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!
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
|Total Distance:||5365.50 km / 3334 m|
|Melbourne to Murray Bridge||655 km / 407 miles||7 h 10 min||Adelaide Road Motor Lodge|
|Murray Bridge to Port Augusta||366.5 km / 228 miles||4 h 10 min||Acacia Ridge Motel|
|Port Augusta to Coober Pedy||542 km / 337 miles||5 h 30 min||Ribas Underground Camping|
|Coober Pedy to Yulara Resort (Uluru)||732 km / 455 miles||8 h||Uluru / Ayers Rock Campground Resort|
|Uluru (Yulara) to Kings Canyon||304 km / 189 miles||4 h||Kings Canyon Accommodation|
|Kings Canyon to Alice Springs||475 km / 295 miles||6 h||Chifley Alice Springs Resort|
|Alice Springs - Coober Pedy||687 km / 427 miles||7 h 30 min||Ali's Underground Motel|
|Coober Pedy to Port Augusta||542 km / 337 miles||5 h 30 min||Highway One Motel|
|Port Augusta to Horsham & Grampian Mountains||805 km / 500 miles||9 h||Ploughman's Motor Inn|
|Halls Gap / Grampians to Melbourne||257 km / 160 miles||3 h||Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park|
Melbourne to Murray Bridge – Day 1
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.
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 Augusta – Acacia 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.
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.
Coober Pedy Accommodation – Motels and Underground Camping
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 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…
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.
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.
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.
Kata Tjuta – The Olgas
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.
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.
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
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 / 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 Halls Gap Caravan Park is another great place to stay and it is also dog-friendly.
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.
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