19 Dec Best Stargazing Getaway – Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park, NT
Stargazers, look no further. Ormiston Gorge is the best place to look up into the heavens. Located in West MacDonnell National Park in Central Australia, it’s free from light pollution making it the perfect set-up for stargazing. Located 135km from Alice Springs, you can reach Ormiston Gorge via Larapinta Drive or Namatjira Drive. The roads are sealed which makes for easy driving.
The gorge is the main attraction. Walking the tracks surrounding the gorge is a fantastic way to see the beauty of the West MacDonnel ranges. There are many tracks to choose from and all of them can be covered at an easy pace. However, if you‘re up for a challenge, you can take the Ormiston-Pound walk which takes roughly 3-4 hours and covers the entire loop beginning and ending at the gorge. Just be careful and make sure to take the necessary precautions if you’re doing the walk in summer –the heat can get pretty intense!
The Larapinta trail also passes the park. You can take the Section 9 trail which is graded as hard (rough, narrow trail with steep climbs) or Section 10 trail which is a medium (a narrow track that requires a bit of climbing). These walks are a great way to learn more about the range’s plantlife and wildlife, and why the park is a significant flora and fauna refuge.
If you have a lot of time, you can also go for a 3-day hike which will take your from Ormiston Gorge to Redbank Gorge. If you have 4 days, you can take a side trip to Finke River and Rocky Bar before heading to Redbank Gorge. For a 2-day hike, you can go as far as Hilltop Lookout which has a fantastic view of the ranges and stay the night in Section 11.
Another popular activity in the gorge is swimming. The Ormiston Gorge has a near-permanent swimming hole that’s roughly 500 metres from the Visitors Centre. Diving in after a day’s hike is the best way to refresh and recharge however, the water can be really cold even during summer so be careful! That said, swimming is a no-go during the colder months.
When night falls, the sky over the gorge is magical and perfectly complements the majesty of the ranges. Because the gorge is isolated from artificial light, the sky comes off really clear and the stars and satellites come in perfect display. It can be pretty romantic so consider this an anniversary destination if you and your partner are adventurous. And don’t skip this experience if you are into astrophotography.
Where to camp
The campsite at Ormiston Gorge has good facilities –toilets and showers for the campers and a separate toilet block for the day visitors. Seating and cooking facilities are also available so you can make your own food. You’d also be happy to know that there is a booth that sells coffee 7 days a week.
Camping fees apply starting with $5 for children, $10 for adults, and $20 for families. There are only 10 spots in the campgrounds so come in early.
The camping grounds at the gorge seems to be better suited for caravans and campers than tents because the ground is hard and setting up can be difficult. Or you can bring dome tents which don’t need to be pegged into the ground.
The park is most crowded during winter. If this is an issue, you can camp at Two Mile which is near the banks of the Finke River. Two Mile is accessed via Glen Helen, a 10km drive. Go right instead of left to Glen Helen to get to the campgrounds. Keep in mind though that you will need a 4WD to take this road.
Water is limited in both campgrounds so bring a lot of your own or at the very least, bring treatment tablets that you can use on water that you collect.
Above Image Source: Aliesha Mandy Photography facebook.com