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The Glen Helen Story

The story of Glen Helen is one of hardship and determination dating back to the explorers of the late 19th century.

Following discovery the property was established as a cattle station covering a much larger area between what is now Redbank Gorge and Ormiston Creek.

Despite the trials of life in the Central Australian outback Glen Helen endured the many setbacks and was eventually instrumental in bringing tourism to the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Following is brief time line of events leading to Glen Helen in its current form.

During your visit feel free to talk to our friendly staff or view some of our many articles and images to get a better idea of early outback life.

A Brief History of Glen Helen


  • Glen Helen No.3 build by Fred Raggatt
  • Homestead No. 1 was situated some 3km north  – Built 1880’s
  • Homestead No. 2 was situated on Crawford Creek 10k’s west from
  • Redbank Gorge  – Built 1900
  • Homestead No. 4  is on Dashwood Creek 60km west – Built 1949


  • Bryan Bowman purchases Glen Helen Station


  • New Homestead erected on site No. 3


  • Glen Helen grew from one station to a chain of four extending from McDonnell Ranges to the Roper River 1400 km away


  • Bowman approached by Bert Gardiner, an Alice Springs taxi driver, with the view of repairing the Homestead and conducting Tours to the area


  • Homestead repaired and Tours began


  • Glen Helen homestead sold to Reg Ansett who transferred the Chalet from Serpentine to Glen Helen – which is now the site of Bunkhouse


  • Road constructed from Alice Springs through Glen Helen gorge to Hermannsburg to facilitate easy tours to Palm Valley – the road through the gorge was washed away in the late 1960’s floods


  • Di Byrnes purchases Glen Helen Lodge


  • Bill & Helen Ashby purchase the Lodge


  • Di Byrnes re purchases the property


  • Fire destroys complex.  Complex rebuilt using windows, doors and fittings from old houses.  The large windows in the bar/café area are in fact concertina doors of an old Service Station turned on their side


  • With 400mm (16in) of rain in less than 24 hours causes significant flood damage as the Finke River inundates the property


  • Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation purchases Glen Helen Lodge


  • Property closed for several years.  Fuel & Drinks were available only.


  • Property leased, upgraded and reopened by Trevor Cox


  • Glen Helen Lodge purchased by current owners Shelagh & Colin O’Brien






Meet your Managers

Your managers at Glen Helen Resort are Colin and Shelagh O’Brien.

Colin and Shelagh purchased the leasehold business for Glen Helen Resort in 2006, and have now been in the job for over 6 years, both are very hands on, and present at the Resort all year, apart from the odd holiday or business trip.

Colin and Shelagh met at Latrobe University in Melbourne in 1975, and both were studying Biological Science. They met through the Latrobe Mountaineering Club with a common interest in everything Outdoors, including Kayaking, Bushwalking and Skiing. Environmental and Ecological issues have always been a big focus for them both, and this continues to this day. They will tell you that an education in Biology is one of the best preparations for a life of observing and enjoying the natural world around us that is possible. Both continue to have a keen interest and growing knowledge of the Plants and Animals of the Outback, with Shelagh having an excellent knowledge of local plants and Colin specialising in Birds and Reptiles as well as geology.

Hotel Management was new to Colin and Shelagh when they purchased the Glen Helen Lease. They have grown in knowledge and expertise, with lots of support from the local and state-wide Tourism industry.Before arriving at Glen Helen, Colin and Shelagh had run a farm on King Island, a Building maintenance Business, Home schooled three children, now grown, and worked in numerous other positions including secondary teaching, Kelp harvesting, Foster care, and Vineyard establishment!

Colin and Shelagh believe in having a strong management presence in the business, interacting directly with as many travelers as possible, and making their guests feel at home.

We hope to meet you all when you come and visit our little piece of Paradise