This story was sponsored by Hello World – Hunter Travel Group
The centre of Australia and the majestic Uluru (Ayres Rock) and Kata Tutja (the Olgas) never fail to invoke the realisation of how vast and beautiful the outback is.
If you’ve never visited this part of the world - using ‘I just don’t have the time to take on a big central Australia trip’ - as your mantra of excuse, then a short organised tour of the highlights could be ideal. Companies like AAT Kings have been showcasing the red centre for more than 30 years and make it easy to get up close to some of these iconic locations.
In five days you can take in the best of what the red centre has to offer, and this year it will offer plenty, with the skies recently delivering much needed rain after a dry summer.
With the rain comes growth and the wildflower season should offer floral abundance. It is not just the wetter regions of Australia that have beautiful floral display, contrary to some beliefs, the arid heart of Central Australia can also put on a beautiful wildflower show. But don’t stop there - read on to discover more.
Got five days? Here are some of the highlights you could enjoy:
Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park is home to the world famous Uluru (Ayers Rock), the physical red heart of Australia and one of Australia’s most iconic natural landmarks. The monolith stands at a towering 348 metres tall and has a circumference of over nine kilometres, with the bulk of its mass lying underground.
In 1873, surveyor William Gosse sighted ‘the Rock’ and in honour of the then chief secretary of South Australia Sir Henry Ayers, named it Ayers Rock. It wasn’t until 1993 that Uluru became the first icon in Australia to be given back its Aboriginal name and making it the first official dual-named feature in the Northern Territory.
The perfect place to view the sunrise at Uluru and Kata Tjuta is from the Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku viewing area. Offering uninterrupted 360° views here you can witness the magnificent glow of the sun bring the surrounding desert landscape to life.
After a day of exploring, you can take in the unforgettable experience of an Uluru sunset. Feel the magic of the outback as you sip on a glass of wine and witness the ever changing colours of Uluru. Essentially grey, the oxidation of iron on the surface of the rock gives it a striking orange-red hue and is responsible for creating its radiant glow.
Discover this intriguing World Heritage Listed wonder as you follow in the footsteps of the land’s ancestral beings absorbing the stories sacred to the Anangu community. The natural beauty and rich culture of Uluru will be revealed as you explore the base by foot on the famed base walk, home to waterholes, unique desert flora, caves and ancient rock paintings.
However you choose to explore Uluru, you’ll no doubt gain an understanding of the innate spirituality and peacefulness that resounds from this ancient landscape.
Kings Canyon may be lesser known than Uluru, but it is equally remarkable. This majestic chasm was formed over millions of years of erosion, slicing the earth 270 metres deep and is the biggest attraction in Watarrka National Park.
The canyon abounds with waterholes and casts a sheltering shadow over dense palm forests and native animals from the harsh desert surrounds lending to an interesting array of flora and fauna. The best way to explore Kings Canyon is to put on your walking shoes and explore the boulder strewn canyon floor or hike to the rim - a must for any Red Centre adventurer.
Meander along Kings Creek on the Creek Bed Walk and venture through the canyon gorge with the 100 metre cliff walls towering above you. The walk will lead you to views of the impressive canyon rim and take you past fossilized tracks of ancient marine creatures and ripple marks of the sea that once filled the gorge visible on the cliff faces.
Alternatively for those with a good level of fitness, the steep climb up and around the rim of the canyon’s sandstone walls offers marvellous views. This walk will also take you between the sandstone cliffs to the Garden of Eden, a tropical oasis with a natural spring water hole surrounded by lush exotic plant life.
If hiking isn’t for you, take off on a helicopter flight and appreciate the grand scale of the canyon. Regardless of the experience you choose, it’ll definitely be worth every step and will leave you in awe of the scale and natural beauty of the region.
West MacDonnell Ranges
Alice Springs is flanked to the east and west by the rugged and ancient MacDonnell Ranges which stretch for 644 kilometres either side of the town. Venture west of Alice Springs through the breathtaking desert terrain of the West MacDonnell Ranges and you’ll discover how over time erosion has created incredible gorges and gaps along the ranges.
Standley Chasm is just one of many spectacular places to visit along the West MacDonnell Ranges. The narrow chasm, formed by rushing flood waters over thousands of years, cuts through quartzite rock to form a jagged walkway through the range. Further along is the calming beauty of Simpsons Gap where water flows through a small gap in the ranges providing a sheltering haven for a range of flora and fauna. Beautiful ghost gum trees surrounding a permanent waterhole are home to the elusive black footed rock wallabies which hide among the rocks.
Alice Springs Town
There’s no better place to experience a taste of outback life than in this fascinating and isolated town.
The region is known as Mparntwe to the traditional owners, the Arrarnta people, who have lived in the area renowned for its rugged mountain ranges, waterholes and gorges for at least 30,000 years. The Arrarnta believe that the striking MacDonnell Ranges, which flank the town from east to west, are said to have been created during the Dreamtime by giant caterpillars.
Early explorer John McDouall Stuart led an expedition through the centre of Australia in 1862 and founded the town now known as Alice Springs. The town grew in size and prominence during the building of a Telegraph Station in 1872 as part of the Overland Telegraph between Adelaide and Darwin and again in 1887 when gold was discovered in the region.
There’s plenty to see and do in and around Alice Springs; visit the home of unique outback community services the Royal Flying Doctor Service and School of the Air, wander through the town centre where you’ll find local Aboriginal art on display, experience indigenous culture at the Alice Springs Desert Park and admire views of the town and surrounding MacDonnell Ranges from the top of Anzac Hill.
Venture west of Alice Springs for the day and you’ll come across the historic Aboriginal community of Hermannsburg and the outback oasis of Palm Valley - the only place in Central Australia where red cabbage palms survive.
From the weird to the wonderful, there are all sorts of things going on in Alice Springs like the annual Camel Cup race day and the Henley on Todd Regatta – a boat race held in a dry river bed! Best of all, there are plenty of friendly Alice Springs locals who’ll share with you their amazing stories about life in the outback.
Dining Under a Desert Moon
Here’s something that you might like to take part in as part of a five day escape …. A table for two in the outback wilderness awaits you.
Experience an outback dining delight only found at Kings Canyon Resort. The night starts off with canapés and a glass of sparkling wine on the green lawn in front of Carmichael’s Restaurant.
Then you will be taken to a hidden location where your table is set up under a canopy of stars in the great Southern sky. A fire flickers as you are served a five course dinner created from seasonal, locally sourced produce with paired wines. Some produce and native herbs you may be familiar with and others may surprise and delight.
Under A Desert Moon is available from Monday 2 April 2018, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
This story was sponsored by Hello World – Hunter Travel Group