Places to go, Darwin & Surrounds, Northern Territory, Australia

Simpson Desert, Alice Springs & surrounds

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The Simpson Desert is a vast expanse of rolling dunes, seemingly endless horizons and deep red sand. See the brilliant wildflowers, rare pine trees and unique wildlife that thrives in the harsh desert environment.

This vast desert covers the southeast corner of the Northern Territory, and extends over the South Australia and Queensland borders. Many attractions located on its fringes can be accessed on a day trip from Alice Springs. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required to navigate the sandy terrain. If you don't have a vehicle or the confidence to head off-road there are organised tours into the Simpson Desert from Alice Springs.

Landmarks in the landscape

Rainbow Valley is a spectacular sandstone bluff with bands of colour that is at its most spectacular in the early or late light of the day. Chambers Pillar is a towering 50-metre column of pebbly sandstone – all that remains after 350 million years of wind and rain erosion. At Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve ancient rock carvings and petroglyphs are a fascinating record of the beliefs of the local Arrernte people.

Take a (four-wheel) drive

In the Simpson Desert you will find some of the best four-wheel driving in Australia. The Binns Track runs parallel to the Stuart Highway from South Australia to Timber Creek, NT where it connects with routes into WA. Old Andado Track  follows the Desert's western edge to the town of Finke. Rolling sand dunes and challenging terrain make this a challenging driving experience through this desert territory that has been seen by very few people.

Visit Aboriginal art centres

Join a tour or organise a permit so that you can visit the Aboriginal communities in the region. Santa Theresa art centre, located about one hour south east of Alice Springs, is famous for the intricate and colourful work of the local artists. More than 30 indigenous artists live and paint, carve or sculpt at Titjikala community, which is open daily.

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