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GORGEous family memories in the West MacDonnell Ranges

My husband Wes and I visited the West MacDonnell Ranges in late May with our two-year-old daughter, Iggy. Bouncing around from one GORGEous spot to another was easy in just a few days, as all the main attractions are a relatively short distance from each other. For us to explore SO much and in such little time is saying a lot, as travelling with a toddler does not always go so swiftly… 

Rough Beginnings in West MacDonnell Ranges

 We took the loop around the Ranges (via Hermannsburg). We were disappointed to find Hermannsburg shut, now closed Mondays & Tuesdays (but not updated on-line). We’d been excited by the prospect of learning about this historic sight…and trying their famous scones. 

We pushed on, with excitement for the natural beauties ahead. Redbank Gorge was first up. We had heard it could be accessed with a 2WD, so we set off slowly and steadily in our Mercedes Sprinter camper. We were so close to the end of the road, when up ahead a hire campervan was stuck in a dry riverbed. Wes (along with a couple of other campers) got out to help them through. They were winched free…but we decided we didn’t want to risk it. Surely our luck was about to change. 

Interested in hiking at Redbank Gorge? Check out more information here. 

father crossing the river ormiston gorge west macdonnell national park northern territory
River crossing Ormiston Gorge
Iggy on sandy banks Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge Reflections

As Luck Would Have It in West MacDonnell Ranges

After getting off to a “Rocky” start, we made it to Ormiston Gorge, and as luck would have it, the kiosk had scones and cream. Yahoo! We didn’t miss out after all. We were also lucky to grab the last camping spot, at a bargain price of $10pp. Things were suddenly looking up. We walked the scones off with a very short walk to the waterhole. It was stunning! The surrounding red rock of the gorge and the Ghost Gum trees were reflected in the water, mirroring the beauty from above. It was a serene afternoon spent on the sandy shore. A couple of people jumped in for a dip. It was icy cold and there were also a few dead fish in the water, which didn’t entice us (*dead fish are completely normal for the season). 

The next morning, we walked the Ghost Gum trail (banner picture). Iggy walked it solo, if a two-year old can do it, anyone can. A water-crossing is required. Wes crossed halfway and tested it with a long stick…it was nipple deep and a little chilly, so we passed this up and returned the way we came.

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Little Ripper & Big Beauty in West MacDonnell Ranges

A short drive and a peanut butter sandwich later, we were at Serpentine Gorge. It was smaller, and the walking trail didn’t extend far. It was very pretty, but it didn’t have a resting place good for kiddos, so after briefly admiring it, we headed off to Standley Chasm. Known traditionally as Angkerle Atwatye, Standley Chasm is privately owned by the Western Arrernte people and camping is $18.50pp/per night (including access to Chasm). An upgrade from the previous night, Standley Chasm had hot showers and free use of a washing machine (be prepared to line up though, as large groups trekking the Larapinta trail stop here too, so people outnumber facilities).

father and daughter walking in standley chasm west macdonnell national park northern territory
Iggy and Wes Standley Chasm
Serpentine Gorge
Dad and Iggy Simpsons Gap
Simpsons Gap

Standley Chasm’s impressive height left us in awe. We felt like ants. It was so pretty to view it in the late afternoon light. Iggy loved that she could make her voice echo. She also enjoyed getting her feet wet in the small pool at the end.

We ended our trip to the West MacDonnell Ranges the next day at Simpsons Gap. Wow, it was cool here. The wind seemed to cut right through the middle of the gorge. But it was worth being cold for. We stayed a long time to enjoy the quiet. Iggy had fun drawing in the sand and throwing tiny pebbles in the water. 

Check out when the best time to visit West MacDonnell National park here

If you want to hear about more of our adventures, catch our weekly videos on YouTube: Life is VANderful and we are on Instagram @life_is_vanderful

We hope you have an amazing time visiting the West MacDonnell Ranges in the National Park! We would love your feedback – please comment below if you’ve been or if you have any questions or suggestions.

You can always get more inspiration for other National Parks to visit by following @northerhq or get your West MacDonnell National Park daily fix @westmacdonnellnationalpark

Picture of Jess and Wes

Jess and Wes

We are Jess, Wes and 2yr-old, Issy. At the end of 2021 we sold our house and our possessions and packed up our van "Bevan" to tour Australia. We are "Life is Vanderful".

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