The Macdonnell Ranges are a stunning natural attraction that give the lie to the popular misconception that the so-called "dead heart" of Australia is a featureless desert.
We were perhaps lucky to visit so soon after good rains had brought the Red Centre to life, but even without the greenery the gorges, chasms and waterholes were beautiful.
If time, or budget does not allow, the closest of the major features, Simspon's Gap, is perhaps the highlight of the ranges. A short dive from Alice, and a short walk from the carpark brings you to this lovely little gap in the ranges which has no entry charge. With your own vehicle it can easily be seen in a 2 hour round trip, perhaps as a further stop after visiting the Desert Park (which is on the same route) and Flynn's grave.
The next stop, Standley Chasm, is the only one with an entry charge, but it is also the only one with a small kiosk selling food and drink. The walk in from the gorge is not easy, and won't be an option for anyone in a wheelchair, or who can't manage a 40 minute, often involving small climbs and walks across rocks and dry creek beds..
Make sure you time your visit for midday. This will also mean you share your visit with all the other tourists, but it is worth it, as the sun sets of explosions of red and orange along the Chasm walls, which change by the minute.
Our final stop was Ellery Creek Big Gorge, which is close to the highway and again free to visit. There are toilets and camping here, and the gorge is a safe and pleasant way to cool off at the end of a big drive.
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