If you’re planning an epic adventure in Australia then a road trip from Adelaide to Uluru should absolutely be on your bucket list. The route is mostly through the Outback with epic drives through the Ikara-Flinders Mountain Ranges, along the Oonandatta Track and around the Red Centre. The pinnacle of the trip is of course arriving at one of Australia’s greatest symbols and one of the most important cultural sites, Uluru. I jumped on a tour with Untamed Escapes who have one of the best value tours around this area, especially for backpackers. If you’re by yourself or you don’t feel confident with all of that driving and planning then join their Adelaide to Uluru Adventure Tour for plenty of fun and eight days you’ll never forget.
🎉 Make it even better and use the code FLYINGSCOTSGIRL for a 15% discount on any tour booking on the Untamed Escapes website until 31st July 2023 for travel until May 31st 2024 🎉
1. Alligator Gorge
The first stop to make (after a quick refuel for both people and vehicle, caffeine and dowel respectively) is at Alligator Gorge in Mount Remarkable National Park. You would be forgiven for thinking that the crocodile’s cousin lives here given the name but it was actually named after a shepherd called Ali and the name incorrectly became Alligator Gorge. So no you won’t spot your first signs of wildlife here! Although perhaps by this point you’ve seen some kangaroos and emus out of the window driving along!
The walk down, through and back up Alligator Gorge is short but beautiful and at the base you can admire the red rippled rock that forms the gorge. Watch out as you walk because in places you can see the ripple marks on rocks underfoot – remnants of when water flowed over this area in an inland sea. At the top there is a gorgeous view over top of the gorge to gaze out across before it’s time to set off for the next stop.
2. Arkaroo Rock
The next stop on our journey was at Arkaroo Rock, beneath Wilpena Pound. Here, take the short 3km walk to see the fascinating rock paintings initially created 600 years ago by the Adnyamathanha people. The paintings tell the story of how Wilpena Pound was formed by two serpents coming to attack the Adnyamathanha people as they held a gathering.
Learn more of the story when you attend a Welcome to Country greeting by a local Indigenous guide.
3. Wilpena Pound
After your first night in a swag (hopefully you slept well) it’s an active start to the day with a 7km round trip walk to Hills Homestead & Wangara lookout at Wilpena Pound. Much of the walk meanders through lush forests until you reach the homestead where there’s a short, steep ascent to the lookout where you’re rewarded with a stunning panoramic view around the Pound. It’s a great walk for wildlife so keep your eyes open for possums, birds and echidnas!
4. Razorback Lookout
If you’ve ever seen an Australian car commercial then you’ll recognise this iconic road. At Razorback Lookout pretend you’re in your own car advert as you wind your way down the road. At the look out itself you can get some epic shots, especially with a car weaving its way down in front of a gorgeous backdrop towards the Heysen Ranges of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
5. Brachina Gorge
Head to Brachina Gorge on a rough river gorge road winding through the curves in the river bed and you’ll be rewarded with an epic landscape at the end. Plus this is where you can spot the adorable (and endangered) yellow footed wallabies hopping around the scree slope. So cute!
6. Welcome to Country
This area is Adnyamathanha Country and daily at Wilpena Pound, an Indigenous guide gives a Welcome to Country talk. It’s fascinating to hear the story of how the mountain ranges were formed, to be welcomed in this way and to learn more about Adnyamathanha Country.
On the third morning it’s time to pack up camp and leave the Ikara-Flinders Ranges. It’s a long driving day with some very interesting roads to travel along. Keep your eyes peeled for red kangaroos on the first section of the drive towards Parachilna as we spotted plenty!
7. Ochre Pits
The first stop of day 3 (that isn’t bathroom or fuel related!) is at the Ochre Pits. These firey hued cliffs are a painter’s dream. Literally. The ochre in the pits has been used as paint for rock paintings to give incredible variety, vibrancy and depth to the stories that they tell. People once came from as far as far North Queensland to trade for the ochre from these pits it was so precious. It’s fascinating to see such a hot commodity up close and the shades the ochre creates in the landscape makes a fantastic photo.
8. Farina Bakery
Farina is an historic outback town which is being preserved for future generations to see and take a town tour (spot the cricket ground). There’s an underground bakery which is used by the Farina Bakery, run by volunteers to raise funds for the preservation of the village. It’s only open for two months of the year (June & July) so it’s not always a road trip option but these are two of the most popular months for travelling this part of Australia. Enjoy a freshly baked pie, sausage roll or pasty and finish off with a sweet cinnamon scroll, hedgehog slice or lamington.
9. Oonandatta Track
Buckle up for this next section of the drive because this is where the road gets rough. 200km of gravel, corrugated road lay between you and the next paved road and it’s a bone rattler…
It’s not always possible to drive the Oonandatta Track due to flooding and wash outs so the journey needs to be planned accordingly and so does your vehicle – a great reason to join an Untamed Escapes tour! If it’s open then turn up the country music and sit back and brace yourself for this outback road experience 😆
10. Mutonia Sculpture Park
The first place to stop along the track is at the Muntonia Sculpture Park. Our guide explained that there isn’t a huge amount of information online about the purpose of the sculpture park except that it was created by Robin Cooke to confuse and amaze visitors that travel along this stretch of the track. It’s rather surreal to walk through the bizarre sculptures in the middle of nowhere!
11. Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre Lookout
Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre in south Australia is the biggest salt water lake in Australia and the Oonandatta Track passes alongside one corner of it. There’s a lookout to stop at and be amazed at how the salt and water seem to stretch on endlessly towards the horizon. It’s a great spot for landscape photographers.
12. Coward Springs
Further along the Oonandatta Track there is a campsite called Coward Springs which is a lovely late afternoon stop. Geothermal springs bubble up hot water into pools all around the area and here you can enjoy a quick soak in the one onsite (closing to day visitors at 4pm). There’s a coffee and ice cream stand at the campsite where you can try their delicious date ice cream! Vanilla or coffee – take your pick.
13. William Creek
William Creek is a tiny little place along the Oonandatta with not much more than a campsite, pub and petrol station. It was situated on the old Ghan railway line but the last train rumbled through in 1980. This is a great stop to make, way out in the outback and where you can experience a true outback pub after watching the sunset over the land with dust stretching out everywhere you look.
14. Coober Pedy
After rolling out of your swag it’s time to hit the bumpy road again. It’s around two hours drive on the Oonandatta track until you hit paved road again and then reach Coober Pedy in time for an opal mine tour.
Coober Pedy is famous for its opals and in fact this town produces more opals than anywhere else in the world. A visit to the mine is a great way to learn about the history of opal mining and the opal trade in the town as well as see some of the gems for yourselves and the way people have lived here for the last hundred or so years. Many people live in underground homes in Coober Pedy where you don’t need black out blinds to get to sleep and the temperature is a constant 23 to 25C so there’s no need for air con or heating!
There are a number of interesting places to visit around Coober Pedy after an opal mine tour including the underground church, plenty of opal shop and the lovely Josephine’s Gallery. We had a private tour stop here with Terry who taught us a lot about dot art and the Kangaroo Orphanage that is also onsite. We got to meet joey ‘Sir Jackie’ who was new to the orphanage and Terry brought him out to meet us in a cosy bag designed to imitate a mother kangaroo’s pouch. And yes. He is named after legendary racing car driver Sir Jackie Stewart!
The perfect spot for dinner in Coober Pedy is up at the Big Winch 360 restaurant. Here, you can enjoy a glass of wine on the balcony as you watch the sunset over the town and the outback landscape that stretches on beyond. The menu is full of delicious meals including kangaroo steak if you’re feeling brave!
15. NT / SA Border
Between Coober Pedy & King’s Canyon there are very few stops and hundreds of kilometres so after waking up from a comfortable and hopefully very quiet night’s sleep get ready to hit the road early. Most of the stops are comfort breaks only apart from the stop at the South Australia – Northern Territory border which is definitely a classic photo opportunity. Stand with your feet across the state line and pose in front of both sides of the sign before hopping back into your vehicle.
16. Kings Canyon
Day 6 starts with an early alarm to make it up to Kings Canyon for sunrise so King’s Creek Station campsite is the stopping point. There’s not much choice at the on-site pub for dinner but if you’ve ever wanted to try a camel burger this is the place to do so! After dinner it’s time to cosy down into your swag and watch the stars but make sure you keep everything hidden away because dingos roam around here. You’ll likely hear them as you try to fall asleep…
Wake up early to make it to the rim of Kings Canyon for the sunrise colour show in the sky and as you crunch your muesli bar you’ll realise you don’t regret setting that early alarm! The loop around the top of Kings Canyon Rim is 6km and depending on the time of year can take anywhere between two and four hours. This is because the heat makes a massive difference to how hard or easy walks are in The Red Centre. This walk is spectacular as the views as you walk around the rim are absolutely incredible. You’ll pass the iconic Aussie film location for Priscilla Queen of the Dessert (known as Priscilla’s Gap) and also venture down into the Garden of Eden which is a sacred men’s place for the local Luritja people so you can’t enter the waterhole.
Seeing Uluru in person is what I was without a doubt looking forward to the most on this trip! It’s one of the most iconic images I’ve had of Australia in my mind (alongside the Great Barrier Reef & Sydney Harbour) and so it was mesmerising to see Uluru begin to rise up out of the red earth of the outback and to finally see it. The base walk around Uluru is 10km long and we woke up to begin at sunrise which is a magical time of day to see the beauty of the rock. Uluru is one of the most famous culturally significant places in Australia and has many sacred sites around its surface for the local Anangu people. Our guide shared with us the Tjukurpa stories we are allowed to know about features of Uluru that were created by Mala, Kuniya and Liru. It was so fascinating to learn about these and to understand more about the culture of the people here. After finishing the Uluru base walk, stopping in at the Cultural Centre is a great way to learn through exhibits, from Park Rangers and local Anangu more about Uluru, the environment, conservation and Anangu society.
18. Yulara Art Class
In Yulara we joined an art class with Maruku Arts. This is such a great way to learn and take part in dot painting with the class taught by a local Anangu artist. We learnt about the symbols used in dot paintings and their meanings before we were able to create our own paintings.
19. Uluru Sunset
An unforgettable sight in Australia is watching sunset over Uluru. Get to the sunset car park early so you can get the best spot and watch nature’s show start to take place. Arriving early will allow you to see the golden hour sun lighting up the rock and understand for yourself how red the rock can really glow before the sunset colour palette takes over the sky! On a tour with Untamed Escapes you’ll even enjoy your dinner with this spectacular view for a meal you won’t forget.
20. Kata Tjuta
The last stop on our journey was another sunrise in magnificent Kata Tjuta. The name of these domed peaks means ‘many heads’ in Pitjantjatjara and is a sacred place for the local Anangu people. This means that there is no filming or photography allowed in the park and photos can only be taken at certain locations from a distance. We enjoyed the Valley of The Winds walk which was very peaceful with our early start and passes between some of these massive domes. The landscape here is other worldly as you see the flat outback landscape stretching on from the edge of Kata Tjuta. There are two fabulous lookouts on this walk that give you a great perspective of how incredible this landmark is.
For more Australia road trip inspiration make sure you check out these other blog posts that I’ve written for you! Where are you heading next? 🚐