Nine Unexpected Things You Didn't Know You Could Do (and See) in Central Australia

Stargaze in scenic Uluru, catch a festival of drag, glitter and cabaret and see the world's largest bird — expect the unexpected.
Anastasia Medvedskaya
Published on February 02, 2022

Nine Unexpected Things You Didn't Know You Could Do (and See) in Central Australia

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Stargaze in scenic Uluru, catch a festival of drag, glitter and cabaret and see the world's largest bird — expect the unexpected.

After what feels like decades of being stuck within the four-wall confines of our homes during lockdowns, domestic flights and holidays seem firmly back on the cards. So, it's no wonder we're all craving a little something extra to scratch the travel itch.

When it comes to your next big vacay, consider adding Central Australia to the mix. This desert paradise has spectacular experiences on offer — things that are worlds away from your everyday life. We're talking red desert dance floors under sparkling stars, helicopter tours of Uluru and festivals that rival Burning Man. We've teamed up with Tourism Central Australia to showcase some of the more unexpected experiences the Red Centre has to offer.

Want to plan your very own adventure to the Red Centre? Take a look at our handy trip builder to start building your custom itinerary now.

  • 9
    Uluru Camel Cup

    It just doesn’t get any more quintessentially Aussie outback than the Uluru Camel Cup, two jam-packed days of festivities in the heart of the Red Centre. There’s Fashions on the Field (NT-style), rubbing shoulders with the locals, and cheering on your favourite camel at what’s dubbed the biggest small-town event in the Territory.

    There’s even more to do off-field, including seeing Uluru from above on a helicopter tour, peeping quintessential Aussie wildlife at the reptile show and filling your belly at one of the many food trucks. And if that’s not enough to get you on the first available flight to Central Australia, the event also plays host to the Frock Up and Rock Up Gala Ball, where you can dance to your heart’s content to live music on a red desert dance floor. The 2022 Uluru Camel Cup will take place May 27–28.

    Image: Rhett Hammerton, Tourism NT

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  • 8

    UPDATE: February 4, 2022 — Fab Alice has been cancelled for 2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Central Australia. Fab Alice is slated to return in March 2023. We will update you with specific dates once these are announced.

    Ready to live out your The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fantasy? You won’t want to miss the Fab Alice Festival. Running between March 10–12, this joyous festival is an extravaganza of drag, glitter, cabaret, performances and family-friendly fun.

    Celebrating the diversity of the Red Centre, the festival has a mix of free and ticketed events all over town. Whether you come for the sing-a-long screening of The Sound of Music, to catch a cabaret show, or enjoy the street party in the Todd Mall, you’ll find something for everyone at Fab Alice.

    So if you’re keen to let your hair down and express yourself, this is one festival you won’t want to miss out on.

    Image: Lisa Hatz Photography

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  • 7
    Astro Tour

    Reckon Central Australia couldn’t get any more bucket list-worthy? Think again. Picture yourself with your partner, bestie, great aunt Sue or whoever else wants to tag along, gazing up at stars from one of the most remote and postcard-perfect spots on earth.

    That’s what you’ll experience at Ayers Rock Resort’s Astro Tour. Join a resident astronomer as you learn about the life cycle of a star and gaze out through a telescope to decode the night sky. Not only is this the perfect spot for romance (or simply chilling out with the pals), but it’s also the ultimate opportunity to brush up on your astronomy facts and expand your mind with the mysteries of the outback.

    Image: Nicholas Kavo, Tourism NT

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  • 6

    The family-run Ooraminna Station Homestead is an unforgettable, luxurious homestead experience. Take your choice of one of four uniquely appointed cottages, or four brand-new glamping tents. If you miss out on booking one of the authentic cottage getaways, you can always secure a spot at the restaurant, where you can eat delicious home-cooked meals as you gaze out at picturesque rolling hills under a canopy of stars.

    These luxe homesteads are an ideal base for exploring over 600 acres of glorious outback land. If you love your accommodation with a side of picturesque waterfalls, clear starry skies, spectacular sunsets and rock croppings that look like they were created by an artist, this is the place for you.

    Image: Ooraminna Homestead, Tourism NT

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  • 5
    Megafauna Central

    Step aside Big Bird — Megafauna Central is officially home to the world’s largest bird. That’s right, we’re talking about a whole exhibition dedicated to the biggest birds, mammals and reptiles that have ever roamed the Red Centre (and beyond), all in one jaw-dropping place.

    Meet the most fearsome crocs that have ever existed, discover ancient fossils, and get up close and personal with creatures from over eight million years ago. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of resident palaeontologists making discoveries in their labs. Located in the heart of Alice Springs, this experience is perfect for everyone — from science geeks to people who want to get their minds blown with fascinating facts.

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  • 4

    Spicy chicken wings and an ice-cold schooner — could you ask for anything better after a long day of hiking and adventure-seeking in the desert? Not really, say we. So, whether you’re a foodie or a craft beer connoisseur, you need to make a pit stop at the Alice Springs Brewing Co.

    Established in 2018, Alice Springs Brewing Co pours some of the tastiest drops in Central Australia and beyond. Kick back in the relaxing beer garden and enjoy some of the seasonal brews as you’re taken care of by some of the friendliest staff in town. If beer isn’t your thing, then you can order something else from the fully stacked spirits bar, sip on one of the non-alcoholic drinks or nibble on a pizza.

    Image: Tourism NT

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  • 3
    Trephina Gorge Nature Park

    While many visitors to the Red Centre visit the West MacDonnell Ranges, you’d be missing a trick if you didn’t spend at least a little time in the East Macs, specifically Trephina Gorge Nature Park. Replete with hiking trails, this area is abundant with spectacular views and rugged nature that includes the largest ghost gum in Central Australia.

    The area is also significant for its rich Indigenous history, while the nearby (and seldom-visited) John Hayes Rockhole might score you some wallaby and bird companions if you choose to sit down for a rest. It’s the perfect locale for a day trip — but be aware you’ll need a 4WD to get around. Or, if you want to stay the night, you can choose from one of three camping spots to sleep under the expansive desert skies.

    Image: Shana McNaught

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  • 2
    Binns Track

    Buckle up outdoor adventure lovers. The Binns Track is a ten-day journey that sees you exploring jaw-dropping rock formations and visiting far-flung towns across the Red Centre. A whopping 2230 kilometres long, the track is home to some of the most adventure-laden experiences the Red Centre has to offer. It starts on the Northern Territory–South Australia border at Mount Dare and stretches up through the East MacDonnell Ranges and Tennant Creek regions all the way to Timber Creek in the Katherine region — it’s well off the beaten track.

    Behold ancient rock carvings that serve as records of the Arrernte people, pan for semi-precious stones in gold rush towns or seek out treasure in an abandoned gold mine at Arltunga. Be mesmerised by limestone landscapes or experience true-blue Aussie wildlife. With something for everyone, this trek is definitely one for the photo album. You can check out the full itinerary here

    Image: Steve Strike, Tourism NT

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  • 1
    Karlu Karlu Devils Marbles

    Karlu Karlu, otherwise knowns as the Devils Marbles, is an iconic spot not far from the famous Binns Track. Picture ancient rock formations that have fallen out of the sparkling blue skies of the Barkly Tablelands — and you’ll have yourself the Devils Marbles. Defying gravity and what seems like science altogether, these giant granite boulders are scattered across a wide valley 95 kilometres south of Tennant Creek.

    The Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve has a camping area complete with cosy fireplaces where you can relax and chew the fat with your travel buddies. Stay until the morning, and enjoy the Devils Marbles when they’re at their best during sunset (or sunrise, if you’re game).

    Image: Yuri Kardashyan, Tourism NT

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Get out there in the Red Centre. To discover more things to eat, see and do, visit the website.

Top image: Lisa Hatz Photography, Tourism NT

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