The Alice to Uluru route

Alice Springs to Uluru is a fair dinkum road trip from the heart of the Red Centre to an Aussie icon. Here's the full lowdown on tackling it.

Alice Springs to Uluru

Alice Springs

Red dirt, sunshine, and a few larrikins make Alice Springs a ripper spot to kick off an outback road trip.

Perched at the heart of the Explorers Way (a 3000-kilometre trek from Adelaide to Darwin, and if you're heading north from Alice, check out our ultimate Alice to Darwin guide), Alice Springs – or just 'Alice' to the locals – is a top spot for travellers keen to explore the Northern Territory's outback.

Classic Aussie pubs rub shoulders with trendy cafes; air-conditioned coaches bound for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Alice Springs School of the Air share the road with cyclists on a jaunt into the MacDonnell Ranges.

Bird shows at Alice Springs Desert Park and venomous snakes at Alice Springs Reptile Centre are a hit with animal enthusiasts, while history buffs can spend hours exploring historic sites like the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame or the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, where Europeans first settled in the town. Top it off with a sunset view from ANZAC Hill, and you'll be eager to see more of the Red Centre.

Not to miss

Catch the spectacle of competitors racing in quirky floats at the famous Henley-on-Todd Regatta – the world's only dry river regatta – on the parched Todd River every August.

The town also hosts the annual Alice Springs Camel Cup, a decades-old (and pretty quirky) tradition that's a blast for a family day out.

Hiring a vehicle

If you're flying into Alice Springs and looking to hire a vehicle, Apollo Motorhome Holidays, Britz, Thrifty, and Hertz all have branches here.

MacDonnell Ranges

You can zip from Alice to Uluru in 5.5 hours along the sealed Stuart and Lasseter highways, but where's the adventure in that? Instead, venture into the MacDonnell Ranges for an outback escapade that's sure to leave a mark.

The ranges are split in two – the West Macs and the East Macs – and both are stunners.

The West Macs

The more famous of the pair, the West Macs, stretch 200 kilometres and are carved with gorges, chasms, and dry creek beds. You can reach them by following the Red Centre Way (an 1135-kilometre loop from Alice).

Must-see spots include Standley Chasm, a dramatic, 80-metre-high rock face; the refreshing pools at Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge; and Simpsons Gap, an important spiritual site with several Indigenous dreaming trails.

If you're camping, roll out a swag and enjoy a campfire at Redbank Gorge. Alternatively, Glen Helen Lodge offers basic digs close to Glen Helen Gorge and the 1380-metre-high Mt Sonder.

How to get there

At a whopping 220 kilometres, the Larapinta Trail is one of the most iconic bushwalks in Australia. Kicking off in Alice Springs and finishing up at Mt Sonder, it follows the West Macs and is a bit of a challenge, not for the weak-kneed.

Bushwalkers need to top up their water bottles at tanks along the track and sort out food drops. The Larapinta is split into 12 sections, and the prime time to head out is during winter (June–August).

You can tackle it solo or join a tour like the Australian Walking Holidays, which has semi-permanent campsites, including Sonder Camp.

The view from Mt Sonder is a ripper.

Don't miss

Alice Springs Helicopters provides scenic flights over the MacDonnell Ranges and offers mountain bike tours that include drops at different sections of the trails in the West Macs area.

The East Macs

Not as well-trodden as the West Macs but just as breathtaking, the East Macs give travellers a peek into the Indigenous and gold rush history of the area.

Located 150 kilometres east of Alice Springs, activities like bushwalking, camping, and four-wheel driving are popular in this area. It is recommended to accompany a local or a tour guide, such as Outback Elite Tours, for the best adventure experience.

The East Macs are less visited than the West Macs but just as stunning.

A top spot is Trephina Gorge Nature Park, where towering walls of red and purple quartzite surround you.

Experience the majestic beauty of the gorge, where you'll find the largest ghost gum in Australia standing tall at 33 meters and approximately 300 years old. Walk along the Wallaby Dreaming Trail, a sacred path for the Eastern Arrernte Aboriginal people.

Another gem in the East Macs is Trephina Gorge Nature Park.

During your visit, you may want to visit N'Dhala Gorge Nature Park, which features 6000 rock carvings, explore the historic gold rush town of Arltunga dating back to the late 1800s, and stop by Hale River Homestead for a meal, with booking ahead recommended.


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Hermannsburg and Finke Gorge

Believed to be around 350 million years old, the Finke River meanders through Finke Gorge National Park, a vital wilderness reserve nestled between Alice Springs and Kings Canyon. Within the park's boundaries lies the ancient Palm Valley, where the rare red cabbage palms, also ancient and dating back thousands of years, thrive.

You'll need a high-clearance 4WD to access the park and be ready to tackle some rocky tracks. Also, be sure to bring along some sturdy hiking boots, as there are heaps of trails to explore.

Make a stop at Hermannsburg before you enter the park. It's a historic area where a Lutheran Mission was established in the late 1880s, and it's also where the famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira lived.

Kings Canyon and Watarrka National Park

After checking out the West MacDonnell Ranges, take the Mereenie Loop off-road as you head towards Kings Canyon (you'll need a 4WD and a permit). The canyon, with a depth of 270 metres, is the jewel of the park, an oasis of palms and ferns.

Start early and embark on the six-kilometre Canyon Rim Walk, which will take you to the sandstone domes of the Lost City and a sacred waterhole known as the Garden of Eden. There's also the much easier 2.6-kilometre Kings Creek Hike that leads to a lookout.

Where to Stay

Set up your base at Kings Creek Station, which is not far from Watarrka National Park. The 1800-square-kilometre property is open all year and is a great place to experience life on the land, offering both campsites and basic cabins. Don't forget to enjoy some traditional damper with a cup of billy tea.


Nothing epitomises 'outback' more than the iconic big red rock in the centre of the country, and a road trip here is the best way to appreciate its isolation and stunning beauty as it rises 348 metres from the desert.

Despite its remoteness, there's plenty to do at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uluru.

First off, you'll want to explore on foot, so rise early and join a guided tour around a portion of Uluru's 10-kilometre base. The daily Mala Walk (two kilometres) is a good option if you want to learn about Uluru's cultural significance and Indigenous rock art.

Visitors can also enjoy a camel ride with Uluru Camel Tours, which offers a unique experience described by director Mark Swindells as "like a magic carpet ride".

For something different, hop aboard a Segway, enjoy a Harley Davidson ride, or plummet toward Uluru on a thrilling skydive.

If you want tips on how to soak up as much of the magic of this place in a short period, we've written a 3-day Uluru itinerary based on our own trip here.

Don't Miss

Set your alarm so you can watch Uluru change colour at sunrise. Drive to one of the viewing platforms, or join the Alice Springs to Uluru tour.

An artist named Bruce Munro created a Field of Light installation featuring 50,000 lights that will illuminate Uluru until December 2020. Book through Ayers Rock Resort.

Alice Springs to Uluru tour

Sounds of Silence offers a unique dining experience in the outback.

Savour native Australian ingredients, such as kangaroo, finger lime, and lemon myrtle, while the Milky Way sparkles above.

Where to Stay

Uluru offers a variety of accommodation options, including luxury suites, tent-style pavilions, and campsites, as well as tours and workshops, some of which are complimentary.

Guests can take advantage of the resort's free shuttle service, which is particularly useful for those traveling with children or seniors.

Need to Know

Although Uluru is open to visitors year-round, temperatures frequently hit 45°C in summer, and flies are at their most bothersome. Instead, visit between May and October, when daytime temperatures are more bearable.

For those looking for a one-way road trip from Alice to Uluru, consider flying out of Ayers Rock Airport to access major cities across Australia.

Kata Tjuta

If you can fit it in, don't miss the 36 large rock domes of Kata Tjuta – commonly known as The Olgas. Located about half an hour from Uluru, they're easily accessible on a day trip.

The domes are impressive, with the tallest one, Mt. Olga 546 metres high. You can explore it on foot by taking the challenging Valley of the Winds trail, which is 7.4 kilometres long. The hike will take about three hours, so it's best to start early to avoid the midday heat. Another option is the easier 2.6-kilometre Walpa Gorge walk.