Northern TerritoryAlice Springs & SurroundsAlice Springs is the gateway to the Red Centre and a true oasis in the heart of Australia. Be surrounded by red desert and natural wonders, wander aboriginal art galleries, and enjoy the outback culture and buzzing cafes.
The area surrounding Alice Springs is a land of deep chasms and gorges carved through rust coloured ranges. The desert landscape is punctuated by unexpected oases and waterholes and ancient meteorite craters. It is home to an ancient people whose culture is alive and well. Alice Springs sits at the junction of the East and West MacDonnell Ranges. The spectacular West MacDonnell National Park is home to many amazing natural attractions, such as Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge and Pound. The renowned Larapinta Trail runs 223 kilometres through the West MacDonnells and is one of the world’s great walks. To pioneering Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira, the West MacDonnells were his inspiration with their dramatic landscapes and ever-changing hues. Highlights of the East MacDonnell Ranges are Emily and Jessie Gaps, Trephina Gorge, Ndahla Gorge, Ruby Gap and Arltunga Historic Reserve. Arltunga was an important gold and gem prospecting area and for a while was the most important settlement in Central Australia. Now only a few restored stone buildings remain. Hermannsburg (an historic Aboriginal settlement, and the birthplace of artist Albert Namatjira) and Palm Valley (Finke Gorge National Park) are an easy drive from Alice Springs. Those looking to go further off the beaten track can explore the Simpson or Tanami Deserts, fossick for gems at Gemtree or Ruby Gap, or visit remote communities like Santa Teresa and Titjikala, where tours offer a chance to experience Aboriginal culture and watch artists at work. A visit to the iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home of the monolith Uluru / Ayers Rock, situated 461 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs on the traditional lands of the Anangu Aboriginal people, is an unforgettable experience.
Get a greater understanding of Aboriginal Culture
View spectacular Aboriginal art aboard Rainbow Valley Cultural Tours Rainbow Valley Cultural Tours is where you’ll meet an Aboriginal traditional owner of the land. Learn about their culture and history and view ancient and spectacular rock art and engravings. Access to this area is exclusive to Rainbow Valley Cultural Tours and the journey will leave you with lasting memories and a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture.
Walk the Larapinta Trail
Ranked as one of the planet's top 20 treks, the Larapinta Trail is a 231-kilometre path that follows the rocky spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Mount Sonder. Challenge yourself to hike the whole trail or tackle one or more of its 12 sections, all of which vary in difficulty and length. Each section can be reached by four-wheel drive, so you can join or leave the trail at any of the trailheads. The Trail encompasses some of the key attractions of the ranges including Simpsons Gap, and the permanent waterholes at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen. It weaves past some of the world's most ancient metamorphic and igneous rock and nearly 600 species of flora. The Trail also links in with other walking tracks within the West MacDonnell National Park, allowing side trips to explore more of the Park. Along the way, you camp under the stars. Most campsites have picnic tables and tent sites. All trailheads have a water supply and some have free gas barbecues. Fully guided tours are available; otherwise set off on your own ensuring you're well equipped and have notified the relevant authorities.
Marvel at the ancient landscape of Rainbow Valley Sandstone bluffs and cliffs with exposed bands of coloured rock, these free-standing cliffs form part of the James Range and are a favourite subject of photographers who capture their varied shapes and colours at dawn or dusk when the rainbow-like rock bands are highlighted. The Reserve is rich in evidence of Aboriginal occupation with rock engravings or petroglyphs and paintings as well as grinding stones and stone tool chips, especially around the hills and ridges. The coloured rock bands in the sandstone cliffs were caused by water. The red iron of sandstone dissolved and was drawn to the surface during the dry season. This dark red capping is hard and weathers slowly, whereas the softer white sandstone below erodes quickly into loose sand. Weathering and erosion are also responsible for the valley shape, where sandstone blocks have been eroded into rock faces and squared towers.
Four wheel drive the Tanami Desert
The Tanami Desert, one of the most isolated and arid areas on earth, wasn’t truly explored until well into the twentieth century. The Tanami Track with sandy plains connects Alice Springs to the Kimberley Region. Points of interest along the Tanami Track include Tilmouth Well Station, offering accommodation and fuel in a true outback setting and Birds Australia’s 650,000 acres Newhaven Station Bird Sanctuary. Those planning to drive the Tanami Track should only do so in a reliable four-wheel-drive vehicle with spare tyres, and be sure to take spare fuel. The road surface is usually quite good but services on the Tanami are very limited with fuel available only at Tilmouth Well. The Rabbit Flat Roadhouse is now closed. Temperatures in the Tanami Desert can get very hot with daytime temperatures averaging 38 degrees Celsius. Ensure you carry plenty of water with some to spare for emergencies. Pack a picnic, and swim in the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Running due west from Alice Springs, the West MacDonnell Ranges contain a variety of impressing and interesting geological features and landscapes. Simpsons Gap is a dramatic cleft in the range through which a dry white sand riverbed fringed with river red gums winds. Standley Chasm with its vertical red walls that glow in the midday sun gives the impression of some sort of giant fracture in the rock. It contains permanent springs and unusual plant life and is a pleasant excursion on its own. Ellery Creek Big Hole is a large permanent waterhole nestled in the ranges that is a favourite swimming place for locals in the summer. The water can be freezing at other times of the year, however. The Larapinta Trail winds 250 kilometres from Alice Springs through the West MacDonnell Ranges to Mount Sonder. The Trail is one of the world’s great walks and visitors not wishing to attempt the entire walk can choose sections to walk in the space of a day. Most of the West MacDonnell Range’s key attractions are easily accessible from Alice Springs via a sealed highway as far as Glen Helen Resort.
Explore Alice Springs
Alice Springs is a town of 30,000 people located on the banks of the usually dry Todd River in Central Australia. This well-appointed oasis in the desert is equipped with a wide range of facilities, attractions, tours and accommodation. Anzac Hill in the centre of Alice Springs provides a panoramic view of the town and surrounding mountain ranges. The Araluen Cultural Precinct and the Alice Springs Telegraph Station are worth visiting for an insight into Alice Springs’ interesting history. The Alice Springs Desert Park is an excellent introduction to the flora, fauna and landscapes of Central Australia. Alice Springs is known for its quirky events such as the ASSA ABLOY Henley-on-Todd Regatta, the Camel Cup and the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. The MacDonnell Ranges run to the east and west of the town, and the ruggedly beautiful West MacDonnell National Park is home to many amazing natural attractions, such as Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.
Explore the East MacDonnell Ranges
Explore the East MacDonnell Ranges The East MacDonnell Ranges are a hidden treasure. Stretching 100 kilometres east of Alice Springs, the East MacDonnell Ranges provide beautiful scenery for bushwalking, camping and four-wheel driving. To the local Eastern Arrernte people, this area is the Dreamtime birthplace of the mountain range. Places like Emily and Jessie Gap, Corroboree Rock and N’Dhala Gorge are of great cultural significance to the Arrernte people. The beauty of these sites, and others such as Trephina Gorge, make a trip to the East MacDonnells unforgettable. You can base your exploration from Ross River Resort on the eastern end of the ranges. Both cabin and camping facilities are available along with bar and restaurant services. Late last century the Ranges were the site of Australia’s most remote, but short-lived gold rush at what is now Arltunga Historical Reserve. Here there is a ghost town to explore, complete with the remains of mining camps and old mines. Camping is available at Arltunga Bush Pub. The first mining rush took place at what is now Ruby Gap Nature Park. As the once hopeful prospectors quickly discovered, they were only garnets, but the scenery is priceless. Try your luck fossicking for your gems with a tour from the oasis in semi-desert mulga country, Gemtree. Equipment is included and experienced guides show you how and where to find the gems, cabin accommodation is available at Gemtree Caravan Park.
Drive across the Simpson Desert
The Simpson Desert stretches south from Alice Springs towards the South Australia border. Many attractions located on its fringes are an easy day trip from Alice Springs and provide a taste of its fascinating natural, cultural and historical wonders. The Simpson Desert offers some of the best four-wheel driving in Australia. An endless horizon, rolling dunes and challenging desert tracks all make for a real frontier experience. Travelling through this desert region means exploring territory very few people have seen. The Old Ghan Heritage Track passes through the Simpson Desert on its way from Port Augusta in South Australia to Alice Springs. This is one of Australia’s most important heritage trails as it follows the route of the original narrow gauge Ghan line. Interpretive signs on replica railway trolleys are located at 20 key points along the trail and tell the story of incredible engineering achievement in the outback. Not far from the Stuart Highway (Explorer’s Way), south of Alice Springs is Rainbow Valley. Nestled in the James Ranges, it is a spectacular sandstone bluff with rainbow-like bands, best seen in the late afternoon sun or after heavy rainfall. An easy stop off on the way to Chambers Pillar is the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve. These rock carvings and petroglyphs provide a fascinating record of many important beliefs by the local Arrernte people. Chambers Pillar was named after one of the explorer John McDouall Stuart’s sponsors and rises as a solitary beacon out of the rugged landscape. Early pioneers used Chambers Pillar as a navigational landmark. A walk up the hill to this 50-metre sandstone pillar’s base is recommended to see the markings made by nineteenth-century explorers who carved their names into the soft sandstone. After stopping at the Aboriginal community of Finke to refuel and buy refreshments, you may want to head out to Old Andando, a heritage-listed station.
Jump aboard Finke River Adventures
Our tours are an exciting mix of adventure, culture & history and a truly unique way to experience the rugged beauty of Central Australia. Finke River Adventures use ATV vehicles and work with local Aboriginal guides (when available) to travel through the Finke Gorge National Park with tours heading to Palm Valley and beyond. Travelling along our tracks where few others have ever been, we are uniquely licensed to show you places of extraordinary beauty and cultural importance. Tours operate as a tag-along (follow the leader) experience and “yes” you do have the opportunity to drive one of our Can-am ATV’s. Come and join us for an experience you will remember forever. Book your adventure now.
Choose your own adventure in the Finke Gorge National Park
Explore the ancient landscapes of Finke Gorge National Park, 140 kilometres west of Alice Springs. Walk into valleys of rare plants or follow a popular four-wheel drive route. The 46,000-hectare park protects the desert oasis Palm Valley, home to a diverse range of rare and unique plant species. Those plants include the Red Cabbage Palm, which is only found here - botanic remnants from millions of years ago when Central Australia was lush with tropical forests. The Finke River is claimed to be one of the oldest in the world, with areas dating back 350 million years. For experienced four-wheel drivers, the popular Finke drive route is an adventurous drive down the Finke River to Illamurta Springs Conservation Reserve and Watarrka National Park. The park and nearby areas are significant to the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people and there is also evidence of early European settlement. Follow one of the marked walking trails short distances to survey the area from lookouts, or to find out more about the mythology of the Western Arrernte Aboriginal culture. Pitch a tent in the campground - toilets, showers and gas barbecues are provided and fees apply.
Step into the history of Hermannsburg
Originally a German Lutheran mission in the 1880s, Hermannsburg retains some historic buildings including a stone church and schoolhouse giving it an unusual character. It is located on Larapinta Drive, 130 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs near the entrance to Finke National Park and Palm Valley. Hermannsburg is also known as the home of famous Aboriginal painter Albert Namatjira who captured the light and colour of the area so well. If continuing west towards Kings Canyon, Hermannsburg is the last fuel stop and outlet to purchase a Mereenie Loop Pass.
Alice Springs Desert Park
Meander the Alice Springs Desert Park Alice Springs Desert Park is where the desert comes alive! Our deserts are rich with life with thousands of stories to be explored. Experience the spirit of a living culture; explore a vibrant botanic wonderland and get up close with outback animals and characters that epitomise the fun and adventurous spirit of the red centre. Walk the Desert Park and immerse yourself in the beauty and mystery of Australia's deserts as you wander through the ancient landscapes from dry river beds to dense woodlands full of life. Experience the night during the day in the Nocturnal House and see animals once found in abundance across the desert. Be inspired by ancient living cultures and feel the spirit with local Aboriginal guides at daily presentations. Marvel at the energy and adrenaline of free-flying birds as they soar through crystal blue skies. At night, come spotlighting with us on a Nocturnal Tour. Spotlight endangered animals of the desert in the foothills of the MacDonnell Ranges. Located 7 kilometres from the centre of Alice Springs, the gateway to the MacDonnell Ranges.
Visit the Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Check out plants that are native to the arid central Australian region The Olive Pink Botanic Garden is located a short drive from the town’s CBD, on land developed as a reserve for arid region flora by Miss Olive Pink in the 1950s. Today, the site includes a well-developed garden area and a Visitors Centre incorporating a Meeting Room, Offices and a Cafe with outdoor seating, as well as numerous shade structures for formal and informal community activities including weddings, memorials, concerts, exhibitions and public forums. The Garden also includes Tharrarltneme (Annie Meyer Hill), a sacred site important to Arrernte people.
Discover more in Northern Territory
- Alice Springs & Surrounds
- Arnhem Land
- Darwin & Surrounds
- Kakadu & Surrounds
- Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation
- Kata Tjuta / The Olgas
- Katherine & Surrounds
- Kings Canyon
- Litchfield National Park
- Mary River
- Mt Borradaile
- Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)
- Tennant Creek & Barkly Region
- Uluru & Surrounds