Western Macdonnell Ranges

infoWestern Macdonnell Ranges Info

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.

Just south of Hermannsburg is the Finke Gorge National Park, which can only be accessed by 4WD. The drive takes you along the gorge and the scenery is spectacular. Palm Valley is home to a beautiful variety of palm trees which can only be found in this area. You can also camp in the area in a campsite with showers and flush toilets.

If you decide to take the higher route along the Namatjira Drive you will pass some more pretty gorges and gaps. The first areas that you will come across are the Ellery Creek Big Hole where you can jump in the refreshing water and camp overnight, as well as the nearby pool at Serpentine Gorge. Just further on from this are the colourful Ochre Pits, used for painting materials by the Aboriginal people.

Further along another pool can be found at Ormiston Gorge and Pound. Ormiston Gorge is a beautiful place to wander around, and there are some great walking trails. The next gorges you will reach are the Glen Helen Gorge and the red Redbank Gorge. You may also see Mt. Sonder, which is one of the highest points in Northern Territory at 1380m high. Heading towards the Mereenie Loop Road the final place you will pass is the spectacular Tnorala, otherwise known as Goose Bluff.

The Meerenie Loop is a dirt track and suitable only for heavy-duty vehicles. You will need a permit to drive on this road which is available from the Tourist Information Centre in Alice Springs, Kings Canyon Resort, and Kata-Anga Tea Rooms at Hermannsburg.

Western Macdonnell Ranges Accommodation

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