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Visiting The Red Centre in Summer

Planning a trip to the Red Centre during summer is not for the faint hearted, but it does have some fantastic benefits. Cheaper accommodation, fewer crowds and perfect swimming weather are all on offer in summertime. As long as you have air conditioning, plenty of water, and take the necessary safety precautions, you can still enjoy your Outback experience during summer.

 

What to do in Central Australia during the summer months?

There are plenty of activities in Alice Springs and beyond to keep you occupied in the hotter months. Here’s a few pointers to make the most of a visit in summer:

1. Hit the trails early

If you’re a keen hiker, trail runner or mountain bike rider, you’ll also need to be an early riser. The sun rises at around 5.40am in December, so get up and get going before the day has a chance to reach high temperatures. Another option is to get out your head torch and join a trail at night-time! 

2. Explore the galleries and museums

There aren’t many indoor places in the desert without air conditioning, but we all know galleries and museums are always nice and cool. Start your day at a cafe like The Locals, then browse the Indigenous art galleries, book and gift stores in Todd Mall. For a day of galleries and museums, start at Base Cafe at the historic Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility, then head to the Araluen Cultural Precinct. Here you’ll find the art gallery, Museum of Central Australia and Strehlow Research Centre, the Central Australian Aviation Museum and Central Craft.

 

3. Cool-off at a waterhole

Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge have accessible swimming holes all year round with surprisingly cold water, insulated from the heat by the stunning rock formations. Popular with locals once the temperatures rise, drive out to the West MacDonnell Ranges for the day and cool off in a desert oasis. 

 

4. Discover Central Australian wildlife

Head to the Desert Park during the day and take a Nocturnal House tour, or learn about thorny devils and how they survive the heat at the Reptile Centre. There is also an after dark tour, where you can spot echidnas and bilbies foraging in the cool of the night. If you’re keen to learn about the ancient species that roamed Central Australia when it was an inland sea, some 2.5-million years ago, go to the free Megafauna Central archaeological museum on Todd Mall.

Sun and Desert Safety

The arid desert of the Red Centre can be a harsh, unforgiving place. While it’s always important to carry plenty of water and protect yourself from the intense sun, the scorching temperatures in summer (above 40-degrees celsius) make these and other safety measures vital for survival.

If you’re heading outside of a regional centre, like Alice Springs or Tennant Creek, don’t underestimate how remote you are – supplies, fuel or help might be very far away.

  • Always carry at least two-and-a-half litres of water per person if you’re walking outdoors or somewhere remote – take more in your car for emergencies.
  • Wear adequate sun protection: a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved cotton/linen shirt, sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Pack some extra high-energy dried food for emergencies, like protein bars, nuts or dried fruit.
  • Check your vehicle and the condition of your spare tyre(s)
  • Never leave your vehicle if you do break down: stay with your vehicle where you have water, food and shelter and wait for another vehicle to pass (it's also easier to spot a car from the sky than to spot a person)
  • Download offline maps if you’re leaving town, as you’ll likely go out of range
  • Take a satellite phone or EPIRB device, especially if you’re travelling alone

 

Bushwalking & Waterhole Safety

If you plan to go bushwalking in summer, take the precautions above and also pack a flynet, long socks, and a small first-aid kit (including a snake bandage). Some tracks close when the temperature is expected to exceed 36 degrees celsius. Plan to start at sunrise and be done before midday. 

There are no lifeguards at waterholes in Central Australia, but there are also, thankfully, no crocodiles! Never dive or jump into waterholes, as there may be submerged rocks, tree roots or branches. Enter the water carefully from the shore, and don’t go beyond your depth if you’re not a strong swimmer. Unlike the beach, waterholes can get very deep, very quickly.

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