How to discover the Australian Red Centre
The Australian Red Centre is indeed a special place to be. Although a visit to the Uluru ought to be the most memorable experience for first time travellers to Australia not all visitors experience the greatness of the place as it should be. As all big attractions in the world Uluru has also become a touristy destination with all the drawbacks that this implies. During peak seasons loads of buses full with tourists do contribute to spoil the spiritual and peaceful atmosphere that makes this place famous for.
There are a few things you should take into consideration when planning a visit to the Australian Red Centre attractions to avoid the above situations and make of your visit an enjoyable and memorable experience! Read the section below where you find practical information, tips and tricks on how to make the most of your stay at the iconic Australia’s natural and cultural treasure.
How to get to the Australia Red Centre and how to get around
If you are in Alice Springs you can hire a car an drive yourself on the main sealed roads for approx 460km, along the Stuart Highway and the Lasseter Highway. Or if you prefer you can drive through the more scenic Mereenie Loop along the Larapinta drive, if you decide to do so, you have the chance of seeing some of the most attractive desert country in Australia, as well as many interesting places such as the The Hermannsburg Historical Precinct, Palm Valley, the Finke Gorge National Park.
You can obviosuly reach the Red Centre from all major airports in Australia. From Ayers Rock Airport you can hire a car and drive to Yulara and the Ayers Rock Resort, which has been created in the 80’s to provide for the anticipated growth of visitors at the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park. If you decide to drive yourself you can visit the Uluru Rock, which is 20km from the resort and Kata Tjuta, about 50km from the resorts and townshhip area.
Hiring a car is the better option if you, reach Ayers Rock from Alice Springs or if you intend to head north to Alice Springs. So you can either start from Ayers Rock and drive to Alice Springs or vice versa.
If you are flying to Ayers Rock and then leave from the airport again, there is not need to hire a car, you can use the shuttle bus at theAyers Rock Resort, which runs both destinations: Uluru & Kata Tjuta very frequently during the day, and obviously also at dawn and dusk to allow visitors to enjoy Sunrise and Sunset viewing of the rocks.
Where to stay at Ayers Rock
The Ayers Rock Resort at Yulara provides all the services required by travellers to make of their stay a truly enjoyable outback experience. The offer includes a variety of accomodation from budget, luxury hotels to camping sites, shopping facilities, police station, clinic, emergency service and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. For more information about the Ayers Rock Accommodation available click on the link.
What to see at the Red Centre
So now are you ready to see the glowing and changing color rock From the Ayers Rock Resort you drive 5 km to the Uluru-Kata TjutaNational Park Entry station: to enter the National Park everyone above 16 years pay a fee, AUS25, this fee allows to visit the entire area for 3 days. You will receive maps and leaflets of the area. Start your visit from the
- The Cultural Centre a magnificent cultural centre! If you want to learn more about the lives of the Anangu people, the ancient aboriginal owners of the land. There are audio and visual displays providing a fascinating insight into the relationship to their land through rituals and ceremonies. Moreover withing the Cultural Centre there is the Maruku Arts and Crafts, an arts co-operative representing aboriginal people from West, South and Central Australia. Inside the centre you can also buy unique clothing, books, paintings and if you wish you can join the Anangu Tours, their guided walks are really worth it.
- The Sunrise and Sunset Viewing– yes, you should do both, some people like better the sunrise, some the sunset, one thing for sure, the Rock never looks the same! It all depends on the weather conditions, it can glow a fiery red, to a deep purple and change dramatic colouring, especially when heavy storm clouds and sunlight is breaking through the horizont.
- The Walks at Uluru there are various walks you can experience, the walk around the around the base of Uluru is a must! The Base Walk is about 9km in circumference and 348 metres in height, it taks about 3-4 hours to go round. Start early after sunrise and take lots of water with you! The Mala Walk is a 2km walk is a free guided walk offered by park rangers and is part of the base walk. I can highly recommend you take the guided walk for these 2km of the Mala Walk and then you can proceed on your own, it is really worth listening to the information about the Uluru provided by the rangers.
More things to see and do at Uluru
- Walking along the base of Uluru
you will come to many boulders, cliffs, and cave formations with painted and marked walls illustrating stories and legends of the ancient people. There are other walks, you can enjoy either by yourself, by using the park signage and brochures, or if you prefer you can make them in the company of an Anangu guides or Park Rangers. More details about the major walks in the next sections about the National Park.
- The Uluru Climb
About the Uluru climb I will not say much, because I am one of those who have not climbed on top of the Uluru and will never do. I know how this is such a controversial topic and so much has been written about it.Even though I personally do not agree with the climb I feel it should not be banned! Everybody shall have the freedom to decide whether to climb it or not. Is someone travels all the way just to climb the Uluru, definitely he/she is missing out so much on the real significance of the whole place, but it’s their choice.
I am interested in experiencing its natural and cultural spectacle in other ways, climbing did not even cross my mind even for a sec when I was there. People who perceive it in a different way must feel free to do so.
The Olgas, Kata Tjuta
The Kata Tjuta, meaning “many heads”, is the second breathtaking beauty, about 50 km driving from Uluru, it consists of over 30 spectacular domes separated by gorges and watercourses. A natural treasure offering spectacular walks and amazing view. On the way to the Olgas, stop at the Dunes Viewieng Area, from here you can view and absorb the magnificence of the domes, and spot the Uluru in the distance. Especially at sunrise a memorable experience! At the Olgas, there are two main walks I highly recommend, these are:
- Olga Gorge Walk (about 1hour) takes you to the rocky comglomerate from which Kata Tjuta was created. The walk ends to to a viewing platform.
The Valley of the Winds Walk is a more strenous than the shorter Gorge walk, but well worth the effort. The 4hours walk will reward you with a spectacular scenery, vegetation and birdlife are prolific around the base of the domes and within the gorges and watercorses. At the Olgas is not as crowded as the Uluru, however to absorb the magnificence of this walk start early in the morning or late afternoon.
The Kings Canyon Australia
- This is another area of the Red Centre you should see on your way to Alice Springs. You can either drive yourself or join a tour. Driving from Uluru is about 300km. and about 460 from Alice Springs. Kings Canyon is located inside the Watarrka National Parkand is by far the biggest attraction. This massive red sandstone, 100meter high with platform of rocky formations. There are 2 walks, the Kings Creek Walk, an easy walk along the bottom of the rock.
The Kings Canyon Rim Walkis a 6km (3-4hours) beautiful but strenous walk, with a steep climbing up onto the platform, then walk around the rim of the Canyon. From the top you can also climb down to a waterhole, the Garden of Eden. From the top you can enjoy spectacular views and a varied scenery all the way down too. Keep reading on when to go, for how long and how to choose to visit this area.
More Walks in the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park
As I said before there are 3 major walks within the park, one around the base of Uluru, one into the Walley of the Winds and another into the Ogla Gorge. Moreover there are also different and shorter walks, the following one are offered as guided walks by the Anangu Tours and by Park Rangers.
- The Mala Walk The walk starts at 8.00am (Oct-Apr) and 10.00am (Sept-Mai). From the base to the nrothern face of Uluru, the daily free guided walk tells about the arrival of Mala people at Uluru, their climb to the top of Uluru to erect a special cerimonial pole, their attack and killing among indigenous tribes.
- The Liru Walk fom the Cultural Centre to the base of the Uluru (2km) Guided walks are available by Anangu Tours.
- The Kunija Walk Along the Mutitjulu track, to the waterhole at the base of Uluru, a very important cultural site for the Anangu people. A brochure and signage along the track tell about the two major legends.
Some facts about the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park
In this Australia’heart arid zone rainfall is average 250mm a year. Temperatures range from -1°C to 45°C during summer (Dec-Feb). Rain is very unpredictable though. In some years there is almost no rain, in some there are floods. Good Season is when they record 400-500mm of water allowing spinifex will flourish and yellow and pink daisies cover the mulga woodlands giving visitors a very different and colourful impression of the desert. When it rains Uluru and Kata Tjuta change dramatically, water fills dry creeks into flooding dry desert sands, creating a fertile fringe of grasses, desert oak trees and mulga woodlands. The rich flora embraces 416 indigenous species, 25 specias of mammals, 178 sepcies of birds, and 72 reptile species.
Tips for making the most of your Uluru Trip
Finally my tips on when, for how long and how to visit. These are my best tips for you:
- First Golden Rule – avoid peak season Do not visit the Uluru and the Red Centre at peak season, avoid mad crowds of June-August. If you can visit in the March-Apri or Sept-October months, the less visited.
- Plan enough time for your visit How much time do you need? 2 days for Uluru and and Kata Tjuta and 4 days if you include Kings Canyon and one week altogether including Alice Springs and the West and East Mc Donnel Ranges.
- How to get around
Self-driving is the best to drive around. You do not need a tour to visit Uluru Kata Tjuta, the Yulara is provided with best transportation service to commute visitors to and from both destinations. If you want to visit Kings Canyon and other natural attractions in the Red Centre, most roads are sealed, and you will not need a 4WD to reach all of this. 2WD is sufficient for a great experience.
- Best Time to Visit April to May is the best time, May is the ideal time if you plan to visit to the Northern Territory.