Of all Australian travel destinations, Alice Springs has to be the one most evocative of the great mystery that was for so long Australia’s interior. It was a mystery into which explorers like Ludwig Leichhardt simply vanished.
Early explorers didn't know what was in the centre of this vast land. There were many theories. Tales were told of a vast inland sea. The explorers were millions of years too late for that!
Lasseters Lost Reef of fabulous gold is still lost, but the centre of Australia is a mystery no more.
Alice Springs is a great place to begin exploring the unique geography of the Red Centre, like Uluru (Ayers Rock). It's a place to learn about the richness of the ancient Aboriginal culture as well as having a great deal of fun.
Getting in and around Alice Springs
Alice Springs Airport
With a long drive from most other places in Australia, chances are you’ll be arriving in Alice by air. Alice Springs Airport (ASP), 14km south of the town, has all the usual facilities: ATM, currency exchange (important things first!), shops, cafes and a post office. There’s an airport shuttle, taxis and hire cars. These also serve the railway station for legendary rail route The Ghan.
At the airport, you can arrange backpacker and some motel accommodation too.
Alice Springs Transport
Getting around Alice Springs (the town) is easy. You walk - and this can't be beaten for getting the feel of a place. Alice is only a small town, and its main attractions are all in close proximity, mostly in the vicinity of Todd Mall.
Alice Springs Car Hire
If you want insider knowledge and want to go a little further afield, you can't go past the services of a local taxi or, for day trips with a bit more independence, a car hire firm. There's also a large range of organised tours. Your hotel will have details.
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Alice Springs accommodation
Alice Springs accommodation offers something for everyone. There's plenty for the backpacker or family on a budget. Those who want to splash out and enjoy some luxury won't be disappointed either.
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- Vatu Sanctuary offers secluded luxury apartments in gorgeous environs, for the art enthusiast or those seeking something unusual and very special.
- Try Alice on Todd for magnificent executive apartment living. A unique range of apartments, modern kitchens, landscaped pool, kids’ playground, relaxation area, all set in a stunning environment of tall gum trees in established grounds.
- Alice Springs Airport Motel is well-located if you’re looking for somewhere close to your flight out in the morning, and still only minutes from the CBD. Great proximity to the rugged Macdonnell Ranges.
- White Gum Holiday Inn offers immaculate family units only 5 minutes walk to the business and shopping precinct.
- Toddy’s Resort is the fun place to stay, with a bar, beer garden and restaurant offering kangaroo and camel steaks. Air-conditioned rooms, airport transfers, and an online tour booking service.
- Alice Lodge Backpackers delivers homestyle comfort close to the town centre. Uluru tours (licensed travel agency in-house), airport pick-up and pool.
- Voyages Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara) — three hours out of Alice Springs — is the purpose-built hub of accommodation and other facilities created for visitors to Uluru. A township in itself, a stay here is well worth considering if you’re planning sunrise or sunset trips to Uluru. See our Uluru/Ayer’s Rock Destination Guide for more details and options.
Things to do in Alice Springs
Adelaide House was the original home of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Designed by founder Rev John Flynn and opened in 1926, for a decade this experimental venture was the only medical facility in Central Australia; today it provides medical services to all remote areas in Australia. Adelaide House now serves as a museum; check out the old radio room along with a number of other first-class displays on the local area.
The Road Transport Hall of Fame features displays on Australia's unique road transport heritage, including the bus of Australian coach-touring pioneer Lance Grenda, which clocked up over a million miles. Alice Springs is the birthplace of the “road train” those massive exhibitions of Aussie trucking designed for efficiency purposes to pull two or more trailers at once.
Todd Mall offers many interesting attractions, including the Aboriginal Desert Art Gallery, and Sounds of Starlight Theatre's spectacular performances featuring percussion and the ancient didgeridoo.
The Alice Springs Hop-on Hop-off Tour is an inexpensive and convenient way to see the town's attractions. Calls at places like the Cultural Precinct, Royal Flying Doctor Base, and the Old Telegraph station. Allows plenty of time to explore.
Hit Lasseter's Hotel Casino and try your luck at blackjack, roulette or the array of gaming machines available. Also a good place to enjoy a meal, in the classy Samphire Restaurant. There's also an Irish pub.
The Alice Springs Cultural Precinct can be found on the corner of Larapinta and Memorial Drive. Includes the Albert Namatjira Gallery, Museum of Central Australia, Central Australian Aviation Museum and the Strehlow Research Centre.
Ride a camel to breakfast or dinner. Travel along the Todd River for an hour. Savour the bush food available, a really unique experience.
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Day trips in and around Alice Springs
Standley Chasm , named after respected school-teacher Ida Standley, is a gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges reached via a walk through some awesome scenery.
Hermannsburg , once the home of Albert Namatjira, is now an artists' centre noted for pottery.
Palm Valley is an amazing oasis with unforgettable colours. Walk the bottom for a step back in time, to an era when Central Australia was covered in rainforest and waterholes.
Finke River National Park Ever tried a wheelie in an ancient river bed? Best left to your cheeky 4WD tour driver!
Uluru (Ayer's Rock). Australia's most iconic rock was formed, according to geologists, by the piling up of sand on the bottom of an ocean once covering the middle of Australia, which was then beaten to rock by 500 million years of wind and rain. Meet the traditional owners, and listen to Aboriginal stories about how Uluru formed: rising up in revolt against a great battle. Light aircraft and scenic helicopter tours also depart from Alice, offering spectacular views of Uluru from the air.
Larapinta Trail offers a number of options for hikers wanting to take in this unique landscape, which features some of the world's oldest metamorphic and igneous rock and over 500 species of flora. Do all of it (over 220km) or a little. Various tours and services are available departing Alice Springs.
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