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Northern Territory - Alice Springs and the Macdonnell Ranges


  • Alice Springs is a popular tourist destination in the Red Centre of Australia situated in a gap in the MacDonnell Ranges and accessible by sealed bitumen road from either Darwin or Adelaide
  • it has a large population of Aboriginal peoples (some 5000)
  • it is commonly used as a base to explore Uluru, Kata Tjuta, the MacDonnell Ranges and other desert landforms such as Kings Canyon, asteroid craters, etc.


  • throughout all four seasons there are large temperature ranges between day and night
    • during the Australian summer months, temperatures range from 18°C/64°F (night) to 48°C/118°F (day) and rainfalls are higher at around 40mm per month
    • during the winter months, temperatures range from 0°C/32°F (night) to 30°C/86°F (day), although mean minimum in July is 4degC and, and mean maximum is around 20degC, and tends to be dry with rainfall only around 15mm per month
  • peak season is thus April-Sept when it is most comfortable, but the cold nights do mean jackets, beanies, gloves, thick socks and maybe thermals for after dark outside
  • it has clear skies 300 days a year which explains the cold nights
  • water, hat with secure strap (if climbing exposed, windy areas), sturdy footwear and sunscreen are required ALL year round on walks - carry and drink one litre of water per hour in small regular portions and consider carrying an emergency radio (available at Uluru)
  • drinking water from water tanks on the trails requires purification first!
  • long exposed walks on hotter days should be completed by 11am
  • waterholes are very cold!

getting there

  • Qantas fly into Alice Springs from most capital cities although flights can be quite limited even from Melbourne
  • Qantas also have ~1hr flights to Uluru (Ayer's Rock) from Alice Springs
  • by 2WD or 4WD car on bitumen from either:
    • Adelaide - 16+ hours 1,500km via
      • Coober Pedy opal mining town which is roughly half way from Adelaide - 7.5hrs, 690km, and 5+hrs, 540km from Port Augusta via Stuart Hway
      • optional 4WD (possible 2WD in good, dry road conditions) route Port Augusta to Coober Pedy via Leigh Creek, Marree and Flinders Ranges along the unsealed Oodnadatta Track (370km) which was the original rail route of the Ghan as there were natural springs fed from the Great Artesian Basin underground water system - 11.5hrs, 751 km (excluding turn off to Flinders Ranges and also Lake Eyre)
    • Darwin - 18hrs, 1,500km via
      • Tennant Creek which is roughly 2/3rds of the way from Darwin - 6hrs, 500km
      • Katherine which is 3.5hrs south of Darwin at 316km from Darwin
    • Mt Isa, Qld - 14+ hrs 1170km via Tennant Creek


rental car

"local attractions"

  • climb Mt Gillem
    • 7km from town, the walk starts at the John Flynn grave memorial on Larapinta Drive and is unmarked as it is quite difficult and requires good footwear, sun protection, water, and good physical fitness as it climbs 360m along a gravelly, rocky path on which it is easy to lose your footing, especially on the descent which will give your quads a workout.
    • the last part to get to the top of the range requires a careful rock climb up some 15-20m which is not for the faint hearted.
    • the top gives great views across the region but can have a cold breeze in winter, especially at sunrise which will be very chilly in winter
    • less fit persons should allow just over 2 hrs and go with a friend in case you do injure an ankle, or worse
  • climb the Botanic Gardens hill in Alice Springs
    • much, much easier than Mt Gillem and gives nice views over the Todd River and Alice Springs and across to Mt Gillem in the west
  • cycle to the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station just north of town
  • check out the Desert Park
  • Ooraminna station homestead
    • 37km SE on gravel road then a further 12km to Ewaninga rock paintings, then further to Maryvale Station and then Chambers Pillar

East Macdonnell Ranges

  • Emily and Jesse Gaps

ozultimate.com_tom_photos_20130727_central_australia_20130803141947_650d_02115.jpg ozultimate.com_tom_photos_20130727_central_australia_20130803142402_650d_02117.jpg

  • Corroboree Rock
  • Trephina Gorge
    • largest ghost gum of eastern ranges

ozultimate.com_tom_photos_20130727_central_australia_20130731161128_650d_01998.jpg ozultimate.com_tom_photos_20130727_central_australia_20130803105049_650d_02099.jpg

  • N'Dhala Gorge
  • Ross River
  • Artlunga ghost mining town (36km unsealed road past N'Dhala Gorge turnoff)
    • optional 104km unsealed Artlunga tourist drive back to north of Alice Springs


  • Old Ambalindum homestead
  • Ruby Gap

West Macdonnell Ranges

  • Namatjira drive - sealed road to Tylers Pass lookout
  • 12 section 223km Larapinta Walking trail:
    • Glen Helen resort offers transfer and food drop supplies to assist walkers on the trail
    • Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap - 2 days, 23.8km medium
    • Simpsons Gap to Jay Creek - 2 days 24.5km medium
    • Jay Creek to Standley Chasm - 1 day 13.6km hard
    • Standley Chasm to Birthday Waterhole - 2 days 17.7km very hard
    • Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge - 2 days 16km difficult
    • Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek - 2 days 31.2km medium
    • Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge - 1 day 13.8km, hard
    • Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam - 1 day 13.8km, hard
    • Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge - 2days 28.6km, hard
    • Ormiston Gorge to Finke River = 1 day, medium 9.1km
    • Finke River to Redbank Gorge - 2 days to cover the 26 km, mainly easy but one steep climb
    • Redbank Gorge to Mount Sonder and back - hard 15.8 kilometre climb, 6hr return
  • Simpsons Gap
    • nice picnic spot

  • Standley Chasm
    • private land, entry fee, best light at midday but too crowded

  • Ellery Creek Bighole


  • Serpentine Gorge
    • a 1.2km walk from gorge day car park which is separate to the camping area

traveloutbackaustralia.com_wp-content_uploads_2012_08_serpentine-gorge1.jpgupload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_3_30_a160_west_macdonnell_national_park_australia_serpentine_gorge_2007.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_serpentine-gorge.jpg

  • Ochre Pits
    • 300mm paved walk from the car park, worth a look for the different colours


  • Ormiston Gorge
    • $10 camp sites with showers
    • spectacular and huge, probably need to spend 2hrs exploring, and if one does the 3-4hr Pound Walk, will need to strip to underwear to wade through the freezing cold water to get across to the other side of the walk
    • Ghost Gum walk is steep but beautiful and with a ghost gum

letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_ormiston-gorge-1.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_ormiston-gorge-cliff-and-trees.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_ormiston-gorge-steps.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_ghost-gum-lookout.jpg

  • Glen Helen Gorge
    • Glen Helen "Resort" - bunkhouse beds, caravan park, restaurant
    • nice to photograph as more even lighting


  • Redbank Gorge
    • perhaps the best camp sites at cheaper prices with free gas BBQ, table, chairs, fire pit
    • 1.2km walk to the gorge along river bed with lots of rock hopping, lovely, chilly waterhole and very nice chasm

letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_redbank-gorge.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_redbank-gorge-1.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_redbank-gorge-43.jpg letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_redbank-tree.jpg

  • Tylers Pass lookout


  • Gosse's Bluff (Tnorala)
    • 5km diameter central remnant of a large meteor impact crater site from 142 million years ago - wikipedia
    • nice but bee swarms around drinks and food can force one to eat in the car



Finke Gorge and Palm Valley

  • Larapinta Drive to Hermannsburg township (historic town built in 1877 by German Lutheran missionaries but abandoned in ~1894) - homeland of Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira


  • 4WD tracks:
    • Palm Valley - 140km, 2hrs from Alice Springs and 20km from Hermannsburg along the Finke River bed (rough, and impassable after rain)
    • Wallace Rockhole
    • Boggy Hole
    • Illamurta Springs Reserve and ruins of the 1893 Illamurta Springs Police Station
    • to Ernest Giles Rd and either:
      • Henbury meteorite craters then back to Stuart Hway, Rainbow Valley and Alice Springs, or,
      • west to Luritja Rd and King's Canyon or Uluru

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

  • turn off Stuart Hway 77km south of Alice Springs and follow 24 km corrugated dirt road


Mereneenie Loop Road

  • 200km unsealed but very scenic road from near Palm Valley to King's Canyon
  • passes through Aboriginal sacred land thus:
    • requires permit fee ($5 from Glen Helen Resort or less at Alice Springs Tourist Centre but you must specify the day when you purchase it)
    • you are NOT permitted to camp or leave the road for walks en route except for:
      • Jump-Up rest area lookout where you can camp

letgotravelaustralia.files.wordpress.com_2013_02_20120730redbankhopevalley.jpg image courtesy of

australia/nt/alicesprings.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/16 23:40 by gary1

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