Australia’s outback is located in the heart of the Northern Territory. This mystical region draws visitors from around the world to its inspiring and otherworldly desert landscape.
The red expanse of Uluru, the natural and cultural wonders of Kakadu National Park and the tropical backdrop of Darwin are just a few of the captivating sights in the outback.
We’ve rounded up seven amazing stops in this vast territory filled with natural beauty and activities for adventure seekers & leisure travelers alike.
Uluru & Surrounds
Image by jeaneeem on flickr
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a world-renowned destination for getting swept up in the majesty of Australia’s outback.
Located a few hours away from Alice Springs, this natural wonder tantalizes visitors with its powerful presence and subtly changing hues.
There’s no better way to start your day off than on a morning hike around the base of Uluru, catching the glow of the sunrise brighten the reds and oranges of the rock.
Then board a coach to Kuniya Piti where you’ll learn about the rich, sacred culture of the local Anangu people. See incredible aboriginal rock art in the caves throughout the area.
A scenic helicopter tour gives tourists a bird’s eye view of the magnificent desert. Witness the breathtaking views found only in the Red Centre, including the amazing domes of Kata Tjuta and the Mutijulu waterhole.
Spend your night under the stars and witness the desert illuminate on a Field of Light tour. Internationally-acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light art installation has become a global phenomenon with over 50,000 solar-powered stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres, lighting up as night falls.
This particular piece, named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara language, creates a glittering field of blue, violet and ochre hues as far as the eye can see.
Enjoy this splendid setting with wine and canapes, or start your morning with a sunrise viewing.
Image by Aldan Jones on flickr
Alice Springs is the perfect base for an outback adventure. This remote town is the gateway to major natural wonders of the outback.
Just a few minutes away are the MacDonnell Ranges, a popular destination for adventure seekers. Natural beauty awaits in this magnificent scenery, housing famous landmarks including the Ochre Pits and Ormiston Gorge.
Enjoy a day trip with a guided tour through the West MacDonnell ranges or stay overnight at one of the many camping spots available.
Alice Springs is also home to the adorable and famous Kangaroo Sanctuary (get ready for cuteness overload on their Instagram). Take a bus to the sanctuary where you’ll meet owner Brolga and hear the story and the passion behind keeping these beautiful animals thriving.
You can also experience the outback from a bird’s eye view on an early morning hot air balloon ride. See local wildlife such as kangaroos and wallabies below you as you silently glide over the outback.
For those seeking more thrills, go on a 4WD cattle station tour below the MacDonell Ranges. Escape to the oldest working cattle station in the Northern Territory as you ride across the ranch through bush tracks and local landscape on an ATV quad bike. You and no more than 9 other riders get to see mountain ranges and wildlife up close. No riding experience required!
As the vibrant capital of Northern Territory, Darwin offers a cool blend of laid-back tropics and exciting outback wetlands.
Tune in to the chilled out vibes at one of many al fresco restaurants or splash into the wave pool in the Waterfront Precinct. Stay out for the famous Darwin sunsets, casting lingering oranges and reds across a deep blue sky.
Just a short one hour’s trip away from Darwin you’ll find Litchfield National Park, home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the Northern Territory.
These spring fed falls attract native wildlife including wallabies, kangaroos, flying foxes and dingoes. Stay dry and enjoy the nature that surrounds you on guided tours to crystal clear waterholes beneath its falls or explore the sandstone relics of the Lost City on a 4WD.
With several waterfalls and rock pools, all you need is a picnic lunch and your swim suit for a perfect day out.
The natural beauty and tantalizing water clarity is irresistible. Swim out to the cascading Wangi Falls or dive into the clear flowing water of the tiered rock pools at Buley Rockhole.
It wouldn’t be an Australian experience without a few crocodiles! A saltwater crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River lets you see these creatures up close as your guide entices the crocs to jump out of the water.
Feeling adventurous? Why not take a dive in Crocosaurus Cove which submerges you in the water alongside the crocodiles! This gem in the heart of Darwin boasts an impressive collection of reptiles with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with crocodiles in the Cage of Death.
If you’re looking for a more laid back nature experience, stop by Mary River National Park. Trek through the wetlands where you can see wildlife in its natural habitat. Lush landscape provides a perfect escape on your way to Kakadu.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park, is home to rugged escarpments, lush rainforest, ancient rock art galleries and stunning waterfalls.
Set out to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls on a 4WD or on a small group tour and dive into their deep plunge pools framed by magnificent cliffs. Relax on the white sand and dip into the cool water of Jim Jim Falls or take a scenic flight above Twin Falls, cascading down sheer rock cliffs.
Explore other swimming holes such as the Gunlom Falls plunge pool or the clear emerald waters of Maguk (Barramundie Gorge) where you can hike to the top of the falls and relax in the top pools.
With Aboriginal rock art dating back 20,000 years, a stop at Ubirr and Noulangie art sites is a must. See a striking depiction of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, as well as paintings of fish, turtles, goanna and other important food animals. Marvel at the depictions of creation ancestors on the rock walls of Burrungkuy (Nourlangie), including Namarrgon, the Lightning Man.
Keep an eye out for native wildlife on a Yellow Water Billabong Cruise. As Kakadu boasts Australia’s most diverse bird population, this is a great way for twitchers looking to tick a few birds off their list and even see a crocodile or two!
Katherine & Surrounds
Home to thirteen stunning gorges and cascading waterfalls, Katherine Gorge & Notmiluk National Park calls out to many who want to experience the tropical setting of Australia. Glide along the deep blue water, as your tour guide describes the lush lands in the comfort of a relaxing boat ride.
Love to kayak or canoe? Grab your equipment and push yourself out in the river bank to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds you. Get an up close view of Katherine’s stunning landscape that is sure to make you fall in love with the Northern Territory.
For nature lovers, Daly River provides a promising destination for camping and fishing. Take a dip in the swimming holes, experience the breathtaking gorges, go fishing for the plentiful barramundi and enjoy your catch over a fire as you camp alongside the wildlife.
Tennant Creek & Barkly Region
Image by Werner Bayer on flickr
Tennant Creek offers visitors a cultural escape to the real outback. Experience the gold rush era of Australia on an underground tour of Battery Hill Mining Centre. You can even try your hand at fossicking to take home your own gold!
Love hearing about local history? Immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture as you listen to stories of ‘Nyinkka’, the spiky tailed Goanna that is responsible for shaping Tennant Creek and the ancient myth that surrounds Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles, the mysterious rock formations in the area.
The rugged beauty of Barkly Region is home to some of Australia oldest cattle stations. Plan your trip in June and experience a bush race and rodeo event at Brunette Downs Races.
Image by Mark Roy on flickr
With its white sandy beaches and clear Arafura Sea, the paradise setting of East Arnhmen land is a gorgeous escape into the wilderness. After a stroll on the gorgeous beach, visit art and craft centers to learn from the locals.
West Arnhem houses Gunbalanya, a large Aboriginal town surrounded by spectacular rock formations. See native artists work and purchase artwork and crafts at the Injalak Art and Craft Centre. Experience how the indigenous people live and take a piece of history home with you.
Ready for an Outback Adventure?
Whether it’s your first trip or your 5th, there’s never been a better time to plan a trip to Australia. The awe-inspiring Northern Territory, one of the best places to visit in Australia, is calling out to you!
Give our destination experts a call 1-888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am -5:00pm Central US) and experience Australia’s Outback for yourself.
Posted on: April 23rd, 2018 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
The Ghan train in Australia is one of the world’s great rail journeys, traversing the vastness of the Outback through Flinders Ranges and into the heart of the Red Centre from Adelaide to Darwin. It’s an elegant train with comfortable interiors and modern suites.
For first time train travelers, we usually recommend enjoying one leg of the journey by traveling from Alice Springs to Darwin or vice versa. It’s an easy way to experience the wonder without committing a bulk of your vacation to something you are unsure of.
However, once you get on the train and start your journey, you might end up wishing you’d spent more time on The Ghan and here’s why…
The Ghan Is Comfortable
Whether you’re socializing in the Outback Explorer Lounge, relaxing in your Gold Service suite or dining in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant, you are going to be comfortable.
The seats are wide, you have generous leg room and you can move from car to car with ease.
The attentive and professional staff will tend to your every need with a warm smile and friendly demeanor.
By night your cabin is prepared with comfortable bunks that will feel like you are sleeping on air.
With Gold Service, luxurious bathrooms and showers help prepare you for a restful night of sleep as you journey through the outback.
The Journey Is Relaxing On The Ghan
When you’re on The Ghan the only thing you need to do is sit back and enjoy the scenic ride.
There is no traffic to deal with and no worry that you’ll get lost in the Outback.
On The Ghan you get to see the countryside without the responsibility of navigating the journey.
Instead, you’ll spend your time reading, sleeping, writing, eating and enjoying choice beverages all while taking in the views.
Pass the time with fellow passengers as you trade travel stories and learn about each others’ home countries over a glass of wine and a plate of nibbles.
The Australian Outback Is Breathtaking
Sure, The Ghan delivers much more than an extended train ride when it comes to comfort and service, but the one thing that will leave you feeling truly inspired is the fantastic scenery.
You’ll likely find yourself staring out the window for long stretches of time.
But it’ll be difficult to tear your eyes away.
You’ll be transported from the lush green hills surrounding Adelaide into the rusty hues of the Red Centre, then on to the tropical splendor of Australia’s Top End.
Be on the lookout for wildlife hidden within the bush – you’re sure to spot kangaroos taking in the fresh, cool air at dusk!
Time to Explore Authentic Outback Destinations
The Ghan offers whistle stops where you can choose to catch a tour or explore on your own for a few hours. This gives you the opportunity to see and experience places off the beaten path.
Going Northbound, you’ll first stop in the pioneer town of Alice Springs.
Alice Springs is a great place to immerse yourself in Aboriginal history. You can visit a working camel farm, see the region’s birds and wildlife or opt for the Spirit of Mt. Gillen Helicopter Flight, a scenic flight that takes you over Simpon’s Gap and the Larapinta Trail.
Your next stop will be in Katherine. You can cruise down Katherine Gorge, hike in Nitmiluk National Park or maybe kayak down the Katherine River. You may just want to wander around town and explore the local attractions.
Travel Southbound and you’ll find yourself in Coober Pedy, the the opal mining capital of the world where more than half of the residents live underground!
Book the Gold Service or above and you can put your credit card away while you’re aboard The Ghan.
Enjoy three gourmet meals per day and have your fill of Australian wines, beers, base spirits and other non-alcoholic beverages.
Your fare also includes various off train excursions and whistle stop tours!
You can bring up to 110 pounds of luggage per person and you’ll receive complimentary shuttle service in Darwin.
Enjoy Some Privacy
During a busy vacation, sometimes all you want to do is find a place where you can be alone, decompress, and take a breath.
On The Ghan Gold Service, passengers can retire to their private sleepers, either a two-berth for traveling companions or singles-berth if you are traveling solo.
The sleepers are comfortable with freshly made-up beds in the evening and seats during the day.
Lay down and relax as the soothing sounds of those big steel wheels rolling down the track lull to you sleep.
The Food Is To. Die. For.
The Ghan serves fresh, regionally sourced Australian food, complemented by a range of all-inclusive wines, beer and non-alcoholic beverages.
You’ll taste everything from Top End barramundi, Margaret River cheeses, and native Australian fare including kangaroo, saltbush and wild rosella flower.
There’s no doubt many Aussie travelers rate the food in and of itself as a huge draw to experience The Ghan.
Journey Aboard The Ghan
The Ghan is one of the best ways you can experience the Red Centre in all its glory. It’s also a great way to travel to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Once you’re in Alice Springs, take a coach over to Uluru and experience the magic of this inspiring outback landscape.
Are you ready to plan your trip to Australia? Whether you want to include a journey on the Ghan in your Australia vacation or want to know more before you book, our travel experts will take care of all your arrangements.
We’ll make this once-in-a-lifetime rail journey happen.
Posted on: July 13th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Photo: Steve Strike / Tourism Australia
Uluru, also known as Ayer’s Rock, is one of the most important historical sites in Australia. The Anangu people, a group of Aboriginal Australians, revere Uluru as a sacred, holy site. They believe it is evidence of the creation of their culture by ancestral beings.
The immense monolith of red stone shoots up out of the Earth, shouting its significance across the desert. The deep red sandstone and surrounding clay look like some kind of Martian landscape. It’s no wonder they call it “the Red Center”.
Aside from the amazing historical significance of the site, there are plenty of things to do in Uluru that make it a must-visit destination in Australia.
Take a Walk
Uluru’s immensity is almost hard to comprehend in photos. For instance, did you know that this tremendous “land-iceberg” is taller than the Eiffel Tower? At nearly 1,200 feet tall, Uluru is 3 times taller than the Great Pyramid in Egypt. It’s also about the same height as the Empire State Building!
If you really want to appreciate Uluru’s size and massive footprint, set aside about 4 hours for a walking tour. That’s how long it will take you to walk around the base of the giant rock. Along the way you’ll see unique plant life, diverse wildlife and geological features that make up this important site.
But be sure to stick to the base walk. Though Uluru’s peak is a tempting destination for the avid mountaineer, out of respect for the Anangu people it is not advised to climb to the top.
Sounds of Silence
Dine under the stars with an amazing desert night dinner. The Sounds of Silence dinner is an Aussie Hall-of-Fame experience that wines and dines you in the heart of Uluru National Park. You’ll start the evening off with light appetizers and your choice of an array of fine Australian wine and beer.
As the sun sets, you’ll see the Red Center’s colors morph with the light, from bright reds to deep purples.
Photo: Anson Smart / Tourism Australia
Darkness envelopes the desert and the faint light of thousands of stars begins to twinkle, a bush-tucker inspired buffet dinner is served. The buffet incorporates local and indigenous cuisine and native bush ingredients.
Then, an expert guide will take you on a historical journey of the southern night sky. See the constellations of the zodiac, the prominent star cluster of the Milky Way, other planets and their moons and more.
The Sounds of Silence is part al-fresco dinner under the stars, part astronomical stargazing tour and all-around amazing experience.
For more incredible memories of Uluru National Park, add on a visit to the “Field of Light” art-installation. Famed artist Bruce Munro was commissioned to bring his luminary works of thousands of solar-powered twinkling lights to Uluru. For this installation, Munro upped the intensity of his normal installations to match the grandiose nature of Uluru.
You’ll walk through the dense, sprawling web of soft lights that blanket the desert. With thousands of stars visible overhead and the thousands of lights that turn the desert in to a galaxy of its own, the Field of Light is a sensory experience you’ll never forget.
The Field of Light is only running through December 2020, so if you want to see this web of woven light that blankets the desert (and trust us, you do!) – act fast!
Scenic Helicopter Ride
While climbing Uluru is not explicitly prohibited, or against Australian law, it is very much frowned upon and discouraged by the Anangu people as well as most Aussie locals. Since Uluru is a holy site for Aboriginal people, it is seen as highly disrespectful to walk on or climb.
Photo: Steve Strike / Tourism Australia
However, there are ways to see Uluru from all angles, including the very peak. A scenic helicopter ride around the Red Center is one of the best ways to observe the area and see the 1,200 foot peak.
You’ll hop aboard with an expert pilot as you are flown around Uluru National Park. See the numerous, massive domes that make up the Olgas, just south of Alice Springs. A scenic helicopter ride is one of the best ways to appreciate Uluru and the whole Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park area.
Sunset Camel Ride
Where would you say the largest population of camels live? Morocco? Saudi Arabia? Oddly enough, the answer is Australia! Though camels are not indigenous to Australia, they were imported in the 19th century for transportation and field work. Since then, their populations have exploded and more than 700,000 live in Australia.
Photo: The Precinct / Tourism Australia
Mount up on a camel for an amazing ride in the Australian outback. Your camel train will take you around the Uluru National Park area where you will witness the sunset and the changing colors of the Red Center.
The Sunset Camel Ride takes you off the beaten path, away from the crowds of tourists at Uluru. Listen close as your camel pack leader regales you with informative and interesting stories about Uluru’s plants, animals and history. This is the most unique way to see Uluru National Park and an experience you’ll never forget.
Stargazing in most cities just isn’t what it used to be. With always-on street lights, car headlights and densely populated urban areas, light pollution washes out up to 90% of visible stars in the sky. If you’ve never been in the remote back-country and looked at the stars, you might think that the Milky Way is just something we can see with telescopes or in pictures.
The Uluru National Park area is one of the most remote and darkest sites in the world. The lack of light pollution makes it an incredible spot for stargazing. Even before the sun completely sets, the twinkle of astral lights begins to blanket the sky. Once pure nightfall hits, the sky is awash in star clusters, constellations, planets and moons.
Go out with an astro-tour group and you’ll have the added benefit of binoculars, telescopes and an expert astronomer guiding you through the night sky.
Luxury Lodge Living
Looking to make your visit extra special? Longitude 131 is a luxury destination at the gateway of Uluru National Park. Experience the rugged outdoors of the outback during the day. Then, come home to a world-class, full-service accommodation at night. Each luxury lodge is eco-friendly, spacious and feature huge floor to ceiling windows for epic views of the outback. Dine on five-star cuisine and premium wine and drinks. You can also take part in exclusive small-group tours for guests.
Photo: Baillies Longitude 131
Longitude 131 is the perfect accommodation for couples. Celebrate your anniversary, honeymoon or other special occasion in one of the most unique destinations in the world.
Uluru National Park – Australian Outback Must-See
You’ll want to make the extra trip out to see Uluru and Uluru National Park. Since Australia is such a large country, getting out to Uluru requires a bit of planning. We’ll get you there without a hitch. Don’t leave anything to chance in this once in a lifetime cultural journey. Uluru has been described as breathtaking in it’s beauty and moving in its cultural significance – it truly can’t be missed!
Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Australia is an amazing diverse land known for it’s unique wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef and, of course, the Outback. Open spaces that seem to stretch on forever are steeped in the rich ancient culture of the Aboriginal people. The wide ochre landscape reflects Australia’s pioneering spirit and distinct identity. It’s truly an amazing place.
There’s a little bit of outback in every state of Australia, but the most robust and well-known experiences can be found in the Northern Territory, especially the Uluru/Ayers region.
This area of Australia’s Outback is truly breathtaking. Below you’ll find a collection of videos you can watch to get an idea of what a trip to Uluru might be like. We’ve done our best to create a compendium that would best impart the outback experience. Yet, images, words and video will always fail to truly convey the profound experience of Australia’s Outback. You’ll just have to see in person to truly experience its majesty.