Got a four-wheel drive? Excellent. Further along in N'Dhala Gorge, you’ll see some 6000 ancient petroglyphs—rock engravings—that trace the Arrernte people’s history of the land. It’s an excellent reward after the tricky drive in over a couple of shallow creek crossings and through some of the most little-known but spectacular scenery in Central Australia.
There’s bush camping with tables, fire pits and a long-drop toilet. Collect your firewood before you reach the reserve.
Arltunga Historical Reserve
Further along at the Arltunga Historical Reserve, wander between the ruins of Central Australia’s first town. Now a ghost town, Arltunga was once thriving and supported some 300 people after gold was discovered there in 1887 and mined until 1913. Explore the gold mines themselves and the restored police station and jail. Arltunga is a great spot for families, with a visitor centre and hands-on displays of old mining equipment.
Ruby Gap Nature Park
At the far end of the East MacDonnell Ranges is beautiful Ruby Gap, another high-clearance four-wheel-drive-only attraction, about 45 km on from Arltunga.
Set up camp by the Hale River, the site of a ‘ruby rush’ in the 19th Century where miners mistook tiny purple garnets for rubies. The sandy river bed still glows crimson with garnets. There are several gorges to explore here, and the waterholes at Glen Annie Gorge are usually deep enough for a swim. Nature lovers: keep your eyes peeled for brush-tailed possums. The park protects one of their few remaining healthy populations.
Join an outback dinner an astronomy show
Back in town, book a three-course gourmet barbecue dinner and show at the award-winning Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre, a ‘sustainable living environment’ just south of Alice Springs. You’ll make damper and watch the sun set over the East Macs then hear stories about the local ecology, culture and astronomy. You can also take an astronomy tour.
Explore the East Macs on a quad bike
Join a quad bike tour through the East Macs with Outback Quad Adventures. It runs quad bike tours on Undoolya Station, the NT’s oldest working cattle station, 17 km east of Alice Springs. You’ll also visit the cattle yards and learn about a cattle muster. Quad bikes are safe, modern and fully automatic, and you don’t need a motorbike licence or any experience.