300km self-drive from Ayers Rock Resort to Kings Canyon Resort and blog review of Kings Canyon Resort where we stayed two nights to do the 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk. This is an easy drive on sealed roads and you do not need a 4WD for this segment.
The less well known Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park) is a 300km drive from the famous Ayers Rock. Nearest airports are Ayers Rock (300km) or Alice Springs (330km). Although you could technically visit this area as a (very rushed) day trip from Ayers Rock or Alice Springs (budget 3-4h for the walk + 6-7h for the 600km return drive), we chose to spend 2 nights here to enjoy the walks and drive at a more relaxed pace.
There are a number of good walks in the area, the crown jewel being the Kings Canyon rim walk. It is well worth the detour to escape the crowds at Ayers Rock and to enjoy the different views and experiences here.
Part I: Ayers Rock Resort to Mt. Conner Lookout (c.110km)
Unsurprisingly, the skies were gorgeous blue with no trace of yesterday’s storm. We stocked up on provisions before leaving Ayers Rock Resort and you should too! The 8-pack of 1.5L drinking water costs AUD16.66 at the Ayers Rock Resort IGA supermarket (i.e. AUD2+ each), compared to AUD4 per bottle at Kings Canyon Resort! En route we passed by quite a few of these desert melons growing wild along the side of the road. I read on a blog that these are not good to eat, but couldn’t find any other useful info on them (are these the same as paddy melons?)
Lasseter Highway- Look out for these mini-watermelons
Mt. Conner Lookout (c.20km after Curtin Springs cattle station) is a good place to stop for a quick stretch along the way. There are clear signs marking the lookout point. The 300m-high flat-topped sandstone formation that you can see from the lookout is not Ayers Rock (Uluru), but another rock formation altogether, called Atila in the local aboriginal language. It sits on the property of Curtin Springs and there is no public access- you can only visit via guided tour (SEIT 4WD tour or Curtin Springs guided walk/acomm/transport package) or a helicopter tour starting from Curtin Springs.
Mt. Conner Lookout
If travelling in the direction of Kings Canyon from Ayers Rock, the Lookout is on the right (opposite) side, but there is a separate dune lookout directly across the road which gives you a better view from a higher vantage point, as well as a view of a massive salt lake if you turn your back to Mt. Conner. Like Mt. Conner, there is no public access to the salt lakes and you can only see them up close on the above-mentioned tours, so this is your only chance to see one for free.
Mt. Conner Lookout (dune) Lookout – A better view from across the road
Mt. Conner Lookout (dune) Lookout – Distant view of salt lake
Part II: Mt. Conner Lookout to Kings Creek Station (c.160km)
Kings Creek Station is a good place to stop for a bite if you get hungry along the way. The burgers (choice of camel, beef, chicken, vegetable) are awesome and so are the fries (so crispy!) and coffee. Ice cream (AUD7) is a ripoff, but they admittedly traveled a long way to be here. You should also avoid the pies (AUD5.50- supermarket pre-packaged stuff) and milk shakes (AUD7- meh). There is both indoor and outdoor seating but we chose to sit indoors to avoid the flies.
Kings Creek Station- Cafe (open 7am-7pm)
Kings Creek Station- Cafe (fly-free indoor seating)
Kings Creek Station- Check out that monster burger (AUD16 with the full works)
There is accommodation here too- lodge style with shared bathroom facilities + campsites. Since 2016 they also offer a new glamping option which sounded interesting, but I was unable to find many reviews on it. In any case, the glamping tent is twin-share and unsuitable for our party of 3. There is a small assortment of cattle and one camel out front- I think this is probably more of a petting zoo, although I wouldn’t want to get too close to those huge camel teeth!
Kings Creek Station- Pet cow?
Kings Creek Station- Animals getting fed
Kings Creek Station- What big teeth you have
Seems like there are helicopter operations everywhere in the red centre and Kings Creek Station is no exception (prices below). However if your aim is to see Kings Canyon by helicopter, it is cheaper to go with the helicopter operation at Kings Canyon Resort (perhaps because they are located nearer the canyon). Quad bike tours are also available at Kings Creek Station (AUD100/hour, none at Kings Canyon Resort).
Kings Creek Station- Helicopter ride prices 2016
Part III: Kings Creek Station to Kings Canyon Resort (c.40km)
With our tummies nice and full we drove the last leg to Kings Canyon Resort where we were booked for two nights. Along the way we passed the access road to Kings Canyon. There are only three accommodation options near Kings Canyon: Kings Canyon Resort (10km from KC), Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge (31km), and Kings Creek Station (37km). We had booked a hotel room at KC Resort as this was the only ensuite option which could take a group of three. We found the standard was spacious enough for three adults, but there is also a deluxe room with spa baths for you non-cheapos out there. Like Kings Creek Staion, KC Resort also has cheaper lodge-style rooms (shared bathroom facilities) + campsites.
KC Resort (standard room)- Parking space at the door of each unit
KC Resort (standard room)- 2 x double beds (1 x queen available)
KC Resort (standard room)- Private balcony
KC Resort (standard room)- Fridge
Bathroom is spacious and clean, towels and shampoo/conditioner/soap and hairdryer provided. Shower pressure considered medium.
KC Resort (standard room)- Hot water in the outback
KC Resort (standard room)- Spacious bathroom
There is a lovely sunset viewing platform on the premises, where you can see the colours change over Kings Canyon. Drinks are served on the platform from 5.30pm onwards, but you can also bring your own drinks and snacks.
KC Resort- Short boardwalk from carpark to sunset platform
KC Resort- Bring your own picnic stuff
KC Resort- Good sunsets here too
After sunset it is time to hunt for something to eat. There are only three options for dinner: the casual BBQ restaurant, the fancier Carmichael’s or the degustation-style outdoor dining (winter schedule: Wed and Sat only). We did the BBQ, and shared the 400g ribeye (AUD42, very tough), halloumi cheese and veggie skewers (AUD26 for 4, tasty but a little ex maybe?) and prawn skewers (AUD12, good size prawns with a lovely char). The salad bar (garden salad, slaw, pasta salad, beetroot salad) is complimentary if you order any of the BBQ items (otherwise AUD15), and there is a range of condiments (BBQ sauce, tabasco, etc.) for you to add to your meat. Live music was good too.
KC Resort- Outback BBQ (sheltered al fresco, non-airconditioned)
KC Resort- My cheese veggie skewers with salad bar
Conclusion / Additional tips:
An easy drive on sealed roads. Petrol stations available at Ayers Rock Resort, Curtin Springs (cheapest – diesel/unleaded at AUD1.76/1.78 per litre), Kings Creek Station and Kings Canyon Resort.
Date of activity: 8 June 2016
Location: Kings Canyon, NT, Australia
Rate: c.AUD70/day for rental of Group K car/standard SUV (got a free upgrade to a Prado)
Booking: Avis (pickup / dropoff at Ayers Rock airport)
Hotel we stayed: Kings Canyon Resort, 10km from Kings Canyon (one of three accommodation options around Kings Canyon)