East MacDonnell Ranges

The ‘East Mac’s as the locals call them, stretch east from Alice Springs toward the Hale River and Ruby Gap Nature Reserve. The journey takes you through the historic mining town of Arltunga, the regions first major settlement established in 1887 when gold was discovered.


A Taste of the East Mac's - 1 Day


Take your time exploring the East MacDonnell Ranges including N’dhala Gorge, Trephine Gorge and historic Arltunga.

The East MacDonnell Ranges (‘East Mac’s’) are not as well-known as their sister range to the west, but are no less spectacular. They hold a rich Aboriginal and European history without the crowds you will find in the West Mac’s.

We start out from Alice Springs and soon find ourselves on pastoral tracks heading east until we come to the Ross River. We follow this normally dry river upstream, making numerous crossings until we get to N’dhala Gorge. The gorge is quiet and peaceful with rich colours and is home to one of the greatest collections of Aboriginal petroglyphs in Australia. There are over 6,000 engravings at this site.

We then head to Arltunga, Central Australia’s first significant settlement established in 1887 when gold was discovered. Many of the historic buildings have been restored to give an appreciation of how the township looked when it was a lively goldmining settlement.

You’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch under the shade of a large River Red Gum, common along the dry riverbeds in the area.

We then head to Trephina Gorge, one of the finest examples of the regions gorges, its rich red cliffs are contrast with the stark white trucks of the Ghost Gums. We take a short walk along the ridge and back down into the gorge to give you the best views. Alice Springs is a short hop from here, with a quick stop at Emily and Jessie Gaps if time permits.

$360.00 per adult

$180.00 per child 5-13 years


Ruby Gap - East MacDonnell Ranges studying the geology

East MacDonnell Ranges - 2 Days


The best way to get a real taste of the East Mac’s is to camp under the stars in a typical Red Centre setting, taking two days to explore this beautiful area.

We take two days to explore the ranges visiting the highlights of N’dhala Gorge, Arltunga historic township and Trephina Gorge and Ruby Gap where we bush camp in comfort and style. This is a quintessential Red Centre experience and really should be that should be added to any itinerary.

On day one we take off from Alice Springs in the early morning and are soon using cattle station tracks that take us to the Ross River. We follow this normally dry river bed ’upstream’ to N’dhala Gorge. This is culturally a very significant site for the Eastern Arrente people. It contains more than 6,000 petroglyphs, or rock carvings, carved more than 3,000 years ago.

From here we take the journey to Ruby Gap Nature Reserve where the Hale River has carved a gorge through the ancient mountain range. The drive takes us through spectacular scenery, over mountains and across dry rivers. We drive up the dry river bed to get to the gorge and Ruby Gap, mistakenly named after the plentiful garnets were thought to be rubies. Garnets are still in abundance in the river sand. Take a walk up the gorge and enjoy the rich colours in the rock changing as the sun sets.

After a breakfast and a leisurely morning at camp we head to Arltunga, officially Central Australia's first town, it was established in 1887 after gold was found in the dry creek bed. Today a number of the old buildings have been restored to give you a sense of how tough life must have been in this harsh environment.

On to Trephina Gorge, this is the quintessential Red Centre gorge, with its white river sand, red cliffs and the famous Ghost Gums perched precariously on them. We take a walk to the top of the gorge to get the best views. Then it’s back to Alice in the late afternoon.

$980.00 per adult

$490.00 per child 5-13 years


Overnight campsite in Ruby Gorge