GMT +9½ hours
Awesome and remote Outback landscape
The Red Centre is the Australia of most people’s imagination. This is the home of the Outback – red dust, empty tracks, unique wildlife and big characters; and the land of Uluru – a giant sandstone formation rising boldly out of its seemingly stark landscape. Perhaps more than anything, this is the land of ‘Dreamtime’ and the part of Australia most in touch with its Aboriginal culture.
- Uluru will be a once-in-a-lifetime destination - if you have the time, it's definitely worth the detour to the centre
- An early start is justified for a sunrise view of Uluru. For a sunset view, try the Sounds of Silence dinner - local food and wine against a backdrop of Uluru and Kata Tjuta
- After Uluru there's a whole lot more to the Red Centre, including Kings Canyon with its stunning rugged scenery
- Learn the enchanting creation stories around the Aboriginal Dreamtime and see rock paintings of Dreamtime legends
- At the right time of year, the gorge at Katherine and waterfalls at Kakadu are spectacular
Best time to visit
In the tropical north the dry season runs from May to October with an average daily temperature of 30°C. November to April is the wet season. The humidity rises sharply and there are often heavy tropical rains at this time. The central region is semi-arid and experiences four seasons; it does not generally experience the tropical rains from the north but as a desert environment can get pretty cold during winter.
Uluru remains Australia’s most iconic landmark. This ancient monolith has captivated its Aboriginal guardians for thousands of years, and the rest of the world since its ‘discovery’ in 1873. Perhaps it’s the striking contrast it forms against the featureless desert around it, perhaps it’s the shifting colours, or perhaps it’s something else altogether. The less famous rocky domes of Kata Tjuta are also spectacular. Be sure to see the rocks at different times of day, as the light show can be mesmerising.
Australia’s most famous Outback Town, Alice Springs is many people’s gateway to the Red Centre. Highlights include local historic landmarks such as the old telegraph station and the Royal Flying Doctor Service museum, the views from Anzac Hill and the Alice Springs Desert Park. Slightly further afield are the rugged MacDonnell Ranges. Visit on the third Saturday in August and you may encounter the unique Henley-on-Todd Regatta.
Found within the empty landscape of Watarrka National Park, 200 miles from both Alice Springs and Uluru, Kings Canyon is renowned for its 100 metre high, red sandstone walls and spectacular rugged scenery which has to be explored on foot. The relatively short King Creek Walk is not too challenging (although temperatures can creep over 40˚c), whilst the more arduous Rim Walk is best left to more conditioned walkers but rewards with the best views of the canyon. Other highlights include the ‘Garden of Eden’, which is aptly named.
And then there's Australia's Top End. Between baking in the ‘Dry’ and being deluged during the ‘Wet’, Darwinians endure months of increasingly hot and humid conditions, so much so that when the rains finally break locals can often be seen rushing out to dance in the street at the sheer physical relief. Despite being a modern city, Darwin maintains its frontier aura, with the bush clamouring at the city limits. The city enjoys a picturesque setting with an attractive marina and Asian-influenced cuisine.
The main attractions of the sleepy former telegraph station of Katherine are the geological wonders of nearby Nitmiluk National Park, chiefly the gorges of the Katherine River. Carved into the rugged sandstone landscape over the millennia, the 13 individual gorges that form the Katherine Gorge collective are quite stunning and host to rapids and waterfalls as well as an abundance of wildlife. The area is particularly renowned for its freshwater crocodiles which are habitually seen sunning on the sandy banks at the side of the gorges.