An Unforgettable 6 Day Red Centre Itinerary: Alice Springs to Uluru [Complete 2024 Travel Guide]

Keen to experience the best of the Red Centre in a limited timeframe?

You don’t need heaps of leave up your sleeve to experience the magic of the Australian outback. In six action-packed days, you can admire majestic ochre-hued landscapes, experience authentic Aboriginal culture and encounter unique native wildlife.

This action packed six-day Red Centre itinerary brings you the highlights of this unique region. Aim for the cooler months (May to September) so you don’t get too hot under the outback sun.

6 Day Alice Spring to Uluru Road Trip Summary

  • Day 1: Alice Springs
  • Day 2: Alice Springs – Ormiston Gorge (1.5 hours)
  • Day 3: Ormiston Gorge – Kings Canyon (2.5 hours)
  • Day 4: Kings Canyon – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (3 hours)
  • Day 5 – 6: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Day 1: Arriving in Alice Springs (Start of your Red Centre Itinerary)

Red Centre Itinerary

Rising out of the dusty red desert like a mirage, Alice as the locals call it, is the outback town that is the hub of the Red Centre with stacks of worthwhile surrounding sites to explore.

Direct flights to Alice Springs depart from most major Australian cities. This Red Centre itinerary will require you to hire a four-wheel drive rental car to see all of the sights (as there are some unsealed roads), which you can pick up at Alice Springs Airport on arrival – choose a one-way hire from Alice Springs to Uluru for this itinerary. Already cruising in a campervan or caravan? Travellers coming from the south can complete this itinerary in reverse to minimise drive times.

If you have some time during the day of your arrival in Alice you can check out the Araluen Arts Centre to view over a thousand Indigenous works from the region.

At sunset visit the Earth Sanctuary for their Dinner and Stars experience. Located 15 minutes drive from Alice Springs (or choose to add on their drop off service) you’ll be treated to a BBQ dinner while admiring sunset views of the East McDonnell Ranges before an astronomy tour of one of the most magnificent night skies you will see anywhere in the world.

Another top spot for sunset is the Kangaroo Sanctuary, where you can meet the legendary founder Brolga (you may know him from the documentary Kangaroo Dundee) where mobs of rescued marsupials hop around the sanctuary. Loz was also lucky enough to have the chance to hold an orphaned joey (baby kangaroo) called ‘Big Man’ here, this was such a cute and memorable way to spend an afternoon!

Accommodation

We recommend the Desert Palms hotel in Alice Springs, it’s centrally located and reasonably priced with beautiful private villa accommodation and a resort pool to cool off in on hot days.

Sunset over the Earth Sanctuary
Sunset over the Earth Sanctuary
Cuddling an orphaned joey at the Kangaroo Sanctuary
Cuddling an orphaned joey at the Kangaroo Sanctuary

Day 2: Alice Springs to Ormiston Gorge

Today’s adventure starts early with a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Alice Springs. They will pick you up from your hotel before you float up and over the vast Australian outback. If you haven’t been on a hot air balloon ride before (or even if you have!) this is a very special way to experience it. Finish the ride with a sparkling wine among the vast plains of the red centre before returning to your hotel.

Once you’re back down from the clouds, it’s time to check out and continue your Red Centre itinerary with a 40 minute drive west towards Standley Chasm – Angkerle Atwatye.

TIP: Time the short, 15-minute walk into the chasm within one hour of noon, when the midday sun shines down and illuminates the chasm with a surreal natural glow.  

Sunrise hot air ballooning over Alice Springs
Sunrise hot air ballooning over Alice Springs
Standley Chasm - Angkerle Atwatye
Standley Chasm – Angkerle Atwatye

After some lunch at the Standley Chasm café, jump in your car and continue the drive west. It takes about an hour to arrive at Ormiston Gorge. The walk down to the Ormiston Gorge watering hole is an easy and flat 5 minutes (500 metres). This is the perfect spot for an early afternoon dip and a sunbake on the sand banks among huge rocky canyons (be sure to bring a floatie with you!).

Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge 2

Head to nearby Glen Helen Gorge (where you can stay the night) or Mount Sonder lookout for a sunset coldie before retiring for the night.

Accommodation

We recommend staying in a cabin at Glen Helen Gorge for night 2 of your Red Centre itinerary. Accommodation here is basic but the sunsets from the bar over the Gorge are truly million dollar views (set to re-open mid 2024). If the resort is still closed for your visit we recommend continuing to Discovery Resorts Kings Canyon for the night after Ormiston Gorge.

Sunset over Glen Helen Gorge
Sunset over Glen Helen Gorge

Day 3: Ormiston Gorge to Kings Canyon (Half way through your Red Centre itinerary)

For day 3, the middle of your Red Centre itinerary, set the alarm clock to walk through the spinifex down to the water’s edge of Glen Helen Gorge (it is around 1km return from Glen Helen Gorge Resort,15 minutes each way) along a flat track. You can take a dip here if the water isn’t too chilly.

Its a nearly 3 hour drive this morning to get to the Karkke Cultural Experience. They offer a mid morning and mid afternoon session for this 1 hour experience. This is a really personal way to learn about the local Aboriginal Lurit­ja and Per­tame (South­ern Aran­da) culture through their immersive and hands on tour covering customs, foods and traditions. We were blown away by the industriousness of the people here who learnt to survive in such harsh desert conditions.

Just down the road for lunch is Kings Creek Station where you can meet their camels and then eat them in a burger (we aren’t joking!). Harry tried the dromedary burger which has 2 camel patties in it, and it was delicious, apparently. They also have a range of other casual lunch options if you’re not feeling so adventurous.

Karkke Cultural Experience
Karkke Cultural Experience
Karkke Cultural Experience 2

Accommodation

Spend this night of your Red Centre itinerary in the accommodation at Discovery Resorts Kings Canyon. Our room here was basic but had a beautiful bath overlooking the red desert sands which was a lovely luxurious touch. They also have a restaurant here for dinner.

Day 4: Kings Canyon to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

It’s time for one of our absolute favourite hikes in Australia this morning, a must do on your Red Centre itinerary. Wake up pre-dawn and head to Kings Canyon for a sunrise hike to remember. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a 6km round track that takes around 3-4 hours to complete. The hike starts off with a brutal 1000 step incline to get onto the ridge but then levels out substantially after that. Watching the sunrise colours light up the red rock here is guaranteed to be a core memory, just remember to bring lots of water and prepare for the temperature to rise pretty quickly around 9am.

Sunrise views at Kings Canyon
Sunrise views at Kings Canyon
Sunrise views at Kings Canyon 2

It’s a 3 hour drive after the hike on sealed roads from Kings Canyon to the famous Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Driving up to this national park and spotting these sacred sights on the horizon is a truly special experience. To enter Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park you will need a parks pass which you can buy upon entry, a 3 day pass will set you back $38 (which you can extend to 5 days at no additional cost).

In the evening make your way into the National Park to the Uluru car sunset viewing area for a sunset to remember. Our favourite colours for photography here are just before the sunset slips below the horizon when the rock lights up a glowing red.

Accommodation

We recommend spending your time in the Uluru section of your at the Desert Gardens Hotel in Yulara, it’s a 5 minute drive into the National Park. While it’s not the fanciest hotel in the area it still has a great pool and restaurant with nice big rooms. We did splurge a little and stay in an Uluru view room here but waking up to that view was worth every penny.

Day 5: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

It’s time for another sunrise mission! A 30 minute drive will take you to the sunrise viewing point for Uluru Talinguru Nyakunytjaku (our favourite sunrise spot in the National Park). There’s something magical about watching the light illuminate the rock as the day begins.

Sunrise from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku
Sunrise from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku
Sunrise from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku

After sunrise jump on the free ranger-guided Mala walk offered by the National Park at 8am or 10am every morning (depending on the season). This walk around the base of Uluru goes for around 1.5 hours and provides so much insightful information on the cultural significance of Uluru.

Once back in Yulara, we highly recommend joining Uluru Helicopter Tours for a truly unforgettable sunset flight around Australia’s iconic outback attraction, this is one flight that is definitely worth the money.

If heights aren’t your thing then another memorable evening is spent at the Field of Light. We heard mixed reviews about this experience but we really enjoyed it. Designed by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, this shimmering light installation sees 100,000 stemmed spheres illuminate the desert landscape.

Field of Lights experience over Uluru
Field of Lights experience over Uluru
A sunset helicopter flight over Uluru
A sunset helicopter flight over Uluru is a must do on your Red Centre itinerary

Day 6: Departing Yulara (End of your Red Centre Itinerary)

It’s the last day of your Red Centre itinerary but the adventure is not over yet. Wake up for sunrise and head 35 minutes drive to the Kata Tjuta dune lookout, providing you an awe-inspiring view of the ensemble of these domed bornhardts near Uluru.

Sunrise from the Kata Tjuta
Sunrise from the Kata Tjuta dune lookout to start the final day of this Red Centre itinerary

At Kata Tjuta the 7.5km Valley of the Winds walk is not one to miss, this walk showcases the beauty of this sacred place and was our favourite in the National Park (just don’t forget that this a no photo hike as requested by the Aboriginal Traditional Owners). If you’re not feeling super energetic you can also try the shorter 2km Walpa Gorge walk which takes you through one of Kata Tjuta’s chasm’s instead.

Most flights depart Yulara around midday. Spend the rest of the morning reflecting on your epic Red Centre itinerary before returning your vehicle and flying home. 

When to Visit the Red Centre

The best time to visit the Red Centre is in the cooler months of winter in May – September. Nights during these months in winter can get chilly so bring some warm clothes but the days are beautiful for exploring and hiking. We have also visited the Red Centre in February where temperatures reached up to 45 degrees during our stay, while not ideal for walking it did mean that prices were cheaper and places were less crowded. Whenever you plan your Red Centre itinerary for, be sure to check the forecast just prior to your visit so you can pack accordingly.

How to get to the Red Centre

You can fly into either Alice Springs airport or directly into Ayers Rock (Uluru) Airport depending on where you’re travelling from and what your budget is, they are both great options for exploring the Red Centre. This Red Centre itinerary starts from the Alice Springs Airport and finishes in the Ayers Rock (Uluru) Airport (and can also be completed in reverse) which is the best way to reduce driving time and still see all the best sights in the region if you’re on a tight schedule.

How to get around the Red Centre

The best way to get around the Red Centre is definitely to hire a four-wheel drive rental car. While the sights in this itinerary don’t require you to do any gnarly off-roading there are some unsealed roads which are much more safe in an off-road vehicle.

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