13 Highlights of outback Australia that give you instant wanderlust
Have you been dreaming about Australia’s outback? Thinking about the red dust, the endless landscapes and all the amazing places you want to visit?
Exploring outback Australia is a magical experience that you will remember for years and decades to come.
Just imagine yourself staring at a sky so bright, you can even see parts of the milky way. Or what to think of the epic sunsets, stunning hikes and iconic places that make Australia the country it is.
So where and why should you go?
In this post you’ll read 13 highlights and experiences in outback Australia you don’t want to miss. It includes tips on how to enjoy well-known icons like Uluru, but you’ll be surprised about some awesome lesser-known places.
1. Hike the valley of the winds at Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta also known as the Olgas is located only 25km east of Uluru. It might be overshadowed by the popularity of Uluru, but you should absolutely visit this sacred place.
The Valley of the Winds Walk in Kata Tjuta is an awesome seven-kilometre walk that makes a loop to two great lookout points. The entire Valley of the Winds Walk takes about three hours and is easy-going but make sure to bring enough water.
2. Be mesmerized by the Kings Canyon rim walk
While most people travel to outback Australia to see Uluru, you’ll most likely remember Kings Canyon as the highlight of your trip.
The Kings Canyon Rim Walk could easily be the best one-day hike in the whole of Australia.
Start your day early before the heat comes with a challenging climb up the aptly named ‘heart attack hill’ after which you continue along some of the best views that the area has to offer.
Deep red tones, mixed with green vegetation and a blue sky make this a perfect place for photos and that true outback feeling.
3. Iconic Uluru
Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock is the most famous rock in the world and no trip to outback Australia is complete without a visit to this massive monolith.
Watch it magically change color as the sun sets or rises over the calm landscape.
Afterwards, move up close to do the 10 km walk around its base so you can get a different perspective and learn more about what the rock means to the local Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara tribe.
You’ll soon notice: Uluru is more than just that big red rock in the centre of outback Australia.
4. Peddle through the ancient Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge is an ancient system of thirteen massive gorges that were carved by the Katherine River.
It offers a perfect opportunity to go kayaking and feel humbled by the immense cliffs on both sides of the river. And of course, you get to share the water with some freshwater crocodiles.
Don’t feel like being on the water? There are some amazing walks around the edge of the gorge with beautiful views, interesting birds and other forms of wildlife that will make your day.
5. Watch the vast landscape pass by on board of the Ghan
The legendary Ghan is a train that has been running between Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin for over a century.
Hop on board this classic railroad journey and cross a continent while you watch the spectacular remote wilderness of outback Australia pass on both sides.
In case you’re interested, you can read more about the Ghan and its schedule on the greatsouthernrail.com
6. Take a dip at the West MacDonnell Ranges
We wouldn’t blame you if you’re surprised by the fact that you can swim in the middle of the desert.
And you don’t have to be Chuck Norris (because he can swim through land), there is actually a natural swimming pool in the middle of the desert.
In fact, the West Macdonnell Ranges, located between Alice Springs and Uluru, have several natural swimming pools that are perfect for taking a (skinny)dip.
You can hire a bike in Alice Springs and ride to Simpsons Gap, or hop in a car and visit multiple pools like Ellery Creek, Glen Helen Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, Serpentine and Standley Chasm.
7. Sleep and live underground in Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy is easily the weirdest town you’ll visit.
In this Opal mining town, temperatures get so hot during the summer months that the locals decided that living underground was probably the best option.
Nowadays around 70% of the people live underground and so should you when you visit.
Coober Pedy has underground hostels (and easily the best night’s sleep you’ll get), underground churches, bars and swimming pools.
In addition, you can visit a working opal mine and try your luck at finding your own gemstones. You won’t be the first traveler the find a precious gemstone that will pay for your trip (or more likely, a beer or two).
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8. Go off road in Finke Gorge
Up for an epic 4WD adventure?
Finke Gorge National Park is located to the west of Alice Springs and is best accessed by driving along the sandy beds of the normally dry Finke river.
Here you’ll find the picture-perfect desert oasis of Palm Valley, and some fun bushwalking trails will take you to mesmerizing viewpoints such as impressive cliffs of the Rock Amphitheatre.
9. Scramble around the massive Devil’s marbles
Imagine you’re driving through the middle of nowhere when all of a sudden massive red boulders pop up at both sides of the road.
Karlu Karlu as the local aboriginals call it is a stunning place along the road from Alice Springs to Darwin. Most people know it as the Devil’s Marbles because the landscape is covered with red boulders as far as the eye can see.
It’s as if the Devil dropped his massive marbles and left without cleaning up his evil mess. Quite likely, because after all… he is the Devil.
It’s a perfect place to stop, take in the surroundings, climb the boulders and get some cool typical Ozzie photos.
10. Mess with the camera at Lake Hart
You might have heard about Salar de Uyuni, the world famous salt lake in Bolivia where people like to mess with the camera and take weird perspectives.
Well, Australia has just such a lake. It’s lesser-known but the vast amount of nothingness is impressive nonetheless.
Lake Hart is located about 330 kilometres south of Coober Pedy on the side of Stuart Highway and it’s a perfect place to stop for lunch and take some fun perspective photos.
12. Sleep in a swag while you stare at the million-starred sky
It doesn’t get more Ozzie than this.
A swag is a traditional Australian bedroll made of waterproof canvas that is basically a very very small tent. It’s ideal for sleeping in the outback and even better for stargazing.
Jump on board any adventure tour to the red centre and you’ll quite likely get at least one night in the jolly old swag. Just don’t forget to wake up during the night to look at the sky.
13. Celebrate life with a drink at an outback pub
No matter how desolate a place, Australians will manage to build a pub.
In fact, many of the best-known pubs in Australia are in the middle of nowhere and require at least a 5-hour drive from any major town.
So go ahead, celebrate your Australian outback adventure by visiting the most famous watering hole in Australia: Daly Waters pub. Set up camp, grab a cold beer and be prepared to meet some legendary locals.
Are you ready for outback Australia?
So there you go:
13 Highlights and top experiences in outback Australia you don’t want to miss.
From iconic places to epic hikes and from picture-perfect places to off the beaten path true Australian outback experiences. We’ve told you all about it.
We’ll tell you even more including safety tips in the Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Australia but for now this should be enough to inspire your red fairy dusted outback dreams.
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