462km (286 miles) SW of Alice Springs; 1,934km (1,199 miles) S of Darwin; 1,571km (974 miles) N of Adelaide; 2,841km (1,761 miles) NW of Sydney
The Red Centre is the landscape most closely associated with Australia’s Outback—endless horizons, vast deserts of red sand, a mysterious monolith, and cloudless blue skies. If there is a soundtrack, it is the rhythmic, haunting tones of the didgeridoo. At its heart is the magnificent monolith called Uluru—the “Rock”—that is the reason every visitor is drawn to this arid land.
The Centre is home to sprawling cattle ranches, ancient mountain ranges, “living fossil”palm trees that survived the Ice Age, cockatoos and kangaroos, ochre gorges, lush water holes, and intriguing tracks leading to heart-stopping landscapes.
Aboriginal people have lived here for tens of thousands of years, but the Centre is still largely unexplored by non-Aboriginal Australians. One highway cuts from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, and a few roads and four-wheel-drive tracks make a lonely spider web across it; in many other areas, non-Aborigines have never set foot.
Alice Springs is the only big town in Central Australia, which together with the Top End makes up the Northern Territory. And let’s get one thing straight from the start: Alice Springs and Uluru are not side by side. Uluru is 462 km (286 miles) away. You can get there and see it in a day from Alice Springs, but it’s an effort, and in doing so you will miss much of what is on offer, for visiting Uluru is much more than just a quick photo opportunity. It may well be the most meaningful and memorable part of your trip to Australia.
“The Alice”is a gateway to Uluru, but you can also fly there direct to Ayers Rock Airport, which takes its name from the European name given to Uluru by early explorers but seldom used today.
Give yourself a few days to experience all there is in the Centre—visiting the magnificent domes of Kata Tjuta (“the Olgas”) near Uluru, walking the rim of Kings Canyon, riding a camel down a dry riverbed, exploring the intricacies of Aboriginal paintings (either on rock or canvas), swimming in water holes, or staying at an Outback homestead. A few days in Alice will give you the chance to see beautiful surrounding attractions such as Palm Valley, Ormiston Gorge, and Trephina Gorge Nature Park, each is an easy day trip. Too many visitors jet in, snap a photo of Uluru, and head home, only to miss the essence of the desert.