The Best Things to do in Alice Springs
Smack-bang, right in the heart of Australia, is the outback town of Alice Springs. Though a relatively small town, this place is used to visitors: over the years people have flocked from all over the world to marvel at the beauty of “the Alice”. So why not set aside some time to get to know Australia’s red centre? Here are the best things to do in Alice Springs.
1. MacDonnell Ranges
Visitors to the MacDonnell Ranges are treated to the Australian outback at its absolute best. From the mountain ranges and rocky ridges that fill the horizon, to the spectacular gorges and picturesque watering holes, the MacDonnell Ranges is at the very heart of Australia, both geographically and spiritually. It’s so quintessentially Australian; its beauty has been captured by all kinds of artists, perhaps most famously by Albert Namatjira.
Highlights of the MacDonnell Ranges include its countless walking trails and hiking tracks, cycle paths, four-wheel drive tracks, and camping spots. As you explore the ranges you can also see ancient rock art and carvings by the local indigenous people, some which dates back thousands of years. And after a hot day out in the sun exploring the area, you will have earned a refreshing swim in one of the local watering holes with some of the best views in the country!
Oh, and before you leave, make sure you check out the ghost town of Arltunga, a gold rush site from the 1930s.
2. Alice Springs Desert Park
The Alice Springs Desert Park has been a favourite amongst visitors since 1977, attracting over a million people from all over the globe. Visitors will learn about the local environment and the unique ecosystems that exist in the Australian desert, as well as the balance between plants, animals and people. But this is certainly no boring school classroom—you’ll be inspired by the passionate guides who tell the story of this magical part of Australia, including sensitive and realistic insights into the local Aboriginal culture and traditions.
The natural landscape of the Alice Springs Desert Park shifts and sways with the coming and going of the seasons and offers different experiences throughout the year, but the one thing that is consistent is the special chance to immerse yourself in the stark beauty of the Australian desert.
3. Alice Springs Reptile Centre
The Alice Springs Reptile Centre has the largest collection of reptiles in the Northern Territory, focusing on the unique array of indigenous reptiles. The Reptile Centre is big on fun and environmental education, and has become a very popular tourist attraction. There are daily shows and supervised handling sessions. Some of the amazing animals you’re bound to encounter include:
- A saltwater crocodile
- Perentie goannas
- Frill-necked lizards
- Thorny devils
- Snakes (pythons, taipans, brown snakes, death adders and mulga snakes)
4. Finke Gorge National Park
Finke Gorge National Park provides another spectacular slice of the Australian outback, and is a must-see if you’re flying to Alice Springs. The area is also famous for Palm Valley—the only place in central Australia where Red Cabbage Palms can survive—and Finke River, one of the oldest catchments in the world, dating back some 350 million years.
At Finke Gorge National park, you can:
- Climb to the Kalaranga lookout (which has spectacular views)
- Drive the popular four-wheel drive trails
- Explore ancient Aboriginal cultural sites
5. Todd Mall
Visit the Todd Mall markets, held every second Sunday for an authentic Alice Springs experience. The Mall is overflowing with quaint little stalls selling arts, crafts, food, clothing, jewellery and many other local wares.
Another popular tourist attraction in the Todd Mall is the Sounds of Starlight Theatre. Established in 1996, this is a theatre, art gallery and gift shop all in one that boasts around 20,000 visitors annually. If you’re in town from April to November, make sure you check out the immensely popular Didgeridoo Show Outback. This show features local indigenous stories and traditions interpreted through the music of didgeridoos, percussion and soundscapes.
Author: Ross Hope+ lives and works in Brisbane, Australia, as a web writer and editor. His favourite trip to Alice Springs was in 1995 when, as a teenager traveling with his parents, he got to experience Australia’s heartland for the first time.