Alice Springs Destination Guide
Alice Springs Holidays
There's no town like Alice. It began as a telegraph station. Now it's written into Australia's imagination, this desert town so far from everything (1,500 kilometres from the nearest major city). But it's the closest urban centre to Uluru – formerly Ayers Rock – and is replete with shops and art galleries and cafes. Note 'closest' is still over 450 kilometres away. Alice Springs has major bases for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and School of the Air too. There are characters to be found here and they don't mind a chat. They don't mind a send up either: the annual Henley-on-Todd is a boat race on a dry riverbed, altogether unlike England's Henley-on-Thames regatta.
Of all the things to do in Alice Springs, make sure you go outside at night and look up. Outback Australia is an astronomer's slice of heaven below the heavens. In daylight hours, and 145 kilometres up the road, is the Henbury Meterorites Conservation Reserve. Much closer to town is the Alice Springs Desert Park, giving an excellent insight into local flora and fauna; including guided walks and lectures. Be sure to check if your visit to Alice Springs coincides with the Alice Show, Camel Cup, Beanie Festival or Henley-on-Todd for a characterful insight into the town. The Museum of Central Australia is worth a visit, as is the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. There are numerous galleries if you're seeking Indigenous art. The Alice's top attraction though is its setting.
Given the fine beef available in the region, you could be forgiven for worrying Alice Springs restaurants may lean heavily towards a carnivorous menu. But you needn't be concerned. Tourists outnumber locals here by 6-1 sometimes so you can find a reasonable sprinkling of varied menus across town, including Italian, Asian, Indian and some mighty good pub grub. While you're here, don't forget to try a little crocodile, kangaroo, emu or camel. There are several bars in town, just note it's illegal to drink in public places here.
Where to Stay
Hotels, hostels, apartments and caravan parks; Alice Springs accommodation is varied. There are bed and breakfasts too and if you've a mind to get right out of town, consider a farmstay. If you're on a budget, try Alice's Secret Traveller's Inn, it's a cosy backpacker spot. The Aurora Alice Springs is a mid-range option and its native foods menu in its Red Ochre Grill restaurant is quite the selling point. For quite the splash of luxury, in a stunning desert setting, you have to push a few hundred kilometres further along the road to Uluru. When you find Longitude 131, you've arrived.
Need to stock up on camping and hiking gear for an Outback jaunt? Want a good Aussie book? Seeking a fascinating collection of Indigenous art to browse? Alice Springs will cover all these bases as well as keep you stocked with all the general supplies you'll need if you're in town for a day or a month. About 30,000 people call Alice Springs home so there's more than a handful of shops here. Markets always provide an interesting insight into the kind of town you're in: if you're in the Alice on a Sunday, you'll find the Todd Mall Markets and Heavitree Gap Markets held on alternate weeks.
Alice Springs like a Local
It's one vast country out here and it's the locals who've been here for millennia who know their way around best. If you're touring in the region try to tap in to the Indigenous knowledge, whether that's via a guide in a group or one-on-one tours. This way you can admire the hills, valleys and landmarks central Australia offers, with another spiritual and practical dimension in mind. What was formerly known as Ayers Rock is now commonly referred to as Uluru and the Olgas are usually now called Kata Tjuta.