Alice Springs

Town Profile : Alice Springs

Alice Springs

 

After receiving the shocking wakeup call that we we’re suddenly south of the Tropic of Capricorn, we rolled into Alice Springs cold and hungry.  Our first stop was pizza, then a hot shower at the town centre before a beer at the pub.  We then made contact with our first Helpx host.

 

We did two Helpx jobs while we were in Alice.  The first one was a landscaping gig for a family of four.  We stayed in their granny flat for four nights and gave their garden a lovely makeover.  For the remainder of our time in Alice, we stayed with Derren, his housemate and their two dogs.  Dave worked at his steel yard while Juz cooked and cleaned at home.

 

Alice Springs is sits in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre and is flanked by the MacDonnell Ranges on either side.  With a red sandy desert stretching for kilometers in all directions, Alice is an iconic Australian town and is the gateway to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.

 

Alice Springs

 

Fast Facts

  • Alice Springs is the third largest town in the Northern Territory
  • The population sits at around 28,000, which is about 12% of the Territory’s population
  • Alice Springs supposedly has 270 mm of rain a year but 70% of years are below average.  It’s a land of droughts and flooding rains

 

Alice Springs

 

History

Arrernte are the original inhabitants, who refer to Alice as Mparntwe, and believe that the MacDonnell Ranges were carved by giant caterpillar spirits during the creation time.  They took care of the land until European settlement.

 

The town first started off as a telegraph station for the Overland Telegraph Line.  This line follows the expedition route of John McDouall Stuart, who crossed Australia from south to north in 1862.  Just over 20 years later, a boom in population would be caused by the discovery of alluvial gold at Arltunga, about 100km east of Alice Springs.

 

Camels were integral for the survival of people living in Central Australia and were used to transport wool and provisions to Alice and the surrounding sheep and cattle stations, missions and aboriginal communities, as well as to pull ploughs to build dams.  Camel trains would travel over 600km from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs to bring supplies to Alice Springs, but once the railway line between Alice and Adelaide was completed in 1929, the camels were released, and with more motor and air transport flowing through the region, the isolation of Alice dissipated.

 

If it wasn’t for the cameleers and the camels, Alice Springs wouldn’t not have survived, and to celebrate, The Camel Cup is raced every year.

 

Alice Springs 2014-06-24 001

 

Until the early 1930s, the location of the town was actually called Stuart, while a nearby waterhole was called Alice Springs after Lady Alice Todd, the wife of Sir Charles Todd.  The telegraph station was built next to the spring and this caused a bunch of confusion for administrators down in Adelaide, so in 1933, Stuart was officially gazetted as Alice Springs.

 

These days, the town is full of nice hotels, restaurants, Aboriginal art galleries and well over 25,000 inhabitants.

 

Places of Interest

Telegraph Station Historical Reserve

The reserve is where the actual Alice Spring is, a little waterhole named after Lady Alice Todd.  The old buildings of the telegraph station are still there, and you can pay to explore the station, or you can just look at the building from the other side of the fence.  There are a number of walking trails from the station that lead into the bush but beware, they aren’t very clearly marked and you may find yourself walking for hours in the wrong direction.

 

Alice Springs

 

Mount Gillen

If you’re fit and keen for a decent climb, then head west along Larapinta Drive until you come across Flynn’s Grave.  This is the starting point for the trail that challenges Mount Gillen and depending on your fitness, this activity will take 2-3 hours.

 

The peak of Gillen can be seen from town and leans over the landscape like a wave about to break.  The return trip is just under 5km and takes you up nearly 300 metres.  It’s a tough hike but once you hit the peak, you’re on top of the world.

 

Alice Springs

 

Anzac Hill Lookout

If you’re not game to challenge the mountain, then maybe a hill is more to your liking.  Anzac Hill Lookout is right in the centre of town and gives great views of the surrounding area.  It’s really popular at sunset.

 

Alice Springs

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

This is a must see attraction in Alice Springs.  You get to meet a variety of reptiles, including snakes, goannas and blue tongue lizards.  We absolutely loved our time at the Reptile Centre – check out our post here.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Todd Mall Markets

Every second Sunday, Todd Mall is lined with market stalls selling clothes, crafts and yummy foods.  It’s a great opportunity to loiter around for breakfast, purchase some Italian biscuits or to grab a coffee and a bargain.  If you’re a market fiend, every alternate Sunday is the Heavitree Gap Market, next door to the tavern.

 

Alice Springs

 

Events

Finke Desert Race

This is Australia’s great desert race. For four days over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, cars, quads, bikes and buggies flood the town and kick up the dirt and attempt the two day, off road, multi terrain race from Alice Springs to the Aputula community.

 

We went along to the Prologue day on Saturday and the Finishing day on Monday to support our mate, Tony from Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park.  While he was coming first in his class on the first day, he busted a shocker on the second day and rolled in last, 3 minutes before the finishing deadline.

 

Finke Desert Race

 

Alice Springs Beanie Festival

One of the worlds’ most unique festivals, the Alice Springs Beanie Festival runs for four days and features thousands of the most creative and colourful beanies you’ll ever see.  We were lucky enough to be in town for the event and thought it was really special.  Check out our post here.

 

Alice Springs Beanie Festival

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

This annual fundraising event has a reputation that precedes it.  If you’re lucky enough to be in town for this kooky occasion, attend!  You won’t regret it – check out our post here.

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

Henley On Todd Regatta

One of the kookiest events we’ve ever been to, the Henley On Todd Regatta occurs annually in Alice Springs and takes place on the dry bed of the Todd River.  Check out our post here.

 

Henley On Todd

 

 

Food & Drink

There is not a lot of choice in Alice Springs, but there are a few places where you can get a good feed.  Uncle’s Tavern in the centre of town is an easy location for a beer and a relatively cheap feed, Outback Kebabs is good when they’re actually open and ice cream lovers can head to Uncle Edy’s Ice Cream for an awesome selection of flavours to suit anybody.  For great fish and chips, you can’t beat Eastside Fish and Chips, and if you’re craving for pie, Wicked Kneads near Coles will satisfy.  Here are a few of our favourites…

 

Rocky’s Pizza

This was our first stop in town and we happened to hit the jackpot. It dishes out the best pizza we’ve had in a very long time.

 

The Gillen Club

For the truly hungry, you can’t go past the Gillen Club.  Expect to pay around $20 for lamb shanks, chicken parmigiana, or salt and pepper squid, which is a pretty good deal, and with every meal, you get all you can eat at the salad bar.  Check out our post here.

 

Epilogue

Yummy café by day, awesome cocktail bar at night, Epilogue covers all the bases. Check out our post here.

 

Epilogue Cafe & Lounge

 

Monte’s Lounge

The colourful carnival surroundings of Monte’s make it a great place to have a few drinks on a Friday night.  They also do great food.  Check out our post here.

 

Monte's

 

Information & Accommodation

The Visitor Information Centre is located on Todd Mall opposite Alice Plaza.

 

For some conveniently located and great value accommodation, check out Alice Springs YHA on the corner of Leichhardt Terrace and Parsons Street. Check out our post here.
Book your accommodation through TripAdvisor

 

Alice Springs YHA

 

Henley On Todd

NT Events : Henley On Todd Regatta, Alice Springs

Henley On Todd

 

In most cases, clouds do have a silver lining.  After returning to Alice Springs with car issues, we were able to stick around for the 53rd Annual Henley On Todd Regatta.  This unique event is NT’s longest running event and it’s all about having fun and raising money for the three local Rotary Clubs, which in turn support various charities like the Salvation Army, Royal Flying Doctors Service and the RSPCA.

 

The History

The Henley On Todd Regatta was started in 1962 by a bloke called Reg.  Originally from Oakleigh in Victoria, Reg first came to Alice Springs in 1946 to work as a meteorologist.  He went on to work on a brief assignment in Antarctica, before returning to Alice Springs to become a weather observer. He stuck around after meeting and marrying his wife Pat in 1950.

 

After joining the Rotary Club of Alice Springs in 1962, and during a member picnic that year, discussions on how to raise money for charity lead to Reg’s great idea to hold a waterless regatta on the dry bed of the Todd River.  Since then, the regatta has been an integral part of the community, supporting businesses and services, and bringing the locals together for a day of fun.

 

The Henley On Todd Regatta has only been cancelled once since it began – due to rainy weather back in 1993. It turns out that the only thing that can ruin this kooky boat race is water!

 

Henley On Todd

 

The Event

The regatta is held on the second last Saturday of August and begins with a parade through Todd Mall.  Lots of people line the street to check out the participants and their boats, which range from elaborate battleships to crude crap stacks.  After the parade, everyone heads to the banks of the Todd River where food stalls, merchandise stands and live music are ready to go.

 

 

 

Activities were held throughout the day, and most were about speed.  Barely seaworthy boats raced along the river and ended with shipwrecks at the finish line, sand was shovelled into 44 gallon drums as fast as possible, foursomes strapped to skis shuffled down the track, and Tour D’Todd hamster wheels rolled along too.  With speed comes stumbles and injuries, but there was no hard feelings and the show would always go on.  There were also tug-of-war battles, lolly scrambles for the kids, and to keep the entertainment flowing, the Battleboat Spectacular teams would have water fights in the middle of the arena with fire extinguishers filled with water.

 

The main event was the Head of the River and it was between the Yanks and the Aussies.  We are extremely happy to say that the Aussie team won and the crowd went wild!

 

 

Henley On Todd

 

The Hilarity

Nearly everyone at the regatta was sporting a pair of hot pink sunglasses.  We asked what the deal was and we were promptly directed to the TIO Party Safe stand, which was probably the most popular stand at the event.  They were giving away pink sunnies for free and it wasn’t long before we were sporting our own.

 

One of the day’s highlights was the Budgie Smuggler Race.  Brave blokes dropped their strides and bolted across the sand for the crowd’s entertainment.  They were given Tony Abbott masks to hide their identity but some contestants had no hesitations about exposing their cheeks.

 

Henley On Todd

 

Watching the Tour D’Todd hamster wheel races was cringe worthy.  Overzealous racers in their giant metal wheels were prone to tripping and many were overcome and rolled into painful contortions while some got their fingers stuck in the grate and needed to be pried free.

 

The closest re-enactment of a locust plague we have ever witnessed was the lolly scramble.  The air was filled with dust as manic children raced to collect as many lollies as they could from the sand.  One little boy had run out of arms so Dave offered his hat as a basket and took care of the boy’s loot as he went scrambling for more.

 

The last event of the day was the Battleboat Spectacular.  There were three teams – the Vikings, the Pirates and the Navy – each with their own customised battle boat that was fitted with cannons, water bombs, flour bombs and hoses!  Our media access allowed us to stay within the arena, so we were right in the middle of it all.  The cannons were shockingly loud and sprinkled us with layers of sawdust, that got into our hair and underpants, and there were a few times we got sprayed with the hose.  After an epic battle, the crowd voted with their cheering and the Navy boat was awarded with their first victory.

 

Henley On Todd