Alice Springs

Photo © KaasStok

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Northern Territory Alice Springs

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Introduction

alice springs at dawn

alice springs at dawn

© All Rights Reserved em78

Alice Springs is the second largest city in the Northern Territory, Australia, after Darwin. It is located deep in the heart of the Australian Outback, close to the geographic centre of the country.

The most famous attraction near Alice Springs is Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), an iconic, instantly-recognizable rock formation in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another nearby attraction is Watarrka National Park, best known for the impressive King's Canyon.

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Sights and Activities

  • Reptile Centre - Examples of the local reptiles and one NT croc specially imported, on display by the guy the locals call when something with fangs is in the kitchen.
  • Stargazing - Alice Springs is in the middle of the largest land area without lights on earth, so the view of the Milky Way is unmatched unless you're on a dark boat in the middle of the ocean. Anyone from the city stopping on the road just out of town at night and tipping their head back is likely to fall over from the sheer shock of all those stars. as a result astronomy is popular in town.
  • Alice Springs Desert Park, Larapinta Drive (10 kilometres west of town). 7:30am-6:00pm. Truly memorable in its examples of local flora and fauna. They give a number of interesting lectures, such as aboriginal use of local plants for food. The nocturnal exhibit is excellent, a very low-light building with offset day and night schedule to induce the nocturnal critters to come out during the day so people can see them. The best time to go to the park is early morning, before it gets hot; you can spend a full day walking the trails, going to the birds of prey exhibition where they fly the local aerial predators overhead, and getting the bushfoods and medicine tour. $25.
  • Olive Pink Botanical Garden, Tuncks Road (At the north end of Barrett Drive, just across a bridge over the Todd). 8AM-6PM. A desert botanical garden. Doesn't bloom much, but if you happen to get here after a rain, it's a really nice spot. Bring your sunscreen. There's a biography at Dymock's on the life of the lady it's named after, Olive Pink. Free.
  • Old Timer's Museum - located at the Old Timer's Retirement Village, off the South Stuart Highway leading into town from the airport before you get to the Gap. Really cool history of the outback, with a big collection of amazing stuff from the first white folks to hop a camel for the middle of nowhere. Definitely worth a visit.
  • The Residency, Parsons St, ☎ +61 8 8953 6380. Built in 1927 as the residence of the Government Representative to Central Australia, the house was the centre of government and social activity right up to the early 1970s. Visited by foreign dignitaries, government officials, and even royalty, the Residency operates as a museum house where people immerse themselves in the early administrative history of the town and region. Speak with one of the friendly volunteers who are on hand to answer your questions. Located on the corner of Parsons and Hartley Streets. Entry is by gold-coin donation, and opening hours are 10:00am - 2:00pm Monday to Friday. Its generally closed over the very quiet summer months, December til late March.
  • National Pioneer Womens Hall of Fame, 2 Stuart Terrace, Old Alice Springs Gaol (Next to the Royal Flying Doctor Service), ☎ +61 8 8952 9006. Hundreds of women are recognized for their special contributions to Australia’s heritage. Exhibitions include the 'Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives - Women First in Their Field', the Signature Quilt - 'Women at the Heart' and 'Women's Work of yesteryear'. The Old Gaol buildings are open for visitors to look through and gaol stories are told in a complementary booklet. The museum is devoted to the women who picked up stakes, hauled a whole house in a wagon out to the hottest, most dangerous place they could find, plunked themselves down where you couldn't see another house for a thousand miles in any direction and said, "This looks like a nice spot to live." Amazing stories. There is plenty to see and do for all ages with a gift shop, toilets and access for people with disabilities available. entry fees apply.
  • Hartley Street School
  • Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, Stuart Highway (a few km north of town). 8:00am-9:00pm. Where it all began, this is the original telegraph station, with some exhibits about its history. The area around has walking trails through lovely serene desert scenery, including the actual Alice "springs". The reserve is free if you don't want to access the historical buildings. $9.50.
  • Old Ghan Heritage Railway and Museum, 1 Norris Bell Drive (off Stuart Highway, south of town before the airport), ☎ +61 8 8952 7161, e-mail: info@roadtransporthall.com. 9:00am-4:00pm. Next to (or part of, but with a separate entrance fee) the Road Transport Hall of Fame, this is a museum about Australia's wildest train line, The Ghan. Old equipment, photos and videos plus several carriages to explore. $12.
  • Road Transport Hall of Fame, 1 Norris Bell Drive (off Stuart Highway, south of town before the airport). 9:00am-4:00pm. Huge collection of trucks (with a few buses, cars and motorcycles), some historically-relevant to central Australia. Also a genuine hall of fame with hundreds of bios of notable truckies. $15.
  • Adelaide House - The first stone building in Alice, located on the Todd Mall and well worth a visit if only for the absolutely amazing early air-conditioning system. Really cool display of old communications technology, like the bike-powered communications radio. Run by a couple old women who serve tea - an excellent place to have a sit-down. Nice and quiet.
  • Anzac Hill (road access of Stuart Highway/Schwarz Crescent; walking path starts from Wills Terrace). Hill with good views and some history of Alice Springs.
  • Royal Flying Doctor Service - With School of the Air - a museum and cafe. Famous!
  • Aviation Museum - a number of older planes, showing the history of aviation in a town which relies on it to survive.
  • Pyndan Camel Tracks - Take a one-hour or half day journey aboard a "ship of the desert", through the scenic Ilparpa Valley, located in the famous MacDonnell Ranges. Owner and cameleer Marcus has been working with camels since 1982 and his camels are well trained. Pyndan Camel Tracks is the only camel-riding experience based out of Alice Springs, and he also offers a free shuttle service from most hotels and the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre to help people get to his property.
  • Outback Ballooning - Take a balloon ride and see the sunrise. Alice Springs has ideal weather for ballooning and the tour operators run almost every day of the year.
  • Quads & Motorcycles - Some tour groups do quadding through the spinifex, and Harley rides through remote Central Australia - lovely day trips.
  • Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve, Ernest Giles Road (145 kilometres south west of Alice Springs), ☎ +61 8 8951 8250. Explore the 12 craters, which were formed when a meteor hit the earth’s surface 4,700 years ago. The Henbury Meteor, weighing several tonnes and accelerating to over 40,000km/h, disintegrated before impact, and the fragments formed the 12 craters. free entry.
  • Museum of Central Australia, Araluen Cultural Precinct (Corner of Larapinta Drive and Memorial Avenue), ☎ +61 8 8951 1120. The exhibitions explore the unique features of the region through time and space, following the evolution of the landscape and the creatures that inhabited it. Featured is a replica of a local paleontological dig, an ancient waterhole with some surprising mega fauna including a giant freshwater crocodile and the largest bird that ever lived, Dromornis stirtoni, dated at eight million years old. Other exhibits include present day Central Australian mammals, reptiles, insects and meteorite fragments. Entry fees apply.
  • Totem Theatre - Not open to the public unless a play is on - the little local theatre, heritage listed building put up during World War 2 to entertain the troops after they retreated from Darwin because of the Japanese bombing. Small local theatre groups put on productions on a semi-regular basis; ask at Dymocks if there are any tickets. Theatre on a shoestring budget!
  • Araluen Arts & Cultural Centre - An amazing local art museum, with works by Namatjira and other local artists. Regular traveling art shows, plays, and film festivals. The front desk will know what events are ongoing - there's always something ongoing
  • Camels Australia, Stuart Wells via Alice Springs, ☎ +61 8 8956 0925. Say hello to one of their friendly camels, take a short ride around the enclosure or browse through the interesting assortment of souvenirs and local Aboriginal art on display in their shop. Sit back, relax and enjoy the view while enjoying a cold drink and something to eat. free entry.
  • Gem fossicking - The area stretching north of Alice Springs is known for its serene beauty and as a setting for gem fossicking, bush walking, bush camping and four-wheel-driving. A few hours north are gem fields with Garnet, Zircon, Tourmaline, Apatite and various kinds of Quartz. Contact the Gem Tree for details. Garnet is the easiest to go for on your first try, as the garnet chips are easy to find on the surface and require no digging or special equipment. You do need a permit though.

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Events and Festivals

  • Bass In The Dust - A music festival.
  • Camel Cup - Ever seen a camel run? At this festival, you can see a whole bunch of them racing each other.
  • Alice Show - The annual festival with shopping, fair ground rides, animal displays, fireworks, art and crafts, races and performances.
  • Henley On Todd - River sand race poking fun at the British tradition of boat racing, usually held in late August each year.
  • Beanie Festival - Knitting festival including mostly 'beanie' hats knit from every conceivable material in every conceivable pattern, all for sale. Also afternoon teas and art displays and music.
  • Finke Desert Race - Motorcycles or 4wd buggies racing over the Finke river track.
  • Alice Masters Games - Sports cup for people of all ages, held every 2nd year.

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Weather

Alice Springs has hot weather during the summermonths of November to March, sometimes with days on end having temperatures over 40 °C, dropping to around 20 °C at night. In winter (June to August) nights can drop below zero, while days are pleasantly warm, around 20 °C on average. Alice Springs is a dry place with some rain in most months, but mainly concentrated in a few showers. Summer sees a little bit more rain than winter.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max36.9 °C35.6 °C32.9 °C28.6 °C23.5 °C19.8 °C20 °C23.1 °C28.1 °C31.4 °C34 °C35.6 °C
Avg Min21.8 °C21 °C17.7 °C12.7 °C8.2 °C4.7 °C3.9 °C5.9 °C11 °C14.9 °C18.1 °C20.5 °C
Rainfall39.9 mm40.3 mm35.4 mm20.3 mm18.2 mm14 mm16.5 mm5.1 mm7.1 mm21.3 mm32.7 mm40.9 mm
Rain Days4.64.33.52.52.82.52.31.82.34.25.66.4

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Getting There

By Plane

Alice Springs Airport (ASP) serves Qantas flights to and from other major domestic airports, including Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, Perth and Darwin. Alliance Airlines also operates a service to and from Brisbane, while budget airline Tiger Airways Australia has just recently begun operating a Melbourne-Alice Springs flight. Virgin Australia also operates flights to Alice Springs from Adelaide and Darwin.

By Train

The Ghan is an overland train from Adelaide to Darwin that stops in Alice Springs. It's not cheap, but it is spectacular as it passes through the Outback.

By Car

anywhere on the stuart highway

anywhere on the stuart highway

© All Rights Reserved judy1

Alice Spring is located along the Stuart Highway, which runs from Darwin to Adelaide, where it turns into the Princes Highway and continues on to Melbourne. Driving to Alice Spring from either Darwin or Adelaide is a very long trip through the Outback (about 17 and a half hours), so make sure you carry enough water and stop for fuel whenever you see a petrol station.

By Bus

Greyhound provides bus services towards the south (Adelaide) and north (Darwin) with stops in several towns on the way, including Katherine, Coober Pedy and Tennant Creek.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are plenty of companies you could choose to hire a car from, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty. Car hire is often not available to drivers under 25, or if it is, it's more expensive for younger drivers.

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Eat

Despite its small size, Alice has a good and varied restaurant scene. Regarding fast food, there are a fair few options here in Alice Springs for tucker (dinner). McDonald's, KFC, Hungry Jacks (Burger King), and Red Rooster (Australian made KFC) are the main take away chains, but there are also your small family take aways, such as Big Al's, East Side Fish and Chips and Scoff.

Additionally, there are some great Pizza Shops in town, La Casalinga is a great feed. It's on Gregory Terrace, and it's got a really nice old school atmosphere about it. Has not changed for 20 years, and won't in the near future!

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Drink

Alice Springs, like most of the Northern Territory, has tough liquor laws. It is illegal to drink in Public places (Parks, Streets, etc). The Telegraph Station to the North of the town permits drinking and a lot of families go there for a BBQ and a relax. Regardless of how sorry you may feel, don't purchase alcohol on behalf of people you don't know - if they can't buy it themselves, then there's a reason for that.

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Sleep

There are dozens of accommodation options, ranging from cheap hostels to expensive 5 star luxury.

View our map of accommodation in Alice Springs or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Work

Because of the large tourism industry and the small population Alice Springs is an easy place for anyone to find work. Many companies will employ travelers, and wages are comparable to, if not higher than, other parts of Australia.

The big thing to be aware of is that long term accommodation is very scarce, and backpackers/travellers are usually at the bottom of the list for long term accommodation. Renting is very expensive, as there is a high demand for housing in the town, and house shares are not common. If you are looking to stay for 6 months or more, you will probably need to rent a house. It's easiest to find rental accommodation in December/ January and June/ July as people tend to leave during these periods.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are very common in the larger Australian cities and popular tourist destinations. However, once you leave the major population centres, you might have trouble finding somewhere to log on. Free wifi is getting more and more common (either with or without a code) in places like restaurants, some bars and coffee places and hotels. Sometimes a fee is required.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Australia is on a GSM 900/1800 network, so if you have an unlocked phone that works on those frequencies, you will be able to buy a prepaid SIM-card and stick into your phone when you're in Australia. You will receive a new Australian phone number with the SIM-card.

To dial out of Australia use the prefix 0011, followed by the calling code of the country you are trying to reach, followed by the area code of the city/town (without the 0!) and finally the phone number.

Within Australia, it is necessary to add an area code to the phone numbers if you are calling from outside the area. Below are Australia's area codes:

  • 02 - New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory (Sydney, Canberra)
  • 03 - Victoria & Tasmania (Melbourne, Hobart)
  • 07 - Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 08 - Western Australia, South Australia & Northern Territory (Perth, Adelaide, Darwin)

000 is the emergency telephone number in Australia, but the international GSM mobile emergency telephone number 112 also works on mobile phones.

Post

Australia Post is the government's postal service. Most suburbs will have at least one post office. Opening times are mostly from around 8:00 or 9:00am to 5:00pm though larger ones keep longer hours sometimes. A standard letter or postcard sent within Australia will cost $0.60. Internationally, it costs $1.70 to send postcards anywhere in the world. Letters cost $1.85 to send within the Asia Pacific region and $2.60 to anywhere else in the world.[1]. It is also possible to send things as parcels or by express mail. You can also use use private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL as they are competitive and reliable.

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References

  1. 1 Australia Post. Sourced 10 May 2013

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -23.700358
  • Longitude: 133.880889

Accommodation in Alice Springs

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This is version 27. Last edited at 12:36 on Jan 16, 18 by Utrecht. 14 articles link to this page.

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