Palm Valley NT is located in the Finke Gorge National Park in the Northern Territory. It is one of those places you might never have heard of – we hadn’t before we got to Central Australia. It’s definitely a hidden gem in the Red Centre, somewhat overshadowed by it’s more famous neighbours Uluru, Kings Canyon and even the West MacDonnell Ranges. But if you’re on a Central Australia Road Trip and you have the time and a capable vehicle, this is one area you don’t want to miss!
The Finke Gorge National Park is around 140km west of Alice Springs, and has an area of 46,000 km2. Palm Valley is named after the Red Cabbage Palms which are only found in this area. We never expected to find palm trees in the middle of the Central Australian Desert. There are only around 3,000 adult palms in this area and thousands more juvenile palms. These seedlings and juveniles are very fragile. In addition to the palms, there are a number of other rare and unique plant species in this area.
We visited Palm Valley on a recommendation from the Alice Springs Visitors Centre. We are so glad we did! In our 2.5 year road trip around Australia, this is definitely one of our favourite places we’ve visited.
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How to get to Palm Valley NT
You will need a high-clearance 4wd vehicle to get to Palm Valley. If you don’t have your own capable vehicle, several tour companies offer a Day Trip to Palm Valley from Alice Springs.
From Alice Springs take Larapinta Drive to Hermannsburg and then just after Hermannsburg turn left (south) into the Finke Gorge National Park.
The road follows the Finke River, which is one of the oldest rivers in the world. At times you will be driving along the rocky river bed. The river was almost completely dry when we visited during July 2022. After 16km you will arrive at the Palm Valley Campground.
The road between the campground and Palm Valley itself is very rough. You will need a capable high-clearance 4×4 vehicle and 4×4 driving experience to negotiate this road. We left our campervan at the campsite and rode our Mountain Bikes the last 5km.
While the distance is only just over 20km between Hermannsburg and Palm Valley, the road is quite rough so you should allow plenty of time to cover the distance. It took us around an hour to drive to the campsite (including photo stops and putting the drone up).
NOTE: The road to Palm Valley NT is subject to closure after heavy rains. Check road conditions before you leave.
Best time to visit Palm Valley – Finke Gorge National Park
Finke Gorge National Park is open year around however the access road may be closed due to heavy rain. Check the road conditions before you travel.
The best time to visit Palm Valley is in the cooler winter months between April and October. The nights may be cool but the days will be a lot more pleasant for walking and visiting all the natural attractions of the Finke Gorge National Park.
Where to stay in Palm Valley
If you’re camping in Palm Valley you’ll be staying at the beautiful National Park campground. This campground is located between several of the best walks. Since early 2022, all Northern Territory National Park camping bookings need to be done online. Make sure you book before you go, as there is no phone/internet reception at the campsite.
The Palm Valley Campground has numbered campsites and a small overflow area if all the sites are full. The overflow also needs to be booked online. There are toilets and solar showers at this campsite. Our top tip is to shower early – mid afternoon, as the water is likely to be warmest then.
There are also communal fire pits in the campsite, but you’ll need to bring your firewood as collecting firewood in the park is forbidden.
Recent reviews of this campsite mention dingoes coming into camp during the night, so make sure you put away all food, cooking implements and rubbish. We didn’t see any dingoes when we visited.
When we visited in July 2022, it looked like a new accommodation facility was being built (you’ll see the glamping tents on the left as your heading to the campsite). However, we are unsure when this area will be open for bookings – check back!
Things to do in Palm Valley
The drive out to Palm Valley is a beautiful scenic drive and a great 4×4 adventure in itself. There are plenty of places to stop for a picnic on the way.
Palm Valley NT Walks
There are lots of options for hiking at Palm Valley, from short walks to longer hikes. We did a couple of walks in Palm Valley, and the scenery, red cliffs, rock formations and plant life is just beautiful.
This 5km loop will take around 2 hours. Leaving from the Kalarranda Carpark, head along the river before walking up the valley and over a saddle. Along the way you’ll see palm trees by the river, and an interesting signboard telling the story of the flood in 1988.
The views of the “ampitheatre” at the top of the saddle are just incredible. The red rock formations are rugged, and there is no sign of human habitation as far as the eye can see. This is the real outback!
The Mpaara Walk is a grade 3, moderate walk however, you’ll need a decent level of fitness for the climb up and over the saddle, and there were a couple of areas where I had to “butt-scoot” down.
We walked from the campsite to the Mpaara Walk, which added another 2km onto our walk. The trail from the campsite is clearly marked and fairly flat the whole way.
Kalarranda Lookout walk
This walk leaves from the same carpark, so many hikers choose to tack it on after completing the Mpaara Walk. The Kalarranda Lookout is around 2.5km and offers beautiful views along the valley.
The Mpulungkinya (pronounced Mool-ung-kin-ya) Walk is the longer of two walks that leave from the Palm Valley trailhead. The track from the campsite to Palm Valley is much rougher than the track in to the campsite. You will need a high-clearance 4×4 to get in here.
You may choose to walk this loop clockwise, but we preferred to visit the actual palm valley after the climb. So we headed up the ridge, walking anti-clockwise. After climbing up the ridge this trail leads to a lookout over the valley with more strands of palms. The views here are just beautiful.
Leaving the lookout you will head down and under an overhang. This is a beautiful spot to stop if it’s a hot day and you need some shade. We thought about indigenous people using this “cave” for thousands of years. Rejoining the river, you’ll see a few waterholes, and then arrive at the Palm Valley.
Due to the fragile nature of the environment, and risk of palm seedlings being trampled, the rangers have put matting down on the trail here. Stop and take a moment to listen to the breeze in the palm fronds, the birds twittering and feel the coolness of this desert oasis.
This shorter walk (2km, allow 1 hour) leaves from the Palm Valley car park and meanders down into the area of lush palms, before returning the same way.
On your way down to Palm Valley from the campsite, you will pass an area known as Cycad Gorge. There are West MacDonnell cycads here that are over 300 years old. It was weird to stand there thinking these plants had been here since before Europeans arrived in these lands.
Some people chose to drive this far and walk the rest of the way to Palm Valley.
Hermannsburg is the site of a historic Lutheran mission, dating back to 1877. Known by the local Western Arrente people as Ntaria, this is also the birthplace of renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira.
Under the leadership of German missionaries, relations with the local Arrente people were different to other areas of the country. The missionaries made the effort to learn the Arrente language and worked to keep the language alive, and keep children with their families. In return, many Arrente people were baptised, and by 2014 there were 24 Aboriginal pastors in the area.
Hermannsburg was handed back to the Arrente people in 1982, and the mission was heritage listed in 2001. The buildings are now empty, but have been preserved for visitors to enjoy.
The most famous artist from this area is Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) who inspired the Hermannsburg school of painting. Namatjira’s water painting style was more realistic, compared to the abstract designs of many other indigenous artists.
In addition to Albert Namatjira, the Hermannsburg Potters are well known for their ceramic art.
Watch our Palm Valley Travel Film
We visited Palm Valley NT in July 2022 and produced this travel film. We hope you enjoy seeing this beautiful area through our eyes.
You will need a valid NT Parks Pass to visit the Finke Gorge National Park. Permits can be purchased online. Being a National Park, no pets are permitted in Palm Valley.
There is no phone or internet reception at the campsite. There is a Telstra 3G booster just before the campsite, but we found these weren’t really strong enough for anything other than sending a text message.
You will need to bring all your food and water, and take your rubbish out with you when you go.
Do you need a 4wd to get to Palm Valley?
Yes, you will require a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle to get to Palm Valley. The first 16km to the campsite is relatively easy, although there are places where you drive along the dry riverbed of the Finke River. Other sections of the road can be very corrugated, so drop your tyre pressure and drive to the conditions.
The 4km from the campsite to Palm Valley is much rougher, and you will need 4×4 skills and experience in addition to a capable vehicle.
Can I join a Day Tour to Palm Valley NT?
Can you take a caravan to Palm Valley Finke Gorge?
The Palm Valley campground has a number of campsites suitable for off-road caravans and camper trailers. We drove in with our 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter campervan with no problems. We saw a variety of caravans and camper trailers at the campsite.