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the single longest running event in the
— the iconic
Central Australia encompasses a breadth of lands that is immense in size and
ancient in origins. Occupying about one sixth of Australia’s total land mass,
it’s boundaries hold not only some of Australia’s unique and significant icons,
but is home to a variety of contrasting landscapes, providing a unique
experiences for visitors to the region.
When travelling through Central
Australia, you pass through land that is traditionally associated with different
Aboriginal language groups. As the original custodians of Central Australia,
they have a unique relationship with the land, that is communicated through
their art and Dreamtime stories, weaving a connection between spirit and
on the Alice Springs and MacDonnell tourism regions, the vast Central Australia
region describes an area that stretches north to encompass both the Barkly
region, across the border into Queensland, South Australia and Western
Australia. Sometimes referred to as the ‘heart’ of Australia, this immense semi-arid
region is full of life and has many attractions. With it’s rich Aboriginal
culture and the more modern European history, the region encapsulates the true
Australian outback spirit.
Whilst here, take the time to visit many of the significant areas including Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park,
Kings Canyon, East and West MacDonnell Range, Simpson Desert Region, Tennant
Creek and Barkly Region and Alice Springs.
For a look at some approximate
kilometres between destinations, check our
Distance. Those planning to attempt any of the walking tracks, especially
the extended and overnight walks are strongly advised to register with the
Walker Registration Scheme.
Check out our listing of
Central Australia accommodation. In addition to our listed online travel
guide information, contact the local tourism visitor centre for your destination
for more attractions, tours, local maps and other information.
Central Australia Attractions
• There are many things to see and do for those planning a visit to Central Australia.
One of the great places to make your base, and where many tour providers operate
from, is Alice Springs.
For those new to the area, a visit to many of the regions attractions can entail anywhere from half a day to a couple of days,
depending where you start from and if you stay overnight. The vastness of the
region may involve travelling distances of 500 km or more.
If doing a self-drive tour, it is important that you are prepared, with
enough food, water, fuel, maps, and letting someone know your route, and when to
expect you back. Some of the things to see in the region
Alice Springs Desert Park
• Larapinta Drive, ALICE SPRINGS NT 0870
• Ph: +61 8 8951 8788 •
• The park introduces visitors to the incredible but subtle richness of
Australia’s arid zone. Designed to move well beyond the boundaries of
traditional zoos, botanic gardens and museums, the park has adopted a holistic
“habitat-based and story driven” approach. Discover the desert in its entirety,
the landscapes, animals and plants, and their traditional use and management by
Nestled in the foothills of the West MacDonnell Range, just ten minutes from
the centre of town you will experience diverse and spectacular landscapes and
learn about the adaptations of hundreds of species of desert flora and fauna.
- Free-flying birds of prey display.
- Desert Rivers, Sand Country, and the Woodland habitats to explore.
- Close encounters with rare and elusive wildlife in the Nocturnal House.
- A theatre where four and a half billion years of desert evolution will
flash before you in a 20 minute cinematic journey called ‘The Changing
- Interactive interpretive exhibits.
Bird watching, ornithology, ornithologist, twitcher...
• Central Australia is a bird watching paradise following rainfall periods that
turn the normally dry arid season into a lush green habitat. Yet even during
the dry times, there are plenty of bird species to be seen. For those visitors
with little time, there are some great places to see the local bird life in
Alice Springs, such as the Alice Springs Desert Park, Olive Pink Botanic Garden
and the Alice Springs Treatment Plant (Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds).
Gemtree — Gateway to the
• ALICE SPRINGS / PLENTY HIGHWAY
• Ph: 08 8956 9855 •
Fax: 08 8956 9860 •
• Gemtree is located 140 km north-east of Alice Springs, with bitumen road to the
front gate!. Nestled amongst the native bush of the Plenty Highway, it is set on
250 acres park offering nature walks and fossickers tag-along tours. There is a
Gem Room, activities, events, camping, caravan and cabin style accommodation.
Check their site for details.
• Although Rock Wallabies are elusive creatures in the wild, they can sometimes be
spotted at some of the popular tourist attractions such as
Ormiston Gorge, and
People are usually asked not to feed wild animals.
If you are not fortunate to
see Rock Wallabies, there is one place in Alice Springs at the Heavitree Gap
Lodge, where not only can you
see them, but you can also get up close to them as they come down from the range
to feed and drink. Special pellet food is available for purchase from the
Territory Parks Alive
• Each year between May and October, the Territory, as part of their Territory
Parks Alive program, runs a series of free guided walks, talks and slide
shows in the parks and reserves across the Territory.
Whether you are a local or a tourist, here is your chance to find out more about
the nature of this wonderful Territory. Contact the local visitors centre or
NT Parks & Wildlife website for further information.
• Located on the Stuart Highway just 30 km north of Alice Springs, setback some 15
metres back from the road, is the
distinctive marker for the Tropic of Capricorn.
Rainfall and Water in Central Australia
• Rainfall is a rare occurrence in Central Australia compared to other parts of
the continent. Yet when it does rain and depending on the storm severity and the
amount of the rainfall, the rain can bring flash floods and torrents, with the
deluge sweeping through formerly dry channels and dry riverbeds. These swollen
rivers carry such force that whole trees, boulders, pebbles, sand and other
debris can be swept along the river. Many roads get cut off, and unwary or
foolhardy driver have had their vehicles swept along the river whilst attempting
to transverse roads that are in the path of the swollen rivers. After such
torrents, the river seem to simply disappear, as the water passes, leaving dry
river beds, with the most obvious evidence being trees and debris left caught
wrap around trees that follow the tracks of the river. Many of the better known
transient river flows include the
Finke River and the
As well as these transient rivers, there are some permanent waterholes,
including the Boggy Hole,
Ellery Creek Big Hole,
Ormiston Gorge, and the spring water that support the fauna in
Another unique habitat in Central Australia are the claypans, that can fill with
water after periods of significant rain. There are some claypans at the base of
Rainbow Valley, with
another great example of claypans in the Lake Armadeus system, that can be
viewed by travellers from the
Lookout on the Lasseter Highway. When dry the beds are white from the salt
deposits. A wonderful example of claypans are the 12 located in the Ilparpa
Valley, known as the
Ilparpa Claypans. After significant rain the claypans here fill with water,
waist deep in some areas. If there is considerable rain, the claypans join up
forming a magical lake, as was witnessed in late February, early March 2010.
Feeding - Black-footed Rock Wallabies at Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge.
Central Australia Pet Friendly Accommodation
Pet Friendly Off Leash Areas
• Ph: 08 8950 0500 (contact Alice Springs Town Council's for dog off leash exercise
Alice Springs Town
Council has a number of off leash exercise areas for dogs. Contact them for
Whilst dogs are not permitted in the national parks, there is one place that is
popular with dog owners and that is Redbank Waterhole, just south of Alice
Redbank Waterhole - one of a number of waterholes in the Owen Springs Reserve,
that is the last to dry out, the Redbank Waterhole is popular with locals,
especially for those wanting an outing with the pet dogs. There is also the
opportunity for overnight camping here and within Lawrence Gorge (there are
no facilities and visitors should bring their own drinking water and other
Dogs are only permitted south of Waterhouse Range.