Australia’s Red Centre is filled with so many amazing natural attractions, it’s hard to choose which ones to visit. Discover the best of Central Australia with these 15 amazing views.
The sight of Rainbow Valley’s jagged sandstone peaks catching fire at sunset is one to savour. With pastel skies overhead, the cliffs and rocky outcrops change from one vibrant shade to another while the sun drops over the horizon - a dazzling daily blaze of glory that has been happening for longer than any traveller who spies it can fathom.
Located in the East MacDonnell Ranges, Trephina Gorge’s imposing quartzite cliffs and sandy creekbed make it an idyllic refuge for those travelling through Central Australia. The gorge is home to a wide variety of native animal and plant life, which is best enjoyed via the many walks that snake through Trephina Gorge Nature Park.
The jewel of Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon is best known for its sheer red cliffs that plunge downwards into dense forest and a series of waterholes and gorges. Travellers can walk the rim of the canyon to take in its majesty from every angle, in addition to locations within the canyon such as the Garden of Eden and the Lost City.
Tnorala (Gosses Bluff)
From above, Gosses Bluff resembles a gigantic jagged crown, its 180-metre-high ranges reaching to the sky in perfect unison. The story behind this imposing landform explains its shape, as the bluff is thought to have been formed by a comet impact up to 145 million years ago - creating in an instant what is now one of the Outback’s most iconic attractions.
A true Outback oasis, Palm Valley’s ruby-red cliffs and thick vegetation are one of the Red Centre’s most rewarding sights. The only place within 850km that’s home to Cabbage Palms, Palm Valley is accessible by a rugged 4WD track into Finke Gorge National Park, which is 138km west of Alice Springs.
What more can be said about the Rock that hasn’t been already? Australia’s most famous monolith represents the beating heart of the Red Centre (and Australia’s Outback at large), a hulking sandstone mass whose significance can only be fully appreciated by those who make the pilgrimage to this sacred site.
While often seen as an aside to Uluru, Kata Tjuta is a hugely impressive vista (and significant site) in its own right. Also known as the Olgas, Kata Tjuta reaches a dizzying 546 metres above the surrounding plain, which in actual fact is almost 200m higher than Uluru’s highest point – not that we’re counting, but it certainly speaks to Kata Tjuta’s indelible presence.
A lone sandstone pillar standing amongst flat spinifex plains and red dirt, Chambers Pillar has a special place in Australia’s recent and ancient history. A solitary resistor to the Simpson Desert’s persistent powers of erosion, the pillar was a key landmark within the explorations of John McDouall Stuart in 1860, while today it’s sought-out by travellers looking for one of the Outback’s most inimitable sights.
Nestled in the heart of the West MacDonnell Ranges is Ormiston Gorge, a spectacular scene that combines a serene waterhole with rippling cliffs and ghostly River Red Gums. An attraction that seems tailor-made for photography, Ormiston Gorge stands out as in a part of Central Australia that’s filled with awe-inspiring views.
Sitting in the shadow of looming Mt Sonder, Redbank Gorge is a visual spectacle and an experiential delight. The gorge is one of the most westerly attractions of the West MacDonnell Ranges, and thanks to its rising cliffs that close in and open out around a permanent waterhole, the gorge’s beauty is not restricted to a single vista.
Glen Helen Gorge
The West Macs part and make way for the flow of the Finke River at Glen Helen Gorge, which visitors can enjoy from the riverbank or by heading into the chilly waters that divide the range. The gorge’s cliffs and predominantly still waters are a haven for land and aquatic life, making it a tranquil scene that invites travellers to stay awhile and enjoy the view.
Emily Gap is one of the Red Centre’s quiet achievers, sitting in an area (east of Alice Springs) that often gets forgotten among the plethora of spectacles to the west. Delivering classic Red Centre landforms together with a lengthy Aboriginal history, Emily Gap is significant for a variety of reasons; making the vision of this small gap in the Heavitree Range all the more entrancing.
Home to a swathe of the Red Centre’s most memorable views, the West MacDonnell Ranges are, as a whole, as breathtaking as any of its composite parts. The sealed Namatjira Drive runs parallel to the West Macs, giving passers-by a front-row seat to the range’s rippling heights that house so many of Central Australia’s most breathtaking highlights.
Sitting at the end of the Larapinta Trail in the western reaches of the West MacDonnell Ranges is stunning Mt Sonder, a special place that’s enjoyed from afar or on its ample slopes. The mountain’s poetic geology - in addition to the hues it takes on throughout the day – have made Mt Sonder a persistent scenic highlight for travellers and locals throughout the ages.
Henbury Meteorite Craters
The Henbury Meteorite Craters are a series of 12 impact sites that are globally significant both for their level of preservation and usefulness to science, while the area is also sacred to a range of Aboriginal tribes. The craters may not be as imposing as Wolfe Creek Crater, but to oversee the 4,000-year-old mark left by something truly out-of-this-world is a special experience.