Alice Springs, considered the heartland of the Central Australia, makes for the perfect starting point for exploring the treasures of the Australian desert. Fringed by red-brown dirt and protected by breathtaking mountain ranges, it is a must-visit for travellers who want to discover and experience the raw beauty of the expansive Australian outback.
Simply known as “Alice,” the city is one of the largest towns in the Northern Territory and has a thriving tourism industry. This charming destination’s sights and vibrant arts and culture scene have been attracting hordes of tourists for decades. Arts and culture-lovers from the world over arrive at Alice Spring’s doorstep to delve into Australia’s rich Aboriginal cultural heritage and admire its vast collection of desert art.
If you’re ready to spend time exploring the beating heart of the Australian Red Centre and need help with your travel itinerary, here are the things you wouldn’t want to miss when visiting Alice Springs.
1. Admire the magnificent West MacDonnell Ranges
Another must-see when visiting Alice Springs are the West MacDonnell Ranges. A major tourist destination in the Northern Territory, the spectacular mountain ranges is home to precipitous gorges, spectacular freshwater swimming holes, and numerous camping spots and hiking trails, making it highly popular among travellers looking to have adventure-filled tours.
Some of the attractions you need to explore during your day tour to the undulating mountain ranges include the Simpsons Gap, the Serpentine Gorge, Redbank Gorge, and the Ellery Creek Big Hole, to name a few.
2. Have a glimpse of the culture of the Arrernte people
A short drive from the city centre, the Alice Springs Desert Park is a wildlife park that also highlights the diversity of the Australian desert and the culture of the Arrernte people. Aside from the usual animal encounters, the park is a great place for learning about the relationship between the Australian desert and its original inhabitants. Watch the demonstrations and presentations to know how the traditional use of plants and animals help the local indigenous people survive the harsh desert environment.
3. Know more about Central Australia’s history
No trip to Alice Springs is ever complete without visiting the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, a historical attraction set inside the Alice Springs Telegraph Historical Reserve. Established in 1872 as Stuart, the telegraph station was the first European settlement in the region. The station was built adjacent to a waterhole called Alice Springs, named after Alice Todd, the wife of the Sir Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraphs during that time. It wasn’t until 1933 when the township of Stuart was renamed Alice Springs.
Visitors to Alice Springs will learn a thing or two about Central Australia’s history with a tour of the heritage site to see its collection of telegraph buildings. The place also has a picnic and barbecue area that guests can use for free.
4. See the world-renowned Ayers Rock
Although Alice Springs is a popular destination in itself, it is a gateway to the best of Central Australia’s cultural and natural sights and attractions – Uluru or Ayers Rock.
About 335 kilometres from the city, Uluru is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds great religious and cultural significance among Aboriginal Australians. The gigantic sandstone rock formation is definitely one of Australia’s most iconic attractions and makes for the perfect spot for watching the eerily beautiful Australian sunrise and sunset.
Visit this fiery red monolith to gain sight into the ancient beliefs of the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people.
5. Admire indigenous Aboriginal art
An integral part of a continuous living culture that dates back tens of thousands of years, Australian Aboriginal art is one of the world’s most celebrated art traditions.
Internationally known as the birthplace of Aboriginal art, Alice Springs has many art spaces that showcase indigenous art. Lose yourself in the galleries and museums in the Araluen Cultural Precinct, particularly the Albert Namatjira Gallery, and you’ll see artworks by Albert Namatjira, a trailblazer of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement. The gallery also houses the artworks of the Namatjira family and other Aboriginal artists.
Another art gallery you should visit during your trip to Alice Springs is Mbantua, home to Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s masterpiece, Earth’s Creation. The indigenous artwork sold for more than a million dollars in 2007.
6. Experience unforgettable animal encounters
Aside from the Alice Springs Desert Park, there are other animal sanctuaries in Alice Springs that are worth a visit. There’s the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, a privately owned establishment that harbors an outstanding collection of reptiles indigenous to the region. Take a tour of the reptile centre if you want to see fascinating creatures like geckos, frill-necked lizards, and Thorny Devils. In addition, the Alice Springs Reptile Centre also holds supervised handling sessions of lizards and snakes.
Another attraction that deserves a spot in your itinerary is the Kangaroo Sanctuary, the home of Brolga, the star of the popular BBC documentary Kangaroo Dundee. Located about 20 minutes from Alice Springs, the animal sanctuary was established to ensure the protection of kangaroos.
Countless orphaned joeys were released back into the wild after they were cared for and rehabilitated in the 188-acre facility following their rescue. The Kangaroo Sanctuary cares for and protects many adult kangaroos residing within its confines as well.
A trip to the Kangaroo Sanctuary is an opportunity to have a close encounter with a mob of orphaned joeys, so don’t miss the chance to hold and feed these adorable baby kangaroos.
7. Explore Palm Valley
Located within the Finke Gorge National Park, Palm Valley is a fascinating spot for exploring the real Australian outback. Home to the Red Cabbage Palm – a palm specie unique to the area, Palm Valley offers natural attractions like a labyrinth of sandstone formations – amphitheatres, gorges, pinnacles, and other outcrops. Take the easy climb to the Kalaranga Lookout to enjoy spectacular views of the rugged sandstone scenery.
Palm Valley also has a camping site complete with showers, toilers, and barbecue facilities. There are a number of hiking tracks and opportunities for bushwalking in the area.
8. Marvel at the majestic beauty of Kings Canyon
Set within Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon is a ruggedly beautiful landscape of towering sandstone walls with lush palm forests at its base. The tropical oasis is home to hundreds of plant and animal species that share the gorgeous outback with the Luritja Aboriginal people who have lived in the national park for 20,000 years or so.
Dreaming of an authentic Australian outback adventure? Check out these awesome Alice Springs tours and day trips.
By: Brendelyn Balaga