Seek different, in the Red Centre

By Helen Hayes March 30, 2023
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Exploring the spiritual heart of Australia does not need to break the bank, especially when it comes to accommodation.

The red, rippled walls offer a safe haven from the elements, as I stroll along the relatively easy Kings Creek hike in the depths of the Northern Territory’s verdant Kings Canyon. Coming to a contemplative halt at the sheer, 300-metre-high cliff face at the end of the gorge, I place my palm on the rock and wonder how many hands across thousands of years have done the same. It is spine tingling.

High above me, other more adventurous travellers are tackling the famous Rim Walk, a 6-kilometre, 3–4 hour round trip, depending on how often you stop to take in the majesty of what you are seeing. It will be often. The start is the most challenging with 500 steep steps to elevate you to the rim. Once you get your breath, venture through Priscilla’s Crack, made famous by the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert and dally at the Cottrell Lookout, which looks over the ‘Lost City’ – a series of sandstone domes. A highlight of the walk will be the Garden of Eden, overflowing with lush palms growing willy nilly out of crevasses and cracks, and with a bridge over the sacred watering hole. To make the most of the Rim Walk, sign up for a guided tour, which you can book directly at Discovery Parks – Kings Canyon. And whichever walk you do, start early, to see the sunrise, or do it late, to be there for the sunset.

The best place to stay to explore Kings Canyon – part of Watarrka National Park, home of the Luritja and Arrente peoples for more than 20,000 years – is Discovery Parks – Kings Canyon. This most picturesque of campgrounds has views to Kings Canyon, and at night, just look up – the night sky is other-worldly. The park offers lodge rooms, which are a hub for backpackers and budget travellers, while a range of spacious powered and unpowered sites for your caravan, motorhome or tent provide million-dollar views for a value-for-money price. There are also ensuite sites for that bit of extra privacy. The park has the best food on offer at a range of bars and restaurants, convenience stores and a petrol station, along with a swimming pool, laundry and barbecue areas. For views to thrill, this is the place, with the Australian outback right outside your tent or room. And if you’re looking for a more indulgent experience, stay at Discovery Kings Canyon, which offers deluxe and standard rooms as well as superior glamping tents.

Kings Canyon rim walk. Image credit: Courtesy Discovery Parks

Glen Helen

Swimming in the natural permanent waterhole of the Finke River in Glen Helen Gorge is a box that must be ticked on any Northern Territory adventure. Float in the clear water and admire the amazing rock formations that form part of the legendary Tjoritja-West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. This ethereal landscape is 800 million years old and has been home to the Western Aranda Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years.

Located 132km from Alice Springs, this achingly beautiful landscape also features views to Mount Sonder, and is where walkers taking on the renowned Larapinta Trail access section 10 of the 231km walk. On the way to, or from Glen Helen, visit some of Tjoritja’s other jewels, including Simpsons Gap, the Ochre Pits, Standley Chasm Angkerle Atwatye (privately owned and operated by the Iwupataka Land Trust) and the permanent waterholes at Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.

The place to sleep easy at Glen Helen is Discovery Parks – Glen Helen, the only accommodation in Tjoritja-West MacDonnell Ranges National Park.

The park is a great base from which to explore the region, and is just 90 minutes from Alice Springs. Formerly known as Glen Helen Lodge, the park has 25 motel rooms and a large campground with powered and unpowered sites. The facilities are excellent, with a restaurant, bar-bistro, swimming pool and an outdoor terrace that looks out to the Glen Helen cliffs.

The Alice

Alice Springs is the hub of Central Australia, with a vast array of activities and cultural experiences to enjoy. Take to the skies in a hot air balloon, cruising in silence above the serene, ochre red landscape down below. Visit the Alice Springs Telegraph Station and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, or if you are yearning for some adventure, hike a section of the Larapinta Trail, and visit iconic Standley Chasm and Simpsons Gap. If you love kangaroos, visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary, where Chris ‘Brolga’ Barnes rescues orphaned joeys.

Learn about the thriving art community with a visit to the Araluen Cultural precinct or just browse the galleries in town. Another site not to miss is N’Dhala Gorge, a relatively unknown gem with 6000 individual petroglyphs, or rock carvings, in 438 engraved sites along the main gorge and in the side gorge, another 240 engraved sites.

Five minutes out of the city CBD, Discovery Parks – Alice Springs has a lot to offer. From luxurious, self-contained deluxe cabins to budget-friendly rooms, safari tents and sites for caravans and tents, there is something for everyone. The park has a swimming pool with a new waterslide and new in-park activities including Star Talks with an astronomy guide, yoga and movie nights. There is a camp kitchen, jumping pillows for the kids, a gym and pump track.

Discovery Parks – Alice Springs will be your home-away-from-home, with everything you could need to sleep easy and relax before another day taking in the amazing sights around Alice Springs.

For a limited time, Discovery Parks have partnered with Tourism NT to offer you 25% off site stays with Discovery in the Red Centre, so there’s no better time to get out and discover the heart of Australia for yourself.

Discovery Parks – Alice Springs features a swimming pool with a new waterslide and new in-park activities including Star Talks with an astronomy guide, yoga and movie nights. There is a camp kitchen, jumping pillows for the kids, a gym and pump track. Image credit: Courtesy Discovery Parks.

This article is brought to you by Discovery Parks and Tourism NT.