Giles was born in Bristol, England. He moved to Adelaide, South Australia when he was 15. He was one of the first Europeans to explore the empty desert of central Australia during the 1870s. Giles was the first European to explore Lake Amadeus and The Olgas. He named them after Amadeus, King of Spain Olga, Queen of Wurttemberg.
He has written works about his journeys. In 1880, he published The Journal of a Forgotten Expedition, an account of his third expedition. In 1889, he wrote Australia Twice Traversed: The Romance of Exploration, the story of his five main expeditions. Giles died of pneumonia on 13 November 1897. Mount Giles, the third highest mountain in the Northern Territory was named after him.
- Giles, Ernest (1889). Australia twice traversed : the romance of exploration, being a narrative compiled from the journals of five exploring expeditions into and through central South Australia and Western Australia from 1872 to 1876. 2. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington. ISBN 086824015X.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Giles, Ernest". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 22 November 2008. External link in
- Louis Green, 'Giles, Ernest (1835 - 1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, MUP, 1972, pp 246-247. Retrieved 22 November 2008
- Australia Twice Traversed: The Romance of Exploration at eBooks @ Adelaide
- Works by Ernest Giles at Project Gutenberg
- William Ernest Powell Giles at Flinders Ranges Research