To many travelers, Alice Springs is a stopover point in Australia’s Red Centre. It is the gateway to Uluru-KataTjuta National Park, a rest stop from west-east or north-south. But, dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of reasons to dwell a few more days in this historic (and dusty) desert city.
1. Opportunities for easy cycling
For the most part, the land is flat and the ride is easy. If you are interested in infusing some Alice history into your ride, a cycling track can take you to The Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve.Established in 1872 to carry messages between Darwin and Adelaide, the Reserve is the site of the first European settlement in the area. Bring a picnic and spend some time watching for wildlife, several colonies of Rock wallabies live nearby.
The Arrernte Aboriginal people have made Alice Springs and surrounding area home for 30,000 years, and have many original stories to describe the area’s landscape. Opportunities to view and purchase aboriginal art and to learn more about the culture can be more authentic (and cheaper) since you have the opportunity to avoid the throngs of tourists that flock directly to Uluru.
3. Good shopping at the Todd Mall Market
From 9am-1pm, every second Sunday from February to December, head over to the Todd Mall to get a sampling of some local eats, arts, crafts, clothing, and souvenirs. This is where you can find some good deals on souvenir items and aboriginal artwork. The pieces are slightly more affordable than you would find in the park, so take advantage of your time here.
As a Canadian, seeing flocks of Major Mitchell Cockatoos foraging in grassy patches, and colourful Australian Ringneck Parrots stealing sugar packets from café tables, is an experience in itself. You can also visit the Alice Springs Reptile Centre to learn about what reptiles you might be lucky (or unlucky) enough encounter during your visit to Central Australia. The Kangaroo Sanctuary and camel rides can also be found nearby.
5. A chance to avoid (some) of the tourists
OK, so if you’re in Alice Springs, you are probably going to head over to Uluru-Kata Tjuta at some point—and you should! But, while you’re in Alice Springs, appreciate the fact that Ayers Rock Airport, a 20-minute drive from Uluru, helps (a little) in driving down the through-traffic in the city. You’re more likely to run into long-term travelers to Australia than families or groups on a week-long vacation.
Even if they are stopping in Alice, many visitors won’t be hanging around long enough to explore the MacDonnell Ranges. The West MacDonnell Ranges, near Alice Springs, provide ample opportunity for viewing native wildlife and vegetation, getting in some hiking and swimming, and exploring gorges and waterholes. You can also catch hints of aboriginal culture here.
7. Get a sense of desert living
With a population around 30,000, city living and urbanization hasn’t overwhelmed the landscape in Alice Springs. Spending some time walking around the city can really make you feel like you are in an outback town. Cross the Todd “River” and visit the Olive Pink Botanic Garden for an interesting look at some vegetation that thrives in an arid landscape. After all, you are in the outback, and though it may be an adventure for you, it’s nice to be reminded that for many people, this is home.