Driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock
In our opinion, driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock is a road trip that everyone should have on their bucket list.
It’s the ultimate outback trip that opens your eyes to the incredible diversity of the outback’s landscapes.
It’s also one of those trips that feels like you should have a 4WD – but the truth is it can be done in a nippy little 4 cylinder car! You can drive there on completely sealed roads.
There’s lots to see and do along the way to Uluru. This page gives you the quick facts and a complete driving itinerary to driving this ultimate outback road trip.
Quick Facts About This Drive
There are three different ways to drive from Alice Springs to Uluru.
Your choice will depend upon how much time you have, the kind of vehicle you’re driving, and what you want to see along the way.
Via Sealed Roads (the quickest way!):
- via the Stuart and Lasseter Highways
- Current fuel costs for 6 cyl sedan are $69 each way or $139 return
- approximately 4.5 hours driving time
- No 4WD needed
Bonus tip: A 4cyl hire car crushes this trip for economy and budget savings!
If you’ve NEVER driven in the outback before, are unsued to driving on the left hand side of the road, or are getting straight of a plane in Alice Springs and into your hire care, we strongly recommend that you stick to the bitumen and leave the unsealed, more adventurous roads to others.
When driving the Stuart and Lasseter Highways, there are several things you need to be aware of:
- Driver fatigue – stop and get out of your car every 2 hours. Rest for at least 15 minutes, or -ideally- share the driving
- Animals on the road – kangaroos, camels and cattle. You will see them on this drive. Beware! The most common tourist fatalities after heat exhaustion in the outback is hitting large animals.
- Do not drive at night. There are too many animals on these roads.
Via Unsealed RoadsIf you’re looking to get off the bitumen, then you’ve got two options for driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock
The Red Centre Way
(Formerly called ‘the Mereenie Loop’)
- Partially sealed
- 690km /428mi
- Best done with two overnight stops (West MacDonnell Ranges and Kings Canyon)
- 4WD recommended, but we’ve seen plenty of 2WD campers on this road doing it fine
The Ernest Giles and Luritja Roads
- 4WD ONLY! We have pulled way too many tourists in 2WD hire cars out of sand trips on the Ernest Giles Road
- REPEAT: 4WD only! We really, really, REALLY mean this. DO NOT TAKE A 2WD on this road unless you want to get stuck!
- 460km/285mi (not including side trip to Kings Canyon)
- approximately 5.5 hours driving time
What to see and do
Here, we’re going to give you complete itinerary for driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock via the Stuart and Lassetter Highways.
From Alice Springs, head south on the Stuart Highway through Heavitree Gap and turn right at the signs which say ‘Adelaide’ (10km south of town).
This is the Stuart Highway proper, and you’ll be driving on this road for the next 2 hours.
50km south of Alice Springs, you’ll come to Mt Polhill.
Mt Polhill is a roadside stop where you can camp for free for up to 24hrs. There’s some picnic tables, a watertank and not much else.
There is a well-known Geocache nearby.
65km from Alice Springs, you’ll see the entry signs for Owen Springs Reserve.
There is a 60km long 4WD track that winds through Owen Springs Reserve and takes you back to Alice Springs via Larapinta Drive.
If you’ve got time, we recommend checking this little visited reserve out.
Owen Springs is full of history, Aboriginal rock art sites, great birdwatching, and free bush camping. There’s also a Geocache hidden halfway along the 4WD track.
We’ve created an entire guide to Owen Springs which you can read more about here.
75km south of Alice Springs is the turnoff to Rainbow Valley.
Rainbow Valley is well worth the 20km drive along the unsealed road that leads in.
There’s a great camping area there with picnic tables, gas BBQs and long drop toilets, a couple of interesting walks, and of course THIS fabulous rock formation:
A high clearance vehicle is recommended (the road can be quite corrugated at certain times of the year), although I will admit I have driven a 2WD Toyota Camry sedan in here with no difficulty.
And yes, LOTS of Wicked vans, Britz Campers and other 2WD vehicles seem to make it here just fine.
80 km south of Alice Springs is Stuarts Well Roadhouse.
Even if you don’t stop at any other roadhouse when driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, I recommend you stop here.
Stuarts Well is the home of Dinky the singing Dingo – an outback legend in his own right. And of course, his owner, Jim Cotterill; another outback legend.
At Stuart’s Well, you’ll find a caravan park, restaurant, pool, toilets, emus and kangaroos.
There’s also a Geocache. Next door is a camel farm where you can take a short camel ride.
85km south of Alice Springs on the eastern side of the road, you’ll see the Cannonball Run Memorial.
This roadside rest area is only a few minutes on from Stuarts Well. It’s a barren, open place with little shade.
It does have an interesting story.
In 1994, during an car race event called ‘The Cannonball Run’, a Ferrari F40 crashed into a checkpost at this point, killing its Japanese driving team and two track officials.
Needless to say, there were no further Cannonball Runs in the Northern Territory after this.
130 km south of Alice Springs, the next point of interest is the Finke River.
Just before the bridge is a tiny rest area located on the eastern side of the highway.
It’s a popular stop for people driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock.
The rest area has a toilet, some water, a couple of picnic tables. In the winter time, this rest area is packed full of camper trailers.
The location is superb: right next to the mighty Finke River (which only flows a couple of times each year).
The rest area has a 24 hour limit on camping, so no long term camping.
And yes, there is a Geocache here.
138km south of Alice Springs and you’ll pass the Ernest Giles Road intersection.
This is turn off to Kings Canyon (Watarrka), and is a 4WD only road.
A quick and interesting side trip along the Ernest Giles Road is to the small but interesting Henbury Meteorite Craters, located 11km in off Stuart Highway.
About 150km south of Alice Springs: the Desert Oaks Rest Area.
Located on the west side of the road, this spot is set in amongst the sand dunes and (of course) desert oaks.
The Desert Oaks Rest area is one of a number along the Stuart Highway that you can camp overnight at. It gets VERY popular in wintertime (between June-August in the outback), so our advice would be to get here before 4pm if you’d like to get a spot that’s further back from the road.
The rest area has plenty of room to spread out, water, shade, tables, wood BBQs, toilets and water, however we’d recommend that if you want a campfire, you may have to drive along the road and collect your firewood from elsewhere due to the winter time popularity of this place.
You’ll find a Geocache nearby.
Erldunda Roadhouse: Where the Stuart and Lasseter Highways Meet
Erldunda Roadhouse is a very popular stop for people driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock.
In fact, you’ll often find this roadhouse crowded with all manner of tourist buses, camper vans, 4WDs, cars and people!
Erldunda has a caravan park, cafe, tavern, service station, a Geocache, and some interesting things like a giant concrete Echidna and (live) emus.
There’s mobile phone reception here – the last reception you’ll get until you reach Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort).
If you decide to stay at Erldunda, there’s a variety of accommodation options – camping, powered and unpowered caravan sites, backpacker’s accommodation (very basic) and very nice motel rooms.
Book rooms, get the best rates and read reviews for Erldunda Roadhouse here
Turn right onto the Lasseter Highway. From here, it is 244km to Uluru. The road is sealed all the way.
50km along the Lasseter Highway: Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse
Unfortunately, Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse is currently closed.
When it was open, you could buy local Aboriginal art and artefacts made by the people from the nearby Imanpa Community.
There’s a Geocache here, too, which is still accessible.
108km along the Lasseter Highway, you’ll come to the Luritja Road Turnoff
The Luritja Road will take you to Kings Canyon and Kings Creek Station, and if you keep going, all the way back to Alice Springs via places like Hermannsburg or Glen Helen.
Roadside rest area: 110km west of Erldunda, you’ll find a very popular roadside rest area.
Lots of caravanners and folks in campers stop here overnight when they’re driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock.
It’s free, but bear in mind that the only facility is a watertank.
139km along the Lasseter Highway is the Mt Conner Lookout
Mt Conner is often mistaken for Uluru by unsuspecting tourists when driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock.
Mt Conner is a striking flat-topped mesa that’s about 859m (2821ft) high, and like Uluru, is a sacred site for Yankunytjatjara people.
It’s name is Atila in Yankunytjatjara, and it’s associated with the Seven Sisters and Ice Man Dreamings (sometimes called ‘songlines’) which travel from west to east across several hundred kilometres of country.
Mt Conner is located on Curtin Springs Station, and the only way to visit it is to book a tour at Curtin Springs.
Believe me when I say this: there is no public access.
We have heard rumours that Curtin Springs Station has planted tyre spikes on the tracks which lead to the massif to stop the public visiting. You WILL get a flat tyre or two if you attempt to drive to it.
If you drive down the dirt road toward Mt Conner (the Mulga Park Road) a kilometre or so, you’ll find a Geocache and a place to take awesome sunset photos of Mt Conner.
Curtin Springs Roadhouse is located 150km along the Lasseter Highway.
Owned by the Severin family, Curtin Springs has is a roadhouse, with fuel, meals, a pub and donga-style accommodation.
There’s also a campground. Unpowered campsites are FREE, whilst powered campsite sites are $3. Showers are $3 and before you complain about this, remember that the cost of installing bores to provide water is ASTRONOMICAL.
I’ve stayed here several times as a cheap option to Ayers Rock Resort. The self-contained accommodation is basic but clean and comfortable. The dongas have small kitchens and bathrooms.
Curtin Springs Station operates station tours and the 6 hour long Mt Conner tour. This costs about $185 and is recommended if you’re fit. There’s a few shorter tours, such as the $60 sunset tour, which might be better if you’re not so fit.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a Geocache here, too.
From Curtin Springs, it’s only 80km to Yulara/Ayers Rock Resort and the end of your journey.
Safety Tips and Other Advice
Driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock via the Stuart and Lasseter Highways is safe, however there’s are few outback driving safety tips we’d like to share with you.
Read these safety tips carefully.
More overseas tourists are killed on the Lasseter Highway than on any other road in the Northern Territory.
Given that the road is an excellent, straight, sealed road, this should not be the case. However, many overseas tourists get off planes in Alice Springs and jump straight into hire cars with no understanding of outback road conditions or distances.
Ayers Rock is not just a ‘short drive’ from Alice Springs. It will take you half a day – it’s 5.
These tips will help you understand the risks and avoid them:
- Fatigue kills. It is five and a half hours drive from Alice Springs to Uluru. You MUST stop and rest every two hours for 15 min.
- Animals kill. Camels and cattle (cows) roam freely on the Lasseter Hwy. Be alert and slow down when you see them. Hitting cattle at night is the most common cause of tourist fatalities on the Lasseter Highway.
- Speed kills. Slow down. The speed limit is 110km/h for a reason.
- Don’t drive at night. Kangaroos, cattle and camels are active at night. A collision with one could be fatal.
- Overtake only when you have a long, clear straight. Leave three times extra space if you’re overtaking a road train. They are up to 55 metres long.
Driving to from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock is one of Australia’s top road trips. Make sure you use these tips and let us know if there’s anything we missed.
Tell us your story about driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock below.