Travellers visit Australia to see Sydney, the Rock, the Reef... and the Australian Outback.
To prepare a travel itinerary, make reservations for accommodations, book the flights and so on... well, you need to know where to fly to, don't you?
Where exactly is this Australian Outback? Or what is it?
To understand the Australian Outback you need to know that Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. Our population is concentrated in the cities along the southern and eastern coast, or not far from it.
We have historically been clinging to the greener fringes of this continent, and been somewhat afraid of the red and dry interior.
As a result the rest of the country is more or less empty: 6.5 million square kilometres (or 2.5 million square miles), inhabited by less than 60,000 people... That's the Australian Outback.
"The Australian Outback" is not an exact location. The term Outback is used to describe the emptiness, remoteness, and the huge distances of inland Australia, and the fact that most people still don't know much about it.
So maybe, rather than asking to "see the Outback", investigate the different Outback attractions, or the different options to travel across part of the Australian Outback. Help your travel agent help you, by being more specific about what you want to see or do.
Here are some ideas:
Ayers Rock and Alice Springs
An obvious choice. The most popular Outback icon, and the town known as "the capital of the Outback". Ayers Rock and Alice Springs are located in the middle of the Australian continent, a long drive from anywhere. Both have an airport, accommodations and many tour providers. Flying is recommended to save time. You will get to see the spectacular red interior. However, you will not really experience the vastness, the distances, the "feel" of the Outback. What you will experience are lots and lots of other tourists...
A surreal place. The South Australian opal mining town is one long day's drive from Adelaide. Vast treeless plains continue forever.... If you've seen the movie Mad Max you've already seen them. The town and surrounds possess a desolate beauty that fascinates some, and appals others. But what sparks everybody's curiosity is that a lot of the town is actually underground, a good way to escape the heat. Underground hotel, underground pool, underground shops and backpackers... and of course there are opals everywhere!
When people talk about driving through the Australian Outback they often mean the Stuart Highway. An excellent bitumen road with many services along the way, it will take you from Adelaide in the south, via Coober Pedy, Ayers Rock (on a detour), Alice Springs and Katherine, to Darwin in the north. The Katherine Gorge and Kakadu national parks can be visited on the way, too.) A great drive, period.
The far north western corner of the Australian continent has been called the Outback of the Australian Outback, it's so remote. Intense colours, stunning rock formations, spectacular gorges and waterfalls... The drive across the Kimberley, from Darwin in the north to Broome on the west coast, is the most beautiful drive in all of Australia. Bring some time!
Think Outback, think desert. Great Victorian Desert, Gibson Desert, Great Sandy Desert or Tanami to name a few. All of them can be traversed if you are adventurous, but you need to know what you are doing. Don't be fooled by names like Tanami Highway or Gunbarrel Highway. These aren't highways. To cross any of the Australian deserts is a serious four wheel drive adventure, unless you join a tour.
There are many more ways to experience a bit of Australian Outback: The Goldfields or the Pilbara in Western Australia, Bourke and Broken Hill in New South Wales, Mt. Isa in Queensland... No matter where you are, there will be some Outback attraction within reach.
And you don't have to venture all that far to find Outback roads, Outback pubs, and Outback characters. Sometimes it's as easy as NOT going where the tourism brochures are trying to lead you...