Red Centre: Uluru, Olgas, and Kings Canyon Guide
Making it out to the Australian Red Centre is a commitment, but those that do will be rewarded. Exploring the quintessential Australian outback in a campervan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The wide-open roads and stretches of emptiness give a true sense of the continent’s vastness. Here are some examples of the distances:
Before you goBe certain your vehicle is in tip-top shape by taking it to a mechanic for a check-up. Always carry plenty of water, a spare tyre, a jerry can of petrol, and stock up on non-perishable food. There are occasional service stations along the Lasseter as well as a supermarket in Yulara. Besides that, Alice Springs has the nearest supermarkets. The CamperMate app will be your best friend when it comes to planning petrol and food stops.
Check out our guide on campervan kitchen essentials.
2WD or 4WD?
Which kind of vehicle you use depends on personal preference and budget. The more affordable option, 2WD, will safely get you to the main attractions as the Lasseter and Stuart Highways are completely sealed. However, if you want to get adventurous and dig deeper, a 4WD will allow you to explore on the unsealed roads, such as the Mereenie Loop, connecting the West MacDonnell ranges and Kings Canyon.
The icon of central Australia is a massive rock that juts up out of nowhere. Seeing it in person is a must; photos do not do it justice. Not only is the monolith an impressive natural formation, it has deep historical roots of spirituality among Aboriginal people. Uluru continues to be a place for sacred ceremonies; some areas are closed off to tourists.
As you’re driving along the Lasseter, you will come upon a ticket booth. Cars form a queue to buy tickets, so take that into account when planning your day. Tickets are $25 per person and are valid for three consecutive days. The money goes into the conservation of the land and to the local community. If you already have a ticket, you can simply swipe your card in another lane and enter.
Culture Centre:You may be eager to get up close to the rock, but visiting the Culture Centre first is recommended to better understand Uluru’s significance among its owners, Anangu. One important takeaway is that they urge tourists not to climb Uluru because it is a sacred and spiritual journey for initiated men.
Base Walk:The 10.6km easy walk wraps around the entirety of the Rock, which helps one appreciate the vastness. It takes 2-4 hours, depending on your pace. Carry plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen, and snacks. The walk is mostly exposed and the sun can be piercing.
Sunset:There is a specific sunset point for cars conveniently found on the CamperMate map. Get a good spot well before sunset as the car park can get crowded. When the sun starts to go down, the red hues of the rock deepen to an intense red. The magical experience will stick in your memory forever. The spectacular sight will likely give you goosebumps!
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Just 50km west of Uluru, Kata Tjuta is a cluster of massive dome-like rock formations and also a place of spiritual significance. This area is sometimes missed by Uluru tourists, but it deserves the same amount of attention.
While driving along the Kata Tjuta road, be sure to take a pitstop at the viewing area to see the cluster in its entirety. From there, it’s another 25km to the parking area where you can start the Valley of the Winds circuit walk (7km). The trail is a medium-difficulty walk that is more varied than Uluru’s base walk. While you don’t walk around the entirety of the rock clusters, you do go between the crevices of the rock, making for some interesting scenery. The circuit takes about three hours, so it’s best to start early in the day as it can get hot.
Another easy walk is the Walpa Gorge. The 1.3km accessible trail leads you to a gorge with impossibly high rock walls and an elusive water source, where you’ll find plants and other forms of life.
Mt. Conner Lookout
About 125km east of Uluru, the Mt. Conner lookout is a popular stopping point on the Lasseter. As you’re driving along, a large flat-topped rock comes into view; Mt. Conner is a breathtaking sight often mistaken for Uluru. Be sure to cross the road and walk the trail up to view Lake Amadeus. The parking area makes a nice picnic spot.
Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon)Being a five hours’ drive from Uluru, many people skip Kings Canyon. But those that make the trek out there will be thankful they did. The underrated park quickly becomes a favourite among many. To get to Kings Canyon from Uluru, drive about 150km east on the Lasseter. Then peel onto Luritja Road for another 160km. Though it’s straight forward, the drives are long, so take frequent breaks and take your time.
If you are into walking, the Kings Canyon rim walk is a must! The scenery changes dramatically as you traverse the rim among the red rocks; you might feel like you’re exploring another planet. The dropping cliffs are breathtaking as is the Garden of Eden, where lush greenery appears out of nowhere from an important water source. Such sights are hard to come by in the desert.
The walk is about 7km but can take a long time because there are so many beautiful vantage points and ways to get distracted. The area is mostly exposed to the sun, so bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat.
Where to StayIf there’s one thing Australia has a lot of, it’s space! There are plenty designated spots for people to camp overnight along the Lasseter, but because the region has some areas of spiritual significance, one cannot just camp anywhere. CamperMate lists some verified camping spots, so be sure to check out the map. One spot we particularly love is the Salt Creek Rest Area on Luritja Road on the way to Kings Canyon.