Characterised by red desert sands, spinifex dunes, ghost gums, rocky chasms and diverse wildlife, the 'Red Centre' surrounding Alice Springs ticks all the right boxes for nature lovers. Whether witnessing the changing colours of its landscape, the sheer size and silence of the desert or the kaleidoscope of stars at night, experiencing nature here can take on a spiritual element that's both humbling and powerful.
High on the range
Stretching out for over 200km either side of Alice Springs, the MacDonnell Ranges provide natural beauty with rocky escarpments, gorges and swimming holes. Highlights include Standley Chasm, which is best visited in the middle of the day for nature's lightshow as the sun dramatically passes directly through the crevice. Simpson Gap is another must-see with its dramatic cliffs, mulga shrubland and scenic waterhole. With the famous Larapinta bushwalking trail passing through the West MacDonnell National Park, exploring the area on foot makes for a great way to appreciate its ancient rock formations, flora and fauna.
Down in the valley
Discover the beauty of Finke Gorge National Park, home to diverse plant species, including the red cabbage palm found in the lush Palm Valley. The Simpson Desert, which spans from near Alice to the South Australia border offers memorable scenery including Rainbow Valley with its spectacular sandstone bluffs featuring rainbow-like bands, and Chambers Pillar, a towering 40 metre rock column rising up from the flat desert.
Central Australia is also home to abundant wildlife. Spot kangaroos and wallabies – the sight of 'Big Reds' bouncing through the outback is quintessential Australiana. Dingoes are other famous inhabitants of the area, as is a range of unique reptile life – including the thorny devil. Stop by the Alice Springs Desert Park, which showcases wildlife found in Central Australia in open enclosures that replicate a range of local habitats.