Stunning gorges, wild desert animals and a wacky bottomless boat race are some of the wonderful and weird sights in Alice Springs. Here are 10 places to visit and things to do in Alice Springs.
Alice Springs is the closest city to one of the most famous Australian landmarks of all – Uluru.
Things to do in Alice Springs
1- Mereenie Loop Road
“Lift Um Foot” and ”Puttum Back Down” are the only traffic signs – painted on dented metal – rubbish bins along the side of this three-and-a-half hour bumpy dirt highway.
Connecting Alice Springs to Kings Canyon, this dusty, bouncy and often deserted road traverses through some pristine outback country.
Wild camels and brumbies graze by the roadside while wild cats slink furtively behind the bushes. A sturdy 4WD is highly recommended.
A permit to drive on this road is mandatory and can be purchased from the Tourist Information Centre in Alice Springs, Kings Canyon Resort, and Kata-Anga Tea Rooms at Hermannsburg.
2- Alice Springs Telegraph Station
In 1872 Australia was finally connected to the world through the Overland Telegraph line. But for the technology to work across Australia’s vast continent, the telegraph signal had to be boosted. So, Alice Springs was born in the centre of Australia.
Messages that once took months to get to Australia by sea took hours instead.
By 1900, this isolated station was home to a cook, a blacksmith, stockman, governess, four linesmen, telegraph operators as well as the station master and his family.
Today, you can wander through the well-preserved cluster of stone buildings.
They are the original post office, stables, station master’s residence, barracks, buggy shed and the telegraph office, which has the antique telegraph instruments on display.
3- Alice Springs Desert Park
It’s a native animal reserve, botanic gardens, nature habitat and museum rolled into one.
A visit to Alice Springs Desert Park is a good way to get an overview of the diverse landscapes of Central Australia. Put on walking shoes and explore the habitats set up to represent the landscapes of Central Australia.
You’ll find hundreds of species of animals and plants.
The Nocturnal House is a great place to spot endangered animals of the night such as the almost-extinct Mala wallaby.
Offspring from this particular colony have since been introduced to zoos and parks all around Australia.
Best of all, there is a stunning display of falconry held at the Nature Theatre where you’ll see Australia’s native Wedgetail eagles – one of the largest Eagles in the world – soaring and swooping to the signals from their handlers.
4- West McDonnell Ranges
Stunning gorges and rock formations form striking vistas across the West McDonnell Ranges.
Simpsons Gap has a permanent pool of drinking water for the local wildlife and is a good place to spot rock wallabies.
Visit Standley Chasm around midday and catch the flaming bright orange hues.
It’s a pleasant 30-minute walk through the wilderness to get to the main viewing point, but for a more challenging trek, clamber over the boulders in Standley Chasm to reach the well-known Larapinta Trail.
In summer Ellery Creek, Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge are good places for a cool dip.
Stop at Tyler’s Pass for spectacular views of Tnorala, the five-kilometre wide crater that was created by a comet 142.5 million years ago.
5- Aboriginal Art
Long before world famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira became a prominent figure in the art world, savvy Alice Springs art connoisseurs were stocking up on his paintings.
Today, heartened by the bourgeoning aboriginal art scene, many residents and visitors are buying up works by new artists.
Stroll through the town and you’ll find that every second store is a gallery of some description.
The Mbantua Gallery has displays of paintings, carvings and pottery. Gallery Godwana has a range of jewellery, glass, metal and ceramics.
As well as running an art gallery, the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre run cultural tours.
6- Henley-on-Todd Regatta
While the Henley-on-Todd was designed along the lines of the famous Henley – on – Thames race between UK’s Cambridge and Oxford Universities, the lack of water in the Todd River is no obstacle to one of the wackiest races in the country.
Each September, participants race in a variety of bottomless crafts through the deep coarse sand of the Todd River.
The program, which has several crazy events, attracts international participants from the audience who often find themselves on world television paddling canoes with shovels and filling empty 44-gallon drums with sand.
7- Alice Springs Cultural Precinct
Soak in some indigenous culture at the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct.
The key attractions of this educational cultural precinct are the Central Australian Aviation Museum (which among its many exhibits, has two early flying doctor airplanes), a 500-seat theatre which provides live performances, the Museum of Central Australia, the Northern Territory’s largest collection of original paintings by aboriginal artists and onsite demonstrations by sculptors, carvers and painters.
8- Heritage Walk
Take yourself on a self-guided heritage walk of the town and discover the history of this desert community.
There’s a great view of the town and the surrounding ranges from Anzac Hill, as well as a memorial to lives lost in all world conflicts.
The National Pioneers Women’s Hall of Fame has some interesting displays about Australian women who were top of their fields.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides short talks about the difficulties in providing medical services to the bush.
9- Take a camel to breakfast
For 50 years prior to the railway arriving in 1929, everything came to Alice Springs by camel train.
Introduced into Australia by Afghan camel masters, these desert convoys carried large burdens over long distances and were ideally suited to the isolated conditions.
Riding a camel can help you work up an appetite and the Frontier Camel Farm prepares a hearty bush breakfast of orange juice, fruit and cereal, barbecued bacon & eggs, home-made beer bread with lashings of locally made Quandong jam.
10- Explore the desert
Ride off into the Simpson Desert and explore ancient fossils and sand dunes.
At Chambers Pillar, you can climb a staircase up to the wall of the Pillar where you’ll find historical engravings left by the early pioneers, as well as enjoy the incredible views of the desert landscape.
Pull out your walking boots and trek through Rainbow Valley where you’ll be dazzled at the magical reflections.
In winter, you’ll often spot hot air balloons floating dreamily above the desert.
Another way of experiencing the desert is in the comfort of the Ghan train journey, which connects Adelaide to Darwin through Alice Springs.
Discover Northern Territory
Read these posts for more things to do in Northern Territory.
While in Darwin, go on this Jumping Crocodile Cruise or Yellow Water cruise or go swimming with crocodiles or catch some barramundi fishing Darwin. From Darwin, a visit to the Tiwi Islands is a cultural experience to a remote part of Australia.