Alice Springs Destination Guide
First-time visitors may see “Alice” as the closest place to set up base for their exploration of Uluru/Ayers Rock rather than a tourist centre in its own right (and, by the way, closest is more than 400 kilometres). That would be a mistake. Yes, it is isolated – 1500 kilometres north to Darwin and south to Adelaide – but the backdrop to the capital of the Red Centre is truly astounding: wide desert landscapes, the rugged MacDonnell Ranges, deep gorges, waterholes, and a breathtaking night sky – unique physical attractions all served by a town with a fascinating pioneering heritage and a recognition that tourism is a lifeblood. That means outback adventure, plenty of places to stay, restaurants and cafes, shops and galleries.
Orientate yourself from the top of Anzac Hill for great views of Alice Springs and the distant ranges. White settlement began in the 1870s as a telegraph station on the line between Adelaide and Darwin, and you can visit the well-preserved buildings, furnished in the style of the 1900s, on what is now an historic reserve.
There is more history on show at Adelaide House in the Todd Mall, the Museum of Central Australia, National Road Transport Hall of Fame and the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame.
Nature lovers are well catered for at the Alice Springs Desert Park, which offers an insight into local Aboriginal culture and the secrets of the desert landscape, and at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
There is no shortage of places to satisfy an appetite or quench a thirst. The chain fast food outlets are well represented, but if you are looking for something more substantial you will not be disappointed. Todd Mall favourites include Sporties and the Red Ochre Grill. The Alice Springs Golf Club (Cromwell Drive) is also popular with locals and visitors.
For something different try the Drovers Blowout at the Overlanders Steakhouse (Hartley Street) with its camel, crocodile, emu and kangaroo. If food with a bar is more to your taste, popular options include the Gap View Hotel (Gap Road), the Rock Bar (Todd Mall) and the funky Monte’s Lounge (Todd Street).
Where to Stay
The importance of Alice as a tourism hub and key regional service centre is underpinned by a range of central accommodation options. You will find hotels and motels, bed and breakfast, self-contained apartments, caravan and cabin tourist parks, even traditional pub rooms.
The Alice is Australia’s premier hub for Aboriginal art, and Aboriginal Art World in the Todd Mall showcases this unique style as well as giving an insight – through the eyes of the artists themselves – into origin, meaning and technique. For mainstream retail, Alice Plaza at the top end of the mall and the Yeperenye Shopping Centre in Hartley Street have specialty shops along with bakeries and cafes. Outback hikers and campers will have all their needs met at Lone Dingo (Todd Mall) and Desert Dwellers (Milner Road). Todd Mall is the place for souvenirs.
Alice Springs like a Local
Alice Springs hosts its share of key events with an Australia-wide reputation, such as the Henley-on-Todd Regatta (a send-up of the English institution), Camel Cup and the Finke Desert Race. At these times accommodation can be at a premium so it is worth checking dates and booking well ahead.
For the best in free entertainment, visitors find on their first night in The Alice that the best event is right above their heads. The night sky, free of big city reflected light, is simply stunning and a reason why the region is an astronomer’s paradise.