Knowing when the best time is to visit Uluru or Alice Springs is not as straight forward as you may think. Whilst people do visit year round, your experience will be completely different depending on the season.
We've been to the Red Centre a few times and experienced how different the climate in this incredible part of Australia can be. Here's our tips for the ensuring you have the best conditions for your trip.
The Best time to visit Uluru and Alice Springs
Check your dates
Visiting Uluru and Alice Springs at the right time will have a big impact on a trip to Australia and you should consider the best time to visit Australia as a whole. Whilst Australia gets busier during the Australian Summer (incidentally the worst time to visit Alice Springs and Uluru), the most dramatic swings in traveller numbers in Uluru and Alice Springs come from domestic holiday makers.
The key to cheaper travel in the Red Centre is to research when the school and public holiday are and try to avoid them. These holidays will have a dramatic impact on your trip as prices increase and availability of rooms dry up when everybody’s off.
The best time: Spring/Autumn
Our favourite time to visit Uluru and Alice Springs is the spring or autumn. During this time the air temperature is warm (about 25-30C) and the nights are mild.
It’s a time when you can do just about anything: hike, swim in water holes, star gaze or watch a sunset without either sweating like mad or turning into an iceblock.
Best time to visit Uluru: Spring & Autumn
The primary reason why this is a great time to visit Uluru is the gorgeous weather. Whilst you can have surprisingly hot days, in general the weather will be hot but not scorching.
Another huge plus is the flies are limited in number. They will still be slightly annoying (and you’ll probably need a net) but it is an acceptable price to pay.
Another reason why this is our favourite time is that you can sit outside at the Sounds of Silence dinner (one of the highlights of the whole of Australia) and be comfortable.
You won’t shiver like in winter or face a bombardment of bugs in the summer. There’s also enough warmth and humidity to create some epic sunsets.
Best time to visit Alice Springs: Spring & Autumn
Alice Springs is great in spring and autumn as you can swim in one of the many waterholes without catching a cold.
The water in all the water holes is pretty freezing so for long dips we still recommend having a float or tube, with you but it's a great way to cool off. This would obviously go for summer too if you are brave enough to visit then.
It also makes activities like hiking and visiting the Kangaroo Sanctuary (one of the best things to do in Alice Springs) really pleasant. Sunrise and sunset watching are perfect at this time of year as sunrise will be cool but not freezing and sunset will still be pleasantly warm.
Not so bad time: Winter (May - Sept)
Winter isn’t a bad option for visiting Central Australia. This is when the desert is at its coolest and you’ll have maximum temperatures in the mid twenties. This makes it the absolute best time to go hiking, especially on trails such as the 223km Larapinta trail. But it's also great for all the day hikes. We hiked in around 20C in winter and it was perfect for scaling all those hills as you don't need to carry as much water as in the warmer months.
We did also go in the water holes, but during winter a float is imperative and, to be honest, if any water comes over the float you will feel really cold. We much preferred swimming in spring and autumn.
The night time temperatures are very cold. On a winter trip once, we glamped in temperatures that dropped to -2C. We’ve never been happier to see the sun return! It also makes sunrise and sunset watching - one of the most wonderful parts of a trip to the outback - a little more trying. We were truly freezing and it meant we didn't watch every single one as we would have normally liked to do.
Winter in Uluru & Alice Springs
If getting up close to the rock in the day is your priority, then the winter is a great time for you. At this time of year the temperatures are at their lowest, which mitigates the very exposed 10km base walk. There are hardly any flies, making it a lot more comfortable than at any other time of year.
However, with the freezing nights, experiences such as the Sounds of Silence or star gazing are a little more challenging. Whilst the skies are at their clearest, the sometimes sub zero temperatures mean you have to really wrap up!
We also found the very clear skies mean that sunrises and sunsets were not so spectacular (more subtle) than in spring/autumn.
Winter in Alice Springs and the McDonnell ranges is the perfect time for taking on the whole - or sections - of the Larapinta trail. The temperatures are great for hiking and the flies have largely departed.
However, its pretty cold for swimming, especially if the waterhole is in the shade. Some of the waterholes are cold all year round, but the cool air temperature makes Outback swimming less enjoyable.
The worst time of year: Summer (Nov - Feb)
If you enjoy stifling heat (both day & night) and bugs of biblical proportions, then the summer is for you. This is by far the hottest time of year for the Red Centre and you are unlikely to get relief from a bit of rain. This is the time of year when you’ll see the Outback in its most unforgiving conditions.
However, you’re likely to see much less crowds (outside of school holidays). It is the off season and so you might be able to snag a bargain on hotels (not over Christmas though).
The worst time to visit Uluru: Summer (Nov - Feb)
Visiting Uluru in the summer is tough. The heat is intense and the flies are at their peak.
If you haven’t seen Aussie flies before, you’ll be shocked to see that nothing works to deter them, and they love landing on a bit of you that has any moisture (think lips, eyes and around your nose in particular).
This keeps on through the night and a friend of ours told us about how bugs would land in their meals when they ate outside. From what we’ve heard, it is a very difficult time of year to visit.
The worst time of year to visit Alice Springs: Summer (Nov - Feb)
Visiting the main attractions at Alice Springs gets a lot more uncomfortable in the summer.
It becomes almost unbearable to hike and spend much time outside in one go.
However, if you find a waterhole that hasn’t dried up, then this is the best time for you.
Attractions such as The Flying Doctors and School of the Air are obviously inside and air conditioned, but for us visiting the outback is all about exploring the great outdoors.
Where to stay in Alice Springs
We really liked two places and we couldn't choose between the two! So we made them both our pick!
Our Picks - Squeaky Windmill
Who wouldn't want to glamp in the Outback?! Squeaky Windmill is a little out of town and set has that outback setting you'd always dreamed of. Each of the tent face a huge red cliff and a dried up river bed, giving a perfect view to wake up to. They're kitted out with air con and each tent has their own bbq - it doesn't get more aussie than this.
In the winter the tents can get cold though (the Outback can drop to -1 C at night).
Our picks - DoubleTree Hilton
The Double Tree ticks all the boxes for a trip to Alice Springs: comfortable, clean rooms; central location and a pool to cool down in when it gets hot outside. It also won us over as it has an Indian restaurant in the hotel and it is only a 2 minute drive from our favourite breakfast place: Olive Pink.
Budget - YHA Alice Springs
You can't go wrong with a YHA and the Alice Springs franchise is a solid choice. It's central in town meaning you can get to most of the attractions, plus it is immaculately clean and comfortable. There are private rooms, but sadly none of them have private en-suite bathrooms.
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Would you venture into the Outback in the hottest time of year? Which season would you prefer to visit in? Let us know in the comments below!
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