Finke Gorge NP

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - 6 Of The Best - Info: When to go: April-Oc­to­ber Grade: Mod­er­ate-chal­leng­ing

FOR A FAN­TAS­TIC out­back tour­ing ad­ven­ture that of­fers the con­ve­nience of not be­ing too far from a ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­tre, but also that lusted-af­ter re­mote camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, a long weekend driv­ing, camp­ing in and ex­plor­ing this na­tional park is hard to beat. Finke Gorge NP is named af­ter the eons-old river that flows (some­times) through it, and its 460km² con­tains a mix of ter­rain and veg­e­ta­tion, in­clud­ing the red cab­bage palm tree, found in the park’s aptly named Palm Val­ley. For this long weekend es­cape, this fa­mous des­ti­na­tion doubles as the first night’s camp, with the ex­cel­lent camp­ground hav­ing toi­lets, wa­ter, fire­places and an in­for­ma­tion booth. It is also the start-point for some walks: the Mpu­lungkinya (5km) and Arankaia (2km) walks, as well as the 45-min track up Kalar­ranga Look­out.

From here, the re­mote desert ad­ven­ture re­ally be­gins; con­tin­u­ing south along the Finke River 4WD Route (be ad­vised this is a very re­mote route, so be well pre­pared and have a sat­phone or EPIRB) will see you tra­verse ev­ery­thing from kilo­me­tres of dry sandy riverbed to wa­ter­holes and wa­ter cross­ings, while pass­ing old home­steads and po­lice sta­tion ru­ins. This park is in­cred­i­bly scenic; as you drive along the sandy floor of the gorge the an­cient wa­ter­way has cut into the land­scape, the tow­er­ing river red gums and sheer red-rock cliffs loom high above. Boggy Hole is a pop­u­lar camp­site for your sec­ond night and it is another con­trast; rich lush green reeds sur­round this im­mense wa­ter­hole, with con­trast­ing red cliff faces on the op­po­site banks to the camp­site. The best part of this ad­ven­ture is that you can camp where you like – bush camp­ing is al­lowed.

There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for young ad­ven­tur­ers; this writer’s daugh­ter spent hours ex­plor­ing the sur­rounds of our camp each evening, plus helped gather fire­wood or chased frogs in small wa­ter­holes. The last day of the jour­ney sees rich-red sand dunes tra­versed as you con­tinue to­ward the park’s south­ern bound­ary. A side trip here is Il­la­murta Springs Con­ser­va­tion Re­serve. It has a per­ma­nent spring and old po­lice sta­tion ru­ins. From here, you re­join the Finke River 4WD Route and con­tinue south to Ernest Giles Road for the re­turn to Alice. Not a bad long weekend es­cape.

As you drive along the sandy floor of the gorge the an­cient wa­ter­way has cut into the land… sheer red-rock cliffs loom high above

The Finke Gorge NP long weekend will have you camp­ing in the desert one minute, then cross­ing wa­ter­ways the next.

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