Johan and Claire are traveling the world while taking professional drone photos. While in Australia their dream was to cruise around the famous outback in a 4WD in order to access all the beautiful remote ranges, canyons and waterholes. And to experience the sacred aboriginal sites first hand. Continue reading to hear all about their 7 day Alice Springs 4WD roadtrip itinerary.
Alice Springs to Alice Springs
Best Time of the Year
March - November
- Ellery Creek
- Ormiston Gorge
- Mereenie Loop
- Kings Canyon
- Kata Tjuta
Waking up with a bright sun in our eyes, we were excited to head to the Britz branch in Alice Springs to pick up our 4WD!
After the briefing, it was time to do some grocery shopping. All the essentials for the next 7 days, packed up in our trunk. In retrospect, the fly-nets really proved to be our best buy, as it saved us from the hundreds of flies that would try to sit on our faces the next days (flies-season starts in October). Important tip!
After a quick lunch, we were ready to hit the road, destination West MacDonnell ranges. Our first stop was at the Simpson gap, where we did a 15 min walk to see the cliffs. The second stop was called Standley Chasm. This gorge is still owned by the aboriginal community and we had to pay a 12 AUD entrance fee each. It was a bit disappointing and we decide to walk an additional 40 mins to the viewpoint, which you can do from the entrance and it is free. Much better! The best part of the day was without a doubt the road to our campsite, the sun was setting and the surrounding mountain ranges were glowing even redder! We set up camp at Ellery creek waterhole campsite. There are bathrooms and drinking water, but no showers - you can’t really complain at 5 AUD per adult though.
Ellery Creek to Ormiston Gorge
The first night in our rooftop tent was perfect, not too cold at all! After our breakfast, we headed to the waterhole, which was very beautiful and serene! (apart from the many flies of course).
Afterwards, we went along the small dolomites trail (50 mins), which followed a part of the Larapinta trail. The first half was not exceptional, but towards the end, we were treated with a stunning view! Then we headed to the Ormiston Gorge, where we had phone reception for the first time on this trip. After lunch and a small social media break, we were ready for the second hike of the day: the Ormiston Pound Walk: 7 km (3 hours) up and down the gorge with no shade at all. The second half of the trek is really beautiful and the gorges light-up red again in the golden hour.
We were very happy to finally get back to the campsite again and to enjoy our first warm shower at Ormiston Gorge campground since we left Alice Springs! The campsite was 10 AUD per adult and it had tables, 2 stoves, 4 USB chargers, toilets and a hot shower.
Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon
We stopped at Glen Ellen to charge our electronics, while we got petrol and bought our Mereenie loop passes at 6 AUD per person. We then followed the little path (10 mins) to the lovely creek with clear water, where many people went for a swim! It was really nice to put our feet in the water and cool down a bit.
Then it was finally time for the real 4WD adventure; the Mereenie loop! The gravel road 2qw was smoother than we anticipated and we could often ride up to 90km/h, but you definitely need a 4WD to maneuver here! The surrounding landscapes are red and really beautiful. It was also the first time not seeing any kangaroos while driving on a road in Australia.
We decide to park the Britz 4WD for a truly off-road lunch break in seemingly the middle of nowhere. And we couldn't believe our eyes when we suddenly saw some wild horses!
At the end of the day, we headed to the Kings Canyon for the small creek trail (2km – 30min) which takes you through the canyon in the shade of the trees. We decided to come back the next day to enjoy the views from the top! The way back to our free campsite was like a dream: the Kings Canyon all red and majestic! And the final cherry on the cake, we saw some wild camels along the road!
The free campsite Ginty’s Lookout was also truly amazing, there was only one other car and we enjoyed the very scenic sunset on the valley below us. There were no amenities only bins and tables and it's a 30 mins drive from Kings Canyon.
Kings Canyon to Uluru
We got up at sunrise for the Kings Canyon Rim Walk! We wanted to get started before it got too warm. The trail took us up 1.000 steep steps to the rim but the view was well worth it - it was really amazing as you get to walk on the very edge of the canyon. Looking down the steep cliffs, we could still see the lush vegetation at the bottom of the canyon where we walked along yesterday. Impressive!
The temperature rose quickly, but all the sweating was worth it. After 3 hours, we came back to our 4WD and discover we have a flat tire as there was a big screw piercing the rubber. We called the ranger for some help and with our spare tire from Britz we were back on the road in no time! We still had a 2 hours drive to Uluru, where we slept at the Ayers Rock campsite (43,5 AUD for 2).
We were getting up early again for the free ranger Mala walk in Uluru, starting at 8am. We were very surprised by the crazy view driving there as the summit climb will be closed in 2 weeks from now, so thousands of people were still coming here to climb it and tick it off their bucket list. It literally looked like a traffic jam up there!
The rangers are trained by the local aboriginal community and during the walk they provided us with lots of interesting information about the fauna and the flora and the aboriginal culture. The guided walk took 2 hours. We decide to still start the 10km trail around the rock. It was a little bit windy, so not too hot and after 2h30 we were back at the parking lot. The views and carvings were really worth it though.
We had our lunch at the information center and then visited the small cultural center. We really like the aboriginal dot paintings, so we had a great time visiting the little galleries. Last duty of the day: groceries in the local supermarket and refilling our drinking water! By the way, the Academy Café has some delicious coffee and pie. That night we stayed at the Ayers rock campsite again. (43,5 AUD for 2)
Uluru & Kata Tjuta Site - 3 days pass: 25 AUD per adult.
Kata Tjuta to Alice Springs
Another morning we got up early as we wanted to head to Kata Tjuta, the second sacred site of the aboriginal people!
Kata Tjuta means “multiple heads”. And indeed, while the Uluru rock is quite flat, here we can see 36 domes on top. The rocks are also red, but it’s a totally different atmosphere compared to Uluru. We hicked the Valley of the Wind Trail and yes at some parts it was very windy! It took us around 2h30. The path goes up and down and thankfully the wind also makes it less hot and thus more enjoyable! The landscapes are beautiful and there are a lot more trees compared to Uluru.
On the way back, we pick up a new spare tire (safety first) and went for lunch and a quick shower (sweaty times) at the campsite before hitting the road again. This time we took the regular highway back to Alice Springs. After 3 hours of driving, we stopped at a free campsite next to the highway for the night.
We still had a few hours to go before we arrived in Alice Springs and we stopped at the Henbury Meteorites site along the way. You can still see the craters that were left behind 4.700 years ago, now filled with green vegetation. And the NASA astronauts apparently came here for training!
As we got back to the city, it was time for a car-wash and refueling. And time to say goodbye to our steel horse Britz 4WD. We had a great time together my friend!