Melbourne to Uluru Self Drive Itinerary

Melbourne to Uluru

Melbourne to Ayers Rock (Uluru) is one of the best Australian road trips we have done, the East Coast is great to drive, but the outback is even better!

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The huge distances between places, such as Melbourne to Alice Springs which is a 24-hour drive or just under 3 hours to fly, can sometimes deter people from driving, especially with kids, but it is an awesome experience and highly recommended. Flying from Melbourne to Yulara (Uluru) takes about 3 hours… quick, but lacking in scenery!

Melbourne to Ayers Rock Road Trip, Australia

Nothing quite prepares a person for the sight of Uluru, but there is so much more to discover along the way. Since childhood, I had wanted to do an Ayers Rock trip, the name has changed but not the experience.

Are 2 Weeks long enough to do the drive to Uluru?

Two weeks to do the trip was ok, though another week would have been even better. It’s a long drive to Uluru and Alice Springs, though nothing compared to a full lap of Australia.

We did the Melbourne to Uluru drive and to Kings Canyon before continuing our road trip to Alice Springs and return in 14 days with no problem and saw some incredible countryside. The Melbourne to Uluru drive is an excellent introduction to the Outback of Australia.

Do you need a 4wd to drive to Uluru?

All the roads we used on our road trip to Uluru/ Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon were sealed and perfect for 2 wheel drive cars. 4 Wheel Drive only roads are plentiful for the more adventurous.

From Uluru to Kings Canyon the main route is sealed all the way. Then from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs, two popular options are available:

  • Stuart/Lasseter Highway direct to Alice Springs takes 5 hours, the road is sealed all the way.
  • Kings Canyon to Allice Springs –  via the unsealed Mereenie Loop Road it is 5 hours 30 mins (permit required) or Ernest Giles Road (4 wheel drive recommended)

Can dogs be taken to Central Australia?

Yes. But they cannot go into National Parks, this applies to all of Australia. We have added some pet-friendly accommodation options in the itinerary below. Please always book in advance and make sure it is still ok to bring your dog to any of the places listed.

Join this Facebook group for advice on traveling with your dogs and to find people who may be in the same location and looking to share dog-sitting times.

Uluru to Darwin

Many people do the road trip from Southern Australia to Uluru and onto Darwin. It is 1497 km / 16 hours 30 mins to drive from Alice Springs to Darwin, with some more incredible places to visit along the way.

Times and Distances for a 2-week Drive from Melbourne to Uluru

RouteDistanceTimeGreat Accommodation
Total Distance:5365.50 km / 3334 m
Melbourne to Murray Bridge655 km / 407 miles7 h 10 minAdelaide Road Motor Lodge
Murray Bridge to Port Augusta366.5 km / 228 miles4 h 10 minAcacia Ridge Motel
Port Augusta to Coober Pedy542 km / 337 miles5 h 30 minRibas Underground Camping
Coober Pedy to Yulara Resort (Uluru)732 km / 455 miles8 hUluru / Ayers Rock Campground Resort
Uluru (Yulara) to Kings Canyon304 km / 189 miles4 hKings Canyon Accommodation
Kings Canyon to Alice Springs475 km / 295 miles6 hChifley Alice Springs Resort
Alice Springs - Coober Pedy687 km / 427 miles7 h 30 minAli's Underground Motel
Coober Pedy to Port Augusta542 km / 337 miles5 h 30 minHighway One Motel
Port Augusta to Horsham & Grampian Mountains805 km / 500 miles9 hPloughman's Motor Inn
Halls Gap / Grampians to Melbourne257 km / 160 miles3 hHalls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park

Melbourne to Murray Bridge – Day 1Giant Koala Dadswell Bridge, South Australia

 The first day we left Melbourne and traveled via Ballarat, Nhill …. past the Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge and finished the day in Murray Bridge at a clean and comfy motel. There is plenty to see and do along this stretch of the trip if you have time and are not in a hurry to get to ‘The Rock’.

Accommodation at Murray Bridge: Adelaide Road Motor Lodge

A super motel with a spacious family room, heated swimming pool for the kids and a BBQ area for the evening meal. It was an ideal stopover for the kids to relax and then make an early start the next morning.

The Murray Bridge Tourist Park is pet-friendly at their discretion. Phone in advance to check.

Melbourne to Tailem Bend
Melbourne to Murray Bridge in South Australia.

Murray Bridge to Port Augusta – Day 2

As we were wanting to do the drive to Uluru without spending too much time along the way, we made a quick stop in the German settlement of Hahndorf. It’s such a sweet little village that it seemed a shame to not stop in there.

The girls found their first opp shop of the journey in Hahndorf. Although no great bargains were to be found, it satisfied them ever so slightly! (Opp Shop/Opportunity shop= Charity shop). This is one of our favorite ways to keep Happy Kids on Road Trips - Free e-Book, find some bargains in an opp shop or two along the way…

Heading straight for Central Australia, we by-passed Adelaide and reached Port Augusta for the evening. Pulling into the pre-booked motel with a swimming pool, the Acacia Ridge, it was a welcome stop at the end of the day.

Accommodation at Port AugustaAcacia Ridge Motel

Another good overnight stop, the Acacia Ridge also had a swimming pool which was well used by the kids. This is a good stopover option and we were rearing to go in the morning as Coober Pedy was high on the list of places to visit…

The Standpipe Golf Motor Inn offers some dog-friendly rooms, book ahead though to be sure or phone them on (08) 8642 4033.

Tailem Bend to Port Augusta Drive
Murray Bridge to Port Augusta Drive

Port Augusta to Coober Pedy – Day 3

Up and on the road, heading north and finally getting into the Outback of Australia! It took us about 9 hours as we stopped along the way and dawdled a bit.

Lake Hart Salt Lake was a great lunch spot along the way. About 2 hours north of Port Augusta, the salt lake is a fun spot to play and stay awhile.

Lake Hart Salt Lake South Australia
Lake Hart Salt Lake South Australia
Port Augusta to Coobe Pedy - a long drive, but interesting and with a few road houses and fuel stops along the way.
Port Augusta to Coober Pedy – a long drive, but interesting and with a few roadhouses and fuel stops along the way.

Coober Pedy Accommodation – Motels and Underground Camping

Motels: Coober Pedy has some unusual accommodation. The Underground Motel is one of the most popular motels and the Zen Underground B&B is fabulous too.

The Lookout Cave Motel is a pet-friendly underground motel option that has come recommended – book in advance and make sure you can stay with your dog.

Camping: We camped underground at Riba’s, just outside of Coober Pedy. The world’s only underground camping ground! It is fine to lay a groundsheet and simply sleep in the underground area, but we wanted to put the Kombi campervan tent up, just for the amusement value.

Riba's Underground Camp Ground, Coober Pedy, South Australia
Riba’s Underground Camp Ground

Riba’s run their own underground opal mining tour and offer the first-night camping free with a mine tour booking.

It is definitely worth joining a mine tour when in Coober Pedy and there is a choice of a few. Most people live underground to avoid the heat and a tour of an underground house is available too. The Dingo Fence & Breakaways are worth adding to the list of ‘to do’s’.

Coober Pedy to Uluru – Day 4 

After a good look around Coober Pedy, we headed north again. Along the way are roadside stops for petrol and food etc., plus accommodation options.

No need to worry about everything being too remote, no need to carry spare fuel unless heading off-road BUT do carry water and a spare tire!

We arrived at the Yulara campground, about 20 minutes drive from Uluru/ Ayers Rock, late afternoon and found a great camp spot, perched on a small area of grass! The girls bolted for the pool as it was high 30’s that day, while we put up the Kombi tent etc…

Yeah, finally arrived at Yulara Resort to camp and go see Uluru!
Yeah, finally arrived at Yulara Resort to camp and go see Uluru!

Accommodation – Uluru (Yulara Resort) Yulara campground 

The only camping option at Yulara, but it has access to everything and an easy stroll to the supermarket etc.

Last night Accommodation – Desert Gardens Hotel

It was a pleasant experience to enjoy air conditioning and a pool with a bar and cafe after camping out. Getting the kids out of the pool took some bribing…

The Ayers Rock Resort Campground allows dogs Please phone before arrival and check that they have space available. The managers of the resort are friendly and love seeing people traveling with their dogs.

  • You cannot take a dog or any pet into the National Park, there is no pet-sitting service at the campground and dogs should not be left unattended. If staying with your dog, try to find another camper who can pet-sit while you visit the Rock.

Uluru (Ayers Rock)- Day 5

Nothing can quite prepare you for the first sighting of Australia’s monolith – Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock.

It is stunning and one of the truly iconic images of this country.

Uluru/Ayers Rock Drive

How Big is Ayers Rock / Uluru?

  • 348 meters (1141 feet) high
  • 3.6 km long (2.2 miles)
  • 1.9 km wide (1.2 miles)
  • 9.4 km or 5.8 miles around the base
  • covers 3.33 km2 (1.29 miles2)
  • extends approximately several km’s into the ground.
  • 862.5 meters above sea level

To say this entire area is awesome seems an understatement. It is such an inspiring, stunning place to visit and should be on everyone’s list of ‘must do’s in a lifetime’. We loved it all and are so glad to have made the trip by car, as it was an incredible experience for the girls to get an idea of the distances in Australia – there is always something well worth seeing every km of the way.

Seeing Uluru was the highlight of the trip for the girls – they were desperate to go see the rock. Visitors are discouraged from climbing Ayers Rock / Uluru.

Time in Uluru

There is only a half-hour time difference between Melbourne to Uluru, considering the distance between the two places, it is surprising.

Best Uluru Tours

Plenty of tour options around Ayers Rock/Uluru from half-day trips to multi-day tours are available if preferred or visitors can easily self-drive.

Uluru Aboriginal Experience Tours

Join a traditional owner of Uluru, a member of the Uluru family, on his traditional homelands and spend time learning about the oldest living culture in the world. Explore this extraordinary environment by 4WD with your Aboriginal guide, stopping along the journey to hear stories such as how Paddy Uluru fought for Aboriginal land rights to where Uluru is today. The traditional owners of Uluru want to share their personal story with you on their land. Join them for a yarn and afternoon tea at a remote shelter and hear how they survived in this environment before tourism started in the region. End the day at a private sand dune overlooking Uluru and Kata Tjuta while enjoying drinks and light snacks at sunset.

Uluru Base Walk – Day 6

We did various walks at the base of Uluru (it takes about 3.5 hours to walk all the way around the 10km circuit) and spent time at the Cultural Centre. Later in the day, we drove out to the Kata Tjuta/Olgas for the sunset view and some more awesome walking.

UluruSept 2013 - Ayers Rock (211)5
The base walk around Uluru is about 10kms, it takes around 3.5 hours.
UluruSept 2013 - Ayers Rock (222)6
This spot is affectionately referred to as ‘the brain’!
Uluru Base Walk
…. continuing the base walk around Uluru.

Melbourne to Uluru 2013

Kata Tjuta – The Olgas

Kata Tjuta/Olgas
Kata Tjuta Reasonably high temperatures and winds meant the ‘Valley of the Winds’ trail was closed the day we were there, but we made the most of other walking tracks and watched the glorious sunset.

Watarrka National Park / Kings Canyon – Day 7

We drove over to Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park) about 4 hours away, backtracking along the Lasseter Highway to the turn-off. Too late to do any hiking, but we did get to appreciate the sunset over the ranges and camped out in the local campground… I slept out of the tent with the girls on our camp beds, falling asleep all too soon as we counted stars and listened to the Dingoes howling…

Accommodation at Watarrka National Park

Dogs are allowed in the Kings Canyon Resort Campground. On-leash at all times, They cannot go on the Rim Walk or anywhere within the National Park.

Uluru to Kings Canyon Drive

Kings Canyon1

Kings Canyon Walk – Day 8

People have asked if Kings Canyon is better than Uluru. Both places are spectacular and really, it would be hard to pick one over the other if you had to choose to visit only one place. You need to visit both!

Today we walked the trail up and around the canyon. To say it is awesome, would be an understatement really. This is something not to be missed in an outback adventure. Not too strenuous, but not a walk that should be done during the heat in the middle of the day though. Take Water. Take snacks. Take a hat and take sunscreen…and a camera of course! Read the Parks PDF for walk details.

Kings Canyon
From the car park… a good workout going up the multitude of rock steps…
Kings Canyon
Looking out from partway up the steps.
Kings Canyon
With all their climbing and exploring, the girls must have covered double the distance of the entire walk overall!
Kings Canyon
Look closely for the people sitting at the lookout area on the edge of Kings Canyon… it shows the scale of the area well!
Kings Canyon
Heading down the steps towards the Valley of Eden at Kings Canyon, a glorious little water hole and sanctuary from the heat.
Kings Canyon
A great lookout perch on the edge of the rim at Kings Canyon!

Kings Canyon8 1

When is the best time to visit Kings Canyon / Watarrka?

During the cooler winter, months from May-September is ideal. It is possible at any time of the year, of course. Be prepared for much higher temperatures during summer.

Watarrka/Kings Canyon to Alice Springs Drive

Kings Canyon to Alice Springs

Alice Springs – Day 9

We headed to Alice Springs after doing the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, about a 5-hour drive. As we had a trailer on down the sealed road to the Lasseter Highway and up to Alice that way. There is another option, of heading to Alice on the dirt road, but it’s quite corrugated and we chose not to risk breaking an axle on the trailer (I’d have loved to go on the back road though… next time, perhaps).

Accommodation in Alice Springs

Alice offers loads of accommodation options. We recommend the Chifley Alice Springs Resort. Not overpriced and family-friendly with a fabulous swimming pool for the kids.

The Squeaky Windmill is somewhere a little bit different, not too far from Alice Springs with superb views and amazing bird sounds to wake up to – 3 Luxury eco-tents, Giles, Stuart, and Gosse, available, sleeping a total of 2-3 people in each, in either queen-size or single bed configurations.

The Heritage Caravan Park is not only dog-friendly but a great place for all caravanners and campers.

Standley Chasm Central Australia
Standley Chasm

Standley Chasm / Angkerle Atwatye – Day 10

The day was spent looking around Alice and out to nearby Standley Chasm / Angkerle Atwatye. A fantastic place to experience, a short walk into the chasm, which is best seen around noon when the walls of the chasm are easier to distinguish. This is considered to be the best lighting at this time of day.

Alice to Coober Pedy – Day 11 

Sadly, we had to head home. Darwin was now closer than Melbourne by a long shot… we would have loved to have had the time to go further… past the Devils Marbles, etc…

Down again to Coober Pedy, stopping at the roadhouses along the way for icy poles and such. 

Accommodation in Coober Pedy

We chose to stay underground again in Coober Pedy on our return trip… a little bit of fun! Ali’s Underground. What a great experience. It is family-friendly, relaxing and a great experience.

Port Augusta, South Australia – Day 12

On down to Port Augusta where we stayed in the Highway One Motel for the night.

Horsham & Grampian Mountains – Day 13

We had planned to go home via Mildura and the Murray River region but decided to take the girls into the Grampian Mountains instead, so headed that way and stayed the night in Horsham.

Grampian Mountains – Day 14

A drive through the Grampian Mountains and a quick stop in the township of Halls Gap was not doing this beautiful area of Victoria justice, as days can be spent exploring this region. That will have to keep for another holiday!

  • Dogs are allowed into the towns and a few areas within the Grampians, but not allowed within the National Park boundaries.

Accommodation in the Grampians & Halls Gap

Halls Gap and the Grampians has enough accommodation to suit every budget, motels, guest houses, farm stays, and cottages are all on offer.

The Lakeside Tourist Park is very popular and the Eco Backpackers Hostel is a very friendly place with a great feel to it.

The Halls Gap Caravan Park is another great place to stay and it is also dog-friendly.

Victoria's Grampian Mountains - wonderful hiking, rock climbing and stunning scenery.
Victoria’s Grampian Mountains – wonderful hiking, rock climbing, and stunning scenery.
Grampian Mountains Victoria
One of the lookouts with vistas across the valley and farmlands in the Grampians.

Uluru to Melbourne Return Drive

We headed for home to Melbourne after traveling over 5,000 kilometers and having a brilliant family vacation.

An extra week or two for this road trip to the center of Australia would have been ideal, but we still made the trip to Uluru and Kings Canyon without feeling too hurried.

Alternative itinerary for this road trip from Melbourne to Ayers Rock/Uluru

So many more interesting places could be included in this trip if time allows. Here are some suggested additions to the more direct road trip to Uluru.

  • Melbourne > Geelong > Along the Great Ocean Road (perhaps staying in Apollo Bay as an overnight stop).
  • Apollo Bay > Port Campbell > North to the Grampian Mountains ( overnight in the Grampians)
  • Grampians > Horsham > Hahndorf > Adelaide ( overnight in  Adelaide..)
  • Divert down the Fleurieu Peninsula  if you have time, even pop across to Kangaroo Island )
  • Adelaide > Port Augusta ( not a long trip, could drive further to Woomera or Glendambo Hotel/ Pub or campsite ( about 3 hrs from Port Augusta)

Return… Alice Springs > Port Augusta > Flinders Ranges > Barossa Valley >Mildura> along the Murray River

Tours to Uluru

A number of companies offer one day and multiple day trips leaving from Alice Springs and Yulara that offer good value and experiences.

Pin for later…

Melbourne to Uluru Road Trip
Melbourne to Uluru Road Trip

23 thoughts on “Melbourne to Uluru Self Drive Itinerary”

  1. Hi Jane,

    Thanks a lot for your informative blog. It helps a great deals in preparing this long and challenging trip (for newbies like us). Since we have kids as well, can you share more about food – is it easy to find a store a long the way? should we prepare something before we head off the road?

    Thank you

    • Hello Harper, That is great you are planning a road trip. It is always good to have your own food to eat or prepare simple meals with, especially when travelling with kids. We found that there really wasn’t a day that we did not pass at least a roadhouse to get meals from.

      We always travel with a small gas stove and gas bottle so we can cook some meals as it saves so much money. Simple meals are expensive when you get into remote regions, which is fair enough as transport costs are so high.

      Definitely a good idea to take some fresh fruit/vegetables, as long as you are not passing quarantine stations such as when leaving Victoria and going into South Australia.
      I hope you have a fantastic trip!

  2. Jane, thanks for your blog. it has given me so much help and confidence to drive on my own to Alice Springs in August, rather than fly. I have never been to Coober Pedy and this gives me the opportunity to tick off some more things on the wish list. Thanks again, Chris

  3. Thanks so much for your terrific blog post! Like others above, we are planning on almost replicating this – just adding an extra week for travel.
    Do you think late August to early September is too late?
    Also, you said you didn’t eat out very much at all – is fresh food easy to source or did you take everything with you?

    Thanks again!

  4. Greetings from a frozen Canada

    I hope to visit Australia in April – July 2019 on my motorcycle. I have question about the roads going to “The Rock”. Being on 2 wheels, dirt is not enjoyed with the 475 kilo Goldwing pulling a small trailer. My question is about the roads, are they hard surfaced or gravel?
    Great info on your blog, especially the hotel info.

    • Hi Wilf, That will be an exciting trip on your Goldwing. The roads are all sealed to the rock and into Kings Canyon as well as on up to Alice Springs. The main highways 1 which goes around Australia is all sealed now though people still have plenty of options to get onto unmade roads if they choose to. Are you planning on doing a lap of Australia?

  5. This looks fantastic – and we are thinking of mimicking your trip! Thanks for all your hard work. Are you willing to put a rough cost (all in) to your trip to give an idea of costs? If not – I understand and excuse the intrustion.

    Many thanks,

    • Hello Catherine, I hope you do the trip, it is so much fun. No intrusion regarding asking how much it cost… though I do not really know as we did not pay much attention. We did not have unlimited funds though! Petrol varied and it all depends on the fuel economy of your car. We camped most of the time, if you check current prices at the different places listed, it may give you an idea. We did not eat out much at all, so that saved a small fortune!

  6. Hi your trip sounded amazing. My husband and I have just bought an outback caravan and are planning on coming over from New Zealand in May 2018 for a six month trip around Australia. We are looking at all the fantastic sights to see over there and can’t wait to hit the road. Uluru is certainly on our list to see and even more so after seeing your beautiful photos. Thankyou so much for all the information about the places to see.
    Regards Robin McIntosh

  7. Hi..
    Thank you for your blog, it was so presize, that I was almost traveling with you with excitement. It was also a good idea to list your stays, but I missed your prices!! As I travel in Europe, Inusualy use my iPad to find accomodation, as I go. This sometimes gives me great discounts, up to 30-60%!! I guess this doesn’t exist in Australia.. So loved all, your guides, your pictures, but missed your Budget.. 🙂
    We are going to do this trip end of this month -20th of Nov. till the end of Nov. perhaps a couple of days into December.. Combine tents, cabins, an motels..

    Thank you again..:)

    Frank V

    • Hi Frank, That is exciting you have the big trip planned soon. Prices can vary so much, but the links usually go to the best offer and will show nearby places and prices too. Have a look at a few of them and see what you can find. Enjoy your trip!

  8. Great blog post – just can’t wait to follow in your footsteps – but probably from the Queensland end of the Country. Have a close friend who’s Mum came from Murray Bridge – she lived right on the bend of the river. Beautiful spot. Thanks heaps for sharing your travels.

    Joycee Smith (AKA Gypsy at 60) 🙂

  9. Thank you very much what a first class effort of informing of your travels. I am planning to do likewise soon and really appreciate your efforts.


    Richard Mulcaire

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