ALICE SPRINGS – THE AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER GUIDE
Alice Springs – The Australian Traveller Guide Capital of Australia’s Red Centre and almost the exact centre of the country, Alice Springs is technically a semi arid zone but it sure feels, looks and smells like a desert landscape. The Red Centre / Alice Springs is full of culture and history of its traditional owners, the Aboriginal Arrernte people. Since the mid-1800s, pioneers and cameleers have trekked it to “The Alice” and developed the second-largest town in the Northern Territory as a base to see the desert surrounds and breathtaking natural wonders.
Where to Stay
Alice Springs accommodation has grown with the town from its humble start as a telegraph station to travelling hot spot.
For budget travellers, try the backpackers Alice’s Secret Traveller’s Inn, its charm owing to its small size, 1950s style décor and communal facilities that make it easy to mingle.
For those willing to shell out a little more, try the Aurora Alice Springs for its central location and the unique Red Ochre Grill restaurant downstairs. Its menu of native foods is a bit of a selling point.
If you want to camp out in The Outback without abandoning style, the luxurious Bond Springs Outback Retreat makes for a smoother experience of life on an authentic cattle station. However, its location 25 kilometres outside of town and with prices starting at $230, the trade-off may not be worth it to stargaze in comfort.
What to Do
Alice Springs is the perfect departure point for the great Australian Outback Journey. Alice to Kings Canyon via Hermannsburg and the West Macdonnell Ranges and onto Uluru.
Three nights in Alice Springs exploring the Aboriginal and Pioneer Culture is worthwhile. In Alice itself worthwhile sites and activities include the Araluen Centre, Museum of Central Australia the Aviation Museum and many of the aboriginal art galleries.
Then pick up a four wheel drive out to one or two of the gorges, Ormiston Gorge is a winner of the West Macdonnell Ranges. Then onto Hermansberg before arriveing at Kings Canyon. Spend two nights in Kings Canyon and the rim walk and valley of the palms before heading onto Uluru for a further two or three nights.
When to Travel
The southern winter and early spring months of June to September is peak season for a reason – it’s comfortable. So the best time is probably April May and Early Sept to have the most comfortable weather (it very cold at night in the heart of winter) and least of the crowds, school holidays not withstanding.
Good to note that The Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta (the Olgas nest door to Uluru) will close when the temperature exceeds 36 degrees. It will be closed often in the summer months.
Keep in mind that the four-day celebration that is The Alice Springs Beanie Festival takes place in June-July, the Camel Cup is held in mid-July and the comical Henley-on-Todd Regatta is a sight in September.
Alice Springs Airport is under a 20-minute drive from the town itself, and is serviced daily by Qantas and Tiger Airways. Twice a week, Regional Pacific Airlines will also service the route to/from Mt Isa. To get to town catch a cab (approx $30, 13 10 10), private car ($35 flat fee to hotels 08 8952 3700) or the Alice Springs Airport Shuttle ($18 one-way/ $28 round trip 08 8953 0310). The option of hiring a car is available at the terminal, or in town. If you do intend to stay a while in Alice Springs, hire a 4WD and make it a rollicking trip through The Outback.
The Lasseters Camel Cup race is one of the most bizarre events on the outback calendar. Jennifer Pinkerton meets characters as authentically Australian as they come, after defeating a bout of first-day shyness. A flush of gold light thaws the shoulders of Alice Springs’ MacDonnell Ranges. I open my eyes. Ring-necked parrots dip beneath clouds. The pool filter spasms to life, then hums bass like a monk. It’s time to get up. But I don’t feel like it. Not yet. The shyness. It’s become a handbrake during times I travel alone. While most wouldn’t pick it from the outside, the...
Megan Arkinstall relives a childhood fascination, a vivid memory of the outback's red dirt, but this time on the back of a camel, somewhere south west of Alice Springs. The only other time I remember seeing dirt this red was during a trip to the back o’ Bourke, where my mother was born and bred, more than 15 years ago. I was absolutely fascinated by it, so much so that I scooped some of it up in a film canister (remember those?) and took it home. I still have it in my box of special and very random things that...
A hidden bonanza of art Muk Muk Fine Art, Alice Springs, NT Muk Muk Fine Art is tucked away in an old Alice Springs butcher’s shop, and is what McEvoy claims as “the best commercial collection of Indigenous art I’ve ever seen,” scoring it 9. Expect contemporary art from our Outback heartland, from emerging artists through to renowned Indigenous names.
This issue's winning 'Your Shot' image was taken by Robert McRobbie from Kingsford, NSW. "These brumbies were grazing not far off the road in the MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs. My family was experiencing Central Australia for the first time and as we were driving along we were ticking off the animals we wanted to see – dingo, kangaroo, emu, camel and brumby. We pulled over to watch these incredible animals and despite the herd being wary of our attention, they stood still for long enough for me to capture several shots.” Shot with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2, 100-300mm @...
Steve Batten gets snap-happy around the outskirts of Alice Springs and shows why the local andscape is so special. // Steve Batten is a member of our Virtual Internship Program. If you’re a photographer or writer looking to break into travel journalism, we’re here to help you get a leg up. To find out more, email us at email@example.com ...
Where is it? Near Glen Helen Resort, 130km west of Alice Springs on Namatjira Drive How to see it for yourself? The ancient, 600km Finke River rarely flows and is often just a series of waterholes. There’s a permanent one in the gorge at Glen Helen in West MacDonnell National Park, which is also one of the few points where you can access the river by sealed road. Glen Helen Resort has motel-style accommodation and camping Why I love it “This scene – typical of the country that inspired Albert Namatjira – was shot near Glen Helen. It was one of those rare occasions when the Finke River was flowing...
With the help of an Indigenous tourist operator, Alena Duykers packs a lot in to a half-day tour around Alice Springs... Crouching down and resting on one knee, Indigenous tour operator Colleen Powell places her index finger into the red sand and draws three elongated circles, slightly spaced apart. As she finishes her illustration of the MacDonnell Ranges she looks up at me and mouths the word “Yipirinya”. In Arrernte (the Indigenous language used by the Aboriginal people of Alice Springs) Yipirinya means caterpillar. I had travelled to the Alice to work on a small project at the local Indigenous school called...
Where is it? Alice Springs, NT. One of the few times in life when a 4am wake-up call is welcome. As you drift effortlessly in a basket across the top of the MacDonnell ranges, you’ll be able to spot big red kangaroos bounding across the landscape. Easily the best way to take in the enormity of the Australian outback, this is a trip you’ll never forget.
Where is it? Central Australia, from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to the summit of Mount Sonder A gruelling 12-stage hike through the geographic heart of Australia, the Larapinta Trail stretches 233km along the West MacDonnell Ranges. It’s not a trek for the faint hearted but the Trail’s website is one of the best for planning a hike like this. It gives tips on safety, organising food, water and equipment, and tells how to tackle the trail. It even suggests tour operators who can guide you on the walk if doing it yourself sounds too difficult....
Every Australian feels the pull of the Red Centre, yet many of us leave it until we retire to visit. There are so many active adventures on offer, it pays to get out there sooner. While fighting fit, make sure the action-packed 200km-long West MacDonnell Ranges is on your bucket list. For everyone: A real Red Centre highlight is swimming in the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Must-dip spots include Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge. The Simpson Gap bike path is a pleasant, easy ride best enjoyed between April and October, when days are cooler – no matter how fit you...
Every Australian feels the pull of the Red Centre, yet many of us leave it until we retire to visit. There are so many active adventures on offer, it pays to get out there sooner. It pays to go to Kata Tjuta, located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 460km south-west of Alice Springs, while you're fighting fit. For everyone: Kata Tjuta’s 36 domes form the region known for many years by white Australians as the Olgas. Kata Tjuta means “many heads” in the Pitjantjatjara language. While some areas here are out of bounds because it is a sacred site, there are two marked...
Every Australian feels the pull of the Red Centre, yet many of us leave it until we retire to visit. There are so many active adventures on offer, it pays to get out there sooner. Uluru, located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 460km south-west of Alice Springs, is best enjoyed while you’re fighting fit. For everyone: A sunset drink overlooking Uluru is a right of passage for every Australian. APT (www.aptouring.com.au) offers a half-day tour including the base walk and sunset drinks from $115 per person. For more adventure, take a 2.5hr Camel to Sunset camel-train tour around the Rock (www.ananguwaai.com.au), from $99 per...
Anita Kelman camps out under the stars at Kings Creek Station and hikes Kings Canyon’s rim. Gazing down from a plane high above Central Australia, all appears orange-bronze and desert flat. But once on the ground, the landscape evolves to become vividly varied. Many gather at Uluru and her neighbour Kata Tjuta. However my journey is to another geological gem of the Northern Territory. Situated approximately 350 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs is Watarrka National Park, home to Kings Canyon. Arriving just before dusk by 4WD, our outback campsite at Kings Creek Station is dusty and swarming with busy Herculean...
If you want four day’s worth of non-stop fun with your friends, I can’t imagine a better way to go than hiring a 4WD and hitting the Red Centre Way between Alice and Uluru. (Maybe practise changing a tyre before you go.) The 330km of unsealed road that is the Mereenie Loop is undoubtedly the best bit. It starts at the West MacDonnell Ranges just out of Alice Springs and spits you out at Kings Canyon, providing a day’s worth of excellent adventure – expect extra excitement after rain, when the road may have developed a few new interesting twists...
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