Offering stunning nature, not to mention a wealth of astronomical, gastronomical and cultural experiences, one of the best ways to visit — and fully appreciate — Uluru is by rental car.
There are plenty of things you can enjoy along the way to Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock). There’s the thrill and excitement of exploring the legendary Stuart Highway if you are driving from Melbourne or Sydney — and then there’s must-see places such as Stuarts Well and, if you are coming from Alice Springs, breathtaking landscapes. VroomVroomVroom can help you select and pick up your rental car in Alice Springs — or even better, a top campervan rental from Alice Springs — to start exploring.
Travelling from Alice Springs to Uluru is a route everyone should have on their bucket list. Alice Springs, or Alice as the locals call it, is almost smack-bang in the middle of Australia — in the region known as the Red Centre. There is plenty to see and do there, from visiting the town’s many museums to exploring the MacDonnell Ranges.
Travel time: Five hours and forty-five minutes (467.8 km) via National Highway 87 and State Route 4
See Watarrka National Park and the spectacular Kings Canyon and then, after a further 300 km or so, you’ll set eyes on the Australian Outback’s most iconic symbol: Uluru.
Around 60 km south of Alice Springs is a popular roadside stop — Mt Polhill — where you can camp for free for up to 24hrs. There’s a shade shelter, picnic tables, toilet, water tank and some good sunrise views of the Waterhouse Range.
Most tourists also visit Kata Tjuta, an Aboriginal Sacred Site that is fondly known as the Olgas. Kata Tjuta is around 480 kms southwest of Alice Springs and 35 kms southwest of Yulara and west of Uluru.
Darwin to Uluru
The highway that links Darwin to Alice Springs is the Stuart Highway. After Darwin, the next notable town is Katherine, which is the gateway to the Katherine Gorge and many heart-pumping adventure sports. If that’s not enough, you may want to relieve your aching muscles in the thermal pools of Elsey National Park.
Travel time: Twenty-two hours (1,963.5 km) via National Highway 1 and National Highway 87
Spend the night stargazing at tiny Wycliffe Well, known as the the “UFO capital of Australia.”
Another site worth seeing is the legendary Karlu Karlu Devils Marbles. The Marbles are a collection of massive granite boulders strewn across a valley south of Tennant Creek. Camping overnight is recommended if you want to see the marbles glowing red in the setting sun then changing colour in the early morning light. Don’t forget to bring your camera to catch the beauty of this awe-inspiring ancient landscape.
Adelaide to Uluru
The trip from Adelaide to Uluru is definitely worthwhile. You can make a stop in Port Augusta (only three hours from Adelaide) and Coober Pedy (nine hours from Adelaide). The latter is known as “the opal capital of the world,” and boasts many attractions aside from its underground structures, including churches, opal mining museums, hotels and a whole lot more.
Travel time: Seventeen hours and twenty minutes (1,600.2 km) via National Highway A87
Explore Wadlata’s Tunnel of Time by walking into the jaws of the big ripper lizard and get transported into Gondwanaland — a prehistoric world of life before humankind was walking the planet.
Another worthwhile stop is the Matthew Flinders Lookout thanks to its amazing vista of Spencer Gulf with the Flinders Ranges forming a spectacular backdrop.
Cited as one of the most prolific opal mining centres in Australia, now is the best time to go opal fossicking in Coober Pedy. Other must-see local attractions in Coober Pedy include the Big Winch Lookout, the Boot Hill, Centenary Mosaic Garden, Crocodile Harry, Kanku Breakaways and the Dog Fence.
Tips for travelling to Uluru
Getting to Uluru is an easy drive despite the long distance. If you are renting a car, you can travel entirely on sealed roads and you will not even need a 4WD. If it’s your first time driving in Australia, make sure you really understand where you can and cannot drive the vehicle as most car hire companies have restrictions. Take for instance the use of vehicles from Budget Australia — certain areas in the Northern Territory are restricted to commercial 4WD vehicles only. Therefore it is recommended you contact and consult with your rental provider for detailed information. In addition, since Uluru is a long way from most places, don’t be surprised if the fuel prices on outback highways are more expensive than capital cities elsewhere in Australia.