Cool off from the warm weather in green oases, see the desert exploding with wildflowers, wonder at giant meteor craters and colossal rocks – and that’s before you even get to the main attraction. This is what an epic Red Centre road trip could look like, so wind down the window and hit the open road en route to this amazing Australian outback experience.

Day 1 - Around Alice Springs

Group of friends exploring Alice Springs Desert Park, NT

Fuel up with a cup of the Alice blend, a chocolate-and-toffee-tinged roast that’s crafted in town at DuYu’s Roastery Café, before exploring with long-time local and tour guide James Acklin of Alice Springs Walking Tours. Meet him at the Visitor Information Centre in Todd Mall for a 90-minute stroll that explores the stories behind the town centre. “Alice has a bit of everything,” says Acklin. “Its history is both recent and ancient, with Aboriginal creation stories going back to the beginning of time.”

An eight-kilometre drive west, Alice Springs Desert Park will change your mind about deserts being desolate. Red and purple wildflowers burst out of the dirt. Red river gums and bush medicine plants create havens for ’roos, dingos and birds.

Dingoes at the Alice Springs Desert Park, NT

Give yourself three hours, timing things to join up with the Nocturnal Tour, which, in the cool of summer evenings, gets even closer to endangered bilbies, mala and echidna in the foothills of the MacDonnell Ranges.

Close to the Alice Springs Golf Club, DoubleTree by Hilton Alice Springs is an easy base camp where balconies look over rugged scenery and the breezy Deck Bar and pool make the most of the summer nights. Its award-winning Hanuman restaurant plates up Indian and Thai fare while Saltbush serves NT classics like crispy local barramundi with flavours inspired by the outback.

Hilton DoubleTree

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Day 2 - Do a daytrip

Hot air balloon in the air, NT

It’s worth getting up before the sun. Soaring on a hot air balloon, catching sunrise turning the MacDonnell Ranges blue then red is just the entrée on a flight with Outback Ballooning. Riding the wind for 30 minutes, you might even see packs of wild camels stirring to life over the former cattle station, Owen Springs Reserve.

Drive 1 hour 30 minutes

After a quick pit stop to pick up snacks at Afghan Traders Wholefoods in town, drive 135 kilometres west to dip in the oasis of Ormiston Gorge.

Swimming at Ormiston Gorge, NT

Walled by the craggy rock formations of Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park, the shimmering waterhole is brimming during the summer season. Around 14 metres deep at the southern end, it’s so chilly you’ll expect your hot skin to hiss with relief as you sink in.

Day 3 - Epic cliffs and canyons

Helicopter tour over Kings Canyon, NT

Drive 1 hour 30 minutes

Head out of Alice via the Stuart Highway early for the drive to Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve. These orange, ochre-red and white sandstone bluffs are home to sacred sites of the southern Arrernte people and feature short walks around claypans that fill with flowers.

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Drive 60 minutes

Stop to marvel at the 12 giant craters of Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve, formed 4700 years ago when space rocks crashed into the middle of nowhere.

Couple hiking at Rainbow Valley, NT

Drive 2 hours 30 minutes

Dinner and glamping digs await at Kings Canyon Resort. Smoky classics come with tap beer and music at the resort’s Kings Canyon Bar & Grill  but you’ll look forward to turning in, especially if you’re glamping on-site.. Spacious tents feature quality linen, a deck for stargazing – and a Nespresso machine for the early start tomorrow.

Glamping at Kings Canyon, NT

Day 4 - Onward to Uluru

Couple on a Rim Walk at Kings Canyon, NT

There is so much to explore between the towering rock faces that rise 100 metres on all sides of King’s Canyon. Guided walks connect landscape to Aboriginal legends but to self-navigate, start at Priscilla’s Crack – where you’ll see the Lost City’s bulbous domes – and can take the winding six-kilometre Rim Walk circuit to the Garden of Eden filled with ferns and hidden pools.

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Drive 3 hours 15 minutes

The drive to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park tracks past Mt Conner (or “Fooluru”, as it’s often mistaken for the rock) to the indulgence of Longitude 131º resort, with its luxe suites and private plunge pools offering uninterrupted views of Uluru. Cool, starry nights make Table 131° a one-of-a-kind experience as you taste delicacies at your table atop a dune by firelight.

Dune pavilion, Longitude 131º, NT

Day 5 - Explore the icons

Scenic helicopter flight, NT

Tours of Uluru depart as the sun touches the horizon. A guided base walk around the sandstone giant is 10.5 kilometres – 3.5 hours at a brisk pace – while a two-hour Desert Explorer Scenic Flight with Fly Uluru gives you perspective plus, depending on your chosen route, fly-overs of Kata Tjuta and glistening Lake Amadeus. Seeing the Field of Light, a fantasy garden of 50,000 spindles of light stretched across the desert, makes a highlight of your last night. 

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Image credits: Tourism NT/Shaun Jeffers, Tourism NT/Jordan Hammond, Tourism NT/Paddy Pallin, Tourism NT/Nic Morley, Tourism NT/Annie Nguyen, Tourism NT/The Salty Travellers, Tourism NT/Che Chorley.

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Kakadu National Park

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