Start your outback adventure in Alice Springs, in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. Sail over the spinifex plains in a hot air balloon or bike ride to Simpsons Gap. Join a safari of quad bikes across the desert or fly over the MacDonnell Ranges. Peer into the traditions of the Aboriginal Arrernte people who have lived here for 20,000 years and browse contemporary Aboriginal art along Todd Mall. Connect to stories of Afghan cameleers, flying doctors and plucky pioneers in the many heritage sites around the town. This rollicking, modern town is also a day trip from the iconic attractions of Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa and Kings Canyon.
Five things to do in a town like Alice Springs:
From Alice Springs you can trek the Larapinta Trail, go four-wheel driving, camp in the bush and swim in lush waterholes. Sail over the spinifex plains in a hot air balloon, bike ride to Simpson’s Gap or join a safari of quad bikes through bush tracks. Take a scenic flight over rugged mountain ranges or ride a camel along the gum-lined Todd River. Four wheel the vast, flat, red landscape of the notorious Tanami Track. Alice’s dry climate and desert landscapes make the call to outback adventure hard to resist.
Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service – the first aerial medical organisation of its type in the world. See the historic Alice Springs Telegraph Station where the town began and have a lesson in the world’s largest classroom in the School of Air. Alice brims with stories of Afghan cameleers, flying doctors and plucky pioneers. Connect to them in the various heritage sites around the town.
Visit the Albert Namatjira Gallery, peek into the traditions of the Arrernte people at the Strehlow Centre and browse contemporary Aboriginal art along pedestrian-only Todd Mall. You can buy central Australian art at competitive prices at the Desert Mob Festival in August/September. From desert landscapes in water colours to dot paintings of the seasons, Alice Springs is bright with Aboriginal art.
Trek through Ormiston Gorge and Pound, visit breathtaking Glen Helen Gorge and see where a comet crashed into the earth millions of years ago at Gosse Bluff. In the West MacDonnell Ranges, you can see rock wallabies in the ridges of Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm turn fiery colours in the midday sun. In the East MacDonnell Ranges, go bush walking, camping and four-wheel-driving, visit the gold rush ghost town of Arltunga and explore the natural beauty of Trephina Gorge.
Visit the scenic sandstone bluffs and cliffs of Rainbow Valley in the James Ranges. See markings made by 19th century explorers on Chambers Pillar and sacred Arrernte rock carvings in the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve. Buy Aboriginal art in the desert communities of Titjikala and St Teresa. You’ll be awestruck by natural, cultural and historical wonders of the Simpson Desert, which stretches south from Alice Springs towards the South Australia border. When planning keep in mind the park is closed during the summer months due to intense heat.