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The Best Things to do in Alice Springs

Alice Springs is a beautiful desert oasis in the middle of Australia and despite being miles from everywhere, there are plenty of great things to do in this amazing desert city.

Australia’s Red Centre will capture your heart.  The rich red colours of the desert,  vibrant sunsets and clear blue skies will take your breath away.  It’s the quintessential Outback experience.

Like so many others who visit Alice Springs for a short stay, I stayed many years longer than intended … like so many others, and loved every moment.

Here are the best things to do in Alice Springs.

There’s much to see and do in Alice Springs

There are many great reasons to visit this desert oasis.  Each will provide extraordinary experiences that you will carry with you forever.

Explore the MacDonnell Ranges, visit Simpsons Gap to see the rock wallabies and marvel at the acoustics of the rockface.  Bushwalk or hike through the stunning gorges as you watch the wildlife in their natural habitats.  Visit the wildlife parks, kangaroo sanctuaries to learn about these bush animals.

Wander around Australia’s only arid-zone botanic garden and learn about the legendary explorers, prospectors, cattlemen and pioneering women of the outback.

Visit the traditional art galleries on the Todd Mall, take home an original painting from one of the many artists selling art on the lawns.  Learn about the Arrernte people as you learn about the history of Alice Springs.

So, why should Alice Springs be on your Bucket List?

Add Alice Springs to your
Bucket List today!

Step into the landscape and you will discover why Alice Springs should be on your bucket list today.

Spend a day or a week, or more exploring Alice Springs. The warmth of the town, the intense colours of the desert country and the experiences you will have, will stay in your heart forever.

Fun things to do in Alice Springs

#1:  Visit the Alice Springs Desert Park

Thorny DevilJust 10 minutes from the centre of town is the Alice Springs Desert Park.

Much more than a wildlife park, the Alice Springs Desert Park is great family experience.  Be sure to see the popular Birds of Prey shows which feature Australian native Kites and Eagles.  Take a peek at this Youtube video:  Meet James in Australia at the Alice Springs Desert Park

Listen to the cultural talks about the local indigenous desert peoples before wandering through the wildlife enclosures.  You will see kangaroos, quolls, possums, emus, perentes and other reptiles as well as the Thorny Devil which is unique to the central desert region. The Park has an extensive display of wildflowers growing throughout including the fabulous Sturts’ Desert Pea.

#2:  Wander through the Olive Pink Gardens

Sculptures at Olive Pink Botanical GardenAlice Springs is known for its colourful characters.  Miss Pink made her mark as a woman to be reckoned with when she began advocating for Aboriginal rights in the 1930’s.   She founded the beautiful Olive Pink Botanic Garden in 1956 at the grand age of 72.

The gardens feature more than 2,500 plantings of over 500 Central Australian plants as well as a unique sculpture trail.

There are four short walking tracks throughout the park offering lovely views over the Alice Springs town centre and the MacDonnell ranges.  The Bean Tree Cafe is great little spot for breakfast and lunch, and very popular with locals.

#3:  See the Todd River in Flood

Todd River in floodThe Todd River is a dry riverbed for most of the year.  Rumour has it that “if you see the Todd flow 3 times, you will stay forever”.

The origins of the Todd begin in the MacDonnell Ranges, flowing past the Telegraph Station towards the Alice Springs township and onwards to the Simpson Desert.  The Todd river eventually flows into Lake Eyre in South Australia.

It is an extraordinary experience to watch the Todd ‘come down’ and once the word goes out, the locals head to the river’s edge to watch the event.

#4:  Check out the Historic Telegraph Station

The Telegraph StationThe Telegraph Station is just 4 kilometres north of the town centre and easy access by following the dedicated walking & cycling tracks. A beautiful park to relax in and the start of a number of short walking tracks to the town and surrounds.

Take the Trig Hill walk to see the fantastic scenery and wildlife on the trail.  You will likely see kangaroos, rock wallabies and wallaroos, as well as hares and perhaps hear a dingo howling in the distance.  The Telegraph Station is also the starting point for The Larapinta Trail.

Historically the Telegraph Station was an important part of the settlement of Alice Springs and has now been developed into a museum for visitors to gain knowledge of ‘how things were’.  A great spot to see birds, wallabies and other central Australian wildlife.

#5:  Alice’s vibrant Art Scene

Many talented artists gravitate to Alice Springs and each year the Central Australian Art Society presents the Advocate Art Awards.

Artists such as Albert Namatjira and Rex Batterby gained fame and recognition with their stunning Central Australian watercolours.  A magnificent gallery at Araluen Art Centre is home to the largest collection of works by Albert Namatjira in Australia.

Commercial galleries specialising in Aboriginal art are Mbantua, Muk Muk and Papunya Tula Artists – located in the Todd Mall.

#6:  Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service

Living in the remote Outback is often challenging, especially when you need a doctors appointment or even more, to be taken to hospital.

Look inside a plane and learn how the Outback communities talk to each other using an outback radio station.  The museum showcases the history of the Flying Doctors and the important work they do across Outback and remote Australia.

#7:  Check out the World’s largest Classroom

It’s a wonderful way to learn what life is like for people who don’t have access to all the things we take for granted, in town.

#8  The Alice Springs Brewery

Through the Gap, just south of the town you’ll find the Alice Springs Brewery.  It’s the best place to head on a hot day!

The brewery serves several locally crafted beers which quench your thirst on a super-hot day.  For something refreshing, try the Almost Summer beer!

#9: Time your visit with one of Alice’s spectacular events

Finke Desert RaceAlice Springs locals love having fun and they really know how to pull events together, especially when raising funds for a good cause.  Consider timing your visit to take up one of these fabulous annual events.

Events such as the Alice Springs Masters Games, the Henley on Todd Regatta and the Finke Desert Race  all have originated in Alice Springs.

Each year the Parrtjima Festival lights up the West MacDonnell ranges.  A spectacular light event bringing the beautiful MacDonnell ranges to life with spectacular lighting effects showcasing the Central Australia story.  Parrtjima – the Festival of Lights

If you’re visiting Alice Springs in June, be sure to visit the annual Beanie Festival – or better still, put an entry in!  The competition to see who can create the funniest, wildest and weirdest beanie often makes national news.

#10:  The Kangaroo Sanctuary

Kangaroos

Take a guided sunset tour of the Kangaroo Sanctuary for an amazing wildlife experience. The Kangaroo Sanctuary is about 20 minutes’ from Alice Springs and one of the most unique places to visit whilst you’re in Alice Springs.

Brolga (the sanctuary owner) talks about the kangaroos, the importance of wildlife conservation and anecdotes of life in the bush.  It’s an incredible experience as you will learn so much about kangaroos and their habitat.   You will also have a chance to hold and cuddle the baby joeys and feed some of the older joeys.  There will be some perfect selfie moments!

Remember, book a tour, please don’t just turn up as visitor numbers are carefully managed.

It’s a great cause as all the kangaroos have been rescued by the sanctuary, most have been saved from the mother’s pouch after a car incident.  The Baby Kangaroo Rescue Centre was established in Alice Springs in 2005 and the Kangaroo Sanctuary opened in 2011 for rescued orphaned baby kangaroos and adult kangaroos.

#11:  Enjoy a Hearty Breakfast with the Parrots

Port Lincoln parrotAlice Springs has a number of trendy little cafes and restaurants located in the Todd Mall which serve some great breakfast options.   Enjoy the brightly coloured Port Lincoln Parrots hovering in the trees before swooping for crumbs when you’re not looking.

An outdoor market operates in the Todd Mall regularly on Sundays from mid-March to early December featuring local produce, arts, crafts and street food.  Todd Mall Markets

#12:  Cycle the Simpson Gap Bike Path

Simpson GapSimpsons Gap is a spectacular rocky gorge located about 25 kilometres west of Alice Springs with a permanent waterhole.  A visit to Simpsons Gap at dawn or dusk will often reward you sightings of black-footed rock wallabies along the rock-face.

Accessible by road, but if you’re up for a decent bike ride take the sealed Simpsons Gap Bike Path.  The path takes the scenic route cross-country with fairly easy grades. Many of the hotels offer hire bikes for the energetic.

#13:  The Old Ghan Heritage Museum

The first Ghan train left Adelaide for Alice Springs on August 4, 1929.  It was often late, sometimes up to six weeks late!  The intense heat of the outback buckled the steel rails, termites ate the timber sleepers and bridges were washed away by flash floods making train travel unreliable.

In 1980 the Old Ghan was replaced by the New Ghan on a different track.  Visit the Old Ghan Heritage Railway Museum next door to the National Road Transport Hall of Fame.

#14:  Ride into the Sunset on a Camel

camel tour in Alice SpringsNo trip to Central Australia is complete without a camel ride at sunset!  Known as Ships of the Desert, camels played a huge role in the early settlement of Central Australia.

One of my most favourite Alice Springs adventures!

You will have a chance to get close to wallabies, kangaroos, lizards and native birds as you enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.  Be sure to take home a photo of a stunning Central Australian sunset on your magical camel ride.

#15:  Take a Hot-air Adventure

Hot Air BalloonHave you ever wanted to take a hot-air-balloon flight?

It’s a cold, early-morning start, but once you’re in the air it’s a magical way to watch the sunrise give life to the beautiful desert plains.

Operating every day, weather permitting.  Memories of this hot air balloon experience will stay with you forever.

#16:  Visit the Strehlow Research Centre & Museum

The Strehlow Centre is the place to learn about Central Australia and the surrounding region.  Learn about the unique story of this region’s natural and geological history.

Exhibitions in the museum include fossils, meteorite fragments, displays of creatures you might encounter in the region, including birds, mammals, reptiles and insects.  There is also a section about the early settlement of the Lutheren Mission at Hermannsberg.

#17:  Learn to play the Didgeridoo

DidgeridooThe Sounds of Starlight Theatre is in the Todd Mall, and features a modern theatre and retail gift shop and art gallery.  Over 20,000 travellers visit this theatre each year.

Andrew Langford is recognised internationally and the rhythmic quality of his playing and his extensive knowledge of the history and origins of this unique instrument bring together an unforgettable venue.

#18:  Experience the Stars

The Earth Sanctuary is a leader in the field of sustainability in education and eco-tourism offering an award winning program promoting local ecology, astronomy and culture.

Experience a spectacular sunset over the East Macdonnell ranges to an awe inspiring canopy of stars, with tales ranging from local ecology, culture and astronomy.

Book in for a ‘Spirit of the Outback’ dinner & show and night time astronomy tour to learn about the southern hemisphere skies.

#19:  Explore the West MacDonnell Ranges

Ormiston GorgeThe West MacDonnell Ranges are famous for it’s chasms, rocky outcrops and spectacular gorges.  Discover picturesque gorges, lush watering holes and striking red desert and take in some of the most striking landscape in the country.

Visit Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, The Ochre Pits, Ellery Big Hole, Hermmansberg, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen Resort on the Finke River.  Each has it’s own beauty and will take your breath away.   See More:  The Red Centre Way.

#20:  Explore the East MacDonnell Ranges

Corroboree RockThe East Macs are every bit as spectacular.  Emily Gap, Corroboree Rock and Jesse Gap are only a short drive from town and are great picnic spots.

Trephina Gorge has fantastic walking trails along the bottom and around the rim of the large semicircular canyon.  If you’re lucky you’ll find the local gospel choir, Asante Sana taking advantage of the natural acoustics of the Gorge.

Take a picnic and spend the day exploring the gorge or head further east to the Ross River Resort for a great lunch.

The Alice Springs Community

One of the things I love most about Alice Springs is that the community always gets behind a worthwhile cause.  Alice Springs is a tight-knit community and generous supporter of it’s local charities.

The Apex, Lions and Rotary service clubs constantly work to raise funds for a good cause within the local community.  Their fundraising events are well supported.

5 Essential Items for your trip to Alice Springs, Australia

    1. A Good Camera: There will be plenty of great photo moments in the Top End so bring along a good camera.  I highly recommend the Sony A6000.  It’s light, compact and takes amazing photos!
    1. Good Walking Shoes:  The outdoor lifestyle in Australia means you will need good walking shoes.  Be comfortable, and treat yourself to a pair of these – Women’s or Men’s walkers.  Perfect to explore Outback Australia.  I love mine.
    2. A long-sleeve hiking shirt:  I love my long-sleeve Simms shirt for great airflow and protection from the Northern Territory sun.  At the end of the day, a quick rinse will have it fresh and clean for the next day adventures.
    3. A Stainless Steel Water Bottle:  Stay hydrated in the harsh Territory sun.  Get yourself a Yeti stainless water bottle and refill as you go.  Australian tap water is drinkable … and free!
    4. Good Sun Hat and Fly Net:  Protect yourself against the elements in the Outback. Check out this packable Wallaroo Sun Hat designed in Australia for Outback conditions.  Don’t forget to take a fly net to keep those pesky critters away from your face!

Where to stay in Alice Springs

Alice Springs has accommodation to suit every budget.   I usually stay at the Double Tree by Hilton Alice Springs or the Mercure Alice Springs Resort as both have good facilities and restaurants in house.

Check out other options here.
Booking.com

Heading to Alice Springs soon?  Pin this to use on your trip.

Are you staying longer?

There is so much to see and do in and around Alice Springs.  While you’re in this unique part of outback Australia consider adding these to your list.

Have you already been to Alice Springs?  What did you love most of all?  If you have an experience you’d love to share, drop me a note in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your experiences.