The Red Centre, Australia: A photo Essay

Kings Canyon at Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

1.8min read

Published 6 May 2011


This stunning photo essay of the Red Centre in the Northern Territory, Australia was contributed by Flight Centre staff member Ed Stalley. Ed, a manager in our High Holborn store in London, has previously lived and worked in Australia and is an Aussie Specialist. One day he decided to hire a 4x4 camper van and drive for 7 days from Adelaide to Darwin via the Red Centre. He discovered that there is so much more to the endless kilometres of desert than you could ever imagine.

Red is the common theme, be it the sandstone escarpments, the near-dry lakes or the spectacular sunsets. Then there is the obligatory image of Uluru at sunset, the 300 metre high composite rock formed from the sediment of ancient mountains and seas twisted by colossal plate movement. Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, recognising it’s unique ecosystems. Catching sunset on the rock is easy if you stay in the nearby caravan park at Ayers Rock Resort. 

Empty tarmac leads to the dramatic sandstone escarpments of James Ranges, which rise from the flat desert of the Northern Territory. A few hours drive from Uluru and you arrive at the breath-taking King's Canyon, arguably more impressive than Uluru itself. The well organised can stop for a few hours walk around Kings Canyon before hitting the road again in search of the next caravan stop.

With a camper van there is nothing to stop you from sleeping in the outback. You'll be guaranteed a dramatic red sunset, total darkness at nightfall and maybe the odd kangaroo for company. Nothing beats that first breath of cool air in the morning as you boil the kettle at the back doors of your camper van. 

The flat plain of protected Aboriginal land in the foreground is interrupted by Gosses Bluff, a 5km wide meteorite crater that thrusts skywards. According to park literature the impact of the ‘alien’ object was of such magnitude that it would have affected the world’s weather for ‘some years’ afterwards. You can reach the Bluff by driving the 100kms of unsurfaced road through Aboriginal Land west of Alice Springs, so long as you have a 4x4 and buy a permit first. 

The Devils Marbles are 114km south of the closest civilisation at Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. The giant rounded granite boulders are on Aboriginal Land known as Karlu Karlu and are surprisingly easy to access from the main highway that cuts through the Red Centre between Alice Springs and Darwin. There is a camp site at the base of the boulders that is perfect for an overnight stop.

You can retrace Ed's trip by hiring a self drive camper van  or by taking an organised tour with the likes of AAT Kings or Intrepid. You can drive from Adelaide in the South to Darwin in the North, stopping at Alice Springs to take in the sights of the Red Centre and Northern Territory.

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