DESTINATION: KINGS CANYON, NORTHERN TERRITORY
Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park should high on your list of great places to see in Australia – and it won’t cost the earth to see it.
Kings Canyon is located inside Watarrka National Park and is sometimes overlooked when travellers go to see the world famous red centre icons — Uluru and Kata Tjuta (aka Ayres Rock and The Olgas). Kings Canyon is really quite easy to get to and the road is sealed all the way from Alice Springs. Apart from a few tanks of fuel to get there, the rest of the journey is quite inexpensive.
As you leave Alice Springs take the Stuart Highway and turn onto the Lasseter Highway, then take the Luritja Road which goes all the way to Kings Canyon. There’s plenty of wildlife around these outback roads so daytime driving is a safer option than driving at dusk or after dark.
The Kings Canyon Holiday Park provides a picturesque spot to set up camp. It features grassy campsites with plenty of shade beneath the trees. Powered sites cost $48 for a family. For bookings call (08) 8956 7442.
There are also very affordable and appealing camp sites at the Kings Creek Station — about 36kms away from Kings Canyon. The sites are set amongst desert oaks and on a real working cattle station, so while you’re there you can get a taste of life on the land in the Australian outback. You can try horse riding, camel riding and even quad biking. For hotter times of year there’s a pool to cool off in at the end of the day’s adventures. A powered site (for a family of four) costs $48.00 per night and there are discounts for seniors. For bookings, phone (08) 8956 7474.
DISCOVERING KINGS CANYON
The canyon itself is free to enter and is nothing short of spectacular. The main walk is known as the rim walk. It leads around the rim of the canyon’s sheer sandstone walls.
Along the way you’ll get some fabulous views along the canyon and down into the valley below. The vivid impression you get looking along the white and red sandstone cliffs of the canyon is the sheer unbelievable smoothness of the cliff walls — almost as if they’ve been sliced like butter by some ancient dreamtime creature (with a very sharp knife).
The cliffs tower 270m above the valley floor — about the height of a very tall city skyscraper. The rim walk will take you around 3-4 hours. At times it’s pretty exposed so it’s best to go in the early morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is not directly overhead.
GARDEN OF EDEN
If you have time it’s worth walking down into the bottom of the chasm, between the sandstone cliffs. It’s like a little tropical oasis down there — a lovely relief from the hot outback sun. A naturally occurring waterhole fed by a spring has encouraged a wide variety of plants and trees to grow there, including giant ferns which are an amazing sight in the middle of the arid outback.
SUNSET VIEWING AREA
There’s a spot set aside for sunset viewing and it’s an ideal site for watching the canyon cliffs in the fading light as they transform through a range of incredibly rich colours. And of course, the central Australian sky at sunset is surely one of the greatest free shows on earth.
There are several other excellent walks around the area, including the Kings Creek Walk which is much easier than the rim walk, taking around one hour. You can also enjoy the easy Kathleen Springs Walk and be rewarded at the end with a fresh water pool, barbecue and toilets.
You can get to Kings Canyon all year round on well made roads, but the most comfortable time to visit is during the cooler winter months.
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia #64, April/May 2013