Every Australian should have their minds boggled by the Red Centre at least once in a lifetime – and these two icons can do just the trick.
These remote and magnificent landscapes make you feel like a speck in the universe, but are utterly exhilarating. Wide-open spaces, huge skies, big red rocks, gaping canyons, lurid sunsets and an astonishment of stars put on extravagant displays. Only the stony-hearted could possibly be indifferent to the outback’s haunting beauty.
Glen Helen Gorge, the Red Centre’s must-see landscape has just gotten better.
Happily, the best way to enjoy two of the Red Centre’s must-see landscapes has just got better, with iconic accommodation at Kings Canyon and Glen Helen undergoing a renaissance. Now under the management of Discovery Holiday Parks, renewed love and investment have come their way, and they have emerged with contemporary 2022 swagger – though not without losing their quintessential outback vibe. Check in, stay longer, enjoy every travel convenience and comfort, and explore the awe-inspiring Red Centre that lies all around.
Only a 90-minute drive by sealed road from Alice Springs, sits in a magnificent cranny in the West MacDonnell Ranges and has a variety of accommodation, from its campground with both powered and unpowered sites to 18 standard motels rooms and a further seven with amazing views of the gorge rock face. This site will reopen soon after an extensive refurbishment of facilities and its dining offerings greatly enhanced.
Glen Helen is merely a 90-minute drive by sealed road from Alice Springs.
Facilities include an outdoor terrace overlooking the stunning Glen Helen cliffs and a swimming pool in which to relax following a long day’s sightseeing. The restaurant and bar/bistro is the place to swap travellers’ tales while you enjoy casual dining in an outback homestead environment. There’s also a camp kitchen and retail shop.
Relax at the pool after a day of sightseeing.
This is the only accommodation inside Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges) National Park, a stunningly gnarly landscape 800 million years in the making. Get up early at least once, because the red rock faces at sunrise are superb.
Marvel at the sight of the superb red rock.
Plenty of 4WD tracks and nature and bush paths invite exploration. A swim in Glen Helen Gorge is brilliant; the spectacular landscape is cleaved open as if by a giant hatchet to reveal soaring orange cliffs. Float on your back and watch fairy wrens flit against a blue outback sky. The gorges supply water to plants and wildlife, and some hide remnants of ancient rainforest that provides improbable bursts of vivid greenery amid red rock.
The Western Aranda people have lived here for tens of thousands of years and the landscapes are of great significance to Indigenous culture, as are the flora and fauna, traditionally used for food, medicine and cultural practices.
The restaurant deck at Glen Helen.
Other sights in the region and on the drive out from Alice Springs include Simpsons Gap, Ochre Pits, and Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm), where a walk along the dry riverbed contrasts silvery ghost gums and vivid red rock faces 80 metres high. You’ll find refreshing permanent waterholes at Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.
Enjoy a peaceful evening by the campfire.
Discovery Kings Canyon has just been updated. A choice of accommodation in the Red Centre that suits all types of travellers: glamping tents with designer furnishings and Nespresso machines for families and couples, and newly refurbished Standard rooms. The next stage of development will see the Deluxe Spa rooms transformed.
All the rooms have the nice touches outback travellers look for: en suites, air conditioning, insect screens, fridges and include a buffet breakfast for two. Deluxe Spa Rooms have a spacious spa bath and private balcony overlooking the stunning rust-red escarpment. And if you need to post to your social media wi-fi is available in various locations across the resort.
The refurbished Discovery Kings Canyon has accommodation options for all travellers.
Meanwhile the campground, Discovery Parks – Kings Canyon, has backpackers’ accommodation, en suite sites and upgraded powered sites for caravans and motorhomes, and unpowered sites.
Campground guests have access to laundry, BBQ areas, convenience stores, a petrol station and restaurants and bars. Kids will love the swimming pool, and the outlook onto Kings Canyon surely trumps any other Red Centre camping site for scenery.
Families will love taking a dip in the pool.
Enjoy new dining options as well. Kings Canyon Bar & Grill has a cheerful rustic ambiance, with wooden bench tables, a central fireplace, live entertainment and classic Aussie pub dining such as BBQ dishes, gourmet burgers and wood-fired pizzas. Meanwhile Carmichael’s Restaurant, nestled into the bushland and shaded by trees, is open for a buffet-style breakfast and à la carte dinner, and has a menu inspired by local produce.
You can enjoy two other amazing dining experiences. Under A Desert Moon provides a five-course meal with wine, showcasing wonderful native flavours, in a secret outback location under a blaze of stars.
Don’t miss the magnificent show of red, pink and purple at sunset.
Meanwhile, take the short walk to Luritja Lookout and you’ll find a caravan serving hot and soft drinks, beer, wine, ice cream and nibbles perfect for that moment when the sun sets the landscape on fire as it descends behind Carmichaels Crag and George Gill Range in a magnificent show of red, pink and purple.
This oasis of comfort sits right in the heart of the Red Centre.
This oasis of comfort sits right in the heart of the Red Centre halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru on sealed roads, with alternative approaches on 4WD tracks. Kings Canyon, part of Watarrka National Park, is one of our great natural wonders and an important Indigenous cultural site. The rugged six-kilometre Rim Walk, taking you through beehive-shaped sandstone domes and to spectacular viewpoints, is the classic way to view it.
See the wildlife at Kings Canyon.
However, there’s much more to see and do, and visitors who only spend a night will miss out. Creek Walk takes you among the unexpected palm trees and cycads of the canyon’s floor. Seeing the national park by air is stunning. You can also learn more about Indigenous heritage by taking the Karrke Aboriginal Experience and hearing about local languages, bush tucker and other aspects of traditional life.
There’s much to see and do at Kings Canyon, so don’t miss out.