Oasis in the desert: BIG4 MacDonell Ranges Holiday Park

The MacDonnell Ranges Holiday Park truly is an oasis in the desert. Located just outside Alice Springs at the base of the rocky, red Eastern Macs, this caravan park has it all! The kids will be entertained for hours on the two, huge jumping pillows, in the sand pit, playground and games room. There is a swimming complex with a lap pool, heated deep pool, shallow kiddie pool and a large, twisting water slide.

Accommodation is vast and includes villas, cabins, powered en suite and unpowered sites. The BBQ facilities are spacious and clean as are the communal bathrooms. The staff are friendly and maintenance and grounds crews roam the park keeping it tidy.

The powered en suite sites provide a private bathroom with toilet, shower and tub, sink and water and power connection. Each site has a thick, green carpet of grass and shady trees even though you’re in the desert (highly recommended).

Inside the main office there is a well-stocked convenience store and check-in and check-out was a breeze. I was given ample amounts of both park and area visitor information.

While at the pool, one of the long-term residents warned me to keep the vehicles locked at night. Despite the fencing and security boom gate, theft is common. We never had a problem (spent five days, four nights).

Rating: 5 stars

BIG4 MacDonnell Ranges Holiday Park, Palm Pl, Ross NT 0870
1800 808 373

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Hell on Earth: Ayers Rock Resort Campground

I can’t decide if the right word is disappointed or disgusted. At any rate, the most iconic tourist destination in Australia has one of the worst caravan parks I have ever visited (that’s not true, there was one outside Mildura which wins hands down, but this was close).

We opted for a powered site which was sparse and provided no shade. The water connection drain was clogged with fowl smelling sludge, which a day later was attributed to a sewage back-up (they had a dozer at the sewer behind our site all day and could not repair it). The BBQ facilities were small, dirty and the old picnic tables were covered in peeling paint. The communal bathhouse was somewhat clean (minus the redback spiders) but due to the tour buses camped nearby, constantly crowded.

The first day I managed to close the pool down. After jumping in and feeling a strange burning sensation all over my skin, I realised the pool was contaminated, complained to the manager who feigned ignorance, but was forced to evacuate it and close it for the rest of the week when the chlorine report came back too high. She finally admitted the pump was broken (and most likely had been).

Around the campground were busted BBQs, old ragged ping-pong tables with no nets, and no amenities for children other than a playground—no games room, no TV, an unusable putting green and a closed pool don’t count.  I found the staff grumpy and seemingly tired.

The Uluru viewing platform, a short climb to the top of a nearby dune, was an amazing place to watch sunset and sunrise. From that perch, I did wonder if the local Aboriginal/traditional owners received any money from the Ayers Rock Resort. My gut instinct says no which infuriates me even more.

Rating: Ayers Rock Campground should be ashamed of itself. I requested and was granted a full refund for our four nights. One star.

Ayers Rock Resort, 170 Yulara Dr, Yulara NT 0872
(02) 8296 8010

Words & pics Christina Cannes