Top 6 Natural Wonders of the Red Centre
The Northern Territory’s Red Centre Way is by far one of Australia’s greatest drives. It’s an epic journey from Alice Springs to Uluru via the West MacDonnell Ranges - or the other way around - and is rich in ancient culture, heritage and historical sites, brimming with unique flora and fauna, hidden waterholes and breathtaking vistas.
Here are six of the natural wonders you shouldn’t miss when driving the Red Centre Way:
1. Standley Chasm
Known to the local Arrernte people as ‘Angkerle Atwatye’, Standley Chasm is found just 50kms west of Alice Springs in the West MacDonnell Ranges. The narrow gap of the chasm was formed thousands of years ago by rushing floodwaters which has now left a natural rocky alleyway reaching up to 80m high. The best time to visit is on a sunny day around midday when the sun enters the chasm walls and lights up both sides as it passes above. For just a few minutes, the walls glow a rich red colour from the reflected sunlight and is a stunning site to see. Standley Chasm was traditionally a sacred women’s site for collecting bush medicine and performing sacred ceremonies.
2. Glen Helen Gorge
Located 132kms from Alice Springs, Glen Helen Gorge is a beautiful waterhole found where the West MacDonnell Ranges part slightly to make way for the Finke River. It’s a popular overnight stop for those driving the Red Centre Way and a great place to take a quick refreshing dip to cool off in the summer months. Traditional owners of the land believe that Glen Helen Gorge is the home of the Rainbow Serpent and regard it as a sacred spot.
3. Kings Canyon
Set in Watarrka National Park between Alice Springs and Uluru, Kings Canyon is a remarkable chasm with sandstone walls soaring 70m high. Home to a unique variety of plants and animals, the canyon can be explored by air or by foot. For the adventurous hikers, make the rocky climb to the rim of the canyon on the 6km Rim Walk. This walk begins with a challenging 500-step climb but the effort is worth it as you are greeted with breathtaking views of the national park at the top before descending into the green oasis of the ‘Garden of Eden’. For the leisurely walkers, explore the boulder-strewn canyon floor on the easier 2.6km Kings Creek Walk. You can also experience Kings Canyon on a day trip from Uluru
4. Mount Conner
Mount Conner (also known as Atilla and Artilla) is a distinctive flat-topped sandstone capped mountain standing 300m high and is often mistaken for Uluru by visitors travelling along the road from Alice Springs, earning it the nick-name "Fooluru". This horseshoe-shaped inselberg is located on the 416,000 hectare Curtin Springs Station, a private property not generally open to the public. SEIT’s 4WD Outback Adventure is the only tour permitted on this privately owned land and gives you the opportunity to learn about the pastoral history of the region, discover an ancient inland salt lake and see the perfect habitat for red kangaroos, rock wallabies and a vast array of birds and reptiles of the Red Centre.
5. Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Aboriginal for ‘many heads’, Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas) is made up of 36 weathered rock dome formations, extending 6kms into the ground and is the remains of erosion that began more than 500 million years ago. It is located within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and located 50km West of Uluru. It is a sacred Anangu men’s site under Tjukurpa (law) and many stories of Kata Tjuta are not known except to initiated men.
Abundant with unique flora and fauna, the best way to see and experience Kata Tjuta is by trekking the popular yet challenging 7.4km Valley of the Winds circuit which takes you through and into Kata Tjuta’s red rocky dome. For a shorter walk, there’s the 2.6km Walpa Gorge trail. Alternatively, you can join an AAT Kings guided tour or SEIT guided tour to gain a deeper understanding of this natural spectacle.
6. Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Rising 348 metres above the desert floor, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is undoubtedly the beating heart of Australia. No other place compares as you are drawn towards this living cultural landscape and its ancient Indigenous culture and spirituality.
There are plenty of ways to experience this ancient wonder. Walk around the 10.6km base on foot or hop on a bicycle, segway or the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Explore the Central Australian desert like the early pioneers on the back of a camel, or take to the skies in a scenic flight for a bird’s-eye view of Uluru, Kata Tjuta and surrounds. Don’t forget to experience sunrise and sunset from one of the viewing platforms or by joining a guided sunrise or sunset tour. Whether guided or self-guided, you will leave knowing more about Anangu people and their culture and the ancient rock art, flora and fauna.
Ayers Rock Resort is the perfect base when exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with a range of accommodations, shops, restaurants and facilities; as well as free guest activities to learn more about Aboriginal culture and taste some bush tucker.