One of the star attractions of central Australia’s West MacDonnell Ranges, Ormiston Gorge has stark red walls that house an almost permanent waterhole and attractive ghost gum trees. Facilities include a visitor center, a campground, and a kiosk, while the gorge forms the trailhead for sections 9 and 10 of the Larapinta Trail.
Ormiston Gorge tours start from Alice Springs, the tourism epicenter of Australia’s Red Centre. Camp under the stars on a multi-day 4WD Outback Australia adventure featuring iconic sites such as Ayers Rock (Uluru), the Olgas (Kata Tjuta), and Kings Canyon. Alternatively, head out on a day trip, perhaps combining Ormiston Gorge with other West MacDonnell National Park (Tjoritja) highlights such as Ellery Creek Big Hole and Simpsons Gap. You might also visit while hiking the Larapinta Trail.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ormiston Gorge is a must for photographers, Instagrammers, landscape lovers, and geology enthusiasts.
- Temperatures in the waterhole can be extremely cold. Think twice before jumping in during the heat of the day.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring plenty of water and bug spray.
- Closed shoes are advisable when walking here.
- Ormiston Gorge is reasonably accessible by Northern Territory standards, with accessible bathrooms, an accessible overlook, and parking suitable for travelers with disabilities. A paved, wheelchair-friendly path runs down to the waterhole.
How to Get There
Ormiston Gorge sits in the West MacDonnell Ranges, central Australia, around 84 miles (135 kilometers) west of Alice Springs. There is no public transport, and many international travelers prefer the convenience of a door-to-door tour from Alice Springs to discovering left-side driving. A few hardy hikers arrive by way of the long-distance Larapinta Trail.
When to Get There
As with other natural attractions in Australia’s Red Centre, avoid visiting Ormiston Gorge during the heat of the Australian summer (December through February). The light is best just after sunrise, when you are also more likely to have the site to yourself, although this is far from guaranteed, especially over Australian vacation periods and on weekends. Note that kiosk hours can vary.
Ormiston Gorge Walks
You don’t need to hike the 139-mile (223-kilometer) Larapinta Trail to experience Ormiston Gorge. The 20-minute Ghost Gum Lookout walk delivers dramatic views of the gorge’s quartzite walls; the half-day Ormiston Pound walk reveals the area’s unique geology; or simply stroll up to the waterhole for a quick dip. Walking trails are clearly marked.