Located in the centre of Australia, Alice Springs enjoys an almost legendary status. A frontier town surrounded by vast deserts, “Alice” is a complex mix of Aboriginal and European colonial history. The stepping-off point for outback adventures, this cosmopolitan town has become a destination in its own right, with a bustling arts scene, rich cultural life and plenty to do.
Appreciate the grandeur of the Outback with an aerial view. Alice Springs Helicopters offer scenic local tours and aerial adventures to the West MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon and Uluru. Among the most popular is “Around the Gaps”, which visits the Larapinta Trail, Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm. You’ll also see wild animals including wallabies, camels and eagles.
With its flat terrain and compact size, Alice Springs is perfect for walkers. Head off to the historical Telegraph Station, dating back to 1872, and follow the walking trail from the city. Closer to town are the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens with more than 250 plant species, plus native animals such as the black-footed rock wallaby and western bowerbirds.
Get close (but not too close) to the world’s most venomous snakes at The Alice Springs Reptile Centre on Stuart Terrace. Alongside deadly taipans, brown snakes and death adders are huge goannas, frilled-neck lizards and desert-dwelling thorny devils. Meet Terry, the saltwater crocodile, handle a python and watch lizards being fed.
Enjoy spectacular desert views on camel-back. Before rail and road, camels provided the main form of transport in Central Australia. Just 15 minutes’ drive from Alice Springs, Pyndan Camel Tracks offers a half-day trek to Temple Bar Gap. If time is limited, book the one-hour sunset tour, including a drink at the Camel Lounge.
It’s a big country – let someone else drive! Tailormade Tours offers full- and half-day 4WD adventures from Alice Springs. The West MacDonnell Ranges and Desert Park tour includes Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and other scenic attractions. The company, which has a fleet of modern vehicles, also custom designs small group tours to Uluru, Kings Canyon and the MacDonnell Ranges.
The Larapinta Trail is one of the most challenging walking trails in the world but there are shorter options. Hit the the 10-kilometre trek from Ormiston Gorge to Finke River, which can easily be completed in a day. The West MacDonnell Ranges offer dramatic vistas, swimming holes and diverse wildlife. Specialist operator Trek Larapinta offers fully escorted walks.
Tackle the Araluen Mountain Bike Trails – over 15 kilometres of dedicated single mountain bike track set against the West MacDonnell Ranges. Or join one of the regular social rides departing from the Alice Springs Scout Hall on Wednesday nights.
Alice Springs is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with natives everywhere. No-one can visit the desert without hearing the screech of a cockatoo or the melodic call of a pied butcher bird. The diverse landscapes of Central Australia support around 180 bird species, including many species of waterfowl. For an introduction to the wildlife visit nearby Alice Springs Desert Park.
Visit reputable galleries selling artwork from the Central and Western Desert peoples including “dot paintings” synonymous with the Red Centre. Muk Muk Fine Art and Papunya Tula Artists are a short walk from the city centre while Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation is located 290km northwest of Alice Springs. For an overview of the scene, visit the Araluen Arts Centre, which features travelling exhibitions, craft displays and live performances.
Join the locals at the Sunday Market Day held along Todd Mall. Operating February to December, its stalls offer art, craft and local produce. Many of the cafés along the mall are open and there is colourful live entertainment. The monthly Alice Springs Night Markets run August to November, offering Indigenous art, handmade clothing, souvenirs and amazing multicultural street food.