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National Parks and Reserves of Central Australia

A large part of the appeal of Central Australia is in its natural value. The national parks, nature parks and reserves contained within the Red Centre are home to a huge variety of fauna and flora which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This wildlife, along with a plethora of ancient geological formations can be observed on the many bushwalks which crisscross the landscape of Central Australia.

 

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is, of course, home to Uluru - the largest monolith in the world - and Kata Tjuta - the 36 domes aptly named meaning "many heads" in Pitjantjatjara. There are several walks, rock paintings and tours which operate in the National Park along with guided tours of Uluru itself. Climbing Uluru is now prohibited due to its spiritual significance to the local Anangu people and safety concerns of previous climbers. Visitors can learn more about the traditions and beliefs of the Anangu people on guided tours around Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.

Uluru at sunset

Uluru

Kata Tjuta aerial

Kata Tjuta

Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon)

Watarrka National Park is perhaps best known for Kings Canyon, an ancient geological formation and accompanying rock pool; both which are located in the park. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is the most popular bushwalk in the region, yet the riverbed walk is also a good way to see the canyon, the rock formations and rock pool for which the area is so renowned. Watarrka National Park is also home to Kathleen Springs in the south, a 2.6km walk from the carpark will take you past old cattle stock yards to a natural spring-fed waterhole (not suitable for swimming).

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon Rim

Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park

West MacDonnell National Park, known as Tjoritja to the local indigenous people, is an area spanning 2,069 km² west of Alice Springs. The ranges on this side of town are home to several notable landmarks, including: Simpsons Gap, the Ochre Pits, Standley Chasm and the permanent waterholes at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen. Traveling to some of these destinations requires a four-wheel drive due to the unsealed roads which surround them. It’s always a good idea to bring plenty of water and sunscreen to reduce the impact of the harsh UV rays which are so characteristic of this part of Australia.

Visit the West MacDonnell Ranges

Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ochre Pits

The Ochre Pits

Standley Chasm Salty Aura 134353 fat

Standley Chasm

East MacDonnell Ranges

Located East of Alice Springs, the East MacDonnell Ranges are comprised of the same sediment as their Western counterparts and are 1.2-2.4 billion years old. The East MacDonnell Ranges are home to a range of bushwalks, four-wheel drive trails and swimming pools which make them a popular destination for travellers from around the globe. While the East Macs aren't a whole National Park like the West, it is made up of 6 individual nature parks and reserves - Emily and Jessie Gaps, Corroboree Rock, N’Dhala Gorge, Trephina Gorge Nature Park, Ruby Gap Nature Park and Arltunga Historical Reserve.

Trephina Ridgetop WAE Renae Saxby

Trephina Gorge Ridgetop (We Are Explorers/Renae Saxby)

Arltunga Historical Reserve WAE Renae Saxby

Arltunga Historical Reserve (We Are Explorers/Renae Saxby)

Surrounds of Alice Springs

Finke Gorge National Park

Finke Gorge National Park is renowned locally for being home to several rare and unique species of plants, such as the red cabbage palm, and the appropriately named Palm Valley. Visitors can access the park from Larapinta Drive at the nearby town of Hermannsburg. A four-wheel drive is needed to access the area. 

 

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

Rainbow Valley is home to some sandstone bluffs and cliffs which truly capture the imagination as they flash their spectrum of rainbow colours in the sunset. There are barbecues, fire pits and campsites at the Reserve which can warm your stay. You will need a four-wheel drive to access the park.

 

Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve

Chambers Pillar is a 50m-tall sandstone pillar which is the main feature of the historical reserve. The site has spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people of the area and, as such, must be respected. Four-wheel drive access is needed to access the reserve, which is located roughly 160km South of Alice Springs. 

 

Street Art Iltja Ntjarra

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

Street Art Coles Mural

Finke Gorge National Park - Palm Valley

Tennant Creek Surrounds

Iytwelwpenty / Davenport Ranges National Park

The Davenport Ranges is a great destination for adventurous four-wheel drivers who want to feel some rugged landscape under the wheels of their vehicle. The park is home to several European heritage sites, including relics from early mining and pastoral eras. There is swimming available at the Old Police Station waterhole, however the water gets awfully cold, so prolonged swimming is not advised.

 

Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles

These gigantic boulders are visible from the Stuart Highway which runs through the Red Centre and have become an internationally recognised symbol of Australia's outback. The Devil’s Marbles are spectacular when the light of the morning and evening sun highlights their deep red colour. There are public toilets, picnic tables and camping and caravan sites located at the marbles to ensure your trip is as comfortable as possible. The local first Australians ask that you do not climb the marbles.

Devils Marbles reststop

Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles roadside stop

Devils Marbles moody

Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles

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