MacDonnell Ranges

Tour Guides

Travel NT: The East and West MacDonnell Ranges stretch out for hundreds of kilometres on both sides of Alice Springs. The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the Ranges - they entered this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpments of the area.

The panoramic landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges are easily accessed from Alice Springs. Each of the West MacDonnell's chasms and gorges has its own unique character and scenery. Simpsons Gap sports a permanent pool and rock wallabies live in the gap's rocky ridges. Standley Chasm lights up in fiery colours reflected by the overhead sun at midday. Picturesque swimming holes such as Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge offer refreshing relief on a scorching day. It is also possible to visit the Ochre Pits that desert Aboriginal people once used as a quarry for ochre pigments.

The East MacDonnell Ranges, while not as well known as the West MacDonnells, do provide beautiful scenery for bush walking, camping and four-wheel-driving. Visit Arltunga, a ghost town that was the site of a gold rush in the 1930's. Other places of spectacular natural beauty like Trephina Gorge, make a trip to the East MacDonnells more than worthwhile.

Australian Explorer: Heading west from Alice Springs you can drive through the magnificent Western MacDonnell Ranges. There are two routes that you can take. Starting from Larapinta Drive you can either follow this along through Hermannsburg until you reach the Mereenie Loop Road, or turn off onto Namatjira Drive which eventually joins the Mereenie Loop Road. This then leads to Kings Canyon and the Watarrka National Park.

The first place you will come across along Larapinta Drive is the Desert Wildlife Park and Botanical Gardens, shortly followed by Simpsons Gap, where the river cut through solid rock now forming a pleasant home for rock wallabies. 50km further west is another amazing land formation at Standley Chasm. The huge rock walls almost touch allowing the sun to reach the base of the gap for only 15 minutes a day. The small fee to enter the Aboriginal land is definitely worth it to see Standley Chasm.

Continuing along Larapinta Drive, there is little other than landscape to see, before you reach Hermannsburg. One thing you will pass is the Wallace Rockhole, where you can camp and take a tour around the Aboriginal rock art. Just before you reach Hermannsburg is the Namatjira Monument, for the painter Albert Namatjira who was the first Aboriginal person to be granted Australian citizenship. Once at Hermannsburg you can visit the mission with its old pretty buildings, as well as the tearooms and store. It is in the tearooms where you can buy a permit for the Mereenie Loop Road, and unfortunately the rest of town is out of bounds as it is Aboriginal land.

Wikipedia: The MacDonnell Ranges of the Northern Territory, are a 644 km (400 mile) long mountain range located in the centre of Australia (23°42′S 132°30′E), and consist of parallel ridges running to the east and west of Alice Springs. The range is composed of red sandstone peaks and gorges with the highest peaks being Mount Liebig (1,524m AHD/ 5,000 ft) and Mount Zeil (1,510 m / 4,955 ft). The mountain range was named after Sir Richard MacDonnell (the Governor of South Australia at the time) by John McDouall Stuart, whose 1860 expedition reached them in April of that year.

Wilkins Tourist Map: There is much to see east of Alice Springs along the Ross Highway to Ross River homestead and camping area. To see this fascinating area of Central Australia, take the Ross Highway, which turns east from the Stuart Highway just south of Heavitree Gap. After a short drive through the 'Farm Area', you will pass Amoonguna Aboriginal Settlement on your right (permit area only). Amoonguna was established in 1963 to provide accommodation for aboriginals in close proximity to the town. Many of the first residents there lived at the Old Telegraph Station. A few kilometres past here, on the left, is Emily Gap, a popular gap with picnic tables, just 11km. from the Stuart Highway. Another 7 km. further is Jessie Gap, also a popular picnic spot for locals and visitors. Continue along the highway another 25 km., past the Ringwood Station turn-off, on your right, to Corroboree Rock (Antanangantana), mystic and sacred site for Aranda aboriginals who once stored sacred objects there. The small reserve, with a car parking area has limited facilities.


Holiday Company Descriptions

MacDonnell Range Holiday Park: Discover the Red Centre - the majestic natural wonders, the ancient cultures and the breathtaking horizons. The most awarded Holiday Park in the Northern Territory, the famous MacDonnell Range Holiday Park is a Big 4 Park. Situated in the picturesque surroundings of the MacDonnell Ranges, away from the traffic and noise, just 4.5kms south of Alice Springs on Palm Place. Come to our park and enjoy a quiet, relaxing holiday, and experience the spirit of the true outback. You will discover and experience all that the unique Centre of Australia has to offer. Here at MacDonnell Range Holiday Park we offer you year - round accommodation in a friendly atmosphere we guarantee you will enjoy.

Wordtravels: Alice Springs, the vibrant hub of central Australia, grew up around a permanent waterhole that was a key terminal for the Overland Telegraph Station in 1870. It became a tough frontier town serviced by camel trains from the railhead at Oodnadatta, until the railway reached it in 1929 and it became a major terminus centre. Today the city, with a population of 25,000 and stylish shopping and dining facilities, provides a perfect base from which to access all of the surrounding natural wonders, including Uluru (Ayer's Rock), where you can learn more about the local Arrernte Aboriginal tribal group who have inhabited the area for 20,000 years. The city is also the point from which intrepid adventurers strike south to explore the Simpson Desert, or east to visit the ghost towns of the MacDonnell Ranges. Alice Springs has good connections to Australia's capital cities; there are daily flights to and from the capitals and road and rail access from all capital cities is possible.

Freedom Australia: Rise early to view Uluru at sunrise. There is the opportunity to climb to the summit (optional). Tour the caves at the base of Uluru and hear stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Later, visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. This afternoon travel through the desert plains to Kata Tjuta (Olgas). The size and grandeur of these 36 massive domes of conglomerate red rock will amaze you. Take a walk through Walpa Gorge following the natural creek bed between two of the domes. After sunset with sparkling wine, enjoy a delicious Australian barbecue dinner and stargazing.

Travelonline: Backed by the rugged MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs sits in the centre of Australia, a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Alice Springs has a variety of things to do and see. It also serves as a good starting point for exploring the surrounding attractions of Central Australia including the MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon and Uluru (Ayers Rock). More than just an overnight stop, Alice Springs has many attractions to visit. Make sure that Alice Springs is part of your Outback itinerary.

Adventures Abroad: Early this morning we fly across the vast desert known as the "Red Centre" to Uluru, commonly called Ayers Rock, located in the centre of the continent. Uluru is an incredibly impressive monolith 5 km (3 miles) in length and over 300m (1,000 ft) high! Towering 343m (1,143 ft) above the plain and measuring 9 km (5A½ miles) in circumference, the rock is twice the size of central London! The rock is honeycombed with caves, some of which are used for tribal ceremonies and burial chambers. We enjoy the sunset which creates a series of changing colours on the rock.

Uluru is a remnant of ancient mountains which long ago weathered away, leaving the sandstone monolith standing alone in the desert. In 1989 scientists found evidence that Uluru, the Macdonnell Ranges, and a cluster of huge rock domes named Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) were part of a single plateau. The plateau was formed about 300 million years ago and has steadily been eroded ever since. At one stage during this erosion process, according to the scientists, there would probably have been vast gorges here of Grand Canyon dimensions.


Intrepid: Experience the outback the authentic way - get off the bitumen and on to dirt roads. This 4WD adventure allows you to get right off the beaten track through cattle stations to outback icons such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Watarrka in a small group, allowing the freedom to explore some remote areas. By night, settle down in your bush camp, cook over a campfire and sleep under the vast, starry sky.

Thomas Cook: A chance to get right into the outback today with a visit to the Western MacDonnell mountain ranges. You'll have views of Simpson's Gap, Ellery Creek Gorge and Standley Chasm.