MacDonnell Ranges

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MacDonnell Ranges: Our most recommended tours and activities

From Alice Springs: West MacDonnell Ranges Day Trip

1. From Alice Springs: West MacDonnell Ranges Day Trip

Be picked up from your Alice Springs accommodation at 7:45 AM and set off on a day of adventure and exploration! Enjoy the spectacular outback scenery and photo opportunities as you travel along the magnificent West MacDonnell Ranges, stopping at historic sites. Enjoy beautiful walks at Simpsons Gap, a natural rock amphitheater that is home to endangered black-footed rock wallabies. Stop at Standley Chasm for morning tea and a leisurely stroll. At Ochre Pits, discover rock walls covered by natural colored ochre, used for sacred ceremonies of the local Aboriginal people. Ormiston Gorge is up next: a great place for a swim, or to see the towering walls of the gorge and pound, local plants and wildlife. By now, you will have certainly worked up an appetite for lunch. The next stop is at Glen Helen. The landscape here is spectacular - a towering sandstone wall is the first thing you see as you arrive. The area includes views of Mount Sonder, one of the highest points in Central Australia, which changes colors with the light.  On the way back to Alice Springs, witness the famous and enchanting Ellery Creek Big Hole. This waterhole is one of Central Australia’s most pristine, so don’t forget your swimmers in the warmer months. Visit Flynns Memorial and from October to March, you may decide to partake in an incredible Sunset Camel Ride at the Camel farm (optional, at your own expense). The panoramic landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges are extraordinary for their immensity and the spectacular array of sunburnt oranges, maroons and purples on display. These mighty ranges light up in brilliant oranges and reds at sunset on the return trip to Alice Springs. Get dropped off at your accommodation in Alice Springs at approximately 5:30 PM.

East MacDonnell Ranges: Small Group 4x4 Tour & Picnic Lunch

2. East MacDonnell Ranges: Small Group 4x4 Tour & Picnic Lunch

Explore the beautiful East MacDonnell Ranges, bearing ancient formations that reveal geological formations, picturesque gorges and Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. See evidence of early European mining adventures and enjoy a delicious picnic. Walk through the Trephina Gorge and discover superb and diverse scenery.The contrasting hues of the bright blue skies and quartzite rock formations bring all the colors of Central Australia into vivid detail.  Explore Arltunga, the boomtown at the heart of the 18th century gold rush. Discover this wonderfully well-preserved ghost town, with the restored police station, old gaol and mine shafts. Get a glimpse into the Australia’s distant past and experience what life was like for these hardy prospectors of the Outback. Enjoy a delicious picnic lunch once you have worked up an appetite and stop lastly at Emily and Jessie Gaps. These picturesque gaps are of major spiritual significance to the Eastern Arrernte Aboriginal people and are registered sacred sites that include sacred paintings. An easy walk at Emily Gap takes you to a large rock painting depicting this ancient Aboriginal song line.

West MacDonnell Ranges Small Group Tour

3. West MacDonnell Ranges Small Group Tour

Depart your Alice Springs accommodation at approximately at 7.30 AM and visit the 'West Macs'-  a stunning natural wonder. Learn about this prehistoric mountain range - broken by a series of gorges and chasms - from your guide on the drive.  First stop is Simpsons Gap, which offers a short, easy walk to a waterhole (no swimming), rich in native wildlife. Follow the dry creek bed and massive River Red Gums to a dramatic gap in the range, featuring towering cliffs on either side. Keep your eyes out for the famous colony of adorable Black-footed Rock Wallabies! Standley Chasm (Angkerle) is up next, a perfect place to stop for morning tea. This picturesque walk, suitable for all fitness levels, winds through a beautiful oasis, lush with an amazing array of native plants including cycads and ancient pines. The walk finishes with an astonishing view of the sheer quartzite walls rising more than 60m on each side of the narrow chasm. Then, see Ellery Creek Big Hole: the biggest and deepest waterhole in Central Australia. It offers superb swimming (summer months only) and scenery unlike anywhere else, and is only a few minutes’ walk from the car park. Visit the Ochre Pits, where Aboriginal people have been mining ochre for thousands of years and still use ochre today for medicinal, ceremonial, and spiritual purposes. The vivid colours make for excellent photographs so bring your camera. You will also stop at Mt Sonder Lookout, which is a stunning 360 ⁰ vista overlooking one of the most picturesque sections of the Finke River: a favourite spot for photographers and landscape painters. Stop for a gourmet picnic lunch, before visiting Ormiston Gorge’s spectacular scenery. A string of beautiful waterholes emerges from the immense gorge, carved by a once mighty river. The deep, permanent waterhole offers excellent swimming (summer months only) and a stunning lookout to see abundant wildlife. Finally, on your way back to Alice, make a brief stop at the famous John Flynn Memorial before drop off at your accommodation in Alice Springs at around 5:30 pm. 

Other Sightseeing Options in MacDonnell Ranges

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What people are saying about MacDonnell Ranges

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 76 reviews

Covered all the main tourist spots on one day at a good pace. Walks were relatively easy for all age groups. April was a beautiful time as not too hot. Flies were absent so no fly nets needed. Lunch supplied was healthy and plentiful. Our guide James was excellent due to his knowledge and care for our safety.

Great pace and beautiful scenery! Commentary very good. Swim at Ormiston Gorge the best, but Ellery waterhole also available for a dip but colder and deeper water. Perfect day out and short walks to appreciate.

Excellent tour and guide, well worth the tour to a less travelled part of the MacDonnell range

Such a good day. Our guide was very informative too so we learned a lot - very enjoyable

Great places, the guide was extremely knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour