Mereenie Loop

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesLarapinta Dve & Namatjira Dve
FinishKings Canyon Campground
DifficultyDifficulty 2/5
Suitable for4WD 
Distance153.49 km
Minimum Days4
Average Speed47.53 km/hr
Driving Time3 hrs 13 mins
Article By: Member - Stephen Langman
Page Updated: 3 May 2016


The Mereenie Loop Road is an unsealed road and four wheel drive is recommended, but not necessary, with the main emphasis on good ground clearance. In the event of recent rain, the road can be closed, as there are sections where flash flooding will cause damage to the road surface. Most Hire Car Companies will not let their vehicles drive the Mereenie Loop Road, so if you are planning on hiring a vehicle, be warned that you may not be able to drive this route. With a cooperative agreement between the Traditional Aboriginal owners, the Central Lands Council and the Northern Territory Government, we all now have the opportunity to see firsthand the spectacular natural beauty that this area has to offer.

Officially starting at Kataputa Pass, and ending at Watarrka National Park, you will be driving through Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Land and if visiting Tnorala (Gosse Bluff), through the Ltalaltuma Aboriginal Lands, the two main language groups of the Luritja and Western Aranda Aboriginal people are spoken. The local Aboriginal people still have strong bonds to this area, with many places sacred to them and all visitors are asked to respect the natural environment, Aboriginal culture and wishes of the Aboriginal land owners. Some of the conditions of use on the permit is that all visitors must carry the permit with them at all times, no overnight camping and the only authorised roadside stop within the permit area is at Ginty’s Lookout. As this is the only permitted rest area, Ginty’s Lookout is a perfect spot to breakup your journey and to enjoy the views looking south to Carmichael Crag and Kings Canyon, while north is the sand dune country with Desert Oaks and Kurrajong trees. This rest area is for day use only, with no overnight camping permitted.

After leaving Ginty’s Lookout, you descend to the plains below, travelling through the same type of country already travelled. The closer you get to Kings Canyon; the George Gill Range is now the dominant Range. Once you meet the bitumen it heralds the end of the Mereenie Loop Road as you now enter the Watarrka National Park and within a very short time enter the Kings Canyon Resort. Once here there are many accommodation options, or you can continue your journey to Yulara.

The major part of this route passes directly through traditional homelands of Aboriginal landowners and a ‘Mereenie Tour Pass’ must be obtained before undertaking this drive. The pass cannot be purchased on line however you can nominate a window of travel. See the Preparation section for details.

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For any first time traveller into Central Australia, the Mereenie Loop Road will give you an insight into the desert flora and fauna that is so typical of Central Australia. From the ancient and majestic West MacDonnell Ranges, with towering River Red Gums and mulga the track enters gibber country, and this giving way to the vibrant rich red dune country that is so typical of the ‘Red Centre’.

The Desert Oak is common in the dune country, as well as Kurrajong trees, mulga, spinifex and many other species of vegetation. Entering the Watarrka National Park, the main vegetation will be mulga with River Red Gums in the Creek beds while the dominant Ranges are the western end on the George Gill Range.


Located within the Amadeus Basin, Exoil’s third well in that area, Mereenie 1 was spudded on the 2nd December 1963. In January 1964, the well had to be abandoned for operational reasons, as there was a well blow out and not even the camps blankets and shredded mattresses could stem the flow. Prior to the capping, the well was producing 136,000 m3 of gas per day, with the indications of possible liquids.

Following subsequent appraisal wells, East Mereenie 1 was drilled, with the gas flow rate of 700,000 m3 per day, which still ranks as one of the highest test rates recorded onshore in Australia, with this same well still producing gas today. When East Mereenie 2 was drilled, it was the first well in Australia to be successfully drilled with air, while West Mereenie 2 was the first well in Australia to be successfully drilled using natural gas as the circulating medium.

Despite a 332 metre gas column and a 98 metre oil leg, the remoteness of the field together with the lack of markets and the prolonged dispute over Aboriginal land rights, development was held up until 1984. The Mereenie oil and gas field and then nearby Palm Valley gas fields were the first petroleum leases and potential developments in Australia to be the subject of Aboriginal land rights claims and negotiations.

While driving the Mereenie Loop Track today, Santos will be the only company sign associated with gas and oil production in the area. In the Mereenie area, Santos is the operator with a 65% stake with the remaining 35% owned by Magellan. Paleozoic oil was discovered in 1963 by the West Mereenie 1 exploration well, while gas was discovered in 1965 by the Palm Valley 1 exploration well. The first oil production commenced in 1984 while in 1987, the first gas production took place. The total investment to date for the joint Mereenie venture is approximately Australian $280 million.

There are 2 main fields from which oil and gas are produced and they are West Mereenie and East Mereenie. In these fields, there are approximately 57 wells through which 80 kilometres of pipeline and flow lines via the Eastern Satellite Station and the Central Treatment Plant. Associated gas from oil produced at the Eastern Satellite Station is compressed and reinjected into the main oil reservoir to maintain reservoir pressure, while gas from the Central Treatment Plant is compressed and sent via a 1,628 kilometre pipeline to Darwin. Oil and condensate is transported from the Central Treatment Plant to the Brewer Estate storage facilities, in Alice Springs via 270 kilometres of pipeline. From here it is transported to Port Bonython in South Australia where it is then on sold to customers.


As with all major outback trips, careful detail must be given to your pre trip preparation. Your vehicle must be in first class mechanical condition, with special emphases on tyres and suspension. A good quality first aid kit should be carried and either a HF Radio or Satellite Phone carried, for reliable outside communications in the event of an emergency. Depending how recently the road was graded, a puncture repair kit can be a handy piece of equipment to carry, as like all outback areas, punctures can occur at the most inconvenient time and place.

Travel Safely

For the safety of you and your group, a few basic safety precautions are advised:
  • Carry sufficient fuel and water

  • Drive according to road conditions

  • Observe all warning signs and road closure signs

  • Watch for animals on the road, particularly if travelling at night

  • In the event of an accident or breakdown, stay in your vehicle and stay in the shade

  • Be aware of Alcohol Restriction when travelling through Aboriginal Land

Services and Supplies

There are no facilities along the Mereenie Loop Road, so travellers need to make sure that they have sufficient fuel and supplies to last the duration of the trip. Travellers driving in from the West MacDonnell Ranges are able to top up with fuel and supplies at Glen Helen Outback Resort on Namatjira Drive or Hermannsburg if coming in on Larapinta Drive. Depending on which road you will be travelling, the distance between the nearest fuel and accommodation places are:

Important Numbers


Permits cannot be purchased on line however you can nominate a window of travel (valid for 3 days). If obtaining the permit direct from the Central Lands Council office in Alice Springs (27 Stuart Highway Alice Springs) it is provided free of charge. There is a small fee (varies from $5 - $6.50) if purchasing from other outlets - the Alice Springs Tourist Office, Hermannsburg Historic Precinct, Glen Helen Resort and Kings Canyon Resort can all supply the pass. The pass includes an informative booklet that gives detailed information for this drive. See our Permits NT page for specifics.

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel SymbolKings Canyon Resort.
4cyl 22 litres4cyl 25 litres4cyl 31 litres
6cyl 24 litres6cyl 28 litres6cyl 27 litres
8cyl 24 litres8cyl 25 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Travelling during the summer months is not desirable, as very high temperatures will be encountered, and could be life threatening in the event of an emergency.

Closest Climatic Station

Distance from Trek Mid Point 48.01km SW
Mean Max. °C38.536.634.430.624.721.321.624.429.432.834.936.1
Mean Min. °C23.623.020.616.710.
Mean Rain mm34.847.135.513.921.416.115.95.711.228.448.537.2
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

The following locations have various services And supplies:Kings Canyon Resort


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What to See

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This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.

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Where to Stay

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This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.

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LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Larapinta Dve & Namatjira Dve to Larapinta Drive Sign0.46 kmW261°
Larapinta Drive Sign to Katapata Gap25.07 kmW251° 25 min
Katapata Gap to Areyonga Turnoff (Start of Mereenie Loop Rd)0.45 kmW261°
Areyonga Turnoff (Start of Mereenie Loop Rd) to Slow Down Sign - Mereenie Loop Rd39.66 kmW281° 41 min
Slow Down Sign - Mereenie Loop Rd to Slow Down Drum (Lift Um Foot)23.65 kmNW293° 27 min
Slow Down Drum (Lift Um Foot) to Gas Pipeline Warning Sign - Mereenie Loop Rd21.08 kmSW209° 22 min
Gas Pipeline Warning Sign - Mereenie Loop Rd to Gas Plant Satellite Station0.68 kmSW205°
Gas Plant Satellite Station to Private Gas Road0.17 kmSW217°
Private Gas Road to Ginty's Lookout Sign0.86 kmSW224° 1 min
Ginty's Lookout Sign to Ginty's Lookout13.62 kmSW227° 14 min
Ginty's Lookout to Watarrka National Park Boundary13.38 kmSE145° 15 min
Watarrka National Park Boundary to Tourist Loop Sign13.76 kmS161° 13 min
Tourist Loop Sign to Kings Canyon Resort0.4 kmSE137°
Kings Canyon Resort to Kings Canyon Campground0.24 kmSW203°
Larapinta Dve & Namatjira Dve to Kings Canyon Campground153.49 km  3 hr 13 min
Distance is GPS recorded driving distance (not straight line), Direction is straight line from start to end, Time is calculated from actual GPS driving data.


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Travel Journals

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