The Mereenie Loop Road
Driving Between Alice Springs And Uluru/Kings Canyon
The unsealed Mereenie Loop Road lets you drive directly from Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park) to the West MacDonnell Ranges - or the other way round - without backtracking.
It is a lovely drive through some beautiful desert country, certainly more appealing than the much longer detour along the sealed highway.
© Tourism NT
If you want to visit not only Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, but also want to see the West MacDonnells, or maybe Finke Gorge National Park (Palm Valley) and Hermannsburg, then you will probably use it.
What do you need to know?
The Mereenie Loop Road is an unsealed road and four wheel drive is recommended, but you usually don't need it. The only exception may be after rain, if the road has been damaged, or if it is still wet. If it rained recently the road may be closed.
But as I said, usually any car is just fine. All you have to deal with are pretty bad corrugations (unless you are lucky and they just graded it).
Be aware however, that hired vehicles are not usually allowed on unsealed roads at all, no matter how good the road!
The Mereenie Loop Road takes you through Aboriginal country, so you need a permit (see below) and you are not allowed to do anything here. Don't leave the road, don't park and go walking, no picnicking, no camping, no nothing.
The only place where you are allowed to pull up is the official "Jump-up" Lookout and rest area, not far north of the Watarrka National Park border.
The distance of the Mereenie Loop itself (the part that requires a permit, see below) is 93 km.
The distances between the nearest accommodation options / fuel outlets are as follows:
- Kings Canyon Resort - Hermannsburg: 197 km
- Kings Canyon Resort - Glen Helen Outback Resort: 225 km
The Mereenie Tour Pass costs A$ 2.20 (as of 2012) and is only issued on the day you are driving! (I tried to get one the night before so we could leave early. No such luck...)
The pass includes your transit permit, a coulour brochure of the area and a map.
You can buy a permit at the Alice Springs Tourist Office, in Hermannsburg, at Glen Helen, and at Kings Canyon Resort.