Alice Springs YHA isn’t your ordinary hostel. The building that it lives in is soaked in history.
In the early 1940s, the only cinema in Alice Springs was Capitol Theatre. In 1942, a guy named Snow Kenna built an open air theatre on the other side of town called the Old Pioneer Walk-In. The screen faced south to minimise the light from the sun and moon, a light tower was built at the back to project the movies, and Kenna also built his home on the site. This venue became really popular but after Kenna’s death in 1965, it changed ownership many times and due to the competition with a new drive-in theatre and the introduction of colour television, it closed in the early 1980s.
In 1983, the building was leased out and converted into a market. About 20 shops were built into the seating area but due to bad weather and poor ventilation within the walls, the project failed after a year.
By this time, there were talks about having the building demolished but the community protested. Luckily, YHA bought the site in 1988 and nearly a year later on the 50th anniversary of YHA in Australia, work commenced to convert the old cinema to a hostel. By June 1990, Alice Springs YHA was officially opened, with many of the old features still intact. There’s even a picture of the building in the reception area taken in the 1950s.
These days, you can still see the building where the movies were projected, and Snow’s old home is now known as the Kenna House, providing accommodation for travellers that come through Alice Springs. Also, in 2012, a new desert-style accommodation house with a solar powered electricity system was installed with assistance from the Federal Government’s Solar City project and YHA’s Sustainable Hostels Fund.
The hostel takes pride in not being a party hostel so that accommodation is appropriate for all travellers. Besides, the hostel is right in the centre of town so it makes sense to do your partying at the nearby pubs and bars. That doesn’t mean it’s not a social hostel – movie nights, homemade scones and pancake breakfasts are some of the delights that guests enjoy. There is also a resident kangaroo that hops around the site.
Alice Springs YHA had a great selection of air-conditioned rooms that include mixed, male and female only rooms, double and twin rooms, as well as a four-bed family room.
The common areas include BBQ facilities, a swimming pool, games room, laundry, lounge with TV, and a spacious, clean kitchen. There is access to the internet in the reception area and you can also get access to WIFI. The tour desk offers a wide variety of discounted backpacker tours to nearby attractions like Uluru and Kings Canyon, and bicycles are available for hire.
But the really cool thing about Alice Springs YHA is the big outdoor movie screen that shows Australian indigenous movies every night.
- 100m from the hostel is Todd Mall where the fortnightly markets are held. Browse the craft tables, food stalls and aboriginal art. The Visitor Centre is also on Todd Mall, on the corner from the hostel.
- 400m south on Todd Street is Rocky’s Pizza. You’re not going to get a better pizza for 1000s of kilometres in any direction. If you walk through Todd Mall, you’ll pass a few cafes that are open for breakfast. Epilogue Lounge is also great for a cocktail.
- 500m away on Hartley Street is your closest supermarket, Woolworths. It’s within the shopping centre that also contains clothing stores and food outlets. The post office is across the road.
- 600m north is the base of Anzac Hill. Climb to the top for great views of Alice Springs.
- 1000m south on Bath Street is the Alice Springs Reptile Centre. This is a great place to meet some reptiles from the Northern Territory, from snakes to lizards and crocs!
- 5 minutes away and over the river is Lasseters Casino. Enjoy a steak with sweet potato chips at the Juicy Rump before trying your luck on the Pokies.
- About 10 minutes away, along Larapinta Drive, is Flynn’s Grave. While the grave isn’t anything to write home about, this location is the beginning of the walk to the peak of Mount Gillen. Make sure you have your hiking boots on – this is an epic climb and will take about 2 hours return.
- The train station is about 2km from the hostel. Regular Ghan services are available to and from Adelaide and Darwin but its not cheap. There’s a travel agency opposite the Visitor Centre that can give you more information.
- The airport is about 15km to the south. An airport shuttle is available and costs $12.00 each way.
Alice Springs YHA is located on the corner of Parsons Street and Leichhardt Terrace. Reception hours are from 7am to 8:30pm. To make a booking, visit http://www.yha.com.au/hostels/nt/central-australia/alice-springs-backpackers-hostel/
Phone: (08) 8952 8855