National Parks in Alice Springs - Campervan Guide

Which are the best National Parks to visit around Alice Springs?

Nestled in the heart of Australia's Red Centre, Alice Springs is a gateway to some of the country's most striking and varied national parks. Whether you're a seasoned globe-trotter or simply yearning for an escape from the city's hustle, these national parks promise to enchant and inspire you with their captivating natural wonders.

Here are some top national parks to explore around Alice Springs:

Uluru-Kata Tjuta: This park is home to the legendary Uluru, or Ayers Rock, which encapsulates the spirit of Australia's arid desert. Held sacred by the local Anangu people, visitors can pay their respects and admire this incredible sandstone monolith by strolling around its base.

Watarrka: A hidden treasure often overlooked, Watarrka boasts the magnificent Kings Canyon, a sight that leaves visitors speechless. This park is like an oasis in the desert, with majestic red rock formations, lush greenery, and pristine pools that invite a refreshing dip.

West MacDonnell: Stretching over 140 km west of Alice Springs, this park is an absolute paradise for nature lovers. From the enchanting Standley Chasm to the soothing waterholes of Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park should be on every Outback adventurer's itinerary.

Nitmiluk: Also known as Katherine Gorge, this park features a series of breathtaking gorges sculpted by the Katherine River over eons. Visitors can choose to cruise along the river at a leisurely pace, soar above the gorges on a scenic flight, or navigate the awe-inspiring rock formations by foot.

How much is campervan entry to national parks in the Northern Territory? Are permits required?

There are over 80 national parks, nature reserves, conservation areas and marine parks in the Northern Territory. As of April 3, 2023, a Park Pass is required for visitors to access the majority of national parks and reserves in the Northern Territory (NT).

The park pass pricing is as follows:

  • Adult: $10 day pass, $30 two-week pass & $60 for an open pass valid for 12 months
  • Child: $5 day pass, $15 two-week pass & $30 for an open pass valid for 12 months
  • Family: $25 day pass, $75 two-week pass & $150 for an open pass valid for 12 months

Once you have purchased a pass, it grants you access to all parks and reserves under the management of the Northern Territory Government for the specified validity period.

The two exceptions are Kakadu and Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Parks, which fall under the management of Parks Australia and the Australian Government requiring their own Parks Pass to visit.

Park pass fees (January to December) for Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa are:

  • $38 per adult three-day park pass or $50 per adult annual pass (children under 17 are free) for Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa
  • $109 Northern Territory annual vehicle fee for NT residents to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa

Alternatively, grab a pass at the entry station en route to Uluṟu if you can't buy it online. The pass comes with a digital QR code, which you must scan at the barcode reader by the entry station.

Park pass fees for Kakadu are:

  • Tropical Summer (November to May): $25 per adult and $12.50 per child (5-15 years) or $65 for a family permit for a 7-day pass

  • Dry Season (May to October): $40 per adult and $20 per child (5-15 years) or $100 for a family permit for a 7-day pass

NT residents are exempt from obtaining a park pass, with the exception of Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa. However, proof of residency, such as a valid NT driver's license, may be requested upon visiting the other parks.

Australian seniors and concession card holders are entitled to discounts on all park passes.

Most national parks around Alice Springs have designated camping areas charging nominal fees starting at $6 per adult to stay overnight in a campervan without needing a permit. However, you do need to book online in advance to secure your spot, as you can’t pay at the park. If you plan to stay overnight outside a designated camping area, you will need to apply for a permit. These permits only cost $10 for a family or $4 per adult, so it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy some of the best beauty spots around Alice Springs. Being self-sufficient will be required.

If you are travelling long distances and just require somewhere to take a break and rest up, there are designated road rest stops that allow sleeping overnight. These service areas are located on the region’s three major highways:

  • Stuart Highway
  • Barkly Highway
  • Victoria Highway

To avoid driver fatigue, take 15-minute breaks every 2 hours.

Popular National Parks in Alice Springs

Kata Tjuta

Also known as the Olgas, some travellers find these dramatic dome-shaped formations more impressive than Uluru. The biblical Valley of the Winds trail snakes through the 36 ochre-hued rocks, passing vibrant fields of wildflowers and narrow canyons en route.

Kings Canyon

This cragged, deep red canyon has spectacular scenery fit for a king. As one of the Red Centre’s most remarkable sites, the spellbinding detour is well worth the drive. Tackle the Rim Walk to admire its lush sheltered gardens and course, wind-eroded domes on an otherworldly 6km hike.

Ormiston Gorge

The most gorgeous gorge of the West McDonnell Ranges wows visitors with its rugged outback scenes. The moderately strenuous 8.5km Ormiston Pound loop soaks up the staggering terrain. You can also enjoy a taster on the more accessible Ghost Gum route or the wheelchair-friendly Waterhole Walk. Sweaty? Cool off with an ice-cold dip.