Although it may not have the renown of its western counterpart, the East MacDonnell Range is still brimming with interesting sites to explore. The access roads are only sealed as far as Trephina Gorge, so it’s an ideal location to try heading off the beaten track if you have a four-wheel drive.
The first spots to stop and explore are Emily and Jessie gaps. Protected in the Yeperenye/Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park, these areas are important sites for the Eastern Arrernte Aboriginal people.
Another taste of this ancient culture is available in the rock art at Trephina Gorge Nature Park. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic, or even camp overnight if you have more time for exploring. The park also contains John Hayes Rockhole, where you can go for a cooling dip. You’ll need a four-wheel drive to get to the rockhole.
If you fancy a stay in the East MacDonnell Range that isn’t basic camping, then head to Ross River Resort. Only a short drive from the resort is the striking N’Dhala Gorge. With its numerous rock engravings, N’Dhala Gorge provides another insight into the Aboriginal history and culture of this area.
If you’re up for some more four-wheel-drive exploration, then see the ruins of Central Australia’s first town at Arltunga. The Arltunga Historical Reserve has self-guided walks for exploring the old mining sites and ruins. If you want to try your luck fossicking, head to the designated fossicking area, which is outside the reserve. Nearby, Hale River Homestead is another option for accommodation while you explore the East MacDonnell Range.
There’s also more mining-boom history at Ruby Gap Nature Park, which is only accessible to high clearance four-wheel drives. This remote location needs an overnight stay to allow enough time to explore properly, and visitors need to be well prepared as there are no facilities. Walks here are only suitable for experienced hikers too.