If you are among the growing network of the grey nomads’ club (or are hoping to be) and looking to discover first-hand the unspoilt beauty, culture and character of the Northern Territory, there is no better time to set off on an experience of a life time!
With incredible motorhome specials on offer throughout the year you can afford to take your time – it’s all about the experience after all – so while planning is important, be sure to leave a few unplanned days up your sleeve so can make the most of your NT holiday. If you are up for a outback adventure off the beaten track, the Adventure Camper is what you are looking for, offering 4WD for unsealed roads, extra fuel capacity and outdoor cooking features.
Let us help you plan your adventure with the Grey Nomads Guide to Alice Springs and Uluru.
DAY 1: ALICE SPRINGS
A short 5-minute drive from the Apollo branch, Alice Springs is a great starting point for your Top End itinerary. Once inhabited by the Arrernte people, Alice Springs is the spiritual heart of Australia and the gateway to some of Northern Territory landmarks, bucket list experiences and awe-inspiring landscapes. While there is so much to experience nearby to Alice Springs, it’s worthwhile taking the time to explore the town itself when you arrive. If you are looking for what to do in Alice Springs, there is a lot to experience. Browse through art galleries showcasing traditional art work, explore museums, visit the Aboriginal fabric gallery, pick up groceries for your trip and enjoy delicious local cuisine.
DAY 2: ELLERY CREEK BIG HOLE
Ellery Creek Big Hole is one of the most popular and picturesque places to visit in the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park and thousands of years of massive floods have carved out an incredible outback oasis surrounded by high red cliffs. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you walk along the peaceful 3 km Dolomite loop (approximately 1.5 hours) before spending the afternoon swimming in the biggest and deepest water hole in Central Australia and enjoying a picnic lunch.
Distance: 80 km from Alice Springs to the Ellery Creek Big Hole / 1 hour.
DAY 3: RAINBOW VALLEY AND YULARA
Today you will be heading south along the Stuart highway to Yulara in preparation for ticking off your bucket list Red Centre experiences. There is so much beautiful landscape to see and experience along the way and your first stop today is the Rainbow Valley Conservation reserve.
The Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is home to incredible sandstone bluffs and cliffs which are impressive in the soft morning light so if you are looking for photographic mementos, make certain to get an early start. Take your time exploring Mushroom rock, an interesting sandstone formation carved by wind and rain over millions of years which is well worth visiting as is venturing along the short 1.6 km claypan walk, with exceptional views of Rainbow Valley.
Head back along the Stuart highway and onto the Lasseter Highway, arriving at Yulara at the Ayres Rock Resort camp grounds where you can rest and prepare for tomorrow’s adventure!
Distance: 97 km from Alice Springs to the Rainbow Valley / 1 hour 45 minutes.
368 km from Rainbow Valley to Yulara / 3 hours 40 minutes.
DAY 4 & 5: KATA TJUTA (THE OLGAS) AND ULURU
Uluru and its lesser known sibling Kata Tjuta are among some of the top experiences which you can add to your Northern Territory itinerary. We recommend taking your time and experiencing these incredible wonders over 2 separate days, however as they are located close nearby each other, they can be visited in one (full) day. Most tours see tourists visiting Uluru in the morning so if you do decide to combine the two, we recommend that you head to Kata Tjuta first.
Kata Tjuta is a group of large ancient rock formations and while it may be the lesser known of the two, the tallest dome is higher than Uluru rising 546 metres above the plain. Walking is the best way to make the most of the experience, when you arrive set out on the 30-minute Kata Tjuta Dune trail and take in the awe-inspiring panoramic views of the domes at sunrise. The Valley of the Winds walk has a few magnificent lookout points along the trail. If you are spending a full day you can walk the full circuit (7.4 km) taking 3-4 hours, or simply head to the Karu lookout which is an hour return trip (2.2km) leaving you time to visit Uluru in the afternoon if that’s on the cards. Find out more about Kat Tjuta walks here.
Uluru is the ultimate bucket list item for Australians and tourists from all over the world. There are several Uluru walking trails to explore and if you are planning to spend a full day, taking the full Uluru base walk 10.6km loop (approximately 3.5 hours) is an incredible way to appreciate the natural beauty of Uluru. You can also take part in the free 1.5 hour ranger guided Mala Walk along Uluru’s base (2km return), where you can learn about traditional Anangu culture and rock art. Aim to be there for either sunrise or sunset – or both – as watching the sacred rock change its colour to several hues of terracotta and crimson is an unforgettable experience.
Distance: 53 km from Yulara to Kata Tjuta / 45-minutes.
26 km from Yulara to the Uluru / 30 minutes.
DAY 6 & 7: KINGS CANYON
A trip to the Red Centre is not complete without visiting Kings Canyon. You can easily spend two or 3 days here with several spectacular walks and waterholes to explore. When you arrive, we suggest you take a walk to Kathleen Springs (2.5km, 1.5 hours return) where you can enjoy lunch by spring fed waterhole which holds special significance to the local Aboriginal people. In the afternoon take a walk along the South Wall (4.8km, 2 hour return), scaling the towering Kings Canyon and taking in the scenic landscape of rugged ranges and gorges as the sun sets over the Watarrka National Park.
Get an early start the next day and instead of hitting the road, enjoy a walk along the Kings Canyon Rim, a 6 km loop (3-4 hours) and enjoy watching the sun rise and exploring at your leisure. Camping is not allowed in the National Park however you can set up camp at the Kings Canyon Resort located nearby.
Distance: 303 km from Yulara to Kings Canyon / 4 hours.
Day 8: KINGS CANYON TO PALM VALLEY
Day 8 sees you take the 214 kilometre scenic route driving from Kings Canyon to Palm Valley located within the Finke Gorge National Park which is of great cultural significance to the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people and an important wilderness reserve that protects the Finke River which dates back to 350 million years and believed to be one of the oldest rivers in the world. The road is accessible via 4-wheel drive and as you will arrive late afternoon, it’s a good idea to set up camp so that you can relax after your drive and be ready to explore the next day.
Distance: 214 km from Kings Canyon to Palm Valley / 7 hours.
DAY 9: PALM VALLEY
Palm Valley is a maze of sandstone amphitheatres, pinnacles and gorges and home to the Red Cabbage Palm which are believed to have been established in the area as far back as prehistoric time when the climate was able to support a type of tropical rainforest in the region. The Arankaia walk (2km, 1 hour) and the longer Mpulungkinya walk (5km, 2 hour) is a must during your visit. Both walks see you wandering amongst the palms bringing you back across the plateau to the carpark below.
The Kalaranga Lookout also located within the National Park offers an easy 20-minute climb (1.5 km / 45-minute return) and well worth the effort offering spectacular views of the sandstone amphitheatre. The Mpaara Walk (5km, 2 hours return) introduces some of the mythology of Western Arrernte Aboriginal culture and here you will be rewarded with more incredible views of nature’s ampitheatre.
Distance: 0 km / No driving today!
DAY 10: PALM VALLEY TO ALICE SPRINGS
The last day of Part 1 of the Grey Nomads Guide to the Top End sees you on a leisurely drive back to Alice Springs where you can either add on the soon to be revealed Part 2 of our Northern Territory itinerary or onto your next Grey Nomad adventure.
If you have time to spare visit to the Owen Springs Reserve on the way to Alice Springs and a few minutes from town. Lunch by the side of the Hugh River at one of the many broad sandy banks lined with beautiful River Red Gums watching the bird life and enjoying being surrounded by nature.
Distance: 127 km from Palm Valley to Alice Springs / 1 hour 25 minutes.
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