You'll Hit Many Of Australia's Most Famous Destinations On This Scenic Road Trip

Odds are, you most likely picture the iconic Sydney Opera House when envisioning Australia. Leisurely walks around the Sydney Harbour Bridge and beach combing on Bondi Beach are the typical tourist ways to spend a week in this southern hemisphere gem. Yet, how many people can say they've ridden camels through the serene Australian Outback or witnessed a fiery desert sunset from inside a hot air balloon? If an Australian road trip sounds like the journey of a lifetime, plan your trip to Red Centre Way, Northern Territory. This remote stretch of highway through central Australia guides travelers past some of this country's most captivating landmarks.

Weathered mountains, colorful plains, and desert springs coalesce at every turn of this scenic road trip route. Beginning at Alice Springs and traveling west toward Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, travelers should plan for at least five or six days to complete this endeavor, with plenty of time to spare between hot spots. Nearly any Aussie will agree that a trip down Red Centre Highway will be the highlight of your trip. Aside from the occasional small roadside inn or fuel station, plan to stock up on essentials and settle down for the night in more populated towns like Yulara, Alice Springs, and Kings Canyon Resort. From traversing canyons on foot to stargazing underneath a glowing sky and spotting exotic wildlife straight out of National Geographic, have your camera in hand and your playlist on standby for an epic journey you'll never forget!

Alice Springs to Kings Canyon

The iconic road trip route along Red Centre Highway begins in Alice Springs, nestled in the heart of Australia's Outback. Not only is it the springboard for cruising Red Centre Highway, but it's also the gateway to adventure in this wilderness region. From hot air balloon rides at sunset to cooling off in the picturesque freshwater hole, Alice Springs is the center of life in the Outback. Just over 100 miles west, Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park is an untamed desert oasis of weathered terrain, flowering gorges, and swift-flowing creeks. According to local folklore, the land was created by the ancestors of its Aboriginal people, creating a sanctified space in the heart of the Outback. Standley Chasm is a captivating 262-foot gorge and an iconic gem within the West MacDonnell mountain ranges. Bold orange and red hues create a photogenic backdrop framed by ancient cycad palms.

Just over two hours west of Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park lies Kings Canyon. A spectacular sight along Red Centre Highway, this Australian national park contains a stunning montage of sandstone cliffs with designated walking paths carved throughout the canyons. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a local favorite, and this nearly 4-mile trek offers panoramic views from atop the gorge. Spend the night at Kings Canyon Resort and take in the starry desert sky at the Light Towers exhibition, an immersive sound and light installation that brings the desert landscape to life in a montage of vibrant colors. 

Kings Canyon to Rainbow Valley

After a well-rested night at the gorgeous Kings Canyon, you'll want to head south for roughly 200 miles towards Uluru. This sandstone monolith is often described as "magical" by those who have witnessed its captivating presence. Also known as Ayers Rock, this isolated rock formation is best visited at dusk to catch the full experience of golden hour settling over the terrain.

For a unique viewing experience, the iconic Field of Light art installation just outside Yulara comprises more than 50,000 light spindles that resemble a network of colorful neurons firing across the desert floor. They create the perfect foreground to illuminate the land at the foot of Uluru. If you've never ridden a camel before, Ayers Rock Resort gives travelers the chance to traverse the Outback on these exotic creatures. As Australia's largest camel farm, there's no better way to explore the red sand dunes than on camelback.

Before circling back to Alice Springs, catch a breathtaking sunset from atop your car at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, just south of Ayers Rock. Located along the final 54 miles of this loop, Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is a sacred site to the native Arrernte people, rich in ancient paintings and remnants of cultural traditions. This national treasure received its moniker from the rainbow of colors painted on the sandstone cliffs after heavy rains, resulting in a collision of orange, violet, pink, and purple hues that bring life to the sandy plateaus in the valley.