Travel Time: Alice Springs – 2 hrs from Adelaide & Darwin, approx. 3 hrs from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane & Perth. 1 hr flight/6 hr drive between Alice Springs and Uluru. Coober Pedy – 2 hrs from Adelaide, approx. 2½ hrs from Sydney & Melbourne, approx. 3 hrs from Darwin, Brisbane & Perth. 1½ hr flight/7½ hr drive between Alice Springs and Coober Pedy.
Weather: The Australian outback is divided into three different climates – semi-dry tropics, arid zone and desert zone, which really experience only two seasons – a hot season and a cooler season. The semi-dry tropics, including Tennant Creek, Longreach and Charleville, experience summer averages of 38°C, while winter days still reach 25°C and rarely drop below 6°C at night. Winter is the perfect climate for camping and hiking.
The arid zone, the largest and regarded as the ‘real outback’ climate, is centred around Alice Springs and the ‘Red Centre’. Long hot summers last from October to March, with an average maximum of 35°C and many days soaring above 40°C. Winter, April to September, is a beautiful time to visit with average daytime temperatures around 20°C and nights around 5°C, with many nights falling way below zero. The outback is a climate of extremes – keep in mind that temperatures can vary within 10 to 15 degrees of averages at any time of the year, with extremely hot days and freezing nights. The desert zone, around Coober Pedy and the Simpson Desert, is one of the hottest in Australia during summer, with averages of 36 to 39°C and up to 50°C recorded. Large parts of the desert zone and Simpson Desert are closed to travellers between 1 December and 15 March as they are simply too hot and dangerous to travel. However, winter days are mild, averaging between 18 and 24°C, while night time temperatures often fall below 0°C.
Currency: AUD (Australian dollar)
Major destinations: Alice Springs, Uluru, Alice Springs Desert Park, Coober Pedy, Charleville, Longreach, Kings Canyon/Watarrka, Lake Eyre, Simpson Desert, West MacDonnell Ranges, East MacDonnell Ranges, Tennant Creek, Mt Isa
Holiday types: Outback/desert, nature, active adventure for all ages
Alice Springs is the heart and soul of Outback Australia. Alice Springs Desert Park, one of its best attractions, is home to every single desert habitat and rare endemic plants and animals. At nearby Uluru families can explore the ancient site by foot, bike, motorcycle, camel ride and even hot air balloon. Be sure to visit the Cultural Centre to hear the stories of local Indigenous guides and learn more about the history and culture of the Anangu people.
Coober Pedy, the Opal Capital of Australia, is a terrific outback experience for families – visit an historic Old Timers Mine, play golf on a course where the greens are black and marvel at the other-worldly landscape of the South Australian desert.
The outback is vast with more hidden gems than can be imagined: Lake Eyre-Kati Thanda – Australia’s largest lake, usually dry but bursting forth with life after heavy rains every ten years or so; the East and West MacDonnell Ranges – full of gorges, secret swimming holes, gold mines and peaceful bush campsites; and unique outback towns – Tennant Creek, Longreach, Charleville, Winton, Birdsville, Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie, Melrose, Mt Isa (and so many more!) – each home to their own quirks, history, friendly locals and definition of what Australian Outback living is all about.