Ayres Rock - West Mac Ranges where would you spend time?

Submitted: Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 20:47
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Help Please. Where would you allocate your 10 days? Mid year 2 adults & 2 teenagers planning to spend approx 10 days Alice Springs, Ayres Rock, Olgas, Kings Canyon, Meerenie Loop region after travelling from NSW via Painted Desert & Dalhousie Springs towing a CT. Only so many gorges you can fit in! Thanks Mark NSW
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Reply By: Member - Michael O (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:04

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:04

We spent about the same time there last year and were happy with what we saw and we were in motorhomes......

From my blog

Just back from 2 weeks in the centre. Three families; seven kids under 10; three Kea motorhomes out of Alice.

The highlights?
Rim walk at King's Canyon
Playing Aussie Rules with some aboriginal kids at Hermannsburg.
The Desert Park in Alice.
The Telegraph Station.
BBQ tea by the Finke River at Glen Helen
My son playing the piano for "Dinky" the singing dingo at Stuart's Well.
Full moon camped at the Hugh River
The Olgas; always find them fascinating.
Wonderful camping at King's Creek Station.
The meals at Mt Ebenezer
Alice on Todd apartments in Alice
Sunset at The Rock.
Dinner at The Memo Club
Pints at The Firkin and Hound
Chris Arontsen, resident guitar/mandolin/fiddle/spoon player at Glen Helen.
Fantastic Cultural Centre at The Rock
Graham at Kea campers in Alice. What a trooper!
Getting a camp oven AND a jaffle iron into my baggage on Qantas...

Wonderful experience for all the family, and fantastic to introduce the bush to 2 families who haven't seen much away from the coast before.
Monday I have Friday on my mind...
The Easybeats 1966

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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:35

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:35
My order of 'wow' for that area...........
The Olgas
Rim walk at King's Canyon
Uluru (climb - walk around it too)
Mpara walk at Palm Valley (there are 2 other shorter walks also)
Ormiston Gorge
Cultural Precinct in the Alice - art and Strehlow museum
Ridge walk up behind the Mac. Ranges Caravan Park in the Alice

Not really 'wow'.........but still good !
Desert Park in the Alice
Gosse Bluff
Henbury craters
Telegraph station

What a great region - hope the kids appreciate it !
Have a look at some of the geology around the Alice on Google Earth - amazing.

AnswerID: 351055

Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:46

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:46
Hi Mark

This was a summary of our trip around Alice; around one month arriving at Alice to leaving Yulara, including r&m and a rest at Alice, and the softer East Macs.

After a few days shopping, repairs and maintenance we spent a full day at the Desert Park. Don’t miss the Birds of Prey talk – time your visit to include this. The nocturnal reptile section is also very good. Talks are given at set times here too.

Spent an afternoon at Reptile Park in town. There are other places in this area, such as Women’s Hall of Fame which we didn’t go to.

Also on the north side of town is the Old Telegraph Station. Can spend half to a full day there – it is the beginning and the history of Alice Springs.

Spent an afternoon on the tour of the RFDS base in town.

Full day at Motor Museum and Ghan Museum (same location, south of the town).

East macs:Trephina Gorge large and lovely Park Campsite. Stayed three nights and did all short walks. Took day trips to Artlunga (historic gold mining area – a full day – highly recommended), and day trip to N’Dhala Gorge – lots of ancient Aboriginal engravings. Can camp at N’Dhala in small car park, but couldn’t get in with a caravan. You can also go to Ruby Gap from Trephina, but not time to include it as well as Artlunga. We didn’t go to Ruby Gap.

Chambers Pillar – not for the faint hearted if towing. It is quite a long way to the Historical Reserve down the Finke road, and 4wd track in from Maryvale had nasty loose sandy patches, a steep winding track over a range, then sand dune crests (stabilised with limestone). Not caravan friendly although we got ours in OK. If on a short time frame, this would be a bit far to include. We returned to the Stuart Hwy via the Hugh Stock Route, planning to camp at Rainbow Valley, but struck rain so went back to Alice.

Rainbow Valley is so lovely – smooth creamy colourful sandstone – but the small camping area doesn’t have room for big rigs so it was lucky we didn’t try and camp there, but did it in a day trip from Alice.

Our day trip was a very long one. We started at Stanley Chasm (but obviously not at the mid day moment of light in the chasm, when everyone else goes), took an interesting Owen Springs Drive (4wd track – not suitable for caravan), saw Rainbow Valley (although sunset is prime time here), then on to Henbury Meteorite Craters. Got back late.

After shopping and stocking the pantry, we left Alice and headed into the West Macs. First night at Ellery Creek Big Hole – got early enough to get a space to squeeze rig in. Late comers left in a huff, or parked illegally in the day area. Bitumen access road.

Day only access for Serpentine Gorge – dirt track but OK for caravans. Small car park, so we parked just outside the ‘gate’. Did NOT take Serpentine Chalet track – site of a failed resort – as this is not suitable for towing. A couple of excellent lookouts – bitumen access. Bitumen access to Ochre Pits, but with lots of tourist coaches in the coach parking spaces, there was nowhere to park a caravan at all, so we moved on. Bitumen access to Orminston Gorge, need to get early to fit a caravan in to one of only a few spots long enough for a caravan (either side on amenities block). This park and Palm Valley have solar heated showers, and charge $6.60 per person per night, twice the park fee for other parks without showers. See my reviews of all these campsites on Badgers. Took the Pound Walk at Orminston – good walk but quite long.

Redbank Gorge is dirt track access, and has choice of two lovely camps. The lower is a large loop in the bush, but not many bays would fit a caravan. There are 6 or 8 bays high on the ridge with glorious views – but it can be windy. Some are long enough to back a big rig into. There is a further track down to the car park, and an easy walk of around 1 km to the pool (do not swim – warnings due to cold and we saw a lady get into serious strife). People camped next to us took a day walk to summit of Mt Sonder.
We spent two nights there.

The places with dirt tracks are less high profile, less tourist coaches, less crowds, and more appeal for us.

We took a day trip from Redbank into the little known Roma Gorge – a small Aboriginal Rock carving site. 4wd track follows creek bed. 8.5 km track in – signage says high clearance 4wd only – allow 1 hour each way.

Continuing past Glen Helen (camping and accommodation), the next wonder was Gosse Bluff. This mysterious impact crater is the most studied in Australia, as no meteor fragments were found. It was concluded that frozen gas hit Earth and made this crater. Lovely car park area, but no camping in the culturally significant park.

Joining the infamous Mereenie Loop, we headed east towards Hermannsberg to go to Palm Valley. The roughest part is nearing Hermannsberg. The track in to Palm Valley is high clearance 4wd, criss crossing the river, but was quite a good track. Lovely park camp ground, and we spent three days there, and did all the walks. The drive from the camp to Palm Valley itself is across rock, which looks flat, but is not easy to drive over. Last bit is the worst, and some people parked at Fern valley and walked last kilometre – wise move. Some walked down the creek line from camp – an easy 4 km walk to the Valley of Palms. Easy walk through Palm Valley, then can climb to rim and walk back over top – smarter idea is to walk to the top, take photos, go back down and return through the shady valley again.

Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon. Need permit which can be purchased at Glen Helen or Hermannsberg. This took us all day, as we came across someone who’d broken a spring on their camper trailer on the corrugations.

Both Hermannsberg and Kings Canyon can be accessed by far more hospitable roads from the Alice side.

Kings Canyon resort CP was nice, and the Canyon is a short drive further. Like other walks at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the Rim Walk gets closed on hot days. We started early, as it starts with a long steep climb. It is a spectacular walk and well worth including. There is a short easy walk through the valley floor for those who can’t take the climb. Two nights at Kings.

We arrived at Uluru two days later. Not impressed with Yulara resort CP, but it is a must if you want to see this high profile park. Spent three nights there, doing the around the rock walk at Uluru and Valley of the Winds as well as another short walk at Kata Tjuta. We did the latter as a day trip from Yulara, rather than on our way towards WA. This way we could walk early, as well as get a full day’s driving before camping on the GCR.

Highlights (all very different) would be: Reptile Park, Motor Museum, Artlunga, Rainbow Valley, Redbank Gorge Ridgetop, Gosse Bluff, Palm Valley, Kings Canyon Rim walk, Kata Tjuta. If you asked me tomorrow, the list would vary.



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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:47

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:47
I didn't account for the fact you will have been to Painted Desert, so Rainbow Valley will be a drop in the ocean.


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Follow Up By: Willem - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 22:30

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 22:30

Next time..............at Serpentine Gorge.....take a couple of air mattresses with you....deflated....... walk through pool or swim across....now walk through Gorge another half kilometre. At end of walk a magnificent narrow Gorge. Inflate mattresses and float through to the other side touching the cliffs with hands on either side....magic.

Yes. Local knowledge...LOL

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 23:10

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 23:10
Hi Willem - Trouble is - that is a bit too close to WATER for the Old Rooster! People were doing similar at Redbank, then continuing on along the Gorge. One lady tried swimming and nearly didn't make it out when she suffered hypothermia. Quite an experience, when i didn't think the water felt that cold (at the edge).


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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 18:20

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 18:20
A mate was out at Redbank a month or so ago after the rain.....he had to swim under a dead cow jammed between the rocks...


It is bloody cold! but its fine on an air matress.

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Reply By: Member - Rick P (NT) - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:48

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 21:48
Mark you've got to try and do Ruby Gap, Palm Valley and Boggy Hole as well in your travels they are pretty speci.... Enjoy your trip to the centre
AnswerID: 351061

Reply By: Richard W (NSW) - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 07:01

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 07:01

Looks like it's pretty well covered. Doing a similar trip through May. I will be around Ulluru and the Alice end of May, when will you be there?

Will be doing Chambers Pillar and hopefully Boggy Hole this time round.
AnswerID: 351085

Reply By: Kiwi and Grenade - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 09:03

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 09:03
You've got great replys already so Ill just add what we did a couple of yrs ago, and your right, there are only so many gorges to go to.
Firstly, Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm are a must!! We pulled into Glen Helen but kept going. Either before this or after it...cannt remember...we stopped in at the Ocre pits...this was a fantastic spot to look around.
We camped at...ahh bugger...forgot the name...something starting with R I think...anyway...we were kinda over gorges by this one and didnt even bother going to have a look...just camped and kept going.....Redbank maybe????
Camped at Palm Valley which was fantastic...you'll be right with a CT Im sure...we were loaded on the roof so didnt tow....they have hot showers here which was a nice change.
Camped 2 nights at Kings Creek Station and took the kids (3 and 1) in the chopper and on the camels, just lazed around and enjoyed it....took a walk through Kings Canyon too.
Camped 2 nights at Yulara and spent a day out at the rock - Nath climbed and I stayed at the bottom with the kids. The next day went out to the olgas.....

We didnt really have a plan for this area, we just did what ever happened but planned the 2 night stop overs - everywhere else was 1 nighters....10 days is heaps so enjoy what ever you do and take your time....even spending 4 dys in Alice is great (I will be back for more! I love it there!!)

Good luck and go with the flow...!!
ps....might be a good idea not to camp at dalhousie but howards springs....mozzies can be absolutely atrotious....our 3yr old got eaten by them so much that she was actually feeling sick the next day! But a great place to swim and feel clean!!

AnswerID: 351105

Reply By: Member - vivien C (VIC) - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 10:34

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 10:34
Dalhousie is beautiful in the early morning with the steam rising over the water.

East McDonnell Ranges - Trephina Gorge my favourite. Saw a family group playing cricket in the sand here. Good camping.

Corroborree Rock - interesting and easy to get out

West McDonnell's - Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm (charge for entry), Ellery Creek Big Hole, Serpentine Gorge, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen...nice at sunset and sunrise. Redbank Gorge is good camping at the campsite on a rise overlooking the entry to the gorge. The water is very cold! I think I broke a record getting across to the other side!! You can explore through the narrow gorges that are on the far side of the pool.

Kings Canyon rim walk - absolute must. It's amazing.

and everyone else has mentioned Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta.

In Alice Springs - what the others have mentioned plus...I know its been around forever...but go to Panorama Guth and climb the stairs for the view....you and the kids will enjoy it.

Check the "what's on in Alice" just google for events eg

Todd Mall Markets every Sunday
Bangtail Muster - May 4th
Beanie Festival - 26-29 June
Alice Springs Show - 3 - 4 July
Camel Cup - 11 July
Old Timers Fete - 8 Aug
Alice Springs Rodeo - 15 Aug
Henley on Todd - 22 Aug

All the best


AnswerID: 351116

Follow Up By: Member - John and Val W (ACT) - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 18:30

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 18:30
Didn't the Panorama Guth burn down a few years ago?

Would recommend Ruby Gap and N'dhala Gorges in east Macs. Ruby Gap has good remote camping and you can collect garnets from all over the river bed. N'dhala has lots of petroglyphs - the more you look the more you see.

Also worth spending a while looking at the old gold mining settlement at Arltunga and imagine what it would have been like to live there.

For explorations a bit further afield the tourist drive that turns east from the Stuart highway about 50km north of Alice and goes across to near Arltunga is very scenic, as is the drive up Cattlewater Pass. Gemtree is a good place to camp, and there are a lot of fossicking areas around there.

J and V
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Follow Up By: Member - vivien C (VIC) - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 18:35

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 18:35
John & Val,

Sad about Panorama Guth. I didn't know that it had burnt down ...as we didn't look last year when in Alice. That's a pity. I really loved that place..and so did my kids.

We enjoyed the drive through Cattlewater Pass and also camping at Arltunga as well.

There's just so much to do and see.

FollowupID: 619457

Reply By: Member - GREENDOG - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 12:35

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 12:35
We allso will be in the Alice around the first week of the july school holidays and we allso are intending to do what you guys are doing, leaving Adel on the 1st going via the Oonadatta Track, Dalhousie springs then into Alice,so we might bump into each other mate ,just keep an eye out for the paj with the Exploroz windscreen sticker towing a C/T cheer's GREENDOG
AnswerID: 351133

Reply By: Member - Carl S (VIC) - Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 19:51

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009 at 19:51
We're here right now!!! Bloody hot and very few tourists!!!!! Got the place to ourselves....
agree with most of the previous threads....see as much as you can when you can, its spectacular up here!!!!
AnswerID: 351204

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