East MacDonnell Ranges

If you think there's nothing to see in the Red Centre of Australia apart from Ululu, Alice Springs and lots of red desert, then you don't know about the MacDonnell ranges. Stretching for 400km from east-west in a series of parallel ranges, the East and West MacDonnell Ranges straddle the town of Alice Springs, which sits alongside a gap between them.

The long term erosive work of streams in the ranges has created a magnificent series of dramatic gaps and gorges which are easy to access from Alice Springs and are truly a photographer's delight.

The majority of the natural attractions that visitors come to see are in the West MacDonnell Ranges, however the eastern branch still has plenty of natural wonders to enthral the visitor. Tours of the ranges operate from Alice Springs, taking in each section of the range in day and half day tours. All the well known attractions are serviced by well maintained sealed roads that are suitable to drive any kind of vehicle along. For the best photographs, we recommend visiting the gorges in the afternoon when the light on the rocks is far better than in the mornings.

Access to the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges is via the Ross Highway which is sealed for the first 75kms. The unsealed road continues to Ross River Homestead and Arltunga.

Emily And Jessie Gaps

Two creek-worn gaps in the MacDonnell Ranges quite close to Alice Springs. Both sites have great significance in the Aboriginal Yipirinya Dreaming story for Alice Springs, being the location where the Caterpillar ancestors met.

Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve

A small reserve about 50 km from Alice Springs that contains a rock outcrop of great significance to the Eastern Arrernte people, being a site where initiation ceremonies took place.

Trephina Gorge

85 km east of Alice Springs, Trephina Gorge is recognised as the most attractive of the natural features in the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges. Its stunning scenery includes huge River Red Gums, sandy creek beds, semi-permanent waterholes and towering rocky bluffs. Trephina Gorge is noted for its sheer quartzite cliffs and broad, river red gum lined, sandy watercourses (Ross River flows through it); two gorges dissect the range.

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N'Dhala Gorge

98 km east of Alice Springs, a major feature of this gorge is a series of over one thousand ancient Aboriginal rock carvings and petroglyphs that have been protected by the rugged walls of two gorges. These are some of the finest, well preserved examples of Aboriginal rock art in Central Australia. 4WD is recommended though not essential.

Ruby Gap

140 km east of Alice Springs, Ruby Gap was invaded by miners in 1886 seeking rubies which later proved to be worthless garnets. Ruby Gap is one of the beautiful gorges along the Hale River. 4WD access only.

Climate; the best time to visit

The region is located in an arid environment consisting of several different deserts. December to February is normally very hot; November to March is when the most rain falls. May to September is the peak season when Alice Springs is at its busiest. In these months, the daytime temperature never gets to high but it can get quite cold at night. If you are looking to take sunset shots of Uluru, August and September are the best months as there is generally little cloud about.

If you plan on incorporating the Top End into your travels and want to avoid the hot summer as well as the peak tourist season, the ideal to is come to Alice Springs in April or May first, then head north. Otherwise, see the Top End first in August or September and visit Alice Springs on your way home.

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