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