collage of Alice/Uluru
Alice Springs & Uluru N.T.

The Alice Springs/Uluru region of the Northern Territory is also known as Central Australia and hosts the country's most recognisable tourist icon - Uluru. Formerly known as Ayres Rock, Uluru looms from the red centre and draws thousands of visitors each year but central Australia has far more to offer than the big red rock.

It offers even more big red rocks. Central Australia truly is the home of the inselberg - German for an isolated hill, knob, outcrop or small mountain.

Mount Connor and Chambers Pillar are lesser known examples of inselbergs while other striking features around Alice Springs include the stunning MacDonnell Ranges.

Alice Springs acts as the unofficial capital of central Australia, with Darwin 1500km north the actual capital of the Northern Territory. Alice is a surprisingly small town of around 28,000 people. Getting to Alice Springs doesn't mean you are close to Uluru. Alice Springs is about 200km north of the geographical centre of Australia but getting to Uluru involves a 463km drive to the southeast.

Central Australia is a desert region commonly called the Central and Western Deserts but actually bounded by The Great Sandy, Gibson, Tanami, Simpson and Great Victoria deserts. Only fifteen percent of the world's deserts are made totally of sand and Centralia has a combination of rocky country, ranges, sand plains, dunes and low saltbush/scrubland. Like any desert area it can get ridiculously hot in summer and bitingly cold in winter and at night time.

Facts about Central Australia

Area: 546,046km² nearly 40% of the N.T.

Population: 60,000 with about 50% of aboriginal descent

Climate: Semi-Arid, hot dry summers and cold winters

Geography: Desert and xeric scrublands broken by ranges formed from red oxide stained quartz, dolomite, limestone and sandstone.

Flora: Trees include the Bloodwood, cork bark, ironwood, and ghost gums while lower acacias, mulgas and spinifex grass abound.

Fauna: Euros, Black-footed rock wallabies, Dingos, Dunnarts and other nocturnal marsupials, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Spinifex Pidgeon

Alice Springs & Uluru Attractions

You won't be doing a lot of High Street shopping out here. It's a casual part of the world and the climate dictates cool and comfortable or warm and comfortable, depending on the season. Forget the dinner suits and prom dresses.

Most activities are nature centred and involve driving and walking so decent hiking shoes and a water bottle can be a real asset.

  • Ayers Rock/Uluru
  • Kata Tjuta/The Olgas
  • Kings Canyon
  • Chambers Pillar
  • East MacDonnell Ranges
  • West MacDonnell Ranges
  • Mount Connor
  • Ormiston Gorge
  • Standley Chasm
  • Mt Sonder
  • Honeymoon Gap
  • Glen Helen Gorge
  • Finke Gorge National Park
  • Hermannsburg
  • The Ghan
  • Rainbow Valley
  • Palm Valley
Important Towns

Alice Springs, Erlunda, Hermannsburg, Tennant Creek, Yulara

Getting Around Central Australia

If you visit Central Australia it's most likely you'll arrive on a flight, bus or train direct into Alice Springs or you'll be self-driving. Whatever the case, from Alice you'll need transport because getting around to see the various attractions means covering some kilometres. Ideally hiring your own vehicle will deliver a degree of freedom that organised tours can't provide but if you choose to tag along on a bus tour then there's plenty of options to anywhere and everywhere.

Don't be intimidated about driving in the region. It's mostly relatively straight highways without a great deal of traffic. Alice Springs is really a country town and nothing like negotiating the roads of Sydney or Bangkok.

Ideally we'd take a 4WD camper and spend some time under the big blue skies.

If you want to travel in real style then fly to Adelaide and take The Ghan to Alice. The Ghan is the north/south transcontinental train. Spend a week or more in Alice Springs exploring the region and hop back on The Ghan to punch through to Darwin. You'll start in the Great Australian Bight and cross the desert regions of the continent before arriving in the tropical top-end.

Best Time to Visit

If we had to pick one month then we'd say visit in May, but anytime from April through to October is fine. June to August is peak season. If you're looking for a proper outback desert experience then December through February is summer and things are reasonably subdued. Things are subdued because it's stinking hot and full of flies and the majority of tourists and caravanners have, quite sensibly, headed for the southern beaches.

Click on the map to see more Australian link to regions

Other Articles of Interest

The Outback Travel Guide

Touring in a 4WD Camper

Roadside Camping

Driving on Australian Roads

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