There aren't too many places in the world that can claim year round blue skies, stunning landscapes and a vibrant, diverse community. Such is the boast of the quintessential Australian outback town of Alice Springs, affectionately known as The Alice. The locals claim it is a place where people come to stay for a month, but end up staying forever because of the range of opportunities and rich lifestyle - and they should know, because so many of the 24,000 plus people who live there have done just that.
Besides having plenty of unique outback-flavoured places around town to keep visitors occupied, The Alice is blessed by being strategically located amid the major natural attractions of the Territory's Red Centre. Most of these occur in the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, which run east and west of Alice Springs and provide its unique backdrop.
Alice Springs straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The town's focal point, Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs’ desert lifestyle has inspired several unique and interesting annual events such as the Beanie Festival, the Camel Cup, and the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, the only boat race in the world that gets cancelled when there is water in the river.
Where is it?: Alice Springs is 1,688 km north of Adelaide and 1.498 km south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway.
The following are the natural and historic attractions of the Red Centre that can be reached from Alice Springs in less than a day, either by self drive or organised coach tours: Uluru (Ayers Rock); Kata Tjuta (The Olgas); Kings Canyon; Chambers Pillar; East Macdonnell Ranges (Corroboree Rock; N'Dhala Gorge; Trephina Gorge; Arltunga; Ruby Gap);West Macdonnell Ranges (Simpsons Gap; Standley Chasm; Ellery Creek; Serpentine Gorge; Ormiston Gorge; Glen Helen Gorge; Redbank Gorge; Ochre Pits); Rainbow Valley; Palm Valley (Fink Gorge National Park); Hermannsburg Historic Precinct; Henbury Meteorite Craters; Mt Conner; Kathleen Springs; Alice Springs Desert Park.
Ewaninga Rock Carvings; Hermannsburg Historic Precinct; Ghan Preservation Society Museum; Alice Springs School of the Air; Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre; Road Transport Hall of Fame; Alice Springs Telegraph Station; Cultural Precinct - Museum of Central Australia; Aviation Museum of Central Australia and Araluen Art Centre.
Climate; the best time to visit
The region where Alice Springs is located is an arid environment consisting of several different deserts. In Alice Springs, temperatures can vary by up to 28°C and rainfall can vary quite dramatically from year to year. In summer, the average maximum temperature is in the high 30s, whereas in winter the average minimum temperature can be 7.5°C.
December to February is normally very hot; November to March is when the most rain falls. May to September is the peak season when Alice Springs is at its busiest. In these months, the daytime temperature never gets to high but it can get quite cold at night. If you are looking to take sunset shots of Uluru, August and September are the best months as there is generally little cloud about.
If you plan on incorporating the Top End into your travels and want to avoid the hot summer as well as the peak tourist season, the ideal to is come to Alice Springs in April or May first, then head north. Alternatively, see the Top End first in August or September and visit Alice Springs on your way home.
About Alice Springs
Alice Springs is the second largest city in the Northern Territory of Australia. Near the southern border of the Northern Territory and almost in the exact centre of the continent, Alice Springs is some 1200 km from the nearest ocean and 1500 km from the nearest major cities, Darwin and Adelaide. Alice Springs is now the midpoint of the Adelaide–Darwin Railway, known as The Ghan. Averaging 576 metres above sea level, the town is nearly equidistant from Adelaide and Darwin.
The Arrernte Aboriginal people have made their home in the Central Australian desert in and around the site of the future Alice Springs for more than 50,000 years. Arrernte country is rich with mountain ranges, waterholes, and gorges; as a result the Arrernte people set aside 'conservation areas' in which various species are protected. According to the Arrernte traditional stories, in the desert surrounding Alice Springs, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros, and other ancestral figures.