Australia is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and livable cities like Melbourne and Sydney. However, it also prides itself in unique landscapes that are far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Among its cities that feature this is Alice Springs in the Northern Territory that’s surrounded by a vibrant red vastness. As the only city located in the Red Centre, it serves as a convenient starting point for various explorations of awe-inspiring landscapes.
Seize the chance to see deserts and mountain ranges, hidden waterholes and rocky gorges, a thriving modern Aboriginal scene and culture, and sacred sites dating back tens of thousands of years ago. Without a doubt, Alice Springs is indeed the most fascinating outback destination in all of Land Down Under.
Coming to the beautiful Alice Springs always warrants a few days of exploration to experience it fully and imbibe its atmosphere. Here is a list of the places that you must see while staying here.
The Aboriginal Art in Alice Springs is vibrant, and you should follow its art trail to experience the best. Start at the Araluen Arts Centre located on the edge of town where you can find several art galleries of Central Australian Aboriginal art and one of the largest collections of art by Albert Namatjira in the entire country. On Wilkinson Street, you can find the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, which is composed of over 400 women artists from 26 remote communities making beautiful and artistic baskets that are adorned with feathers and seeds.
Worth visiting also is the Tangentyere Artists on 16 Fogarty Street for producing quirky sculptures and beautiful fabrics, as well as blankets and jewellery that are made from recycled wood, metal, and recycled objects.
Imagine a refreshing, natural plunge pool in the middle of the desert welcoming you for a dip after a tough bike ride! This is what you will get at the Simpsons Gap, making it one of the best and most memorable experiences you can get in outback Australia. Travel just 18 kilometres from Alice Springs to arrive at this fascinating gorge with a permanent waterhole at its base. Though you can drive to the Simpsons Gap, why not raise the excursion a notch higher by biking along the sealed Simpsons Gap bike path.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one of the most popular parks in all of Australia, characterised by a huge red plateau that makes for an unforgettable cultural experience. Alice Springs is the closest to it, but getting here means a solid 5-hour drive. If you don’t have that much time to spare a day tour here, then you can do a helicopter tour to the place. Uluru offers magnificent sunrise and sunset views, as well as an experience of the field of light. Adventurers can also hike around the rock domes of Kata Tjuta or The Olgas.
It’s not surprising to find a desert park in Alice Springs for obvious reasons. The Alice Springs Desert Park is part hands-on natural history museum and part adventure safari park. If you are interested in learning about the diversity of Australia’s deserts, then this place is a great choice. Be up close emus, kangaroos, and birds of prey and walk through aviaries and the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest nocturnal house.
Shopping is an integral part of any vacation, which is why we are including Todd Mall in the must-sees in Alice Springs! Considered the centre of the town, it is the best option for walking through Aboriginal art galleries, buying souvenirs and mementos, savouring the best coffee and dining al fresco, and grabbing a book from Red Kangaroo Books. And if you come here on the second Sunday of the month, you can enjoy free entrance to the Todd Mall markets. It’s a great way to meet locals and savour the delicious Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai food that abound in the markets. Of course, not to be missed is their Todd Mall mango sorbet.
Flynn’s Grave is the memorial grave of John Flynn, founder of the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Located a few hundred metres from the Desert Park, the ashes of Flynn can be found interred under the huge stone. This place is historic but more than that, it’s the perfect point from where to take photos of the marvellous MacDonnell Ranges in the mornings or afternoons. It’s also a great option for hikers who can access a track that takes you to the summit of Mount Gillen, which is the peak you can see behind Flynn’s Grave. However, before you decide to take on the hike, make sure you are healthy and fit as it is not an easy feat.
If you want to see the world’s largest classroom, come to the School of the Air that covers more than 1.3 million square kilometres. The school aims to offer first-rate education to children living remotely in the outback on cattle stations. Currently, a total of 145 children are enrolled at the school that relies entirely on satellite technology to deliver lessons. The school has already come a long way—from using a two-way radio to using interactive distance learning where children use modern technology and equipment to watch their teachers in real time. You’ll visit the visitor centre, which is a 30-minute walk from the town centre, to get the opportunity to watch a live lesson.
Perhaps, hot air ballooning in Alice Springs is one of the most scenic things to do. The best time to do this for a really magnificent Red Centre experience is before dawn where you rise and greet a new day aboard a hot air balloon. During your flight, you’ll float alongside the rugged West MacDonnell Ranges to greet the sunrise and marvel at the mulga scrub and desert oaks. Look down and spot kangaroos and wallabies.
Usually, hot air balloon tours last four hours—enough to keep you in awe of the magnificence of Alice Springs. However, the flight lasts between a half-hour to a full hour, depending on your preferences and budget. You can check with the tour operators for inclusions and bonuses.
If there’s a desert, there are camel ride tours. Depending on the duration of your trip, you will follow an hour-long route before entering deep into the valley where breathtaking scenery awaits. There’s a reason why camels are used for this type of tours, and that is because they are gentle and don’t frighten the wildlife. Because of that, you can have better chances at getting up close kangaroos, wallabies, native birds, and lizards.
Most of these camel rides involve travelling through Mulga trees and Iron Bark and across a clay pan flat. And if you choose the sunset ride, you’ll be captivated by a different kind of sightseeing that involves ranges and a refreshing drink at the ‘camel lounge’.
Alice Springs offers amazing opportunities for camping beneath native desert oaks. Just drive for an hour from Alice Springs and find the colourful landscapes and gorges of the West MacDonnell National Park. The local grounds offer fixed tents, powered and unpowered campsites, toilets, and public telephones.
You can also try the Finke Gorge National Park, home to Palm Valley’s exotic flora. You can find camping facilities in both the park and in the nearby Hermannsburg town. Otherwise, you can also be as primitive as can be by rolling out a tent by the Finke River to experience the glory and beauty of one of the oldest rivers in the world.
Also, right in the heart of Alice Springs are campgrounds that promote a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Just choose one from the many well-maintained campgrounds in the town and set up your tent for an experience like no other.
Alice Springs is the playground for those who live to explore the terrain aboard two wheels. Just hire a mountain bike and book a tour of the outback. Alice Springs offers a massive playground of sublime single track and open hills.
If you have the knack for flights (who doesn’t?), then you can take one of the scenic flights offered around Alice Springs. Half-hour helicopter rides offer you memorable experiences of watching the vibrant colours and changing landscapes in the outback. Be in the company of experienced pilots as you fly over the Mount Gillen ridgeline, West MacDonnell Ranges, and the fabulous Ormiston Gorge.
Alice Springs definitely brings a unique kind of experience, one that you will remember forever. Its views are far from the urban jungle but the experience it offers certainly exceeds every adventurous soul’s expectations.