given that we were so close to Uluru, we continued on to the Kuniya carpark at the base of Uluru. After coffee and breakfast, we commenced our walk around Uluru. There’s several walks available here, with the longest being the 10.6km base walk. We headed clockwise toward the Mala carpark, completing the Lungkata Walk section, before continuing on to complete the Mala Walk. These initial sections of the walk hug the base of Uluru, before the track stretches further away. We ended our walk back at the Kuniya carpark, after exploring Mutitjulu Waterhole and Indigenous rock art inside a nearby cave. Overall, this was a beautiful walk which gave a totally different perspective of Uluru and its surroundings.
Helicopter flight over Uluru/Kata Tjuta
We had a few hours to chill back at the campsite before experiencing what we call the ‘main event’. We had booked a sunset helicopter flight with Professional Helicopter Services over Uluru and Kata Tjuta and couldn’t wait to see these famous landmarks from above. Annoyingly the clear sky had all but completely clouded over. That said, we had just enough break in the clouds for some beautiful sunset colours and a few golden moments over Uluru. Our 36min flight took us over to Kata Tjuta and of course, Uluru. I had the front seat and arguably the best views, where as Chris had a window seat in the back. Between us, we managed to get some shots that we’re pretty happy with. Of course, this was a highlight of our trip. If you have the time and money, we’d highly recommend a sunset flight.
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 13: Kata Tjuta
We were tempted to get up for another sunrise at Uluru, but the weather wasn’t looking good. Wind and cloud was on the horizon, so we didn’t bother. We had reserved our final full day of our Red Centre road trip to explore Kata Tjuta. As Kata Tjuta, also referred to as Mt Olga/The Olga’s, was a 52km drive from our campsite, we only wanted to drive there once.
The word Kata Tjuta literally means ‘many heads’. And when you see this series of rock formations up close, its name all makes sense. We stopped briefly at the Kata Tjuta Dunes viewing area along the way which offered awesome views of Kata Tjuta. And we also got some great views from the sunset view point. But it wasn’t until we were almost at the carpark that the scale and beauty of Kata Tjuta really showed. Im not sure how many times we said wow during our Red Centre road trip….. but WOW!
Valley of the Winds Walk
Whilst there was still some blue in the sky, we set off on the Valley of the Winds Walk. The entire circuit is a grade 4 – ‘moderate – difficult’, but we personally found it moderate. For sure the views from the Karingana lookout were spectacular and some of the best along the walk. We felt so small amongst the huge domes towering above us. And true to its name, the wind blowing through the valley almost knocked us off our feet! This walk well and truely exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting Kata Tjuta.
Despite taking a gazillion more photos, we were back at the carpark within 3 hours. The only thing that bothered us about visiting Kata Tjuta were the flies! Holy moly they were intense, worse than any other place we’d visited in the past 2 weeks. They were literally everywhere! We stopped to check out Walpa Gorge as we headed back to our campsite. It was a nice stop but didn’t compare to the Valley of the Winds Walk! We’d planned on watching the sunset at Kata Tjuta, but the weather again had different plans. Thick dark cloud covered the sky and we’re glad we didn’t wait around. The sky only got darker, leading to a night of desert rain! We quickly found ourselves sleeping in the back of our car – lucky we had a big roomy 4WD!
Red Centre Road Trip – Day 14: Yulara – Melbourne
And just like that, our Red Centre road trip was over! We can honestly say that this is such an incredible part of Australia that everyone should see. A few days may be enough for some, but we’d highly recommend taking a couple of weeks to soak it all in. And whilst our international borders are still firmly closed, now is the best time for Aussies to road trip the area! We got one last view of Kata Tjuta and Uluru as we flew out of Ayers Rock Airport and a view of the thick clouds that covered Melbourne’s sky on our return home!
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