On the third Saturday in August, Alice Springs holds a sailing and rowing regatta on a dry river bed.
With pirate ships firing flour bombs, people paddling canoes with sand shovels and boats on legs, you do wonder if there’s more heat and dust than sense in this iconic outback town. Once a year, the sandy bed of the Todd River turns into a race track for a boat race - but not like any you've seen before.
- Where: Alice Springs
- When: 17 August 2019
- Price: Adult entry tickets from AUD$22, family tickets from AUD$49.50
How to get there
Qantas has direct flights to Alice Springs from most major cities in Australia. Virgin Australia offers direct flights from Adelaide and Darwin. Alice Springs sits between the capital cities of Darwin and Adelaide, with a major sealed highway connecting the three destinations. It's about a 16-hour drive from Alice Springs to either city, and the road has regular gas stations, small towns and roadhouses.
Things to do at the Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta
Attend the events
The riveting river race is the weekend's major event, but there are also smaller events suited to the whole family. Kids can participate in sandcastle building and 'Mini Yacht' races, while adults will love quirky events like Sand Shovelling and a boogie board slalom course. Before the baffling race begins, attend the parade that winds down Todd Mall - Alice Springs' main street. Make sure you stay right to the end of the regatta to see the Big Battle boats spectacular, where Pirates take on the Vikings and the Navy for the ultimate water fight including colourful canon explosions and plenty of flour bombs. Cheer on the crowd favourite to win.
Watch the race - or join in
The Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta is a uniquely silly spectacle amongst world sporting events. The multi-event program attracts local and international participants, many who end up on world TV news in bottomless boats or being dragged across the sand on a boogie board. Join the imaginary water action or just enjoy the hilarity from the shade of a gum tree. Once you embrace it, this outback madness is a lot of fun.
Explore Alice Springs
The regatta might be the weekend's most rambunctious attraction, Alice Springs offers several other incredible activities. If you love Aussie animals, head to The Kangaroo Sanctuary, where you'll find rescued orphaned baby and adult kangaroos. The sanctuary can only be visited on a pre-booked tour, so be sure to confirm your afternoon encounter before you go to meet the 'roos. Continue your wildlife adventure with a trip to Alice Springs Desert Park. Here, you'll see a snapshot of wild desert life, with animals including kangaroos, dingoes, bilbies and a range of birds spread over 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres). Visit the Nature Theatre to watch a free-flying birds of prey demonstration.