The main service town for outback Northern Territory is Alice Springs, some 1499km from Darwin and 1532km from Adelaide. The town began life in 1872 as a repeater station for the Overland Telegraph Line that linked Adelaide to Darwin and onto England. Discovery of gold a decade or so later encouraged further settlement but the town was really only put on the map during WWII when it was used a staging camp for troops heading north to Darwin to defend Australia from invasion. Today tourists outnumber locals who flock for the unique landscape and the ‘big’ attractions in the southern Northern Territory. Alice Springs is home to some of the most exclusive luxury lodges Australia has to offer and you can see some of the most spectacular desert lanscapes in the world.
Owing to the harsh desert heat, winter is the preferred season to visit the region. In summer temperatures rise on average to around 36 degrees, while in winter the temperature is a much more reasonable 19 degrees. While summer attracts more rain, there are still only four or five rainy days in the month, so wet weather isn’t really an issue.
Because of the unique location, there are a number of special festivals held annually in Alice Springs including the Alice Desert Festival Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta and the Finke Desert Race.
The Alice Spring Airport is about 14km from the centre and receives flights from major Australian capitals. Qantas flies to Alice Springs while both Qantas and Virgin Australia reach Ayres Rock.
Alice Springs boasts luxury five star hotels which feature the appropriate amenities for this accommodation bracket. The service town of Uluru, Yulara, which is also known as the Ayres Rock Resort, offers a number of accommodation styles. Sails in the Desert Hotel is the luxury choice, while the Desert Garden Hotel is a comfortable four and half star option.
Sights to See
Alice features many historic buildings that deserve attention including Adelaide House on Todd Mall, The Residency and Alice Springs Telegraph Station. The Alice Spring Desert Park offers a great opportunity to learn more about the unique flora and fauna endemic to the region and the Reptile Centre presents examples of native cold-blooded creatures. The works of local indigenous artist, Albert Namatijira are on display in the Albert Namatijira Gallery.
For the adventurous, consider a hiking expedition through the West MacDonnell Ranges just out of town. Alternatively, take a balloon ride high above the area for a bird’s eye view or perhaps go gem fossicking for beautiful garnet stones, the perfect get rich quick scheme.
It would however be a tragedy to visit Alice Springs and not explore the phenomenal sights in the southern Northern Territory. Standing 348 metres high with a circumference of 9.4km, Uluru is a major icon of Australia. The first glance of the sandstone monolith is one that is sure to remain with you forever. While the indigenous population advise against climbing, the choice remains ultimately with the individual. Most visitors enjoy watching the sunset against the rock, as the colours change quite spectacularly. Walking around the base is also very satisfying as you explore the various nooks up close.
Also in the region, Kings Canyon is an impressive natural formation that demands exploration. Similarly investigating the Olgas or Kata Tjuta, a group of 36 dome-shaped rocks is incredible.
Don’t Leave Without…
If visiting in winter, the temperature does drop considerably at night. So bring appropriate clothing to keep you warm.
Things to be careful of…
Even in winter, the desert sun can be confusingly strong. Be sun safe and always apply and reapply sun screen, wear a hat and a shirt.
Alice Springs is a safe destination. However exercise due caution at night when walking by the Todd River.