Alice Springs Travel Tips
Many people know Alice Springs, Australia as the gateway to the Red Centre. From Alice thousands of travelers launch exhaustive tours of Kings Canyon, Glen Helen and of course Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock. Many people just pass through Alice Springs, which is a shame, because it’s a great, if not quirky, community with lots to do and see in its own right. So when you plan your trip to Australia’s Northern Territory, be sure to schedule some time in Alice Springs. Here are my recommendations to see the best of the city in 24 hours.
Alice Springs Activities
Ghan Train Museum
Construction of what we know of today as the Ghan began in 1878 in Adelaide, South Australia. It wasn’t until the 1920s that train service extended to Alice Springs, prior to that the final leg of the journey had to be made by camel. The Ghan Museum is housed in a former train station, and is also the final resting spot for strange bits of railroad paraphernalia, from full sized locomotives to random bits of iron rusting away. The museum itself though is clean, well organized and infinitely interesting. I found myself reading through mid-century travel posters and gazing longingly at proper dinner service sets, a remnant of a more civilized era of travel.
The museum isn’t just an odd accumulation of stuff though, it is well interpreted and there are plenty of explanations detailing the rich history of the Ghan. Before leaving, we walked through the old train cars, imagining what it must have been like to be the first to make the long journey through the Red Centre.
Alice Springs Desert Park
Tucked away in Alice Springs is one of the best animal experiences in the world, the Desert Park. The Desert Park is a unique nature experience that showcases the flora and fauna of the central Australian desert environments on 3,212 acres of land. It offers guests the opportunity to experience the variety of the deserts of central Australia, exploring the inter-relationships between the plants, animals and people. They also have a unique nocturnal enclosure, giving visitors the chance to see many iconic Australian animals they would never see otherwise.
The nocturnal walk was one of my all-time favorite animal experiences, and is not to be missed. For thirty minutes it was a parade of strange nocturnal creatures including bilbies, wallabies, bettongs and fuzzy rats (disappointed it wasn‘t called the rataby or something). It was fascinating as the guide related stories of saving various animals, some of which are the last of their species. Whether you visit by day or night, make sure the Desert Park at the top of your Alice Springs to-do list.
Other Notable Attractions:
Museum of Central Australia – Located at the Araluen Cultural Precinct, the Museum of Central Australia houses an extensive display relating to Central Australia including natural wonders of this arid region, unique fossils of extinct megafauna, minerals and meteorites and desert life forms.
School of the Air – This famous radio-based school system broadcasts across an amazing 1.3-million-sq.-km radius. Guests can listen in if school is in session or just enjoy the free tour.
Royal Flying Doctor Service – Like the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctor Service was born of necessity, a way to service the people living in the vast Outback. Tours are available and there’s even a small museum.
Old Timer’s Museum – I have no idea what this is really supposed to be, we didn’t stop, but it may be worth a visit just for the oddity of the experience itself. From the outside it appeared to showcase lots of rusty cars and farm equipment, but some may find it interesting.
Alice Springs Accommodations
Crowne Plaza Hotel Alice Springs
We never planned to actually spend the night in Alice Springs, but our plans changed suddenly on the ground and we were left in the lurch. Thankfully we found the Crowne Plaza, a comfortable and well priced hotel in Alice Springs. Even though we didn’t take full advantage of the amenities, the hotel is large and even features a huge pool area, perfect on a hot Outback day. The restaurant was pan-Asia and delicious, surprising for a hotel restaurant. If I were to return to Alice Springs, I would not hesitate to stay at the Crowne Plaza again.
Alice Springs iPhone Apps
These are a few apps you may find useful during your visit to Alice Springs.
Alice Springs Genius Map – Offline map offers street level detailed map with streets and landmarks. Cost $0.99
Alice Springs Airport – Fast and convenient access to the latest arrival and departure times. Cost Free
Museum of Central Australia – Audio guide to compliment the experience of visiting the museum. Cost $1.99