The Northern Territory’s Red Centre Way is a magnificent stretch of nearly 700 kilometres which leads west from Alice Springs, through the spectacular MacDonnell Range National Park, and down to Uluru. But what makes this trip so special is the number of attractions that are easily accessible to all sorts of travellers.
Two thumbs up from us for the Red Centre Way
Starting this trip from Alice Springs, stop by at Flynn’s Grave which is only a short distance from town. It was Reverend Flynn who established the Royal Flying Doctor Service which supports our Australian outback communities for both primary health care and as an emergency service.
When you leave Flynn’s Grave, a large section of the Red Centre Way contains a number of gorges which are all top attractions in themselves. Standley Chasm (entrance fee) and Simpsons Gap are both excellent examples of what to see in the West Macs. Further along, Ellery Creek Big Hole is a sensational swimming spot, but be warned… even on a warm central Australian day, the water can be very cold!
Serpentine Gorge is another place to visit, and close by is Serpentine Chalet which offers free bush camping at a number of designated campsites. The sites are secluded and located only a couple of kilometres off the road, and available in various sizes. So if you’re travelling as a group, there’s no problem in finding one large enough to accommodate you all.
Now if there was one attraction you don’t want to miss and is unique within central Australia, it would be the ochre pits which have been used by the locals for thousands of years. In the past, ochre was used as a popular trading commodity, but it’s use in all sorts of ceremonies, dancing, decoration and burials, saw it widely used. We think the best time of day to see the ochre is during the morning when the sun hits the coloured rocks - it looks amazing!
Ormiston Gorge is another excellent attraction, and is also another place to bush camp (fee payable). Camping is popular here, so plan to arrive early in the day if you’re considering staying overnight or longer.
Glen Helen Homestead Lodge caters for all sorts of travellers, so with a variety of accommodation styles on offer, they’ve got pretty well everyone covered. Dining in the lodge’s Namatjira Gallery Restaurant is a popular choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and other snacks and other refreshments are available outside of these times. Oh, and the view of the gorge walls from the lodge’s rear deck has to be one of the best views going! Take a short stroll down to the Finke River which runs through the gorge and you’ll easily be dwarfed by the towering gorge walls overhead.
Glen Helen Gorge screams to be explored
Other places to visit along this section of the Red Centre Way include Redbank Gorge and Gosse Bluff. These two attractions providing good walking opportunities, but avoid walking during the heat of the day, as in some places there is little shade.
Taking the Mereenie Loop Road to Kings Canyon, this section of the Red Centre Way has a good quality dirt road, and the scenery along here is stunning. Kings Canyon Resort is another place that offers a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. The dingoes here are quite bold during daylight hours, so lock away any loose items to avoid them being taken.
The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is well worth the effort
The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a major highlight here – wear some good walking shoes, strap on a backpack, and start the walk as daylight breaks when it’s cooler. The six kilometre loop walk provides sensational views of the canyon, so push past the initial climb up a few hundred steps that will have your calf muscles screaming! There are a few other walks available if you’re looking for something a little less strenuous.
Seeing Uluru up close is one of those places that you must experience at least once. Its enormous size is simply breathtaking, and the sunrises and sunsets here are a photographer’s delight. Special viewing areas have been set up for both and can quickly fill up with vehicles, so allow plenty of time to arrive and set up.
A magnificent walk through Kata Tjuta
Our Red Centre Way journey finished less than an hour away at Kata Tjuta. These dome-like rock formation are a phenomenal natural attraction which look spectacular at any time of day. Take one of the walks through the ochre-coloured rocks to gain a real appreciation of their size.
The stunning colours of the Ochre pits
So the next time you’re thinking of a trip to the Northern Territory, consider adding the Red Centre Way to your trip itinerary. Allow yourself 5-7 days to travel this route, so that you can really experience some of the best attractions that rugged central Australia has to offer.
Catch you next time.
Grant & Linda
My Aussie Travel Guide