The Australian outback is a place like no other, an endless sea of red sand flows beneath your feet. I recently ventured out into the middle of Australia on the adventure of a lifetime.
While visiting Uluru
Uluru is one of the largest rock formations in the world and one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed site is incredibly sacred and important to the traditional Aboriginal landowners. Most of the things to do at Uluru centre around the rock. I had a few days in the area and stayed at Sails in the Desert.
1. Sunrise camel ride with Uluru view
As the sun broke the horizon we were slowly making our way through the colourful dunes just across the way from Uluru. We woke an hour before the sunrise and by the time we hopped on the back of our camel at Uluru Camel Tours, the outback landscape was already painted in pastels. We slowly meandered through the shrubs and dunes, our eyes ever-locked on Uluru as it changed tones with the rising sun. The camels were incredibly friendly and loved being pet. This was one of the most relaxing things to do in Uluru and was a great way to start the day.
2. Sunset viewpoint
On my first night in Uluru, we headed just out of the National Park and found a viewpoint overlooking the dunes and straight towards Uluru. While the sun actually sets in the opposite direction over Kata Tjuta, this is a great spot to witness the colour change of Uluru as the sun goes down.
Is there a more adventurous thing to do in Uluru than jump out of a plane trying to get the best vantage point? The answer is no. We bundled out of the Skydive Uluru plane and after the adrenaline slowly settled, the views were off the charts. Uluru definitely looks spectacularly different from the air. The landscape was much greener than I expected and it almost didn’t look like the desert.
4. Bike ride around the base of Uluru
Many of us adventurers aren’t blessed with deep wallets. We search out the best value for money experiences we can find. For me, renting a bicycle from Outback Cycling and riding around the base of Uluru is the cheapest way to get the most up close and personal experience with the iconic rock while still getting the blood flowing. It’s 10.6km in total around the base and by choosing a bike, you experience each small crack, ridge, and cave on the walls of Uluru. Signs along the way give you a brief history and insight into the significance of Uluru as well as alerting you to the sensitive areas, which you are not allowed to photograph.
5. Field of Lights
The Field of Lights is an attraction that will blow your mind. Acclaimed artist, Bruce Munro, has created an installation of 50,000 solar lights. The lights form an epic blanket of colours, emulating a sunset below Uluru. You can walk through the lights or enjoy the spectacle from the hilltop. If you spin around you will also get epic views of Kata Tjuta as the sun falls in the background.
Along the journey from Uluru to Alice Springs
6. Kings Canyon
At the crack of dawn, we rolled out of bed, weary-eyed from our adventures in Uluru. We had driven to Kings Canyon the day before and were now heading out on an early morning hike. The most popular walk is the rim walk that takes you right around the canyon, this is about a 3 hour walk. We opted to complete the shorter route that took us straight to the south wall of the canyon which is only a 45-minute hike. The canyon winds as far as the eye can see, eventually bending out of sight. This spot is out of this world during sunrise as the light slowly creeps through the canyon. We hung out here for hours marveling at the rock formations.
7. Cruising the Aussie outback roads
Part of the fun of a Red Centre road trip is cruising the outback red roads and leaving a trail of dust behind you. We travelled from Kings Canyon Resort to Alice Springs via the Mereenie Loop, a 4WD only dirt track.
8. Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge is the Australian version of an Oasis. We left the red dirt track and headed on a short stroll into the bush. All the while we walked alongside a sandy bank, wondering where this magical waterhole might be. Before we knew it, we had arrived at an outback beach! Sandbanks and gum trees surrounded a peaceful waterhole, which is a favourite of the locals from Alice Springs. We had a chill in the sun, making this one of my favourite moments of the trip.
9. Glen Helen
There’s no better way to experience the Aussie outback than to spend the night camping out under the stars after roasting some marshmallows on the campfire. Glen Helen campground was a really comfortable way to get outdoors. The tents were already set up for us with electricity available and a bonfire. It wasn’t glamping but we certainly weren’t roughing it.
The beauty of Glen Helen is the waterhole. Only a couple of minutes walk from the campsite is one of the most beautiful waterholes in the country. Despite how amazing it is, we were the only people there to enjoy it! We found a rope swing along the sandy banks & enjoyed the epic reflections of the stunning landscape across the water.
10. Ellery Creek Big Hole
Ellery Creek Big Hole is another epic waterhole on the journey from Uluru to Alice Springs. Huge cliffs on either side give an amazing backdrop to a sandbar that juts out from the right side of the waterhole. We enjoyed a scenic picnic before having a dip in the chilly water.
While in Alice Springs
11. Open-door helicopter ride
It was my first open-door helicopter ride and a tour with Alice Springs Helicopters lived up to my expectations. I thought a chopper ride in the desert might reveal a vast red plain but instead, we flew over the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges. We flew low over ridges as the sun, having just risen, clipped the ranges beautifully. Legs hanging out the door and the wind blowing my bandana off my head, this was one of the highlights of the trip and my favourite thing to do in Alice Springs.
12. Sunrise hot-air balloon ride
High up in the air, floating over Alice Springs, watching the sunrise over the horizon from the comfort of the basket was the most majestic morning of my trip. If you are looking to take in Alice Springs and enjoy the desert experience Outback Ballooning is one of the best things to do in Alice Springs. We left the hotel bright and early, bundled into our basket and off we went. We were blessed with a sunrise for the books and had a champagne in the middle of nowhere after a safe but rocky landing.
13. Earth Sanctuary experience
The Earth Sanctuary boys are the most Aussie blokes on the planet. Three brothers run the Earth Sanctuary, which is a hub of amazing experiences. They have built an eco-village in the middle of the dunes just out of Alice Springs town. After 17 years they have grown their property to include an observatory, multiple eco-dome homes, restaurant and learning centre. The boys have had their own television show, hosted celebrities and run tours showing their love of the land and educating visitors about its rich history. We enjoyed a three-course Aussie barbecue, tried our hand at making damper, spear throwing, looked at the moon through their telescope and learned about Aboriginal culture. If you are looking for an authentic experience this has definitely got to be on your list of things to do in Alice Springs.