There are many fantastic drives in Australia, offering stark and contrasting scenery. From the coastal drives of Victoria along the Great Ocean Road to the stunning national parks of Waterfall Way in New South Wales, you can see some of the most impressive scenery and geological formations right from your car window. If you’ve been dreaming of the desert and seeing the red centre of Australia, then a drive from Uluru at the bottom of the Northern Territory to Darwin on the northern coast might just be the trip for you. Uluru to Darwin extends almost the entire length of the Northern Territory, almost 2,000 kilometres and over 20 hours of driving time all up. This drive is a multi-week experience, mostly along the Stuart Highway, with many stops along the way.
The first section of the drive from Uluru to Alice Springs is perhaps the most iconic and impressive; it even has its own name, Red Centre Way. The drive from Uluru to Alice Springs is just over 450 kilometres and just under 5 hours driving time. Along this section of the drive, you will see iconic locations such as Glen Helen, Kings Canyon, Watarrka and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks.
Uluru is the start and perhaps the highlight of the trip. At over 348 metres tall with a circumference of nearly 10 kilometres, it is the cultural and spiritual heart of the Aboriginal People of the Northern Territory. It might be a good idea to stay and view Uluru for a full day, as the orange sandstone changes colour depending on the time of day, from a bright orange in the day to an almost purple at sunset. There is more to see in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park than just Uluru, with the rock formations, ancient rock art, Aboriginal art galleries and bird and animal watching opportunities. Make sure to fit in Uluru’s lesser-known cousin formation, the Kata Tjuta, also known as ‘The Olgas’. These rock domes are similar in colour to Uluru and offer the same colour changing spectacle. Both Uluru and the Olgas are viewable by car or walking trail, with the Walpa Gorge Walk another great on-foot experience in the park.
Kings Canyon offers spectacular views as walking trails. At 440 million years old, the canyon is at the heart of the red centre. As with most places in the heart of Australia, light pollution is very low, but Kings Canyon in particular, offers stargazing opportunities like nowhere else.
Glen Helen Gorge is a great place to take a dip in a natural swimming pool and to look for native animals. Float down waterways with sheer cliff faces on either side, which create a cooling oasis - a perfect stop off after a long drive.
Alice Springs is the third-largest town in the Northern Territory and full of local Aboriginal culture, from art galleries to keeping places, Aboriginal tours, ceremonies and workshops. See wallabies, thorny devils, red kangaroos and more in the wild or at one of the nature sanctuaries such as the Alice Springs Reptile Centre or the Kangaroo Sanctuary. With national parks and botanic gardens such as the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, there is no shortage of nature to enjoy. See it all from your car hire, on foot or by hot air balloon. The Rainbow Valley, East and West Macdonnell Ranges are great day trips for Alice Springs, both a few hours’ drive from town. With swimming holes, animals, and incredible gorges in the East Macdonnell Ranges and incredible ancient Aboriginal Rock Art in the West Macdonnell Ranges, you could easily spend up to a week exploring Alice Springs and the surrounding regions.