Australia’s red centre is well renowned for its iconic natural treasures, dramatic red landscapes, rich aboriginal culture, and mesmerising outdoor adventures. The heart of the great Australian outback and home to an array of breathtaking natural wonders, Australia’s Northern Territory offers a unique experience sure to get the feet moving and the blood pumping. From towering sandstone gorges to gravity-defying boulders, the Northern Territory is a breath of fresh air and one place you cannot miss on your next adventure down under.
Here are 4 of the best natural wonders to explore on your travels through the great Australian outback.
Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) is often referred to as the beating heart of the red centre. A natural wonderland and deeply spiritual place, the enormous monolith stands at a whopping 348m tall with its base stretching almost 10kms, making it one of the largest rocks in the world and the only one of its kind. The ancient monolith started forming over 550 million years ago when the entire area was submerged underwater. Sand and mud continued to solidify on the seafloor for thousands of years before eventually forming the sandstone rock we see today. Although the iconic rock is well known for its striking red hues, contrary to popular belief, Uluru was in fact originally grey. Rusting of the iron found in the arkose is the official reason behind its current reddish exterior. Standing taller than Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the impressive landmark holds significant spiritual value to the traditional owners – the Anangu people. Anangu locals believe the landmark was formed by ancestral beings millions of years ago during the dream time with various ceremonies still taking place in the sacred caves around the base. With the land officially returned to the traditional owners in 1985 and climbing of the rock closed in 2019, visitors can still marvel at this incredible spectacle via a 10.6km base walk, an Uluru camel tour, or a guided walk to Kantju Gorge.
Situated approximately 100kms south of Tennant Creek, the Devil’s Marbles are a unique formation of large granite boulders, defying gravity as they balance on top of one another. Formed over millions of years of weathering and erosion, this assembly of boulders continue to alter shape due to the endless exposure to the harsh elements of this remote desert area. Ranging in size from 50cm to upwards of 6m, this awe-inspiring phenomenon is quite surreal, acting as a form of natural art exhibition due to its striking nature. A deeply spiritual ambience surrounds this truly wondrous place, with countless traditional Dreamtime stories said to have been set in the Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve (Karlu Karlu). Still home to the traditional Warumungu people, various walkways and information boards have been erected to inform visitors of the history of this famous landmark with a short, guided tour exploring this fascinating geological phenomenon.
The towering sandstone walls of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park are one of the most breathtaking natural sights in Central Australia. Soaring over 100m above the idyllic Kings Creek, this impressive sandstone canyon offers visitors an incredibly scenic and inspiring perspective of the great Australian outback. 4 hours’ drive from its better-known cousin (Uluru), many tour groups passing through stop by the canyon to marvel at its complete rawness and stunning red hues. A hiker’s paradise, numerous walking trails line the canyon with the most popular – the 6km Rim Walk taking visitors from the bottom to the top for stunning views of the canyon walls and residing area. Experienced hikers can tackle the 22km Giles Track connecting Kings Canyon with magnificent Kathleen Springs. Another major attraction is the Garden of Eden – a permanent waterhole that breathes life into this somewhat taxing environment. Local aboriginal communities lead guided tours, sharing stories of the land and the remarkable history of this captivating ancient canyon.
Standley Chasm is a 3m wide gap inside a tall ancient gorge located in the rugged surrounds of the West MacDonnell Ranges, 50kms west of Alice Springs. The dramatic chasm, traditionally known as Angkerle Atwatye meaning ‘the gap of water’ was slowly carved out of the sandstone slopes over millions of years of erosion and weathering. Rainfall and floodwaters continued to engulf the gorge, slowly eating away at its striking sandstone walls. Once a tributary of the Finke River, these days the chasm remains bare, relieved of water due to the harsh conditions of its remote environment. Considered the land of the dreaming for local Arrernte women, the chasm is now privately owned and run by the Western Arrernte people, with guided tours offering visitors a unique cultural insight into the canyon and its natural surroundings. A 1.5km self-guided walk trail is also available showcasing the natural beauty of this spectacular sacred site and its rare species of native wildlife.
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