Sprawled among garnet-red Outback and the rough-hewn ridges and gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs started life as a humble, impossibly isolated telegraph station. It has transformed, over the last century, into very much a modern town that acts as the service hub for vast tracts of Australia’s Northern Territory — an area as large as Western Europe.
It’s also a starting point for the Ghan railway (the accompanying Old Ghan Heritage Railway Museum displays restored locomotives).
Aboriginal people make up the majority of the population, and just walking the streets you might hear several native languages.
It has to be said that, for many visitors, Alice Springs’ reality barely matches up to the rose-tinted depiction of the town in Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice, or the romance of 19th-century pioneer legends its name evokes.
As a town it’s rough around the edges. During the day, it often has a listless, shuttered feel, and there are few options for entertaining yourself.
But, if you’re looking to explore more widely in central Australia, Alice Springs makes a great addition to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Australia’s largest canyon, Kings, sits between the two and is a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Alice Springs (a relatively short hop in Outback terms).
From the air, ‘the Alice’ (as it’s known) appears even more inaccessible. You can see this inhospitality on a hot-air balloon tour over the West MacDonnell Ranges. Outside its boundaries, you’ll see how the scorched wilderness and saffron-shaded rocks of the Ranges quickly take over.
Alice Springs also abounds in good indigenous art galleries, from the flagship Araluen Arts Centre to smaller community art hubs.
And, there are a couple of museums-come-working-bases that let you witness first-hand how people have adapted to the challenges of Outback living. You can tour both the Royal Flying Doctor Service Base and the School of the Air. The latter was founded in 1951, when it began to broadcast lessons to children living in the remotest corners of the country.
Best time to visit Alice Springs
Alice Springs experiences its coolest and most temperate weather in the Austral winter (June to September), so you’ll generally find visiting during these months makes for a more comfortable stay.
Suggested itineraries featuring Alice Springs
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Alice Springs, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.