A Thrilling 2WD Journey Through The West MacDonnell Ranges

Picture this: a dusty 2WD van stocked to the brim with essentials, rolling out of Alice Springs en route to the West MacDonnell Ranges. This was my friend Jonas and me in September 2023. With tanks full and spirits high, our adventure began with a buzz of excitement.

Picture of Simpsons Gap with a woman holding the hat on her head
Simpsons Gap by @alexi.tri on IG

Making Friends at Simpsons Gap

Having made sure to pit stop at the Visitor Centre in Alice Springs before starting our trip to check which roads were accessible for my 2WD van, we set off to our first stop along the 2WD-safe Namatjira Drive.

On our way to Simpsons Gap, the landscape unfolded a spectrum of vibrant hues, a prelude to the stunning sights that awaited us. However, as soon as we stepped out of the van at our first stop, the first to greet us was an army of persistent flies, seemingly determined to become our new best friends.

Undeterred, we kept walking on and quickly found peace between Simpsons Gap’s tall rock walls and water holes. The gorge was stunning and surprisingly deserted, peaceful and calm.

As a photographer, the lack of crowds was a dream come true, allowing me to capture the gorge’s beauty without another soul around – except for our determined fly entourage that was still vying for its own moment in the spotlight!


Surprising Luxury of Standley Chasm

Our next stop, Standley Chasm, required a small admission fee of $12 as the Western Arrernte people privately own it. But the stunning gorge made it well worth the price, and Standley Chasm quickly became my favourite spot in the national park.

Plus, the campground at the site turned out to be one of the best campsites in a national park that I’ve seen during my Australia travels. For $ 16.50 per person/night, it offered clean facilities with hot showers, free use of the washing machine, a kitchen area, AND access to the Chasm.

As the evening rolled in and we sat down for dinner, the flies returned in full force, making our mealtime a constant swatting game. With no mosquito head net in sight, I had to get creative and use the window mosquito net from the van to fashion a head net, giving me a bit of peace for the rest of the day.


Picture of Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm by @alexi.tri

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Picture of Ellery Creek in West MacDonnell National Park
Ellery Creek by @alexi.tri on IG

A Chilly Surprise

The following day, we headed out to Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge, excited for a cool swim to beat the heat. But when I stuck my toe in the water, I was in for a shock – it was freezing! With temperatures around 30°C, it seemed the temperature and Outback sun hadn’t heated me enough to be willing to take a cold jump.

Instead, I stayed outside the water and soaked up the vibrant red and orange colours of the rock formations surrounding the waterholes before returning to Alice Springs. The play of colours in the West MacDonnell Ranges was something I hadn’t seen anywhere else before!



Exploring the West MacDonnell Ranges

If you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten path with your 2WD, definitely check out the West MacDonnell Ranges. Just do yourself a favour, and remember to pack your mosquito head net!

And if you want to hear more about my adventures, have a look on my travel blog Wanderlust by alexi.tri or check out my Instagram @alexi.tri.


Picture of a bird perched on a tree
Photo by @alexi.tri on IG

Remember to pack your sense of adventure, respect for nature, and an open mind as you set out to discover the West MacDonnell Ranges. Leave only footprints behind as you traverse the trails and immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of the National Park! We would love your feedback – we encourage you to share your experiences, questions, and suggestions in the comments below. 

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

*Cover image is by @alexi.tri on IG

Picture of Alex


Alex is a photographer and full-time traveler from Germany. In 2022, she quit her finance job and embarked on the biggest adventure of her life to travel the world solo. In 2023, she explored the vast landscapes of Australia as a Working Holiday Maker in her trusty old van.

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