Kids on boardA Red Centre road trip the whole family will enjoy
This week-long road trip highlighting the best of the Red Centre is guaranteed to keep even the fussiest child interested.
There’s nowhere like the Red Centre for a family adventure. Driving from Alice Springs to Uluru via the scenic Red Centre Way, through the West MacDonnell Ranges and via Kings Canyon, is one of the country’s best road trips, a journey through an extraordinary landscape that will introduce the family to the oldest living culture in the world. This is one road trip where getting there really is half the fun.
Day 1: Alice Springs to Simpsons Gap (25km)
Pick up your hire car in Alice Springs and spend a couple of hours meeting the animals at the Alice Springs Desert Park on the outskirts of town – highlights are the birds of prey flying display and the nocturnal house full of bilbies and other night-loving creatures. Drive out to Simpsons Gap – the gorge is spectacular by day, but if you’re up for an adventure, come back at night with a couple of torches and go bat spotting at the waterhole.
Day 2: Alice Springs to Glen Helen (150km)
Pack the swimsuits and sneakers because today is all about exploring rocky gorges and splashing about in secret waterholes. Make your first stop at Standley Chasm and follow the 20-minute walking trail to the gorge, followed by a snack (or lunch) in the café. The kids may even spy a wallaby. Ellery Creek Big Hole is 60 kilometres down the road, and the perfect spot for a swim – you can also take a dip at Serpentine and Ormiston Gorges, and there’s a pool at Glen Helen Homestead Lodge, where you can camp or book a room.
Day 3: Glen Helen to Kings Canyon (230km)
The road gets a bit dusty as you wind your way to Kings Canyon, with stops along the way at lookouts and Tnorala (Grosse Bluff), a huge crater formed by a comet more than 130 million years ago. Stay the night at Kings Canyon Resort or Kings Creek Station.
Day 4: Walk the rim of Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park)
Take a break from driving and stretch the legs in Kings Canyon. The three-hour walk around the rim of the canyon is a must, but if that seems a bit too much for little legs, try the one-hour Kings Creek Walk into the floor of the canyon. You can also explore this stunning part of the outback via a quad bike tour, camel ride or helicopter flight.
Day 5: Kings Canyon to Ayers Rock Resort (300km)
It’s a big drive today, about four hours, but worth it – seeing Uluru for the first time is one of those moments you never forget. Stop at Curtin Springs Wayside Inn for lunch – kids will love meeting the resident emu that seems to wander though the restaurant like he owns it. Once you get to Ayers Rock Resort, check out the night sky with the resident astronomer on the Family Astro Tour – the stars out here are amazing.
Day 6: Uluru/Ayers Rock Resort
A sure-fire family hit is a sunset or sunrise camel safari. There are also guided tours around the base of the rock that will teach kids all about the cultural significance of the landscape and a range of family-friendly activities on offer at the resort, including dot painting workshops and free Indigenous storytelling. Don’t miss the free 3pm tour of the Wintjiri museum or a performance by the Putitja Dancers at 4pm (Friday to Tuesday), which is also free.
Day 7: Uluru/Ayers Rock Resort
A two-hour bush-tucker and reptile tour with an Aboriginal guide – tasting traditional bush foods, learning about desert survival and getting up close and personal to desert wildlife – is a fantastic way to finish off your Red Centre adventure.