Aboriginal history, a swirl of cultures and cuisines, and a nation’s iconic monument
Known as Uluru and considered sacred by the Aboriginal tribes who have lived here for more than 20,000 years, this massive sandstone formation is the Outback’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Climbing the rock is a sacrilege to indigenous Australians, so sign up for a base tour or trek to get a close-up look at the natural springs, caves, and ancient rock paintings.
“Capital of the Outback” and the vibrant hub of central Australia, Alice Springs – with a population of 25,000 and stylish shopping and dining facilities – provides a perfect base to access the Outback’s natural wonders, including Uluru, the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert, and the hiking trails and ghost towns of the MacDonnell Rangers.
Darwin, smallest of the capital cities, is one of the most diverse, shared by over 50 different cultures. The arts thrive here, with music, open-air cinemas, and Aboriginal art galleries topping the bill. For a taste of nature, head to nearby Litchfield National Park or Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage Site and Australia’s largest national park.
Catch one of the Outback’s oddest traditions, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta – a day of fun centering on mock “boat races” held on a dry riverbed.
Watch as Ayers Rock appears to change colour – various hues of red, purple, orange, gray, and yellow – depending on weather conditions, time of day, and your distance from it.
Back to the Garden
Beneath the towering walls of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park, you’ll find the Garden of Eden, full of palm trees, lush vegetation, and tropical pools you can swim in.
Dip into a cool waterfall rock pool in Litchfield National Park, and take a bushwalk through the rainforest and savannah of Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage Site.
One Cool School
Before there were online universities, there was radio’s School of the Air, an educational service based in Alice Springs that serves the far-flung children of the vast Outback.
Dine under the canopy of the desert night while listening to a “star talker” decode the southern night sky at Ayers Rock Resorts’s Sounds of Silence experience.
Climb on the back of a Harley and groove to the views while a professional motorcycle pilot wheels you around Ayers Rock at sunrise, daytime, or sunset.
Put together “shopping” with “hangin’ on the beach,” and you’ve got the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, a weekly evening of exotic food, live entertainment, and more, just a short stroll from downtown Darwin.
What a Croc!
Just an hour from Darwin is Crocodile Central, and on a boat cruise along the Adelaide River you can watch saltwater crocs as they propel themselves high out of the water to snatch their prey.
Dip into the ultimate soothing experience in Elsey National Park, where both Mataranka Hot Springs and Bitter Springs Thermal Pools flow at a constant 90 degree Fahrenheit and are still very much in their natural state.
Source: World Traveler, Australia & the South Pacific