1. Chambers Pillar
A 50m-high sandstone pillar towering above the desert, Chambers Pillar is both a scenic icon and an historical marker. The Pillar has stood sentry over the region for 350 million years and is significant to travellers both recent and ancient; it is part of a Dreamtime story within local indigenous tribes and has carvings on it from European explorers in 1870.
Situated half-way between Finke and Alice Springs, Chambers Pillar is an imposing sight on the edge of the Simpson Desert. There’s a campground nearby, which means you can happily enjoy the sight of the sandstone turning bright orange at sunrise and sunset from the comfort of your campsite.
2. Simpson Desert
The conventional crossings of the Simpson Desert – the QAA Line, the French Line, the Rig Road and the WAA Line – are all close at hand from Finke and the Red Centre at large. It’s simply a matter of driving the approximately 98km track from Apatula (Finke) to Mt Dare, from which the Simpson opens up to four-wheel driving.
With its rolling dunes and desolate beauty, the Simpson Desert is one of Australia’s most important off-road destinations. Parts of it lie in three different states, and some of its dunes (most notably Big
3. The Old Ghan Line
The Old Ghan once ran along the Central Australia Railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs from 1926, but the railway was made obsolete once a new standard gauge line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs was completed in 1980. Today, aged relics of the railways early history are still in evidence throughout the area, and particularly along the journey from Finke to Alice Springs along the Old Ghan Heritage Trail.
4. Binns Track
Starting at Mt Dare on the South Australia border and ending in Timber Creek in the Top End, Binns Track is essentially a 2,230km-long off-road tour of the Northern Territory. Taking in sights such as Ruby Gap (east of Alice Springs), abandoned gold mines at Arltunga, the Devils Marbles/Karlu Karlu and the seasonal landscapes of places like Judbarra/Gregory National Park, Binns Track offers a true cross-section of things to see and do in one continuous 4WD trip.
5. Old Andado Station
The historic homestead of Old Andado captures an element of Australian Outback life and culture. Sitting in the swale between two Simpson Desert dunes, this small collection of buildings gives visitors a peek into a life of self-sufficiency amongst challenging and remote conditions.
A pioneer and last resident of the homestead, Molly Clark, passed away in 2012, but the almost 100-year-old structures of Old Andado are still being maintained today. A walk through the station is an easy way to transport yourself to a simpler lifestyle in the Outback, but also one that required graft and persistence.
6. Henbury Meteorite Crater Site
Almost 5,000 years ago, the Henbury meteor crashed into Earth 145km south-west of where Alice Springs is today, leaving 12 craters in the desert. Ranging from a mere seven metres to 180 metres in width, Henbury is one of the best-preserved meteor impact sites in the world.
At the site, you can take a walk to investigate each of the places hit by the scattered pieces of meteor, and you can also camp in the reserve for an extended experience. Just remember that you’ll need to bring your own water and firewood for an overnight stay.
7. Rainbow Valley
Famed for its unique sandstone formations and rock art, Rainbow Valley is significant for numerous reasons. Accessed 75km south of Alice Springs, Rainbow Valley is most impressive when it’s hit by the waning light of sunset, however during the daylight hours it’s also impressive.
You can walk around the valley’s most prominent formation, getting up close with the banded layers of sandstone that have been sacred to local tribes for thousands of years. As a bonus, there is a campsite at Rainbow Valley with basic facilities (toilets, gas barbecues, fire pits and a picnic area), which makes a visit to the valley all the more appealing.
8. Tjorita (West MacDonnell Ranges)
A majestic mountain range west of Alice Springs, the West Macs are a hotbed of scenic attractions and inimitable Red Centre landscapes. Tjoritja’s most iconic locations are its permanent and semi-permanent waterholes, which have carved their way through valleys and gorges for hundreds of thousands of years. The list of spots worth a visit is lengthy, but each one is unique in its own way: Redbank Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, Simpsons Gap, Serpentine Gorge, the Ellery Creek Big Hole, Glen Helen Gorge and Standley Chasm to name a few.
Topping the ranges is the Larapinta Trail, which is one of Australia’s most renowned hiking trails. With so many highlights along the way and stunning terrain to traverse, it’s easy to understand why the Larapinta is so in-demand.