Wild, vast and red, the Australian Outback offers desert, big rocks, Aboriginal encounters and tasty bush tucker. What are you waiting for?
Call it what you will – the Red Centre, the Central Oz, the back of beyond – outback Australia has some of the most stunning and iconic scenery the country has to offer.
Covering a vast 3,000km, from the tip of the Northern Territory to the centre of South Australia, outback Australia takes in both the Simpson and Tanami Deserts and has over 15 national parks. Needless to say, it is home to a vast array of landscapes and wildlife.
At the top end there is a tropical feel. The wetlands, floodplains and bush lands of Kakadu National Park vie with Katherine Gorge at Nitmiluk National Park for the most stunning scenery. As you travel further south, the landscape changes from green to orange to red, and the true outback is revealed. In the Red Centre you’ll find the famous rock, Uluru, along with Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and Devil’s Marbles.
Keep going down and you’ll finally hit the Flinders Rangers, marking the end of the outback. Along the way make sure to stop off at Alice Springs, Katherine, and the quirky Coober Pedy to experience a slice of true outback hospitality.
Road to the Olgas (Shutterstock)
OK. We’ll take it as a given that you’re going to drop by Uluru. But what else should you do now? Thankfully, Lauren Mowery has put together a list of the 9 things you must do in Australia’s Top End. (One is visiting Uluru, so let’s make that 8.)
Ben Lerwill has put together a more specific list of 5 activities around Katherine and its heritage-listed gorge. Anthony Lambert explains how to travel Australia by rail, including a journey on the iconic ‘Ghan’ that travels right through the heart of the outback. TV superstar Simon Reeve reveals the things that surprised him most about the outback.
Simon Reeve on Australia's biggest surprises – Peter Moore
How to travel Australia by rail – Anthony Lambert
9 things you must do in Australia's Top End – Lauren Mowery
Top 5 activities around Katherine, Northern Territory – Ben Lerwill
Uluru, or Ayers Rock, as it used to be known, is the undisputed symbol of the Australian outback, a natural wonder, instantly recognisable around the world. Paul Harding found it to be as all icons should be – instantly familiar but utterly surprising.
David Hoffman, on the other hand, has taken a more practical approach and put together the ultimate guide to ‘The Rock’, from how it was formed through to the best way to visit it respectfully. Hazel Plush is also on hand with 10 different ways to see Uluru – from a camel, from a Harley Davidson and even from a fully-laden table.
Travel icon: Uluru – Paul Harding
The ultimate guide to Uluru – David Hoffman
10 ways to see Uluru – Hazel Plush
Aboriginal bush tucker (Shutterstock)
The outback is where the local Australian indigenous culture is strongest. But even here it is struggling to cling on. Piers Pickard ventured to Arnhem Land, an area the size of Scotland and Wales tucked up in the north east of the Northern Territory, and found the last corner of ancient Australia.
Suzy Bennett, on the other hand, travelled just south of Uluru, to the Pit Lands of Central Australia, to visit a new tourism project that allows people to get a glimpse of traditional aboriginal life and a land closed to outsiders. She also got to try Kanagroo tail and suggests that you do to.
Aboriginal Arnhem Land – Piers Pickard
Meeting the aborigines of Central Australia's Pit Lands – Suzy Bennett
Bird's-eye view of Uluru (Shutterstock)
Next to the Sydney Opera House, Uluru is probably the most photographed sight in Australia. It’s been snapped from every angle and in every possible light. So how do you make your photos of it memorable? Our resident photographic guru, Steve Davey, is on hand with tips on how to make something special out of the over-familiar.
If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the photos taken by our readers on their travels in Outback Australia. They are truly amazing.
Photographing travel icons – Steve Davey
'Welcome to Cockles' sign (Shutterstock)
Ready to start planning your trip? Our Outback Australia travel guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Outback Australia essential info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. It is probably a good idea to check out our Desert travel guide, for tips and advice on travelling in extreme climates. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from outback Australia too.
If you have a particular question about outback Australia, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about outback Australia. The answer to yours might already be there.
Outback Australia travel guide – The Wanderlust Team
Outback Australia essential info – The Wanderlust Team
Desert travel guide – The Wanderlust Team
Outback sunset (Shutterstock)
Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From 4WD adventures in Kakadu to Outback Explorer tours that delve deep into Australia’s red centre, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.
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