Sure, you have the Big Three, but these Red Centre options rate just as highly and should not be missed. When the Red Centre is the destination, everyone thinks Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon however these overpopulated tourist havens may leave you more stressed than before you left home! Why not buck the trend and head to these breathtaking sites instead?
1. PALM VALLEY
The great thing about Palm Valley is the first crossing of the Finke River stops all the soft roaders and two-wheel drive vehicles. You see, access to the Palm Valley campground is only suitable for 4WD vehicles with decent clearance, decent tyres and an air-compressor as a definite. The campground offers limited spaces, communal fires pits, tank water, flushing toilets and hot showers for only $6.60 a night for adults.
The track from the campground to Palm Valley has been modified in recent years, making it less gnarly, but high clearance will help you over the rocks that litter the track. From the car park, there are two walking options, both providing brilliant views of the ancient Red Cabbage Palms that thrive only in this section of central Australia.
2. BOGGY HOLE
Forget this drive unless you are fully prepared. Boggy Hole is severely remote and a place less visited than others. You will be crossing the Finke River many times, even driving along the river in some places. Getting bogged is to be expected. It is these challenges that make Boggy Hole a must for the serious adventurer.
Don’t think that you can tow a camper trailer into Boggy Hole, it is NOT recommended by NT Parks. Leave the camper at Palm Valley and do a day trip to Boggy Hole or another option is to park the camper at Kings Canyon Resort, then do a loop via Larapinta Drive, camp at Boggy Hole before continuing south to Ernest Giles Road and back to Kings Canyon.
3. CHAMBERS PILLAR
Explorer John MacDoull Stuart arrived at this stunning landmark on 6thApril 1860 naming it Chambers Pillar after a mate. Stuart didn’t leave his tag on the rock, but those that followed him have. William and Mary Hayes took up land at Deep Well, Warne and Randle worked on the Overland Telegraph, storekeepers, coppers, scientists have all carved their names in the rock. Thankfully it is now illegal and the historic names will only last as long as the weather allows.
Getting to Chambers Pillar is a little easier on vehicles and drivers these days, with a lot of money having been spend on improving the road in and capping the dunes. The camp sites are limited and dispersed with only pit toilets and LPG BBQ’s on offer but at $3.30 per night for adults, it is value for money. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to capture the Pillar.
4. OLD ANDANDO STATION
Only 330km from Alice Springs, Old Andando Station can be accessed via the Old Ghan Track and Finke or by taking Binns Track from east of Alice Springs This historic homestead has been left as it was when Molly Clarke finally left in 2008 due to ill health. She passed away in 2012. The old homestead is open for travellers to explore, a gold coin donation is welcome to help with the upkeep.
It is easy to imagine the hardships that Molly faced in the years from 1969 living with no verandah’s, no windows or doors and summer temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius. Sharing the homestead with ants, snakes and spiders it would have been tough. Camping is easy at $10 per adult with flushing toilets and a hot donkey shower. A caretaker is onsite to take your camping money, show you around the homestead and share the history of the place.
5. EAST MACDONNELL RANGES
Every man and his dog explores the West MacDonnell Ranges leaving the East MacDonnell Ranges to folks like us. Emily Gap, Jessie Gap and Corroboree Rock Conservation Park are all impressive, Trephina Gorge will blow you away with its breathtaking beauty. A good day trip covers these four wonders and throw in N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park to top it all off.
Another option is to continue east and check out the Arltunga Historical Reserve, how did they mine for gold out here? The remote Ruby Gap Nature Park is 150km from Alice Springs and accessible by high clearance 4WD only. The 5km drive is along the Hale River bed and then it is a 4km walk to reach Glen Annie Gorge.
Words and images by: Glenn Marshall
You can follow his adventures by clicking HERE