Alice Springs seems like a sleepy little outback town, but there’s a lot more going on than first meets the eye.
The heart and soul of the Australian outback, Alice Springs is one place that will draw you in and warm your heart.
Vivid blue skies, rich red earth, ochre coloured rocks and striking desert mountain ranges. There is much more to do in Alice so choose your adventure and make your trip to the Red Centre the best ever!Vivid blue skies, rich red earth, ochre coloured rocks and striking desert mountain ranges. Make your trip to the Red Centre the best holiday ever! Click To Tweet
Alice Springs is a big friendly country town with a lot to offer travelers including excellent museums, a fantastic wildlife park and outstanding galleries of Indigenous art. The landscape is stunning and you will find the ruggedly beautiful McDonnell Ranges are a magnificent backdrop for the magical desert sunsets.
There’s a few quirky things about Alice Springs will only happen in the outback. The most unusual is the famous Todd River that runs dry almost all year around. Does that bother the locals? No way! They run a charity boat race called the ‘Henley on Todd’ on the dry river-bed instead!
Find yourself amid the rich orange-red gorges, contrasting pastel hues of the MacDonnell Ranges and ghostly white gum trees. Be warned, the landscape absolutely will take your breath away!
You must include Alice Springs in your Australian adventure plans if you want to learn about the culture, explore the outback, walk the famous hiking trails and enjoy the Central Australian National Parks.
Some of the best Natural Attractions
The Alice Springs township is fairly flat so the best vantage point is Anzac Hill which provides great views over Mt Gillen and the MacDonnell Ranges. Anzac Hill is a great place to watch the sun go down and experience one of the amazing desert sunsets.
Alice Springs Desert Park
Award winning Alice Springs Desert Park is packed with displays of nocturnal creatures, reptiles and other bush wildlife in their natural habitats. Check out the unique desert flora and fauna and be sure not to miss the ‘Flights of Fancy’ bird shows.
Alice Springs Kangaroo Sanctuary
Guided sunset tours will take you on a leisurely walk through the Alice Springs Kangaroo Sanctuary’s wildlife reserve where you discover kangaroos, wallabies and other wildlife unique to Alice Springs.
East MacDonnell Ranges
Pack a picnic lunch and head east towards Emily Gap, Jessie Gap, Corroboree Rock, Trephina Gorge and Ross River Resort. It’s well worth the drive and if you have a 4WD there are additional options like John Hayes Rockhole that are worth the visit..
West MacDonnell Ranges
An easy drive out through western gaps, gorges, waterholes to experience extraordinary scenery. Another spectacular ‘Day Trip’ if you start early. Visit Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Big Hole, the Ochre Pits, Ormiston Gorge, Finke River, Glen Helen Resort – or take the southern road to Hermannsburg. If time is short – opt to just visit Simpsons Gap – it’s an extraordinary piece of Australia.
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The first ‘gap’ in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Only a few miles out of Alice Springs Simpsons Gap is one of the most scenic waterholes so close to town. An important spiritual site to the Arrernte people where the rugged mountains are rich in the desert colours and black-footed Rock-wallabies blend into high mountain cliffs. Simpson’s Gap is a magnificent sight at dusk or dawn when the sunlight hits the mountain cliff face.
A touch of History
The Telegraph Station is known as the birthplace of the Alice Springs township, marking the site of the first European settlement of Alice Springs. Established in 1871, the Telegraph Station relayed messages between Darwin and Adelaide and later, to link up with an underwater cable network to London providing the first lines of communication between Australia and England. Now the Telegraph Station is a popular recreational park to BBQ and spend time with family.
Olive Pink Gardens
Located on the banks of the Todd River, just 10 minutes walk from the central business district of Alice Springs. The Olive Pink Botanical Gardens are a credit to Miss Olive Pink who lived there in the 1950’s. Showcasing a collection of native shrubs and trees, these gardens have become a spectacular tribute to Olive Pink. Stop in for coffee at one of the best cafe’s in Alice Springs.
Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame
Situated at the ‘Old Goal’ in Alice Springs, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame is one of two women’s museums in Australia. ‘Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives’ this museum has managed to capture the stories of our pioneer women.
The Araluen Cultural Precinct
Home to a several art galleries, museums and a performance theatre. An extensive gallery where you are able to view rare original art by Albert Namatjira and many other artists. The Strehlow Research Centre for Aboriginal Culture has an extensive display of cultural artifacts and archaeological finds, the Museum of Central Australia and the Connellan Aviation Museum is also located in the Precinct. Local crafts are available for sale too.
Royal Flying Doctor Service
Alice Springs plays an integral role with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) by providing critical medical services to people who live in the Outback. RFDS was born in Alice Springs and hosts an interesting museum, holographic theatre, and a ‘live to air’ screen identifying the locations of RFDS planes. The tour is highly recommended and be sure to stop in at the cafe for lunch or a snack afterwards.
The School of the Air
Also originated in Alice Springs, this is the world’s biggest classroom and it’s open to the public. When you visit the School of the Air you’ll be able to see how children on remote cattle stations attend school. It’s a fascinating concept which allows children to connect with others in a productive learning environment.
Turn a holiday into an Adventure
Alice Springs has a number of cycling and mountain bike trails that are fantastic opportunities for an Outback Cycling adventure. Guided tours are also available.
A popular walking and cycling trail, the Larapinta Trail is 223 kilometres long. There are 12 individual sections of varying grades, terrain & experiences passing some of the most magnificent landscape you will ever see.
Mt Gillen Climb
The walk from Flynn’s Grave to Mt Gillen takes about 2 hours return giving you spectacular views over Alice Springs. A variety of birds and black-footed Rock Wallabies can often be seen on this walk. This climb is challenging and most suited to the physically fit.
Take an authentic desert adventure right in the centre of Australia to learn about camels and the important role they played in Central Australia’s early history. Take a camel tour around Alice Springs, along red sand tracks and desert trails where you will see kangaroos and wallabies in the wild.
Hot Air Ballooning
If you want to do something surreal whilst you are in Alice Springs, Hot Air Ballooning is the experience to take away with you! This tour requires an early morning start!
Providing a unique astronomy experience. Explore the night sky with experienced Outback Star-Guides. Central Australia is fortunate to experience some of the clearest night skies in the world. Earth Sanctuary is a ‘must do’ experience!
Time your visit around some of these Fun Events
Finke Desert Race
The Finke Desert Race is an off road, multi terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads through remote desert country. Held each year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, “the Finke” is one of the biggest and most grueling sporting events in the Northern Territory. It enjoys the reputation of being one of the most difficult off-road courses in the world.
Read next: Finke Desert Race – the offroad experience
Henley on Todd
A unique boat race, the Henley on Todd is held on the dry riverbed of the Todd River! Dress up for a day of frivolity and fun and enjoy the hilarity as you watch teams race in bottomless boats through the coarse river sand! Held annually in August and a ton of fun!
The festival has grown into a fun event where creative artists of Alice Springs share their culture and exhibit together. The Beanie Festival’s aims have always been to develop Aboriginal women’s textiles, promote women’s culture and handmade textile arts. Usually the Beanie Festival is held in late June each year.
The first Camel Race was run in 1970 in the dry Todd River Bed as a bet between two mates, and was declared so much fun that the event has become an annual event. The Camel Cup is held mid July each year at Blatherskite Park and is a fun day for all.
Alice Springs Cup Carnival
The Alice Springs Turf Club is a popular course located at the foothills of the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges. Cup Carnival is held during throughout the month of April each year concluding on the Mayday weekend.
The magic of Uluru, Kata Tjuta & Kings Canyon
Alice Springs is the gateway to Central Australia’s most stirring landscapes. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a four-hour drive from Alice Springs. These infamous landmarks are world heritage listed and some of the most impressive experiences to take home.
A further opportunity to experience Kings Canyon in the heart of Watarrka National Park, where the unspoiled bush and the ancient red rock canyons create an unforgettable outback adventure.
How much time will you need in Alice Springs?
My recommendation is to allow 7 – 10 days. This will give you plenty of time to cover the best of Alice. Add a further 4-5 days to visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. Memories of a lifetime.
Read next: Uluru – Australia’s most famous Rock
When is the Best Time to Visit Central Australia
The winter months are usually the best times to visit Central Australia – May to September. Remember, winters in the desert can be quite cold so be sure to pack accordingly. Average winter temperatures vary and can sink as low as -6 degrees celsius (approx 21F) whilst the days can be quite warm at 25 degrees celsius (77F).
There is a wide range of accommodation available in and around Alice Springs with a good range of dining options available.
Alice Springs is a ‘must-visit’ destination
Alice Springs is an extraordinary place to visit and certainly one of the most enjoyable places I’ve ever lived. I am still drawn by the intense colours of the desert.
Alice Springs really is an experience not to be missed. It’s the perfect place to experience the heart and soul of the Outback.
Read next: 21 great reasons to visit Alice Springs
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