Whether you’re basing yourself in the Outback town of Alice Springs – the gateway to the ‘Red Centre’ – for a short or long holiday, there’s a multitude of interesting destinations within driving distance. Jump behind the wheel of your Alice Springs Airport car rental and explore the wild Australian desert – visit one of the national parks in the area. In this remote area, distances are far and you may prefer to stay at your destination overnight rather than aim for a round trip.
When travelling into or through an Aboriginal community, remember that alcohol is not allowed, and avoid going into residential areas when visiting arts centres.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is found 440km south-west of Alice Springs. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is Australia’s most famous natural icon and the jewel in this national park, dominating the skyline. Standing at nearly 350 metres high, this monolith can be climbed in cooler weather. The best time to visit is in winter or the shoulder seasons – it’s cooler and more comfortable, and safer to boot. The rock colours are brighter and you’re more likely to spot hidden flora and fauna.
You can purchase your park pass at the entry station on your way into Uluru. Beyond Ayers Rock, the red domed rocks of Kata Tjuta are the other highlight and deserve your attention – along the Valley of the Winds hike.
This area is of huge significance to the indigenous people. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and learn about the history of the region.
Watarrka National Park lies 450km south west of Alice Springs. It is practically synonymous with its most famous landmark, Kings Canyon. The unusual rock walls of Kings Canyon are more than 100 metres high, with Kings Creek at the bottom. Part of the gorge is a sacred Aboriginal site so visitors should be careful and respect the marked tracks.
The western end of the George Gill Range falls in Watarrka National Park. You’ll find an enormous ecosystem here – there are more than 600 different plant species.
This park is 100km west of Alice Springs. The gorges are home to unique plants and animals from a bygone era. Look out for the ochre pits, a unique cultural feature. In summer, the many waterholes are great for cooling off.