Alice Springs is the major settlement found in the Australian Outback, and is a must-see location for anyone backpacking around Australia, or maybe just transiting through the red centre. Although it’s the largest town for miles, it isn’t a massive city by any means, and hosts a small population of just over 25,000. However, even a small population, especially one that is so heavily involved in tourism, needs plenty of things to do for both locals and visitors alike. Here are a few of the top things to check out if you’re looking for stuff to do in Alice Springs!
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide whether you’re going to stay IN Alice Springs, or head a bit further out. Considering that Alice is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, heading away from the town to do things is quite a normal thing to do; especially for tourists. If you’re planning to explore the local surroundings:
Take a day tour to Uluru / Kata Tjuta National Park
I’ve been to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and I can definitely say they were my highlights from my time spent near Alice Springs. I spent a few days in the outback exploring with adventure tours, but you can easily access these places with shorter day tours. There are a few operators which leave from Alice Springs and take you out for the day, so if you’ve not got your own vehicle they’re a great choice. If you do have your own transport make sure you have a park pass!
Here are a few website you can check out for tours that leave from Alice Springs – I’ve not used any of these before so I can’t vouch for how good they are, sorry!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on these you can always see what you can find on Viator, which aggregates individual tours around Alice Springs for you. It is ridiculously easy to spend a few days exploring the outback with Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, the Macdonnell ranges and loads more nearby, so if you have time to do that much exploring you should.
Alternatively, you can try one of these less time-constrained options and still enjoy your time in Alice.
The desert park has plenty of stuff going on all year round. There is even a list of events on the website that you can check out to plan your trip. The idea behind the park is that it’s a natural and real wildlife experience. You’ll be able to go and see the local fauna, encountering various animals as you travel through the park. Weather permitting, there is also an opportunity to take part in an ‘Eagle Encounter’ where you’ll meet Australia’s largest bird of prey; the wedge-tailed eagle.
It doubles as more than just a wildlife park, and aims to sustain, recover and enhance biodiversity and the availability to suitable habitats, as well as keeping control of alien species which could have a detrimental effect on the local environment.
The park itself is located in an area of significant cultural importance to the Arrernte people and includes parts of the Akngwelye Artnwere and Yeperenye Altyerre dream time stories (these are wild dogs and caterpillars to you and me). Because of this cultural significance and the impact it has on the park and surroundings, the park also aims to provide a realistic insight into the local aboriginal culture which includes use of plants and animals and helps to bring different cultures together.
Ride around on a camel
Camels are one of the most common animals in the Australian outback, and last time I checked there were more camels in Australia than there are on the entire continent of Africa, with well over 700,000.
Apart from making really good burgers and steaks, camels are actually pretty fun to ride. If you’ve never done it before it’ll definitely be an experience. The best part is that you don’t even need to ride to get enjoyment out of it, it’s quite entertaining watching people ride camels when they have no idea what to expect.
If you want to give camel riding a shot then you can get a ride to the Camel Tracks and try your hand at controlling these funky desert animals.
Leaving the township isn’t necessarily possible for all, and depending on time constraints you might just be looking for something quick to pass some time during your trip. There are plenty of things to do in Alice Springs that will only take you a couple of hours. You could quite comfortably fit a few of these in during a single day.
Explore Alice Springs’ botanic gardens
The Olive Pink Botanic Gardens were founded in 1956 and is home to walks and bicycle tracks where you can explore the garden’s variety of native fauna. After all, the red centre wouldn’t be the red centre without all of the plants and animals that make it unique (and the red sand, but that’s a whole other story).
Entry to the garden’s 16 hectare area is by donation as they’re a not for profit organisation. These places cost money to run, so they welcome any help in keeping it running smoothly.
If you’re interested you can find out a ridiculous amount of information, including history, on the garden’s website.
Meet and greet the lizards are the reptile centre
You might be able to guess from this post that I’m a bit of a fan of the reptile centre. There’s absolutely loads to see here and it’s relatively inexpensive. It’s also really close to a number of other attractions that are located IN Alice Springs which makes it ideal if you’re just passing time waiting to move on to the next destination, or if you’re unable to access transport.
If you’ve always wanted to handle the reptiles then the reptile centre has a few sessions each day where you can get involved. You’ll even be able to eye up a bunch of the worlds most venomous snakes, including the Eastern Brown Snake.
AND it’s one of the best places in Australia to spot my favourite little guy, the thorny devil!
Climb Anzac Hill
One of the easiest and most accessible things that you can do in Alice Springs is travels the Lions Walk up ANZAC Hill. The monument which rests at the top is dedicated to those who fought in the First World War, and was unveiled in 1934.
Paying respects to the deceased isn’t the only reason to make the climb up the hill though. Once you reach the top there are some spectacular views of Alice Springs, in almost every direction (except the ones which are blocked by trees, obviously).
If you’re there early or late enough, it’s a brilliant time to chill out and watch the sunrise or sunset, whichever tickles your fancy. For those that want to keep in shape while they’re on the road, you’ll find plenty of runners heading up and down Anzac Hill for one reason or another, but you’ll certainly find no shortage of people absorbing the monument and surrounding sights of both the town and the Macdonnell ranges.
Learn about local aboriginal culture
One of the things that I found most fascinating during my time in the red centre was learning about aboriginal culture. I’ve spent a crazy amount of time away from home and even living with other cultures, but it’s never been anything like hearing aboriginal stories while camping under the stars.
Things in aboriginal culture are very very different from what we experience in the western world, and oft times it goes unnoticed. Taking some time to see how the indigenous Australians live is eye opening, and it really puts some things into perspective.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the didgeridoo (granted I can’t play it to save my life) and despite its seemingly basic manner, a lot of aboriginal art is engaging – after all, each piece of art tells a story, much like what you might find in caves such as those at Yourambulla.
To cut a long story short, take some time out to visit the Aboriginal Art Culture Centre in Alice Springs and you’ll get to experience all of this awesome stuff yourself!
Check out the historical telegraph station
Anyone interested in local history, well, even Australian history, will find the telegraph station an interesting visit. The Alice Springs telegraph station marks the first place where European settlers decided to locate in Alice Springs, it’s also home to the best preserved of the 12 overland telegraph line outposts which provided service from Adelaide to Darwin, and has played a major part in past wars.
Some parts of the site have been restored, and you can still use the site to send mail. The watering hole located near to the telegraph line outpost is where Alice Springs gets it’s name, so all in all it’s a pretty significant place in relation to Alice Springs and Australian heritage.
It’s only 4 kilometres to the north of Alice Springs, and has a number of walks and cycling tracks which you can use as well as picnic benches to make a day of it. As always though, remember to drink plenty of water while you’re out in the sun, else it might seriously ruin your day.
Brush up on Australian heritage at the Ghan museum
The old Ghan heritage museum and the transport hall of fame are right next door to one another, and are an excellent place to visit if you wish to learn about the famous Ghan railway. The Ghan railway is an Australian masterpiece and can take you insane distances, passing through a range of climates and landscapes.
Work on the old Ghan began in 1878 with the intention of making Central Australia more accessible. The Ghan is named after the Afghan camel ‘drivers’ who assisted with the construction of the Ghan railway and also had a hand in there being so many camels in Australia these days.
See some Kangaroos bouncing around at the local sanctuary
Everyone loves a roo. Even more people love a joey. The Kangaroo Sanctuary was established to help the local roos to flourish. One of things you’ll notice, particularly if you drive, is that in Australia the wildlife really loves to jump out across the road at night – much like pheasants do in the UK. The problem is that this results in a lot of road-kill.
For kangaroos, this often means that the adult/parent is killed, which whilst rather sad, isn’t quite as sad as the helpless joey that might be left in the pouch of the deceased. That means you’ve got cute little baby kangaroos still nestled with their dead parent. So the kangaroo sanctuary is here to help them!
It’s an excellent place to go to learn about the roos, to meet some of these fascinating animals and to just generally get to spend time with kangaroos. Seriously, who doesn’t want to spend time with kangaroos? They’re amazing! (and they taste really good too)
Find out the significance of the Royal Flying Doctors
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) came about because of a need to provide medical attention to people that were spread out across a huge area – one that currently spans over 7.3 million square kilometres. The 24 hour emergency service isn’t easily available, and with the size that’s covered it could take days to drive, even longer to walk. To fill this need, the RFDS was developed.
The RFDS utilises aerospace to provide health care to the Australian people which live in rural Australia – too far away from a city to get the medical attention they require. Being able to respond by flying to the destination makes things much more efficient than taking the traditional land routes. This specialisation makes the RFDS one of the most comprehensive medical organisations in the world.
The entire aeromedical service was made possible by combining flight and radio and has a rich cultural history which “technically” spans over 100 years. Not bad!
In Alice Springs, the RFDS facility provides a sort of museum where you can learn about the service they provide, the history of the organisation and a whole bunch of stuff that relates to the iconic Royal Flying Doctors.
Once again, I can’t stress enough that the RFDS facility is in close proximity to a few other attractions in Alice Springs, so you can pair a few activities together and create a really enjoyable, informative day out. You might as well take in all you can about this fantastic little township. It’s one of the most culturally rich places in Australia that I visited, and likely will be for you too.
I haven’t covered everything to do in Alice Springs; there are plenty more, such as the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Hopefully you can get some ideas from here and plan yourself a exciting trip to Alice, and with any luck you’ll have as great a time there as I did.
If you think there’s something so amazing that it needs to be up here on this list, then leave a comment or ping me an email and lets get all the great stuff in Alice Springs up on here!