When I planned my first trip to Uluru 8 years ago, Ayers Rock was the only thing I wanted to see. I thought that's all worth seeing in the Red Centre, but I was wrong. There is indeed much more to see besides the majestic Uluru Rock.
Starting from Alice Springs, the focal outback town in the heart of the Red Centre, you can explore a precious and ancient area of dramatic landscapes, red striped sandstones, small green oasis peppered with water gorges and plunge pools.
You can go camping, bushwalking, spotting wildlife, watching a myriad of native birds, marvel at stunning sunrises, sunsets and sleep under a sky covered with millions of stars.
About 300km north east of Uluru there is the Watarrka National Park also known as the Kings Canyon National Park.
Travellers tend to overlook this place because of lack of time and knowledge of the area. The Red Centre is not just vast expanses of Outback plains. There is much you can do there. if you love hiking and camping, wildlife and bird watching then it is really worth adding a couple of days to your trip plan and explore the Kings Canyon national park. What's more rewarding, after a long drive, like walking through ancient rock formations with dramatic views into 150meters depth of the gorge and over the surrounding shining red sandstones walls?
Here below you can read more on how to make the most of your Kings Canyon Tour.
How to get to Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon is located in the Watarrka National Park, south-west of Alice Springs and you can reach it by car on fully sealed roads. The drive distance is 474km. The drive is comfortable and easy, the only thing is that the route on sealed roads takes you forth and back to the same highway, you cannot take a short cut, unfortunately.
However, if you plan to hire a 4WD car there is a more scenic drive to reach Kings Canyon through the Meerenie Loop Road from the Western Mc Donnel Ranges. If you go this route from Alice Springs the drive distance is 330km. I drove on sealed roads with a 2WD car, but I would have preferred the more scenic way, which I recommend.
Beware that you are not allowed to use 2WD rental cars on unsealed roads in the Australian Outback, so be sure you hire a proper 4WD car if you want to get there through the Western McDonnell Ranges.
Some of the best Kings Canyon Walks
There are 2 main walks. A short and easy walk along the creek bed and the main one the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. It's a 6km walk to suit all fitness levels. There is only a short climb to the rim, it takes a few minutes though and then the walk is easy. It takes 3 to 4 hours to walk on a loop, depending on how long you stop along your way you can stay spend hours there. To fully enjoy this walk it's better to start early in the morning, 6-30-7.00am would it be ideal to see the sun rising and shining on the red sandstone walls of the Kings Canyon.
Moreover early in the morning wildlife and birds are active and the chance of spotting kangaroos and native birds is higher. Avoid the hottest hours of the day, around midday, because the sun up there on the plateau is truly burning your skin. Be sure you take lots of water with you, 3-4 litres.
Here you can learn more about the Kings Canyon Rim Walk.
Besides the Rim Walk which is the highlight of the place there one more walk worth considering if you plan a longer Kings Canyon Tour: the Giles Track 22km overnight walk with camping facilities en route. For more information, you can click on this link to view the map of all Kings Canyon walks.
Where to Stay at Kings Canyon
A visit to Kings Canyon Park has many advantages. One of these is that you do not have to drive long distances to reach your accommodation. The Kings Canyon Resort is located only 6 km driving distance from the Kings Canyon Car Park.
The Kings Canyon Resort is a great place to stay overnight, it offers all types of accommodation ranging from budget rooms and family apartments, luxury hotel rooms, to a fully equipped camping site. I spent a couple of nights there in March and it was a very peaceful and relaxing place to stay. The resort offers also a great sunset viewing point and 2 restaurants. During low season only one restaurant is operating though.
My tips for visiting Kings Canyon
As said many tourists tend to underestimate the Kings Canyon and obviously prefer the Uluru Rock. While I would not expect people skip the Uluru to see the Kings Canyon, it makes sense to plan the trip to Ayers Rock with a couple of days more to allow plenty of time to fully enjoy the Red Centre attractions and see as much as you can of this magnificent area. It offers lots of wonderful opportunities for walking and hiking with camping sites too.
I would recommend spending at least 4-5 nights to see Alice Springs, the Western McDonnell Ranges, finally the Uluru Rock and the Olgas Katja Tjuta.
Check out our Red Centre Travel Guide to help you plan your adventure in all details.