Almost 90% of Australia’s 24 million inhabitants live along the coast, far removed from the vast inland area known as the outback. Despite being the driest continent on earth after Antarctica, the country is home to a spectacular array of natural flora and fauna that can only be appreciated by travelling through the Australian interior. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, there are dozens of once-in-a-lifetime adventures waiting in the outback.
- Alice Springs, Northern Territory
This town in the MacDonnell Ranges is the true heart of the outback. Many visitors to Uluru (Ayers Rock) just fly directly in and out and miss seeing a real gem – the Alice Springs Desert Park. It’s a combination zoo, aboriginal cultural center and natural history museum. If you want to get the most out of your outback adventure, this is where you need to start. And if you’re lucky enough to catch the annual Camel Cup in July, you won’t believe how fast those ornery critters can run!
- Uluru (Ayers Rock), Northern Territory
It’s a scared site to Aboriginal people and one of the most photographed natural wonders on earth. Uluru is over 1,000 feet high with a circumference of almost 6 miles, and walking the base perimeter takes about 3.5 hours. Climbing to the top isn’t prohibited, but the Anangu people ask that you respect their wishes and stay off it (climbing will be prohibited as of October 2019). This is a truly magical place, steeped in the traditions of the Dreamtime, that can only really be appreciated by seeing it for yourself.
- Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
Located just over 200 miles from Alice Springs, this is Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon. The red sandstone walls soar above the canyon floor, with incredible views of the Watarrka National Park from the rim. Discover over 600 species of native plants and wildlife, marvelling at ancient rock formations you won’t see anywhere else on earth.
- Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre), South Australia
This is the lowest point on the country’s mainland, lying almost 50 feet below sea level. The country’s largest lake is often almost completely dry, a vast expanse of salt-flats that looks like a field of snow. When the water does arrive (every few years), it attracts birds from all over the country and as far away as Papua New Guinea. Wet or dry, it’s definitely worth the long trek that makes getting to Kati Thanda an epic adventure in itself.
- Coober Pedy, South Australia
The tiny town of Coober Pedy is about 500 miles north of Adelaide and is known as the opal capital of the world. You know it’s one of the world’s hottest destinations when people live underground to get away from the incredible heat. You can stay in one of the famous “dugouts”, noodle through an opal field, or enjoy a night round of golf with glow-in-the-dark balls because it’s just too hot to play during the day. Be sure to take a look at the dingo fence, a 3,488-mile structure that crosses three states and was built in the 1800s to keep wild dogs away from the sheep.
The Australian outback covers about 70% of the country’s landmass and is filled with unique attractions and natural wonders. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore an area that’s bigger than many European countries. They say you haven’t really seen Australia until you’ve ventured into the outback – and it begins in the backyard of every major city in the country!