The Red Centre is the colloquial name given to the southern desert region of the Northern Territory in Australia.
The Red Centre is the place where you will find the most famous monolith of Australia, Uluru and it is where the heart of the outback beats. The only town of sizable population is Alice Springs, the remainder of the population being scattered in smaller communities. The oxidized iron in the soil gives the whole area its distinctive and immediately recognizable reddish glow.
Most visitors arrive to the Red Centre via Alice Springs (see Alice Springs#Get in) by car, train or plane. There is another airport near Uluru with connections to other major Australian cities.
The best way to get around is with a car, although there are also buses from Alice Springs to tourist destinations.
The sealed Stuart Highway running from Alice Springs to Adelaide crosses the area and is the major artery for local traffic (meaning you can actually cross several vehicles per hour). The Lasseter Highway is also sealed, and links the Stuart Highway with Uluru.
Consider renting a 4WD to explore areas beyond the Stuart Highway and Uluru. Several destinations can simply not be accessed by conventionnal vehicles. If you run out of fuel here, you're in big trouble. It is advisable to travel with other vehicles, the more the better.
- Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve, Ernest Giles Road, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (145 kilometres south west of Alice Springs), ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250. Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve, 145 kilometres south west of Alice Springs, contains 12 craters, which were formed when a meteor hit the earth’s surface 4,700 years ago. The Henbury Meteor, weighing several tonnes and accelerating to over 40,000 kilometres per hour, disintegrated before impact, and the fragments formed the 12 craters. The scattered fragments of the Henbury Meteorite are extremely heavy since they consist mainly of iron and nickel. Pieces of these can be found at the Museum of Central Australia.
- Museum of Central Australia, Araluen Cultural Precinct, Corner of Larapinta Drive and Memorial Avenue, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 1120. The Museum of Central Australia, in the Araluen Cultural Precinct, acts as an interpretive centre for Central Australia’s natural history. The exhibitions explore the unique features of the region through time and space, following the evolution of the landscape and the creatures that inhabited it. Featured is a replica of a local palaeontologic dig, an ancient waterhole with some surprising mega fauna including a giant freshwater crocodile and the largest bird that ever lived, Dromornis stirtoni, dated at eight million years old. Other exhibits include present day Central Australian mammals, reptiles, insects and meteorite fragments.
- Ochre Pits, Namatjira Drive, 110 kilometres west of Alice Springs, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250. The Ochre Pits, 110 kilometres west of Alice Springs, has been used for generations by the local Aboriginal people as a mine for the colourful mineral ochre. Ochre occurs in a range of earthy colours and is the raw material for paintings and ceremonial body decoration. An information shelter at the site provides information about how, why and when the Ochre Pits were used.
- Alice Springs town, an oasis in the middle of nowhere, and the link to the outer world for locals, and the natural choice to start your exploration of the region. Framed by the MacDonnell Ranges and an intense desert landscape, the township of Alice Springs is Australia’s most famous outback town.
- Adelaide House Museum, Todd Mall, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8952 1856. Adelaide House is one of the earliest buildings in Alice Springs, built in 1920 by the Australian Inland Mission. As you step into the cool interior of this historic building situated in the heart of Todd Mall, you’ll step back in time. Entry fees apply.
- Arltunga Historical Reserve, Ross Highway, 110 kilometres east of Alice Springs, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250, . Located 110 kilometres east of Alice Springs, the historic town of Arltunga was officially Central Australia's first town and once supported up to 3000 people. Arltunga was born out of a gold rush in 1887, when alluvial gold was discovered in a dry creek bed. Today you can relive the heyday of Arltunga at the Historical Reserve, where the remains of mines, old miner's camps and stone buildings are preserved for the public to explore. The fossicking area is located outside of the reserve, however you can pan for gold in the visitor centre's courtyard display. Free entry.
- Curtin Springs Station, Lasseter Highway via Yulara, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8956 2906, . Outback hospitality – The way you wish it could be all the time. Curtin Springs is a working cattle station and Wayside Inn located on the Lasseter Highway just 84 kilometres east of Yulara, at the edge of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It is owned and operated by the Severin family. The family took over in 1956 and still operate the station today.
- Alice Springs Desert Park, Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8788, . In the space of just a few hours, you can discover many of the secrets of the Central Australian deserts at the Alice Springs Desert Park. Hundreds of the species of plants and animals found across Central Australian deserts can be seen, smelt and heard at the Desert Park. You will even have the opportunity to experience desert habitats as they are at night, seeing some of the animals near impossible to see in the wild. Entry fees apply.
- Alice Springs Reptile Centre, 9 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8952 8900, . The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is the largest reptile display in the Northern Territory. Do not miss the saltwater crocodile exhibit featuring underwater viewing. Watch the lizards feed, or play with a python. Or wander through the absorbing Fossil Cave, where you can trace the rise of reptiles over hundreds of millions of years. Entry fees apply.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Lasseter Highway, Yulara, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8956 1100, . Few are ever prepared for a visit to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru / Ayers Rock is Australia's most recognisable natural icon. Standing 348 metres high, the monolith has a great cultural significance for the traditional Aboriginal owners, the Anangu people. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is located 440 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs near the town of Yulara, and encompasses both Uluru / Ayers Rock and the great rock domes of Kata Tjuta / The Olgas. This ancient landform dates back 500 million years. Travellers visiting the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park can also browse through the informative and award-winning Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.
- Ayers Rock Observatory, Tour and Information Centre, Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8956 2563, . The lights of the world’s modern cities hide the brilliance of the night sky, but things are different at the Ayers Rock Observatory, located in Yulara. The darkness of the desert setting and a clean atmosphere, provide one of the best locations on Earth to view the magnificent skies of the Southern Hemisphere. An expert guide will show you our magnificent galaxy and beyond through state of the art telescopes. Entry fees apply.
- Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon), Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park, Northern Territorysouth-west of Alice Springs (330 kilometres via the Red Centre Way, 450 kilometres via the Stuart and Lasseter Highways and Luritja Road), ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250, . Watarrka National Park, synonymous with its most famous landmark, Kings Canyon, is located 450 kilometres south west of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta region of the Northern Territory. The park encompasses the western end of the George Gill Range and is home to a variety of unique native flora and fauna, including over 600 different plant species.
- Ormiston Gorge and Pound, Namatjira Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (135 kilometres west of Alice Springs), . Massive geological forces created the towering red walls of Ormiston Gorge and Pound, located within the West MacDonnell National Park, 135 kilometres west of Alice Springs. Within the gorge is a permanent waterhole, estimated to be at least 14 metres deep, which provides a refreshing finale to a day's exploring. The seven kilometre long Ormiston Pound walk is a full circuit from the visitor centre across the rocky slopes, onto the flat floor of the pound and returns along the gorge via the main waterhole.
- Maruku Arts, Cultural Centre, Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, Yulara, Northern Territory, . Maruku is a craft company, owned and controlled by the Anangu Aboriginal people from the southeast and west of Central Australia. Maruku's retail outlet is at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre at the base of Uluru / Ayes Rock. Maruku assists craftspeople throughout the Anangu, collective name of Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjara speaking people, lands by coordinating the marketing and promotion of their work and providing them with essential support services and advice. Tours are available within the shop to assist in appreciating the spiritual significance of the works on display. Free entry.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Headquarters, Yulara, Northern Territory, . All Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park information services are housed within the award-winning Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre, a stunning example of contemporary Australian architecture. Dynamic displays, video and artwork explain this world heritage landscape from the perspective of the traditional owners, Anangu. Learn about Tjukurpa, creation stories and laws, which explain the spiritual meanings of the surrounding landscapes. Free entry.
- Alice Springs School of the Air, 80 Head Street, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 6834, . Alice Springs School of the Air was established in 1951 to provide a much needed education resource to children living in remote Central Australia. At the time, it was the only one of its kind in the world and HF (high frequency) radio was the mode of communication for these school lessons.
- Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250, . The Larapinta Trail is an exciting long distance walking track through the West MacDonnell National Park in the heart of central Australia. The Trail runs for 223 kilometres along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs to Mt Sonder. The grandeur and timeless beauty of the Ranges are the backdrop and setting for the Trail, which is divided into twelve sections, providing walkers with an opportunity to experience an ancient landscape at their own pace.
- Redbank Gorge, Namatjira Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (157 kilometres west of Alice Springs). Part of the West MacDonnell National Park, the waters of deep and narrow Redbank Gorge, located 157 kilometres west of Alice Springs, are very cold all year round and are best negotiated with an airbed or similar flotation device. Explore this ancient and impressive landform, then sit down and relax, soaking up the scenic surrounds, as you enjoy a barbecue lunch by the Gorge.
- Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve, Ross Highway, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (43 kilometres east of Alice Springs), ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250. As the name suggests, this site is of great significance to local Aboriginal people, as are many of the sites in the MacDonnell Ranges. The real significance of the rocky outcrop to the Eastern Arrernte people is not well known. Corroboree Rock was probably not a corroboree site, but a site where men carried out important ceremonial activities. Information signs and a short walk help you appreciate the area. It is an easy stopover, on your way to other East MacDonnell parks such as Trephina Gorge and Arltunga. The reserve is easily reached by regular two wheel drive vehicles. Free entry.
- Ellery Creek Big Hole, Namatjira Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (90 kilometres west of Alice Springs). High red cliffs, a large waterhole and a sandy creek fringed by gums make this one of the most popular and picturesque picnicking spots in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Much more than just a popular place for the locals to take a refreshing dip, Ellery Creek Big Hole is also recognised as an internationally significant geological site. A three kilometre Dolomite walk provides an opportunity for visitors to explore some of the interesting formations. The West MacDonnell Ranges are the source of the water that has collected in a deep pool. Red River and Ghost Gums shelter the picnic area located nearby. Camping is permitted (fees apply).
- Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve, Old South Road, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (39 kilometres south of Alice Springs). Gain insight into an ancient culture as you explore the small, 6 hectare Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve, 39 kilometres south of Alice Springs. The Reserve protects rock engravings or petroglyphs, which are a valuable link to the activities of early Arrernte Aboriginal people. Here outcrops of soft sandstone beside a small claypan, form natural galleries for petroglyphs featuring a great variety of symbols or motifs. Much of the meaning of the petroglyphs is sacred.
- Explorer's Way, Stuart Highway, Northern Territory and South Australian border, Northern Territory. The Explorer’s Way bisects the Australian continent from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. It covers over 3,000 kilometres and follows the corridor blazed in the 1860s by explorer John McDouall Stuart for the ‘Overland Telegraph’. On this drive, you’ll pass through the Central Australian desert, fertile dark soil plains of the Barkly Tablelands, Savannah woodlands and lush tropical forests surrounding Darwin.
- Papunya Tula Artists, 63 Todd Mall, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8952 4731. Papunya Tula Artists, located in Alice Springs, are dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Western Desert Culture and have a total of more than 100 contributing artists. Artworks from the Papunya Tula Artists are internationally renowned and have been exhibited in major galleries, museums, both within Australia and overseas as well as many large private collections. Distinctive and powerful artworks capture the artist’s knowledge of traditional body and sand paintings.
- Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, 101 kilometres south of Alice Springs, via Stuart Highway, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250. Explore the spectacular Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, 100 kilometres south of Alice Springs via the Stuart Highway. The main feature of the Rainbow Valley area is the scenic sandstone bluffs and cliffs. These free standing cliffs form part of the James Range, and are particularly attractive in the early morning and late afternoon when the rainbow-like rock bands are highlighted. The coloured rock bands in the sandstone cliffs were caused by water. In earlier, wetter times, the red iron of the sandstone layers dissolved, and was drawn to the surface during the dry season. The red minerals formed a dark iron rich surface layer with the leached white layers below.
- Red Centre Way, Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Discover the Australian outback and the world-renowned landmarks of Uluru / Ayers Rock, Kata Tjuta / The Olgas and Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon on a four or five day adventure drive along the Red Centre Way out of Alice Springs. Accommodation options along the route range from campgrounds to luxurious resorts.
- Sounds of Starlight Theatre, 40 Todd Mall, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8953 0826, . Experience the pulse of Australia. The Didgeridoo Show Outback has earned a reputation as one of Central Australia’s most memorable live shows. Internationally acclaimed didgeridoo player and story teller, Andrew Langford presents this ancient instrument with live percussion and spectacular sounds and visions at the Sounds of Starlight Theatre. You will be moved by the stirring renditions and spectacular imagery that captures Central Australia’s unique natural, cultural and pioneering history. A spellbinding musical and visual journey, and a truly unique experience in the heart of the Alice. Entry fees applyEntry fees apply.
- Simpsons Gap, 18 kilometres west of Alice Springs, via Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250. Simpsons Gap, 18 kilometres west of Alice Springs, is one of the best known attractions in the West MacDonnell National Park. A good time to visit is later in the afternoon or early morning when there is a good chance of sighting the rare Black-footed Rock Wallabies. The Ghost Gum walk provides an interesting introduction to the native plants of the region. The short walk to Cassia Hill gives excellent elevated views of the Ranges and the Simpsons Gap area. For something a little different, a sealed bicycle path meanders for 17 kilometres between Simpsons Gap and John Flynn's Grave. Allow around 45 minutes to explore the wonders of this area.
- Giles Track, Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8951 8250, . Impressive natural wonders, indigenous culture and the heritage of outback Central Australia can all be experienced when trekking this 22 kilometre, two day long distance walking track located in Watarrka National Park. Free entry.
- Uluru Camel Tours, Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara, Northern Territory, ☎ +61 (8) 8950 3030, . With views of Uluru / Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta / The Olgas providing an inspiring backdrop, visit Uluru Camel Tours at the Ayers Rock Resort and get to know their remarkable and friendly camels. Get up close and personal and enjoy a short ride atop one of these gentle giants of the desert, or browse through the museum and display area and pick up a memento of your visit. A wonderful ‘hands on’ experience for young children and families alike.
The following itinerary will lead you through the best of the Red in a few days, however you will need a 4WD, so make a reservation beforehand. Make sure there is a little fridge with your vehicle to keep your supplies fresh.
Make your way into Alice Springs. There are no international flights landing the Alice, so you will have to change planes at any of the big Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth or Darwin). Being in the middle of Australia, it takes more or less two hours to get to Alice Springs from any of the aforementionned cities.
In Alice Springs, walk to the top of the Anzac Hill to get a good view of the town, and pay a visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service or the School of the Air, both will give you an idea of the vastitude of the surrounding areas and how the locals cope with it.
In the evening, take a bite at a restaurant on the Todd Mall.
In the morning, pick up your 4WD (you will of course have made your reservation beforehand on the internet at Thrifty, Britz or any of the companies offering 4WD rental). Buy your supplies for the coming days (including a lot of fluids).
Head West on the Larapinta Drive, and make your first stop only a few km outside Alice at the very interesting Alice Springs Desert Park, where you will learn a lot about the flora and fauna of the Australian Desert. Allow at least two hours for the visit.
Continue West, enter the West McDonnell National Park. The moutain range is dotted with gaps, waterholes and gorges, (Simpsons Gap, Ormiston Gorge, Stanley Chasm...), making for refreshing short walks. If you have your bathsuit, you can even swim in some of the waterholes (for instance the permanent Ellery Creek Big hole), but be aware that the water can be very cold compared to the outside air. Make a stop at the Ochre Pits, used by aboriginals to get ceremonial ochre.
Make a stop for the night at Glen Helen Resort, a very casual but clean little place in magnificient surroundings, and actually the only option for a roofed accommodation around.
The real outback driving begins here. Wake early, walk to the Glen Helen Gorge, and take back your 4WD to continue on the Larapinta Drive, which becomes unsealed. Make a stop at the Redbank Gorge, and walk the 1-hour return trail (without forgetting to take water with you).
Continue on the Mereenie Loop Road, an unsealed dirt road crossing Aboriginal lands, with nice desert scenery around you. Try to take your lunch at the viewpoint of Tyler's Pass, from where there is a truly breathtaking view over the area. You should also be able to see the eroded crater of Tnorala, a truly gigantic comet impact dating from the Cretacean period.
Descend from Tyler's pass, and take a short walk inside Tnorala. The sheer size of what remains after million years of erosion puts the imagination at test about the energy of the original impact.
You should be able to reach Watarrka National Park before sunset, and even have enough take to take the short walk at the bottom of King's Canyon and admire the sunset on the Canyon. Take a good night of sleep at the King's Canyon Resort
Leave just before sunrise (at least during the hotter months), and head for the Canyon, walk the Rim Walk while it is still not too hot, with plenty of water with you. Admire and absorb the magic of the scenery around you.
After the walk, head for Uluru. Slowly, you will notice that the soil gets sandier and sandier, and soon the (fortunately sealed) road will lead you through dunes. A hundred kilometers before Uluru, you will see Mount Conner in the distance, an anvil shaped mount with a flat top. From the dune on the other side of the viewpoint for Mount Conner, you will also see vast salt lakes spotting the plains.
After some more driving, you will see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta rising in the distance. No matter how many times you have seen the Rock in photographs or videos, the first time you see it rising from the plains truly leaves a strong impression. Get in the park (there is a fee), visit the tourist center, eventually take one of the short walks around the rock, but be at the designated parking spot for the sunset. At the last moment before the sun goes down, it reflects in the rock. The rock then "shines" for a few seconds, producing a truly mesmerizing effect. Head back to one of the accommodation at neighbouring Yulara.
Drive to Kata Tjuta (45 km from the entrance of the park), make a brief stop at the view point and walk the Valley of the Winds, a 7 km loop between the red domes of Kata Tjuta. The trail is not too difficult, but it is sometimes closed in the summer days to the
excessive heat (whether the walk in closed or open is indicated at the entrance of the park, so you do not have to drive the 90km return just to check). If it is too hot or you do not feel like walking 7km, there is a shorter treck (2 km return).
After Kata Tjuta, head back to Uluru and Yulara. You can make a brief stop at the bottom of the climb to the top of the rock, but no need to try : it is heavily frowned upon by the aboriginals, and it is just plain dangerous.
Anyway, return at Yulara, and take the Sounds of Silence dinner experience. It is quite popular and you will probably have to make a reservation in the morning.
Wake early, try to be at the sunrise viewing point at Uluru for a reverse effect of the sunset glow. Return to Uluru, and Walk around the base of Uluru. It will take two to three hours, there are many stops with explanations about the aboriginal mythology linked with the rock, as well as rock paintings. Some features are sacred, respect the place and do not take pictures.
Take your vehicle, time to hit back the road. Head back towards the Stuart Highway on the Lesseter highway, take the turn on the Luritja road, but take the unsealed and rough Ernest Giles Road. The track will take you into some barren scenery. Just before reaching the Stuart Highway, turn left to enter the tiny Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve. The short loop trail into the reserve will bring you close to very visible craters left by pieces of a meteorites that disintegrated over the desert. One of the craters was deep enough to create some shadow and a temporary waterhole, so the bottom is a bit greenish compared to the incredibly flat and barren surroundings.
Drive back to the Stuart Highway, head back towards Alice Springs, but turn right to get to the Rainbow Valley before sunset (it is a 4WD drive with sandy spots from the Stuart highway to the reserve). The colors of the sandstone and rock formations are simply splendid. If you are lucky enough to get there just after the rain, you might get the chance to view the reflection of the rocks over the water.
For the night, head back to Alice, or stay at 'Jim's place, 90 km south of Alice, a rustic roadhouse with a local attraction, Dinky the Dingo, a dog able to play the piano.
View of the desert from Chamber's Pillar
From Alice Springs, take the dirt road towards Finke (the entrance of the road is close to the Airport) and head towards Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve | Chambers pillar. Make your first stop at the Ewaninga Conservation Reserve, a small reserve only 30 km from Alice Springs (the entrance of the park is easy to miss). You will see some aboriginal carvings dating from the prehistoric times, that are presently still sacred.
Hit the track back. You can make a brief stop at the Maryvale Station, an outback fuel station with some refreshment available. Depending on how confident you feel with your driving skills over sand, you might want to tell them you are heading to Chamber's pillar.
The drive from Maryvale to Chamber's pillar starts gently, but slowly becomes a hell of a 4WD track over rougher and rougher terrain. You will then have to drive over a rocky hill, which is really steep. No conventionnal vehicle can cope with this climb, and even with the 4WD you will have to be in very low gear. On top of the hill, you can have a view of the pillar rising above the desert.
After descending the other side of the hill (which is as steep as the climb, by the way), you will drive the last few kilometers over sand dunes. Take care at the top of each dune, as frontal accidents may happen.
The pillar was used as a landmark for pionneers, and bears some century old graffitis. There are furthermore fantastic views of the desert.
Head back to Alice for the evening, and eat your belly out at the Todd Mall.
Last day in Alice. Take your time to pay a visit to the Old telegraph station and buy the necessary souvenirs for the family, but most of all look back at your week and wonder how early explorers did what you did without a 4WD (do not forget to wash it, and return it). Take a shuttle bus to the airport to take your flight.
This is a desertic area, so always bring a lot of water with you if you go out hiking, and in any case bring a lot of water with you while you are driving. It can get dramatically hot in the summer, and even during other seasons, when it is only 'very hot during the day you should be wary of dehydratation. Always wear a hat, and put on strong sunscreen.
Some unsealed roads are fairly remote, so take extra care, as mechanical problem can mean big trouble if you are not prepared.
The distance between fuel supplies is not to be underestimated. Check the autonomy of your vehicle, and refuel accordingly.
For more information, read carefully Driving in Australia#Outback driving.
They are not directly life-threatening, but flies can become annoying when they buzz around you by the dozens. You may want to buy a fly-net for your head.
The Stuart Highway is the only sealed option. Drive North, you will reach the tropical Northern end and Darwin. To the South, you will enter South Australia, with Adelaide at the end of the road.
If you have a 4WD, you can cut Northwest directly to the Kimberley on the Tanami Track, a relatively well graded dirt road crossing the Tanami Desert. It is a 800+km drive to Hall's Creek in Western Australia, with very little supplies along the way, and only a single fuel station at the remote Rabbit Flat Roadhouse (which is not open all the time, on top of that), roughly midway between Alice Springs and Hall's Creek.
To the West, you can take the unsealed Gunbarrel Highway starting at Kata Tjuta, and with a lot of patience and a good 4WD you could drive all the way to Perth (something like 2500 km away).
To the East, the WAA line or the French line are 4WD tracks crossing the Simpson Desert to Birdsville in Queensland, some 500 km East. Be extremely well prepared if you wish to tackle those routes.
West from Alice Springs
The MacDonnells Ranges, with plenty of waterholes for a refreshing swim in the inferno of the hotter months:
- Honeymoon Gap
- Simpson's Gap
- Stanley Chasm
- Wallace Rockhole
- Ormiston Gorge
- The Ochre Pits
- Serpentine Gorge
- Ellery Creek Big Hole
- Glen Helen Gorge - end of the sealed road, literally. All after this is 4WD. Glen Helen Resort is located there and has a Cafe, restaurant, camping, accommodation.
- Redbank Gorge 
- Roma Gorge  - Aboriginal rock art
- Tnorala, the remnants of a gigantic comet impact.
- Hermannsburg is a small aboriginal art community, famous for their pottery and painting, for being the home of Albert Namatjira. A community of 500, founded by Lutheran missionaries, with several historical buildings.
Southwest of Alice Springs
- The Finke River Track is the site of the annual Finke Desert Races, and is a really lovely 4WD track - but should definitely only be used by experienced four-wheel drivers, as there's every hazard you can imagine for a four wheel drive vehicle. The track is NOT MARKED!
- Palm Valley, a somewhat more tropical greener place, Southwest of Alice
- Tyler's Pass
- Palm Valley
- Boggy Hole 
East of Alice Springs
- John Hayes Rock hole
- Emily Gap 
- Jesse Gap 
- Corroboree Rock 
- Trephina Gorge 
- Ross Rives Homestead - Also home to Ross River Resort
- N'Dhala Gorge 
- Ruby Gap Nature Park 
- Arltunga  Gold Mining ghost town, 4WD track only, hotel, a camp area and a tourist center, hands on display about the area and gold mining. You can visit the old township and surrounds.
- Fossicking  - A few hours out of Alice are gem fields with Garnet, Zircon, Tourmaline, Apatite and various kinds of Quartz. Contact the Gem Tree for details. Garnet is the easiest to go for on your first try, as the garnet chips are easy to find on the surface and require no digging or special equipment.
Southeast of Alice Springs
- Ewaninga_Rock_Carvings  - petroglyphs
- Rainbow Valley and Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve both daytrips from Alice Springs require a 4WD.
South of Alice Springs
- Mount Conner - a plateau frequently mistaken for Ayre's Rock by travelers...
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where you will see Uluru, formerly called Ayers Rock, and Kata Tjuta, formerly known as The Olgas. These two are the two most prominent features of Central Australia. You can take camping trips from Alice Springs out to Uluru, sleeping in swags (waterproof sleeping bags) under the stars and cooking on a barbie. The buses are airconditioned (very necessary) and have all the equipment, and a guide/driver. This is a really good way to see Uluru and maybe Kata Tjuta with enough time and no worries! Uluru at sunrise and sunset is absolutely amazing.
- The Henbury Meteorites craters.
- Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park. This is a lovely canyon walk; it's also available as a scenic helicopter flight. It is close to Uluru, and is included on may of the tours. It's not technically speaking a town, as you might intrepret it - it is a hotel at a canyon with a little swimming pool and a gas station. The food at the hotel is very good.
- Tnorala aka Gosse Bluff aka Gosses Bluff Crater is registered sacred ground, a premit is required (available at King's Canyon) and overnighting is NOT permitted. It is actually the remnant of a gigantic comet impact. It is not on the direct road from Alice to Uluru, but on the unsealed Merenee loop road. There are 4WD tracks, picnic tables, and walking tracks. The dreamtime story told is worth a read; it's an amazing place.
- Ormiston Gorge, a permanent water hole, has a serviced camping area and a permanant ranger station.
- Coober Pedy - The home of opal mining in Australia. Underground hotels, etc.
North of Alice
- Tennant Creek - small town, home base for seeing the Devil's Marbles
- Katherine - small town, the entrance to the tropical North
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!