Rewind a few years back to when you thought Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) was just a big rock in the middle of Australia. “Why’s that worth seeing?”, you thought. I mean, I’d rather pay half to go to Bali. Fast-forward to your latter 20’s and suddenly, those beer-fuelled trips are over and there’s nothing more attractive than a trip out to the Red Centre. We can only thank Instagram stars for fuelling our curiosity for nature’s wonder, and the lure of glowing sunsets. In the end, childhood dreamtime stories bring us back to the centre of Aboriginal history. Here’s a guide to the top experiences, from Alice Springs to Uluru.
On landing, kick things off in Alice Springs and get acquainted with Aboriginal history at the Araluen Arts Centre. Then, stroll along Todd Street and take your pick of the chilled out cafés along this street. Hike up Anzac Hill and gaze across the town to the MacDonnell Ranges once you reach the top. It’s just a tease of the epic landscapes that are yet to come.
1. Take a half-day tour around Alice Springs
Short on time and want to pack in the town’s best attractions? Book onto the Alice Springs Half Day Tour and you’ll see the town’s most interesting sites from the comfort of a luxury shuttle bus.
The tour gets going with a stop at The School of Air where children who live remotely access learning programmes via radio broadcasts. Then it’s on to the Telegraph Station – the site where the first Europeans settled. You’ll also spend time at the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia where you’ll find out how medical aid is taken to people who live in even the remotest parts of the outback. If lizards and snakes are your thing, you’ll see them up close at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
To finish the day off, the tour ends by venturing to the top of Anzac Hill for the best viewpoint over the town and MacDonnell Ranges. It’s a packed afternoon and easily the best way to tick off all of the town’s sites in one go.
2. Delve into the Alice Springs Explorer Tour adventure
Get stuck into the best bits that Alice Springs and Uluru have to offer on a two-day Alice Springs Explorer Tour. Your first stop is a camel farm where you can get up close to the hump-backed mammals and even enjoy a ride (note that this costs extra). Afterwards, you’ll head to the flat-topped Mount Conner, and then on to the base of Uluru to take a stroll from Kuniya Walk to the Mutitjulu Waterhole. Spot the Aboriginal rock paintings and learn more about the Anangu people in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. Finish day one by watching the sun set over Uluru.
Day two comes packed with a trip to Kings Canyon, a tasty breakfast at Kings Creek Station, and then a hike up to the edge of the canyon in Watarrka National Park. From here, you’ll enjoy a 3-hour guided walk and learn about the fascinating geology and history of this area from your guide. The luxury shuttle bus will take you back to Alice Springs at the end of the day.
3. Take an Uluru Base sunset tour
Nothing can prepare you for the sheer size and scale of Uluru when you visit for the first time – even returning visitors continue to be astounded by this majestic feat of nature. The huge rock formation rises up 348m, and has a circumference of just under 10km. To say it’s impressive is an understatement! What makes it seem even more spectacular is the stark contrast of the incredibly flat landscape that surrounds this UNESCO-listed landmark.
On the Uluru Base & Sunset Tour, you’ll be taken on a guided walk around the rock, discovering more about the sacred sites, the Aboriginal and European history of the area, and the importance of this special place to the local people. Enjoy a glass of wine while the sun sets, and then tuck into a BBQ beneath the stars in this unique location. This experience is one to be savoured.
4. Explore Kings Canyon and the outback panoramas
If you’re visiting Uluru, there’s no excuse not to make time to explore Kings Canyon. It’s part of Watarrka National Park and the hiking here is the best it gets. Trek dusty red pathways and gaze up at rugged, red cliff faces. You can stand perilously close to the edge of the canyon rim and soak up skies that, come sunset, almost colour-match the earth you’re walking on.
The Kings Canyon & Outback Panoramas Tour kicks off with breakfast at Kings Creek Station to set you up for a day’s hiking. There’s a fair bit of walking and you need to be physically fit to get to the top of the canyon. If you’re not feeling overly active, you can take an easier route along the creek bed and walk under the shade of the canyon walls. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be treated to countless breathtaking photo opportunities in this unforgettable landscape.
5. Sit back and enjoy a sunset drive to Uluru
The best way to experience nature is to get right in it, but if you’re tired or you’ve only got a short amount of time to devote to this area, the Uluru Sunset Drive is a laid-back, comfortable way to explore.
You’ll be picked up from your hotel and driven through the outback to see the sun go down on Uluru. Wine and nibbles are provided, and if you want, you can enjoy the unique experience of cooking your own barbecue meal in the outback while taking in the view.
Uluru is magnificent at sunset. As the sunlight fades, the colour of the rock changes, and the effect is almost otherworldly. As far as Uluru tours go, this one has to be the most relaxing.
6. Walk through the Field of Light art installation
The Field of Light Sunrise Tour is worth having to wake up before the crack of dawn. Step onto the shuttle bus and you’ll be whisked off to the Field of Light – a magical art installation of more than 50,000 solar-powered glass spheres on stems.
It’s the biggest Field of Light installation yet, and it’s been created by artist Bruce Munroe. Wander through the many pathways that weave through the installation and see it from every angle, then head up the hill to gaze down on this epic artwork from a viewing spot. Enjoy a hot drink as you admire this dazzling spectacle and ease yourself into the day. When you’ve finished exploring, you’ll be taken back to your hotel.
Don’t miss the Field of Light – it has to be one of the best things to see in Uluru.
7. See the Kata Tjuta sunrise and Valley of the Winds
Get a good night’s sleep before your Kata Tjuta Sunrise & Valley of the Winds Tour because your alarm will be going off early – but it’s worth it! Getting up before sunrise has to be the best time to travel to Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. The crowds are sparse, the sun is yet to reach scorching and the views are at their most mesmerising.
On the way to Kata Tjuta, your guide will fill you in on the geology and culture of this fascinating area. When you arrive, you’ll enjoy a light breakfast and hot drink as the sun rises over this epic rock formation. Then it’s on to the Valley of the Winds where you’ll enjoy a short guided walk along the valley to lookout points that offer magnificent views. As well as the geology, you’ll also learn about the local Anangu people who consider this area to be a sacred place.
8. Enjoy two half-day tours with a Piti Pass
Sunrise and sunset at Uluru are the best times to gaze upon this incredible natural spectacle. If you can’t pick one over the other, treat yourself to the Piti Pass. This pass allows you to enjoy two tours and you can decide when you take them (within a 3-day period). Choose from the Uluru Sunrise Tour, Kata Tjuta Tour, Uluru Base Tour or the Sunset Tour. Complete both of your chosen tours in one day or spread them over a few days – it’s your choice.
There’s no better way to start the day in the Red Centre than enjoying a cup of tea or coffee as you watch the sun rise over Uluru. Afterwards, you can walk along winding pathways through Walpa Gorge, hugged by the towering domes of Kata Tjuta. On the second tour, you could enjoy the Kuniya Walk and the Mutitjulu Waterhole, then pay a visit to the cultural centre. End the day by watching the sun set over Uluru with a glass of sparkling wine and some nibbles.
9. Embrace the Uluru Sunrise and Guided Base Walk
Make your trip special by visiting a location you’ll remember for the rest of your life on the Uluru Sunrise & Guided Base Walk. Get picked up from Ayers Rock Resort 90 minutes before sunrise, and travel in a comfortable luxury shuttle bus to Talinguru Nyakunytjaku. This is where you’ll stop to watch the sun rise over Uluru while enjoying a hot drink and a talk from your guide, who will tell you all about the history of this area.
Once you’re fully awake, it’s time to get walking. Heading out to start the first walk from Kuniya Piti, you’ll hike towards Mala Walk. The walk leads on through Kantju Gorge to a 90m waterfall. Then it’s on to Lungkata Walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole, which was once a vital water source for the Anangu people. Finally, it’s back to Kuniya Piti to end your trek – and you’ll get a certificate of achievement to prove you did it!
10. Take a leisurely hike on the 2D1N Uluru Highlights Tour
The 2-day 2D1N Uluru Highlights Tour goes at a leisurely pace so you won’t feel rushed. There’s plenty to see but you’ll have time to do it at your own rate and take things in slowly.
The tour sets off in the afternoon with the first stop at the base of Uluru. You’ll learn about the Anangu tribe that lived here, discover the Mutitjulu Waterhole, explore caves and catch sight of some Aboriginal rock paintings. A stop at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre gives you a chance to buy Aboriginal art and find out more about the area. End day one by taking in the sunset over Uluru at Sunset Strip.
Day two starts early so that you can catch the sunrise over Uluru with a hot drink. You’ll then venture to Kata Tjuta where you’ll set eyes on the 36 magnificent domed rocks. Lastly, enjoy a walk along the creek bed at Walpa Gorge, and ramble between the vast rock faces of the domes of Kata Tjuta.
11. Shuttle Buses
Save your energy for exploring the outback!
The shuttle bus services are a great way to conveniently get around and see the most of the Red Centre in comfort, style and safety. On board the shuttle buses, there’s free WiFi, filtered water chillers, restrooms and reclining seats, so you can relax while someone else does the driving! The shuttle bus runs between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon, and Kings Canyon and Alice Springs, and vice versa.
Make the most out of your trip to Alice Springs & Uluru
Whether you’re staying in Alice Springs or Ayers Rock Resort, the tours offer you the best way to get around and see the unique sights you’ll only find in the Red Centre. These tours are all about getting back to nature, taking in the awe-inspiring rock formations and learning about the area. The knowledgeable guides will be able to tell you far more than you can find out for yourself, and you’ll be inspired by the facts and information they share. Pack your hiking boots and a water bottle, and don’t forget your camera!