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Camping around Alice Springs

Set up camp beneath native desert oaks and wake to be a part of the natural wonders of the Northern Territory.

Immerse yourself in the red earth, blue skies and unexpected landscapes of Alice Springs and Central Australia.

It might be the middle of the desert but in the Red Centre you'll find waterholes that will take your breath away, wildlife not found anywhere else in the world and sacred sites that bring the past to life.

Drive on sealed road along the length of the West MacDonnell National Park and dive into picturesque swimming holes such as Ellery Creek Big Hole and Redbank Gorge, and stay a few nights in the local campgrounds. The night sky will amaze you.

Travel to the lesser-known but just as spectacular East MacDonnell Ranges – the gateway to the central Australian gem fields. Find out about the incredible gold rush history, the homesteads and stations of years gone by and the unexpected waterholes dotting the arid lanscape.

The Finke Gorge National Park is home to the exotic flora of Palm Valley and one of the world's oldest rivers, the Finke River. Close by is the historical town of Hermannsburg where Albert Namatjira did many of his world-famous watercolour landscapes and where you can get the best apple strudel in the world - a throwback to German missionaries.

When you're done checking out the amazing country, head into Alice Springs town and check out the Alice Springs Desert Park, the Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre, Royal Flying Doctor Service or one of the many museums and art galleries.

Best time to go camping in Alice Springs

Camping is best in Alice Springs between April and September. Alice Springs experiences the full range of seasons so the autumn and winter months are perfect to enjoy mild days, chilly nights, limited humidity and rare rain. The desert can get cold at night though – sometimes dipping below zero – so make sure you have plenty of clothes and blankets to keep warm.

Visiting in the warmer months of October to March is great if you want to keep away from the cold. It’s hot so make sure you protect yourself from the sun and carry plenty of water at all times.

Can I camp for free near Alice Springs?

Like the rest of the Northern Territory, camping is only allowed in designated areas in Alice Springs & Surrounds.

There's some free camping areas in roadside rest stops outside of Alice Springs. These rest stops are designed to be overnight stays only and not a base for an extended stay. While there's no charge at these campsites, it’s expected that you'll keep the area clean and tidy, take your rubbish away with you and follow all directions, including not lighting fires during fire bans.

Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area

The Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area is 29 kilometres north of Alice Springs and allows overnight camping, with picnic tables, toilet facilities, BBQs, rubbish bins and a non-drinking water supply. It marks where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses through the Stuart Highway with a small monument.

Connor Well Rest Area

Connor Well Rest Area is 92 kilometres north of Alice Springs and right near Aileron where you can see the 17-metre high Anmatjere man sculpture. The rest stop allows overnight camping and has BBQs with picnic tables and a non-drinking water supply but no toilet facilities so you'll need to get rid of your waste responsibly. Duck into the Aileron Roadhouse for fuel, supplies and a meal.

Prowse Gap Rest Area

Located 145 kilometres north of Alice Springs, Prowse Gap Rest Area is a 24-hour free camping site with BBQs, picnic tables, non-drinking water supply, shelter and toilet facilities. Generators and pets are welcome here. Prowse Gap is 45 kilometres south of the next supply stop at Ti Tree.

Mt Polhill Rest Stop

Mt Polhill Rest Stop is 61 kilometres south of Alice Springs and allows overnight camping, BBQs, picnic tables, non-drinking water supply, shelters and toilets. Pets are welcome and campfires are allowed when fire conditions permit.

Finke River Rest Stop

Halfway between Erldunda and Alice Springs is the Finke River Rest Stop, 126 kilometres south of Alice Springs. The rest stop allows 24-hour overnight camping with BBQs, picnic tables, non-drinking water supply, shelter and toilet.

Desert Oaks Rest Stop

Desert Oaks Rest Stop is 167 kilometres south of Alice Springs and allows 24-hour overnight camping. Facilities include BBQs, picnic tables, non-drinking water supply, shelters and bathroom facilities.

Camping under the stars in Alice Springs

The cool nights, cloudless skies and limited ambient light make sleeping under the stars around Alice Springs a stunning option. During the cooler months from April to September is the best time to roll out the swag and enjoy the fresh air.

It gets down to freezing regularly in winter so make sure you have sufficient warm clothing, blankets and ground cover considering there might be frost.

During the hotter summer months – October to March – temperatures can rise to over 35°C during the day and stay quite warm during the night. It’s more likely to rain during these months so shelter is a must to keep you cool and dry.

Camping near waterholes around Alice Springs

You might not expect it in the middle of the desert but there's plenty of stunning waterholes in the Red Centre. Many of them are perfect for a relaxing dip after a day of adventures. You'll see plenty of wildlife stopping off for a cooling drink too.

While crocodiles don’t make it to Alice Springs, it’s important that you pay attention to all signs near waterholes. There may be unexpected shallow sections or other hazards in the water like submerged branches or rocks so only dive where it's marked safe to do so.

Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ellery Creek Big Hole is within Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park and is a secluded oasis surrounded by towering red cliffs. Home to the Honey Ant Dreaming and Fish Dreaming stories of the Central and Western Arrernte people, Ellery Creek is an important sacred site.

An 88 kilometre drive west from Alice Springs, the campground is accessible by a gravel road to the car park which is 2WD accessible. Camping costs $6.60 per night and includes access to free gas BBQs, shade shelters, picnic tables and a shower and toilet block. An emergency telephone is available on-site.

It’s a great place to swim and there's wheelchair access to the waterhole. Even on the hottest days, the water can be quite cold so be prepared. There's a number of hiking tracks, including a section of the Larapinta Trail to explore.

Ormiston Gorge

A 135-kilometre drive west of Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge is a huge permanently filled swimming hole bordered by wide sandy patches. It’s also home to a range of relict plant species, the rediscovered Central rock-rat and the Western Arrernte Dreaming Story of the Emus.

The campground is popular in the cooler months so getting in early is good idea. Camping fees are $10 per adult and include free gas BBQs, shade shelters, picnic tables and hot water shower and toilet block. Water is available but tank or surface water should be treated before drinking.

There’s a staffed ranger station on-site with guided walks and talks run between April and October. If you want to explore on your own, there's a number of hiking tracks and a part of the Larapinta Trail for you to trek through.

Glen Helen Gorge

Halfway along the West MacDonnell Ranges, and 132 kilometres west of Alice Springs, is Glen Helen Gorge. Beside the quartzite cliffs, Glen Helen Gorge is a permanent waterhole home to a range of fish species and important migratory birds.

Accommodation at Glen Helen itself is currently closed so the nearest campgrounds are Finke 2-Mile, Ellery Creek or Ormiston Gorge.

Redbank Gorge

Redbank Gorge is located 156 kilometres west of Alice Springs, a popular stop along the Red Centre Way and at the base of Mt Sonder. It's a significant site, particularly to Western Arrernte men who historically used the site as part of their initiation ceremonies.

Two campgrounds are located nearby both accessible by high clearance 4WD on unsealed roads. Woodland Campgrounds has toilets, fire pits and picnic tables while Ridgetop Campgrounds has toilets, fire pits, picnic tables and free gas BBQs. Both campgrounds cost $3.30 per night.

To swim, just walk on the signed path from the car park for 1 kilometre. The water in this gorge is known for being extremely cold so be prepared and if possible, take a pool noodle, lilo or other flotation device to assist with your swim. If you’d prefer a walk, there's a range of paths including a 4-8 hour return journey to the top of Mt Sonder.

Boggy Hole

If bush camping is your style, then Boggy Hole is a great spot for you. Located within the Finke Gorge National Park, Boggy Hole is accessible by high-clearance 4WD only and is suitable for tents, swags and 4WD campervans.

Camping is free but there's no facilities so you’ll need to be self-sufficient and experienced to manage the drive in. Once you’re in, you can enjoy swimming, walking trails and the ruins of the historic police station.

If you'd love some adventure, take a quad bike tour of the area departing from Owen Springs.

Are permits required to camp in Alice Springs?

Designated campsites around Alice Springs don't require a permit to enter. If you're planning to camp in a national park outside of a designated campsite or bushwalk overnight, you need to apply for a permit.

Some campgrounds are located on private property and permits aren’t required here either. It’s best to check before setting up camp.

If you're entering onto Aboriginal land that's not in a national park, you need a written permit from the Central Land Council. These are approved on a case-by-case basis and cover activities such as entering Aboriginal land or waters for any purpose, travelling by private road on Aboriginal land or entering an Aboriginal community.

Camping options near Alice Springs

There's heaps of camping options available in and around Alice Springs that give you access to some of the most spectacular desert landscapes, hidden waterholes and sacred sites in the world.

Finke 2-Mile 4WD Camping

Located on the Finke River, there’s plenty of space to spread out at the Finke 2-Mile 4WD camping spot. As its name suggests, it’s accessible only by 4WD.

This is true bush camping with no facilities so you must be self-sufficient. Camping is free and there's access to a range of great local sites from walking tracks including the Ochre Pits and the nearby Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Palm Valley

Home to the rare Red Cabbage Palm, Palm Valley is also a culturally significant area for the Western Arrernte people. Found in the Finke Gorge National Park, Palm Valley is a great spot to enjoy the fresh air or to base yourself for day trips to nearby Hermannsburg community, where Albert Namatjira got his inspiration, or to check out the walking tracks along the often dry Finke River, believed to be the oldest river in the world.

The campground is accessible only by high clearance 4WDs so trailers and motorhomes are not recommended. Camping costs $6.60 per night and includes access to toilets, showers, picnic tables, gas BBQs, drinking water and fire pits. No pets are permitted and firewood must be collected prior to entering the park.

There's a ranger station on site with ranger-led activities as well as 4WD tracks and scenic lookouts. Please stay on the marked tracks to avoid damaging the Red Cabbage Palm saplings.

Serpentine Chalet Bush Camping Area

Located near Serpentine Gorge and in the beautiful Tjoritja West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, the Serpentine Chalet bush camping area is a basic campground accessible by 4WD only.

Camping is free and there's no facilities so you'll need to be self-sufficient. There’s plenty to see in the area including Serpentine Gorge itself, River Red Gums, walking trails and the ruins of Serpentine Chalet.

Hugh River Camping Area

Alongside the Hugh River, before it joins the Finke River, is the camping area approximately 22 kilometres from the entrance sign. Camping is permitted everywhere here but you need to be self-sufficient as there's no facilities.

Nearby attractions are accessible on walking tracks including Ellery Creek, Ormiston Gorge and Redbank Gorge.

Despite it's name, the Hugh River is dry and sandy for the majority of the year, filling up only after heavy rains. If you're camping after rain, be mindful that dingoes are often seen having a drink so keep your distance and please don’t feed them.

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

Just over an hour west of Alice Springs, Rainbow Valley is as beautiful as it sounds. Perfect for budding photographers and wildlife spotters, Rainbow Valley is home to stunning claypan wildflowers and Mushroom Rock, a sandstone formation carved from millions of years of wind and rain erosion.

The campground is accessible by 22 kilometres of unsealed road so a 4WD is recommended. Sites are available from $3.30 per person per night and include toilets, picnic tables, BBQs, and fire pits. There's plenty of short walks available to see the sights close to camp.

Trephina Gorge Nature Park

Home to the largest Ghost Gum in Australia, Trephina Gorge is just an hours’ drive from Alice Springs is and a stunning place to set up camp.

Accessible by high clearance vehicles only (the last 5 kilometres of road is unsealed), the campground has a range of facilities including toilets, fire pits and shaded picnic areas for just $3.30 per person per night. There's a ranger station nearby and plenty of short walks available so you can take in the beauty of the Gorge.

Depending on how much rain has fallen, the John Hayes Rockhole is a good spot for swimming but the road can be blocked after heavy rain. Regardless of the weather, the rockhole and its surrounds are incredible to look at.

N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park

N’Dhala Gorge is an amazing gallery of more than 6,000 individual rock carvings and art sites just an hours’ drive from Alice Springs. These are believed to mark two crucial time periods in Aboriginal history up to 10,000 years ago.

Camping is available for $3.30 per night with toilets, picnic facilities and fire pits available. There's 4WD tracks nearby and walking tracks that guide you through the incredible cultural history of the site.

Ross River Resort is close by offering food, fuel and some accommodation.

Ruby Gap Nature Park

Ruby Gap is a stunning part of the East MacDonnell Ranges that was the home of the first mining rush in Central Australia. As the name suggests, it was thought to house a valuable haul of rubies in the bed of Hale River. Hundreds arrived only to find they were high grade garnets that weren’t nearly as valuable as rubies.

The mining rush is now a distant memory and Ruby Gap is home to challenging bush walking and unspoilt wilderness. Camping is available between the park entrance and Ruby Gap and is accessible only by 4WD. As the site is so remote, it has no facilities and it is recommended that campers have access to emergency equipment including a satellite phone, EPIRB and plenty of supplies including water. If heavy rain occurs, it’s best to leave the park as the Hale River is prone to flooding.

Bushwalkers should note that there's no marked tracks and walks in this area are for experienced walkers only.

Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve

A 90-minute drive from Alice Springs and you can camp right near the spot where 12 craters crashed into the Central Australian desert almost 5,000 years ago.

Camping is available for $3.30 per person per night and includes basic facilities such as toilets, picnic areas, fire pits and walking tracks. The campground is accessible by 2WD however roads can be restricted after heavy rain.

The craters are a sight to behold with the largest crater measuring 180 metres wide and 15 metres deep. These are great to see at sunrise and sunset.

Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve

Chambers Pillar is a 50-metre-high sandstone pillar first recorded in 1860 by John McDouall Stuart and named after James Chambers, one of Stuart’s trip sponsors. The sandstone pillar has significance to Aboriginal people who believe it represents a husband and wife banished from their homes.

A 2 ½ hour drive from Alice Springs, two campgrounds are accessible only by high clearance 4WD as there's deep sand drifts and steep jump ups. Both campgrounds cost $3.30 per person per night and include toilets and fire pits. There's no drinking water available so campers need to be self-sufficient.

There's two easy walking tracks to explore Chambers Pillar which looks even more spectacular at sunrise and sunset.

Owen Springs Reserve

Formerly Owen Springs Cattle Station, Owen Springs Reserve is a bush camping site accessible by high clearance 4WD only. There's no facilities on site so campers need to be self-sufficient.

The nearby Owen Springs Homestead was one of the first homesteads built in Central Australia and it can be explored along with the Redbank Waterhole, a temporary waterhole that is often dry. It’s still worth a look as its surrounded by a rocky gorge in the middle of red sand country.

Serviced campgrounds near Alice Springs

Gemtree Caravan Park

Located 140 kilometres north of Alice Springs on the way to Tennant Creek. As the name suggests, Gemtree Caravan Park is known for fossicking.

Powered and unpowered sites are available from $27 per night with air conditioned cabins and family cabins available. Facilities for the campground include bathroom blocks, laundry, an on-site country store, pay phone and swimming pool. Food is available from the store or Kate’s Campoven Kitchen and licensed bar.

There's plenty of activities including Paddymelon Bowls, movie nights and gem fossicking.

Ross River Resort

Just 83 kilometres east of Alice Springs is Ross River Resort. The resort is built on the old Loves Creek Homestead originally established in the 1890s as an outstation of Undoolya Station and later to supply fresh produce to gold miners at Arltunga, run cattle, and breed horses for trade.

Now it's a modern and comfortable place to stay with cabins, bunkhouse accommodation, caravan park and campground. An unpowered site costs $30 per night and a powered site is $39. Longer stay discounts are available.

Facilities on site include bathrooms, BBQs, communal lounge, laundry and swimming pool with a bar and restaurant offering meals all day. The resort is set up for campervans with a dump point and drive through sites available. Pets are welcome on request.

Ntaria Caravan Park

In the remote community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg) is the Hermannsburg Ntaria Supermarket Caravan Park. On-site facilities include an amenities block with solar hot water and clothes lines. It's just 100 metres from the supermarket and takeaway which includes a petrol station.

The caravan park is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Glen Helen Lodge

Along the West MacDonnell Ranges is the Glen Helen Lodge, an ideally placed campground and motel to do day trips to some of the brilliant surrounding attractions.

The campground offers powered sites of all sizes with access to fire pits, bathroom facilities with hot water, BBQ and gas cooker, swimming pool and a bar and restaurant.

The accommodation is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Camping at events in Alice Springs

Despite being in the middle of the desert, there's a heap of great events in Alice Springs. Events such as the Dark Skies Festival, Wide Open Space Festival and the Finke Desert Race are located out of town and near camping sites.

Other events such as Parrtjima, the Red CentreNATS, the Beanie Festival and the Alice Springs Masters Games are all held in the town of Alice Springs itself so caravan parks in town are going to be your best option to get around easily.

Spots fill quickly so book in ahead to avoid disappointment.

Camping at the Finke Desert Race

Known as one of the world's best off-road races, the Finke Desert Race is a truly unique experience whether you're a revhead or not. Held over three days, the Finke Desert Race is an Alice Springs to Finke community and return race for bikes, quads and modified cars along the old railway line and through spectacular desert country.

Thousands of spectators each year camp along the track to get a front-row seat to the action. Camping spots aren't designated so it's first-in best-dressed. There's no facilities along the track and the track is closed to traffic once the race commences so you have to be self-sufficient.

Much of the track runs through private pastoral property and Crown land so it's important that you take all your rubbish away with you and leave your camping spot in great condition.

Camping near Alice Springs – at a glance

Powered sites

Permit required

Accessibility

Toilets

Drinking Water

BBQs

Other accom on site

Palm Valley

No

No

4WD

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Boggy Hole

No

No

4WD

No

No

No

No

Ormiston Gorge and Pound

No

No

2WD

Yes

No

Yes

No

Redbank Gorge

No

No

4WD

Yes

No

Yes

No

Woodland Camping Area

No

No

High clearance vehicle recommended

Yes

No

Yes

No

Ridgetop Camping Area

No

No

High clearance vehicle recommended

Yes

No

Fire pits

No

Serpentine Chalet Bush Camping Area

No

No

4WD high clearance vehicles only

No

No

No

No

Ellery Creek Big Hole

No

No

2WD

Yes

No

Yes

No

2 Mile 4WD Camping

No

No

4WD high clearance vehicles only

No

No

No

No

Hugh River

No

No

2WD

No

No

No

No

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

No

No

4WD recommended

Yes

No

Yes

No

Trephina Gorge Nature Park

No

No

2WD to campground on unsealed road

Yes

No

Fire pits

No

N'Dhala Gorge Nature Park

No

No

4WD high clearance vehicles only

Yes

No

Fire pits

Yes, at nearby Ross River Resort with camping at powered and unpowered sites, bunkhouse, ensuite cabins

Ruby Gap Nature Park

No

No

4WD high clearance vehicles

No

No

No

No

Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve

No

No

2WD dry season, 4WD high clearance in wet season

Yes

No

Fire pits

No

Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve

No

No

4WD high clearance vehicles

Yes

No

Fire pits

No

Owen Springs Reserve

No

No

Experienced 4WD only

No

No

Small fires in campsites only

No

Gemtree Caravan Park

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes - cabins and family cabins

Ross River Resort

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes -cabins and bunkhouse accommodation

Ntaria Caravan Park

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes - motel rooms

Glen Helen Resort

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes - motel rooms

Where can I hire camping equipment in Alice Springs?

You can rent everything you need for all kinds of camping holidays through Nomadic Camping Hire or Outback Camper Trailer Hire.

Join a camping tour in Alice Springs

With so many beautiful places to see within a short drive from Alice Springs, there's plenty of fantastic camping tours available ranging from overnighters to several weeks.

Willis' Walkabouts

Willis' Walkabouts offers a 12 Day Finke Gorge and Watarrka National Parks bushwalking tour starting in Palm Valley and ending in Kings Canyon. This tour operator will take you off the track to places you can only reach on foot with a combination of day walks and a possible overnight walk. Group size is 4-12 guests and a mix of sand and rock ledges and maintained campgrounds.

The 15 Day West MacDonnell Ranges walking tour is more than the Larapinta Trail. It covers parts of the Larapinta Trail as well as some extra special spots not seen or known by many. The guides have over 30 years of experience walking in the ranges so know all there is to know. Group size is 4-12 guests and a mix of campgrounds which you’ll most likely have to yourself.

Wayoutback Australian Safaris

The 6 Day 4WD Uluru Red Centre Desert Dreaming Tour offered by Wayoutback Australian Safaris, soaks up the wonders of Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon as well as the experience of desert driving on dirt roads. Get away from the crowds and sleep in remote private bush camps under the stars in a swag or permanent tent. You’ll experience, rather than just see, the icons of the Red Centre.

Mulgas Adventures

Mulgas Adventures 4 Day Rock-to-Rock Tour is an adventure of a lifetime that starts in Alice Springs and goes through Uluru, Kata Tjuta, George Gill Range, Kings Canyon, Salt Lakes and camping under the stars at Kings Creek Station and the private bush camp at Curtin Springs Station. Sleep in swags in the outback and eat dinner at an Aussie campfire BBQ.

Finke River Adventures

The 1 night Million Star Camp Out offered by Finke River Adventures is an exclusively catered overnight camp in the outback. Travel on a guided tour with local Aboriginal guides in ATV buggies to incredible locations on private tracks. See stunning dry river beds, amazing rock formations and secluded water holes. Hearty campfire meal and drinks before snuggling in your swag to soak up more of the million stars view.

Camping guidelines

Alice Springs is a spectacular area and we’d love it to stay that way. When camping, make sure you leave your site as you found it.

Rubbish

Make use of the bins provided at your campsite. If there's none, take the rubbish with you and find a roadside stop or shelter with bins provided.

Firewood

Fires are not permitted to be lit in any National Park except in designated areas located in campgrounds. Where campgrounds allow fires to be lit, those fires must be contained to the fire pit and should only be lit during the cooler months.

Firewood must not be collected from inside National Parks unless it's signed as a designated area. Firewood can be purchased from hardware stores or camping supply stores across Alice Springs. Bringing firewood into a national park from other areas is a potential biosecurity hazard.

Pets

Pets are not allowed in national parks. Exemptions are available for guide dogs, hearing dogs and assistance dogs kept on a leash of no more than 3 metres long.

Each campground has its own rules about pets staying on their site so it’s best to check with them first. If you’re camping in a pet-friendly campground but heading into a national park for the day, you can negotiate with a fellow camper to swap dog-minding duties. Dogs should not be left in campgrounds on their own.

Road safety

If you’re driving, make sure you understand the challenges of driving in remote locations and learn the essential road safety tips to stay safe on our roads.

General safety tips

Camping in the outback can be an amazing experience but it can be isolated with very challenging weather conditions. If camping, make sure you tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back, carry more water than you think you need and seek shade wherever possible. If you can, carry an EPIRB or satellite phone to make sure you can call for help if you need it.

Caravan & camping grounds around Alice Springs