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 of those places that draws you in and warms 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 favourite activities and make your trip to the Red Centre the best adventure ever!
Alice Springs is a big friendly country town with a lot to offer travelers with excellent museums, a fantastic wildlife park and outstanding galleries of Indigenous art. The landscape is stunning and you will find that the ruggedly beautiful MacDonnell Ranges are a magnificent backdrop for our 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’ instead!
You don’t have to venture far to find yourself amongst rich orange-red gorges, the contrasting pastel hues of the MacDonnell Ranges and the ghostly white gum trees. Be warned, the landscape absolutely will take your breath away!
If you’re interested in Aboriginal culture or traditional art, some of the most spectacular outback scenery, world famous hiking trails and National Parks, then you must include Alice Springs in your Australian adventure plans.
I’ve put together a few suggestions to help you plan your Alice Springs itinerary.
Some of our best Natural Attractions
- Anzac Hill – The Alice Springs township is reasonably flat so the most popular vantage point is Anzac Hill with great views over Mt Gillen and the MacDonnell Ranges. Anzac Hill is a great place to watch the sun go down against the MacDonnell Ranges and experience the amazing desert sunsets.
- Alice Springs Desert Park – an extraordinary glimpse of the unique desert flora and fauna. Be sure not to miss the ‘Flights of Fancy’ bird displays. Alice Springs Desert Park is information packed with displays for nocturnal creatures, reptiles and other bush wildlife in their natural habitats.
- 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 – An easy Day Trip, so pack a picnic 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 if you have the time.
- West MacDonnell Ranges – an easy drive out through spectacular gaps, gorges, waterholes and extraordinary scenery. A Day Trip opportunity 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 other road to Hermannsburg. If time is short – opt to just visit Simpsons Gap.
- Simpsons Gap – 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
- Olive Pink Gardens – Located on the banks of the Todd River, 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.
- Telegraph Station – The Telegraph Station is known as the birthplace of the Alice Springs township. Marking the site of the first European settlement in 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.
- 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 is an integral part of the Royal Flying Doctor Service providing critical medical services to people who live in the Outback. RFDS originally started in Alice Springs. There’s an interesting museum, holographic theatre, and a ‘life 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 learning environment.
Turn a Holiday into an Adventure
- Cycling – 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.
- Larapinta Trail – a popular walking and cycling trail, the Larapinta Trail is 223 kilometres long, however there are 12 individual sections of varying grades, terrain & experiences passing through some of the most magnificent country you will ever see.
- Mt Gillen Climb – The walk from Flynn’s Grave to Mt Gillen takes about 2 hours return and gives 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.
- Camel Tours – Take an authentic desert adventure right in the centre of Australia to learn about camels and their part in Central Australia’s early history. Take a camel tour around Alice Springs, along red sand tracks and desert trails to 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 an experience to take away with you! This tour requires an early morning start!
- Earth Sanctuary – provides a unique astronomy experience. Explore the the night sky with experienced Outback Star-Guides. Central Australia is fortunate to experience some of the best 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 desert country. Held each year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, “Finke” is one of the biggest sporting events in the Northern Territory. It enjoys the reputation of being one of the most difficult off-road courses in the world.
- Henley on Todd – A unique boat race, the Henley on Todd is held on the dry sands 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.
- Beanie Festival – The festival has grown into a fun event where Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal artists 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.
- Camel Cup – 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 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.
Uluru, Kata Tjuta & Kings Canyon
Alice Springs is the gateway to some of Central Australia’s most stirring landscapes: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a just four-hour drive from Alice Springs. These infamous landmarks are world heritage listed and some of the most impressive experiences to take away with you.
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 you will need in Alice Springs
This depends on how heavily you want to immerse yourself into Alice Springs and it’s surrounds, and when you plan on visiting. My recommendation is that if you allow 7 – 10 days you will have plenty of time to visit almost all of our suggestions above. Add additional 4-5 days to visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.
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 are often 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 range of dining options available.
Alice Springs is an extraordinary place to visit and certainly one of the most enjoyable places I’ve ever lived. I visit as often as I can and am still drawn by the intense colours of the desert. I recommend you put Alice Springs on your ‘must visit’ list!
Alice Springs really is an experience not to be missed – check out my “10 reasons to visit Alice Springs“. It’s the perfect place to experience the heart and soul of the Outback.