Australian outback, rising from seemingly nowhere in the deep centre of Australia, Uluru/Ayers Rock is one of the world's great natural wonders.

Australia, The Outback


Overview

Outback Australia travel guide, including map of Outback Australia, top Outback Australia travel experiences, plus tips for travel in Outback Australia

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 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 Spring, Katherine and the quirky Coober Pedy to experience a slice of true outback hospitality.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Watch the sun set on the giant red rock that is Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia’s most iconic landmark.
  2. Kayak through the splendour of Katherine Gorge at Nitmiluk National Park, gawping at the sheer height of the sandstone gorge walls.
  3. Survey the stunning scenery of Yellow Water Wetlands, the jewel of Kakadu National Park.
  4. Discover the ancient Aboriginal rock art and then stand atop the escarpment at Ubirr, Kakadu National Park.
  5. Look our across the vast wilderness of the Flinders Ranges as you stand on top of Wilpenda Pound, South Australia.
  6. Come face to face with the elusive creatures of the desert at Alice Springs Desert Park.
  7. Walk the rim of the 300-million-year-old Kings Canyon at Watarrka National Park, and then discover the Garden of Eden at the bottom of the chasm.
  8. Try your hand at opal mining or explore the underground cave-land of the dugout homes and churches of Coober Pedy.

Wanderlust tips

The diverse Aboriginal culture is a highlight of Outback Australia, but there are cultural considerations to remember. Always ask before taking a photo and always double check you are permitted onto certain lands, which may be sacred.

If you’re thinking of buying Aboriginal art make your purchase direct from the artist or Indigenous community, always ask to see a certificate of authenticity.

Within certain areas of the Northern Territory, there are also restrictions on the transportation and consumption of alcohol in public places.  

Further Reading

Travel in Outback Australia: vital statistics

Capital of Australia: Canberra
Population of Australia: 22 million
Languages in Australia: English, various indigenous languages and dialects
Time in Australia: Three time zones: GMT+8 in Western Australia; GMT+9.5 in Northern Territory and South Australia; GMT+10 in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the ACT
International dialling code for Australia: +61
Voltage in Australia: 220-240V 50Hz AC
Visas for Australia: Australia visa
Money in Australia: Australian dollar (A$). ATMs can be found in the main towns; elsewhere you may be able to obtain cash when using cards for purchases. Credit and debit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere.
Tipping isn’t obligatory, though leaving change (or 10% in smarter restaurants) is appreciated.
Australia travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Australia tourist board: Tourism Australia

When to go to Outback Australia

The top end of the Northern Territory has a tropical climate. Summer (December-March) is the best time to visit, with the rains bringing an abundance of life and stunning scenery. The dry season (May-October) is warm with cool nights.

In the Red Centre, which includes the bottom of the Northern Territory and the top end of South Australia, the climate reverts back to Australia’s typical four seasons. Summer (December-February) is very hot with an average temperature of 35?C. In winter (June-August) nights are surprisingly cold.

South Australia hosts the Adelaide Fringe Festival (February-March), the Adelaide Festival of Arts (every second March) and the Barossa Vintage Festival (every second April). In the Northern Territory, Darwin hosts the Beer Can Festival (July), the Camel Cup in Alice Springs (July) and Darwin Festival (August).

Outback Australia international airports

Darwin International Airport (DRW), 13km from Darwin CBD; Adelaide Airport (ADL), 6km from Adelaide CBD.

Getting around Outback Australia

Domestic flights to the major cities are numerous and many airlines offer discounted fares. Flights to more regional areas are less regular and a little more expensive.

Great Southern Railways operates The Ghan train journey, covering 2,979km from Darwin to Adelaide and vice versa. The three-day train journey stops in Alice Springs and Katherine.

For comfort and flexibility hire a car. Distances are vast; be very aware of wildlife on the road – there’s a LOT of roadkill. If driving, take the Explorer’s Way, which follows the famous explorer John McDouall Stuart and features most of Central Australia’s key attractions. Buses are reasonably comfortable but often journeys are long and tiresome.

Outback Australia accommodation

Outback Australia has a huge range of options, from five-star hotels and luxury safari camps to B&B’s, motels, farm stays, bush camping and hostels.

Outback Australia food & drink

Outback Australia is synonymous with bush tucker, but this doesn’t mean a diet of witchetty grubs. Bush tucker is simple, fresh and sourced from the local surrounds. Dishes include kangaroo, buffalo, crocodile, emu and camel.

Apart from meat, bush tucker also encompasses a range of flowers and vegetables used for flavour and spice. Examples include lemon and aniseed myrtle, mountain pepper and the leafy vegetable warrigal green.

Health & safety in Outback Australia

Take precautions when swimming. Beaches in the Northern Territory have a large number of box jellyfish and in the Top End salt and freshwater crocodiles can be found in most billabongs and rivers.

Take plenty of sun cream and a wide-brimmed hat. Outback Australia is also home to mosquitoes and a number of biting insects so take strong repellent.