When you arrive at the very end of the earth, you’ll see Alice Springs nearby! It’s not quite the end of earth, but it is very close. Alice Springs, a small town of just 25,000 residents in Australia’s Northern Territory is world-famous for being a wonderful place to visit to see natural sights that can be found nowhere else in the world.
Because of its available water and nearby mountains, the area around Alice Springs has been inhabited for at least 30,000 years by aboriginal peoples. In 1872, the Overland Telegraph Line (OTL) was laid close to the current site of the town and a small settlement of just twenty Europeans was left to service the OTL.
Alice Springs is surrounded by grand vistas!
Here’s a Pro-tip: Alice has a desert climate, with very hot and dry summers and short mild winters. I would recommend visiting between April and September to escape the worst of the heat.
You can fly into Alice Springs by connecting at most international airports in Australia. The journey from Sydney, for example, is just 2 hours and 45 minutes which makes it a “short trip” in the Northern Territory. The airport is just a 15-minute drive to the city centre and will cost you around $45 Australian Dollars (£25). Alternatively, Emu Run Experience, a shuttle bus company, charges $17 (£9.50) one way. Uber is also present and the local drivers are a fountain of great information about the area.
There are so many different things to do in Alice. Put on your comfortable hiking boots and explore my most recommended sites:
- The Desert Park is a must-see. It’s divided into 3 different habitat areas: desert rivers, sandy desert and woodland. It’s home to a lot of wildlife which makes it an interesting place to spend the day and early evening. This park will teach you a lot about the Aboriginal people and their spiritual connection to the land. You can also watch a free bird show, visit the nocturnal animal house and enjoy playful dingoes.
Camels were introduced from the Middle East
- The Araluen Cultural Precinct tells the story of the area through art and artefacts. It is one of the most important collections of art and culture in the country. Its collection of artefacts allows you to trace the history of Aboriginal habitation and even includes original artworks by renowned watercolourist Albert Namatjira from the early 1970s.
- Cuddle up to some Joey’s at the Kangaroo Sanctuary. Visit the famous, “Kangaroo Dundee”, Chris Barnes, who runs this fun venue. He has dedicated his life to caring for orphaned or hurt marsupials and re-releasing them into the wild. Join a small group tour and enjoy a close-up encounter with these iconic animals.
- If cuddling the kangaroos wasn’t enough animal interaction for you then head down to the Reptile Centre. You can even ‘enjoy’ a close encounter with a saltwater crocodile!
- Enjoy beautiful scenery at the West MacDonnell Ranges. Visit Simpsons Gap, a completely natural plunge pool that is the perfect place to cool off on a hot afternoon. This is a great hiking spot and has some amazing trails and views of the ranges from its peaks.
- The East MacDonnell Ranges are less visited but equally amazing. I love leaving the tourist trail behind and visiting Emily Gap because of its spiritual significance to the Aboriginal peoples. This site is featured in the local dreaming stories of three ancestral caterpillars: Yeperenye, Utnerrengatye and the Ntyarlke. The caterpillar dreaming is one of the most iconic stories concerning Alice Springs.
- Trek the award-winning Larapinta Trail that covers 223km (139mi) from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder. It was voted by National Geographic as one of the top 20 trekking experiences on the planet. The trail is split into 12 sections and can be visited separately depending on how much time you have for your visit. You can choose to take short walks, some that are just a couple of hours, or push your limits with the whole trail which takes around 20 days. Epic views, incredible stargazing and a spiritual experience with nature awaits you.
- If you just must find someplace to shop in the desert, Todd Mall Markets run every second Sunday from March to December, and showcase a wide variety of art, crafts, jewellery, books, food and gifts. The market even operates at night when you can enjoy a lovely atmosphere.
You can’t miss this incredible sight!
- Uluru/Ayers Rock is one of the most iconic sites in the world. This massive sandstone “Inselberg” (meaning island mountain) is surrounded by caves, water holes and is surprisingly teaming with life. Uluru is very sacred to indigenous Australians and care should be taken not to disturb the environment. Alice is the nearest town to it and the 5.5-hour one-way drive is 100% worth the journey to see this incredible sight.
- Pine Gap is a haven of the space-age within the outback. While you cannot visit the facilities of this high-tech satellite tracking station, you can visit the surrounding area which is beautiful and has a friendly American
Here’s another Pro-tip: Don’t miss the sunset from the top of Anzac Hill this will give you a panoramic view of Alice Springs and the surrounding area.
When it’s time to escape the heat, nothing is better than a cold drink and a good hearty meal! Here are my recommendations on where to enjoy some delicious Aussie food:
- Head to Montes Lounge and experience their “eat, joy, laugh” motto. This fun and quirky venue features a chilled atmosphere with a circus theme and outside beer garden which hosts special events. Their burgers and nachos are the talk of the town.
- Try something a little fancier at Hanuman. Serving up Indian, Thai & Pan-Asian meals with fresh ingredients, you’ll enjoy their flair. My favourite main dish is without a doubt the butter chicken especially with the softshell crab starter.
- Page 27 Café is the perfect spot for breakfast or brunch. Another quirky venue, it serves delicious breakfasts and refreshing iced coffees. With plenty of healthy options, it’s easy to see why it’s the town’s favourite. Don’t leave without trying their tasty eggs Benedict!
I’ll have the eggs on that muffin, Ben!
Just because you’re in the desert doesn’t mean you can’t put on your dancing shoes! Here are my favourite party spots:
- If you fancy open mic nights, DJs and good cocktails then Epilogue Lounge should be your place. Enjoy their live music and themed nights on their beautiful rooftop terrace, complete with palm trees.
- Jump Inn to a bar with excellent craft beers. Nothing beats the heat like a liquid-gold cold brew. The proprietors constantly change their kegs to new and exciting concoctions.
- Enjoy a late-night dance to some fun music with colourful locals at the Juicy Rump. I also recommend that you visit at sunset to enjoy amazing views and a nice cold drink.
Alice Springs has remarkable hotel accommodations for such a small place. Here are my favourites:
- DoubleTree by Hilton is a comfortable and modern property. It has everything you can expect from the brand including all the amenities, comfortable rooms and a fitness centre. Enjoy their signature, warm DoubleTree Cookie upon arrival.
- For a unique, cultural experience stay at Ooraminna Homestead. Sleep in a beautiful cabin, enjoy the vast sky full of stars and gain a glimpse into cattle station life in the outback.
- For a convenient stay, visit the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs Lasseters. Nestled at the foot of the MacDonnell Ranges, this luxury hotel will definitely impress you with its natural surroundings. With an on-site casino, spa and wellness centre it’s the perfect place to relax after a long day of sightseeing.
Skippy knows you’ll love Alice Springs!
Alice Springs is, by the far, the least inhabited place I’ve ever featured in my blog. What it lacks in population, however, it makes up in natural beauty and awe-inspiring nature. You’ll love Alice for its unique natural setting and wonderfully friendly residents!