Alice Springs Destination-Information Listings
Alice Springs is a town of 30,000 people located on the banks of the usually dry Todd River in Central Australia. This well appointed oasis in the desert is equipped with a wide range of facilities, attractions, tours and accommodation. Anzac Hill in the centre of Alice Springs provides a panoramic view of the town and surrounding mountain ranges. The Araluen Cultural Precinct and the Alice Springs Telegraph Station are worth visiting for an insight into Alice Springs’ interesting history. The Alice Springs Desert Park is an excellent introduction to the flora, fauna and landscapes of Central Australia.
Alice Springs is known for its quirky events such as the ASSA ABLOY Henley-on-Todd Regatta, the Camel Cup and the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. The MacDonnell Ranges run to the east and west of the town, and the ruggedly beautiful West MacDonnell National Park is home to many amazing natural attractions, such as Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.
Alice Springs and Surrounds
The area surrounding Alice Springs is a land of deep chasms and gorges carved though rust coloured ranges. The desert landscape is punctuated by unexpected oases and waterholes and ancient meteorite craters. It is home to an ancient people whose culture is alive and well.
Alice Springs sits at the junction of the East and West MacDonnell Ranges. The spectacular West MacDonnell National Park is home to many amazing natural attractions, such as Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge and Pound. The renowned Larapinta Trail runs 223 kilometres through the West MacDonnells and is one of the world’s great walks. To pioneering Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira, the West MacDonnells were his inspiration with their dramatic landscapes and ever changing hues.
Highlights of the East MacDonnell Ranges are Emily and Jessie Gaps, Trephina Gorge, Ndahla Gorge, Ruby Gap and Arltunga Historic Reserve. Arltunga was an important gold and gem prospecting area and for a while was the most important settlement in Central Australia. Now only a few restored stone buildings remain.
Hermannsburg (an historic Aboriginal settlement, and the birthplace of artist Albert Namatjira) and Palm Valley (Finke Gorge National Park) are an easy drive from Alice Springs.
Those looking to go further off the beaten track can explore the Simpson or Tanami Deserts, fossick for gems at Gemtree or Ruby Gap, or visit remote communities like Santa Teresa and Titjikala, where tours offer a chance to experience Aboriginal culture and watch artists at work.
A visit to the iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home of the monolith Uluru / Ayers Rock, situated 461 kilometres south west of Alice Springs on the traditional lands of the Anangu Aboriginal people, is an unforgettable experience.
Alice Springs Area
Alice Springs is a diverse and vibrant outback town. Situated on the banks of the Todd River (which only occasionally runs with water) ‘Alice’ is famous for its colourful characters and relaxed atmosphere. Travellers can enjoy the view from Anzac Hill, browse the Araluen Cultural Precinct, learn about the hardships of the pioneers at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station or the Royal Flying Doctor Service, meet rare and endangered wildlife at Alice Springs Desert Park or tee-off on one of the best desert golf courses in the world.
A range of quirky events also provide entertainment - cheer at the Imparja Camel Cup, see the hilarious ASSA ABLOY Henley-on-Todd (a ‘boat’ race on the dry Todd River), or road test one of 3,000 beanies at the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. Alice Springs is a great base from which to explore the surrounding region, with attractions such as the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, the Larapinta Trail, Finke Gorge National Park, Hermannsburg (birthplace of Albert Namatjira), the Simpson and Tanami Deserts and more within easy reach.
East MacDonnell Ranges
The East MacDonnell Ranges are a hidden treasure. Stretching 100 kilometres east of Alice Springs, the East MacDonnell Ranges provide beautiful scenery for bush walking, camping and four-wheel driving. To the local Eastern Arrernte people, this area is the Dreamtime birthplace of the mountain range. Places like Emily and Jessie Gap, Corroboree Rock and N’Dhala Gorge are of great cultural significance to the Arrernte people. The beauty of these sites, and others such as Trephina Gorge, makes a trip to the East MacDonnells unforgettable. You can base your exploration from Ross River Resort on the eastern end of the ranges. Both cabin and camping facilities are available along with bar and restaurant services.
Late last century the Ranges were the site of Australia’s most remote, but short lived gold rush at what is now Arltunga Historical Reserve. Here there is a ghost town to explore, complete with the remains of mining camps and old mines. Camping is available at Arltunga Bush Pub. The first mining rush actually took place at what is now Ruby Gap Nature Park. As the once hopeful prospectors quickly discovered, they were only garnets, but the scenery is priceless. Try your luck fossicking for your own gems with a tour from the oasis in semi desert mulga country, Gemtree. Equipment is included and experienced guides show you how and where to find the gems, cabin accommodation is available at Gemtree Caravan Park.
The Simpson Desert stretches south from Alice Springs towards the South Australia border. Many attractions located on its fringes are an easy day trip from Alice Springs and provide a taste of its fascinating natural, cultural and historical wonders. The Simpson Desert offers some of the best four-wheel driving in Australia. An endless horizon, rolling sand dunes and challenging desert tracks all make for a real frontier experience. Travelling through this desert region means exploring territory very few people have seen.
The Old Ghan Heritage Track passes through the Simpson Desert on its way from Port Augusta in South Australia to Alice Springs. This is one of Australia’s most important heritage trails as it follows the route of the original narrow gauge Ghan line. Interpretive signs on replica railway trolleys are located at 20 key points along the trail and tell the story of an incredible engineering achievement in the outback.
Not far from the Stuart Highway (Explorer’s Way), south of Alice Springs is Rainbow Valley. Nestled in the James Ranges, it is a spectacular sandstone bluff with rainbow like bands, best seen in the late afternoon sun or after heavy rainfall.
An easy stop off on the way to Chambers Pillar is the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve. These rock carvings and petroglyphs provide a fascinating record of many important beliefs by the local Arrernte people. Chambers Pillar was named after one of the explorer John McDouall Stuart’s sponsors and rises as a solitary beacon out of the rugged landscape. Early pioneers used Chambers Pillar as a navigational landmark. A walk up the hill to this 50 metre sandstone pillar’s base is recommended to see the markings made by nineteenth century explorers who carved their names into the soft sandstone.
After stopping at the Aboriginal community of Finke to refuel and buy refreshments, you may want to head out to Old Andando, a heritage listed station.
West MacDonnell Ranges
Running due west from Alice Springs, the West MacDonnell Ranges contain a variety of impressing and interesting geological features and landscapes. Simpsons Gap is a dramatic cleft in the range through which a dry white sand riverbed fringed with river red gums winds. Standley Chasm with its vertical red walls that glow in the midday sun gives the impression of some sort of giant fracture in the rock. It contains permanent springs and unusual plant life and is a pleasant excursion on its own.
Ellery Creek Big Hole is a large permanent waterhole nestled in the ranges that is a favourite swimming place for locals in the summer. The water can be freezing at other times of the year however.
The Larapinta Trail winds 250 kilometres from Alice Springs through the West MacDonnell Ranges to Mount Sonder. The Trail is one of the world’s great walks and visitors not wishing to attempt the entire walk can chose sections to walk in the space of a day.
Most of the West MacDonnell Range’s key attractions are easily accessible from Alice Springs via a sealed highway as far as Glen Helen Resort.