Central Australia, also known as the Alice Springs Region, is one of the five regions in the Northern Territory that centres on Alice Springs. Sometimes referred to as Centralia, the region is located in the southern part of the Northern Territory spanning from the west on Western Australia Border and to the east on the Queensland border.

 

Rich in aboriginal culture and home to Australia’s most iconic natural landmark, Uluru, the Central Australia region is a must see destination for anyone wanting to experience true outback culture. Our Central Australia travel guide helps you discover some of the best things to see and do while there.



4WD in Central Australia


Central Australia has the most amazing and unique off-road adventures! Choose from gravel roads, dirt tracks or through sand mounds and dry river beds! We have something for everyone! We want to ensure you have the best time, so check with the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre for daily updates on road closures and conditions. Always carry plenty of water and food supplies, and ensure that you know how to change a tyre and how to get out if you get stuck!

 

We have some planned itineraries to follow if you are stuck for time, or plan your own adventure with our tips - stay as little or as long as you like! - Just check out the journeys on the list below to decide where your next adventure will be!

 

Five Day (self drive/ own car)


Day One: Spend the day exploring the many iconic attractions in Alice Springs. Telegraph Station, School of the Air Royal Flying Doctor Service, and the Reptile Centre to name a few.

 

Day Two: Head out along the West MacDonnell Ranges, the MacDonnell Ranges stretch over 640 kilometres running east – west through Alice Springs. They provide a picturesque backdrop to the town lighting up each sunrise and sunset with a display of fiery reds, sunburnt oranges and deep purple. Explore the West MacDonnell Ranges' ancient waterholes, sheer rock faces and wild animals in many of the gaps along the way. Stay the night at Glen Helen.

 

Day Three: Continue on to Kings Canyon/ Watarrka National Park via the 4 X 4 Mereenie* Loop road. Stay overnight at Kings Canyon.

 

Day Four: Rise early and do the rim walk around the Canyon, or take helicopter flight over the Canyon to experience it from above. Continue on to Uluru/ Kata Tjuta National Park; watch the sun set over Uluru.

 

Day Five: Rise early and watch the sunrise over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Ensure you do the Valley of Winds Walk through Kata Tjuta, to get up close to these wondrous domes.

 

*A permit is required to drive on this road; permits are from $5.00 per vehicle and are available from the Visitor Information Centre in Alice Springs, Glen Helen Resort, Hermannsburg Petrol Station and Kings Canyon Resort.

 

Drive Down from Darwin (own car)

Day One: Depart Darwin along the Stuart Highway. Stop in Tennant Creek for 2 nights.


Day Two: Spend a couple of hours visiting the award winning Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Cultural Centre, Battery Hill Mining Centre and the Visitor Information Centre. Take a picnic and enjoy the lush green and cool water of Lake Maryann Dam.


Day Three: Continue on to Alice Springs; ensure you spend time discovering the Devils Marbles/ Karlu Karlu. If you have a 4wd take the road less travelled and continue on to Alice Springs via the Binns Track, if not head along the Stuart Highway, make sure you detour in to Gemtree, and try your hand at fossicking, if time permits, stop and spend the night.

 

Red Centre Way

Heading west from Alice Springs through Central Australia's dramatic desert landscapes, the drive provides access to the natural attractions of the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Following Glen Helen Gorge there is an unsealed section through to Hermannsburg, the birthplace of famous indigenous artist Albert Namatjira, before doubling back some of the way to Watarrka National Park famous for the spectacular Kings Canyon. Your final destination is Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Travellers can return to Alice Springs via the sealed Lasseter and Stuart Highways.


In Alice Springs take a walk around the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, the buildings have been fully restored, and it incorporates an interpretive display of the Overland Telegraph Line, Stolen Generation through to the Bungalow period and World War II.

 

From the centre of town walk the heritage trail, starting at Flynn Church, then going to Adelaide House, The Residency, ANZAC Hill, Old Stuart Town Goal, Old Hartley Street School, Stuart Memorial, Royal Flying Doctor Service and concluding at the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. This is a great way to see the town of Alice and learn a little of history along the way.

 

East MacDonnell Ranges

Day One: Depart from Alice Springs and south through the Gap onto Ross Highway. Stop at many of the less known, but still beautiful gaps and gorges on the way, Emily, and Jessie Gap, Trephina Gorge, and N'Dala Gorge National Park. Spend your first night at Ross River Resort.

 

Day Two: Continue on the next day to Old Ambalindum Station, stop along the way and explore the Arltunga Historical Reserve. Sit back and relax in one of the oldest homesteads.

 

Day Three: Head along the Binns track to Gem Tree, try your hand at fossicking. Stay the night at Gem Tree.

 

Day Four: Head back along the Stuart highway to Alice Springs or north to explore more of the Barkly region.

Get red sand on your shoes and experience the true outback! Spend half a day or more exploring the Alice Springs Desert Park, and see the Red Centre landscape and creatures in their natural habitat. Immerse yourself in the beauty and mystery of Australia's deserts. Wander through the ancient landscape. Experience the animals of the night. Discover the diversity of desert plants. Be inspired by ancient living cultures with local Aboriginal guides. Marvel at the energy and spirit of free flying birds.

 

The Binns Track

The Binns Track is set to become one of Australia's epic 4WD journeys. It is 2,191km long and was named after Territory identity Bill Binns, who was a Ranger with NT Parks and Wildlife for 32 years.

 

The track starts at Mt Dare on the NT/SA border and passes through Alice Springs and Tennant Creek before finishing in Timber Creek on the Victoria Highway. The track can be conquered in four sections and it is recommended that you allow at least 10 days to complete this journey without allowing for extended stopovers. Before taking to the road, be sure to check access into Gregory National Park as it is prone to seasonal closure from December to May.

 

The Desert Fringe-Follow the western fringe of the Simpson Desert en route to Alice Springs and be awestruck by towering sand dunes along the way. Journey through the East MacDonnell Ranges and behold ancient rock carvings that record the Arrernte people's history of the land.

 

Gold and Granite Pass through gold rush towns and fossick for semi-precious stones at Gemtree. Get off-road and pass outback cattle stations and stop off for a dip in a waterhole. Move on to the Davenport Ranges National Park and set up camp beside the massive granite boulders of the Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve. Spend some time getting to know

 

Tennant Creek – a town known for its proud Aboriginal heritage, gold rushes and pioneering past.

 

Barra Country - Continue north through expansive cattle stations and on to Judbarra/Gregory National Park, known for its Barramundi, Boab trees and limestone landscapes. Finish up at Timber Creek and fully unwind with a boat cruise or fishing trip.

 

Explorer’s Way

The Explorer's Way bisects the Australian continent from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. It covers over 3,000 kilometres and follows the corridor blazed in the 1860s by explorer John McDouall Stuart for the 'Overland Telegraph'. The road, now known as the Stuart Highway, is entirely sealed and suitable for conventional vehicles. Many of the side routes throughout Central Australia offer access to some of Australia's best known icons. 4WD equipped travellers have the opportunity to get off the beatan track and discover the lesser- known natural and cultural wonders of Central Australia and the Northern Territory.

 

The township of Alice Springs is nestled among the MacDonnell Ranges. Alice Springs has an abundance of touring and self-drive options, which range from bush walking, helicopter and hot air balloon flights to camel rides and exploring Australia's pioneering history. Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service to learn about Rev. John Flynn expeditions, hold a snake and see the critters of Central Australia at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre or spend a morning at the Alice Springs Desert Park for an insight into Aboriginal culture and learn about bush tucker and living off the land. You can even experience how students, who live thousands of kilometres from Alice Springs, receive their education at the Alice Springs School of the Air.

 

Take a trip along the MacDonnell Ranges and see sheer rockfaces and ancient waterholes.

 

A detour to World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, five hours drive south west of Alice is a must. If you have a 4WD take the Mereenie Loop road and stopover at Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park and experience the rim walk through weathered, buttressed domes of the "Lost City". Continue on to Uluru/ Kata Tjuta National Park where viewing Uluru at sunset and sunrise is a must! Take a walk through Kata Tjuta and get up close and personal to these huge domes.

 

Following the Explorer's Way stop at historic outback pubs and quirky roadhouses. Marvel at the Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles, where huge red spherical boulders balance precariously on one another.

 

Another major stop is Tennant Creek, site of Australia's last gold rush in the 1920s and 30s. Once a sought after spot to prospect for gold and a much needed resting spot for our pioneers, Tennant Creek holds a special place in the Territory's history. Aside from its historic origins, the town is now home to the award winning Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre, which provides insight into the local Warumungu people. For those who are impressed by the Centre's rock formations, visit the famous Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles) on the drive north. These large granite boulders are scattered across a wide and shallow valley and stand out against the rolling hills and level plains of the Barkly Region. Lake Mary Ann provides an oasis of refreshing waters, lush green lawns and shady trees for that perfect picnic spot.

 

Mataranka has thermal springs and a fascinating pioneering history. Katherine, further up the road, is the gateway to the famous Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park and is where the Explorer's Way intersects with the Savannah Way tourism drive.

 

Darwin is only 320 kilometres from Katherine, there are a number of detour routes. The Nature's Way tourism drive branches off at the historic gold mining town of Pine Creek to World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park and in the west Douglas-Daly and Litchfield National Park.

 

If you have a smart phone or iPad, download the app "Explorers Way" to get some great "mates rates" deals and information along your travels.

 

Red Centre Way

Drive the 1135km loop from Alice Springs and explore the vast and diverse landscapes of the Red Centre. Discover icons of the Australian continent, from Uluru and Kata Tjuta to Kings Canyon, Alice Springs and the West MacDonnell Ranges.

 

To make the most of this incredible journey allow 5-7 days. Travel through red desert sands, spinifex and mulga forest, lush valleys and towering gorges. Watch the red giants of the Outback change colour at sunset. Find out about the ancient living culture of the traditional aboriginal land owners and lose yourself as you wander through valleys home to countless rare plants, birds and animals.

 

Take some time to explore the renowned galleries of Alice Springs, the Indigenous art capital of the country before driving west to the gorges, waterholes and ochre pits of the West MacDonnell National Park.


Kick off the day with a dip in the Redbank Gorge pools near Glen Helen. Travel on to Finke Gorge National Park to get a glimpse of the Red Centre's ancient past at lush Palm Valley. Walk along the soaring red cliffs of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park or head down to traverse the dense forest of palms, ferns and cycads on the canyon floor below.


Next stop is Australia's most famous natural landmark. Standing 348m high, Uluru towers over the surrounding landscape. Take a camel ride around the base of the rock, jump in a helicopter to get an aerial view, or explore the surprising local flora and fauna on foot. Drive on for panoramic views over the desert plains on the Valley of the Winds walk, or settle in to watch the sun set over the 32 red domes of Kata Tjuta.


Visit the 4,700 year-old meteorite craters at Henbury and check out the sandstone bluffs and cliffs of Rainbow Valley before making your way back to Alice Springs for some well-earned rest.

 

Suggested Itinerary:
Day one - Alice Springs to Glen Helen (130kms)
Day two - Glen Helen to Kings Canyon (260kms)
Day three - Explore the wonders of Kings Canyon
Day four - Kings Canyon to Uluru (300kms)
Day five - Experience the wonder of Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Day six - Uluru to Alice Springs (445kms)