The whole reason we drove to Alice Springs from Uluru was to visit the West MacDonnell Ranges. This is an often missed tourist attraction and very much off the beaten path! The West MacDonnell Ranges (also known as Tjorta) as the name suggests is to the West of Alice Springs and spans 161kms (to the East of Alice Springs is, you guessed it, is East MacDonnell Ranges).
There is so much to see here, from scenic gorges, to challenging walks with gorgeous views and weird and wonderful geographic formations. What makes this national park even better is you can access most of the major attractions via sealed roads and a 2WD. Our plan was to hit a few of the sites of West MacDonnell Ranges and take the unsealed Red Centre Way to Kings Canyon.
We had an ambitious day ahead of us, with lots to see and a long distance to cover, so we started bright and early.
First Stop – Simpsons Gap
Simpsons Gap is literally a gap in the MacDonnell Ranges. It’s only 17kms from Alice Springs, so you could even cycle there. The walk to the gap is a flat easy short walk through the bush. The pictures do not do justice to the beauty of this place.
Next Stop – Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm is a privately owned and is the only gorge in the park with an entrance fee. The entrance fee covers the maintenance of the facilities, so it’s a great stop for food, bathrooms etc. The walk to the gorge is again an easy flat walk, but it is a longer walk (probably about 1km). You can also book in for a tour with Indigenous guides at Standley Chasm. The walk to Standly Chasm is a beautiful walk, and if you continue through the first Chasm you will hit a second chasm that is not as well known or visited as much by tourists. This was one of my favourite spots on this trip, and is a great spot some creative instagram shots!
Next Stop: Serpentine Gorge
Our next stop was Serpentine Gorge. There are a handful of gorges you can visit in the West MacDonnell Ranges, if you only have time for one Gorge, then this is the one to hit! There are a few walks here, you can walk to the gorge, or you can take the Lookout Walk to the top, for awe inspiring views. We decided to do the Lookout Walk, this walk is not for everyone. It is steep, there aren’t really any “safety” barriers, and if you get vertigo (and I do), this is at times not a fun walk. But the view is absolutely worth it! If you didn’t have lunch at Standley Chasm, then this is an amazing spot for a picnic lunch. Due to how tough the walk is, and also because the signage is not great, not many people get to the top. We spent an hour at the top just chilling, eating lunch and just enjoying the beautiful day!
Next Stop: Tylers Pass
Our next stop was Tylers Pass, this is a bit of a secret spot, as you drive along, you might almost miss the sign to Tylers Pass, so keep a look out for this. The views from here is stunning, it’s only a few mins diversion off the main road.
Final Stop: Gosse Bluff
Our final stop along West MacDonnell Ranges is Gosse Bluff. Again a well kept secret, and most people may be exhausted by this point and not stop here, but it’s definitely worth the stop. It is a diversion off the main road, and technically you require a 4WD for the last 10km, but if there hasn’t been much rain then it’s doable in a 2WD. The main attraction here is a huge crater roughly 20km in diameter!
Red Centre Way – Off to Kings Canyon
After our final stop we were off to Kings Canyon via the Red Centre Way. Now this is a well maintained unsealed road to Kings Canyon. The alternative is to of course drive back towards Uluru and head out to Kings Canyon. The total drive from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon is 9.5 hours, so with all the stops at the West MacDonnell Ranges, it’s a very long day!! In hindsight, we really should of stopped somewhere along West MacDonnell Ranges, camped and headed out the next day, hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t! But you can learn from our hindsight, and decide to stay a night along the West MacDonnell Ranges :).
Unluckily for us, as it was early in the season, the Red Centre Way had not been graded yet. It was a very stressful bumpy drive in our 2WD car towards the end, but still doable. The start of the drive was amazing, we saw the sun set, wild brumbies and kangaroos running along, literally something out of a movie set! Once it became dark, the sky was full of stars and it was a beautiful night. As we had never really done 4WDing, the going was slow and to be honest after such a long day we were exhausted. There were lots of other drivers flying past us in their 2WD and 4WD cars, so it’s not a completely isolated road which did comfort us.
This is really what road tripping and holidays are about though, taking a chance, making memories and seeing things that you wouldn’t normally see. If we hadn’t been so tired, i would definitely have stopped to take pictures of the brumbies and the sunset. This will be something we do the next time we go!
If you missed out on the posts on planning your trip and the sites of the Red Centre, check out the links below:
- Winter in the Red Centre
- Uluru – Heart of Australia
- Kata Tjuta – Ancient Rock Formations
- Uluru to Alice Springs – The Drive ….
Look out for the post on Kings Canyon, our final stop on our Red Centre whirlwind trip!
Happy Trip Avenging!