Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Visit Alice Springs in Australia’s Red Centre

About Alice Springs

Have you ever dreamed of spending your vacation in Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory? Do you want to visit the town that is at the very heart of the country of Australia and enjoy great trips to Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta? Alice Springs or ‘The Alice’ has something to offer for every traveller however discerning; great hotels and resorts, an interesting history, great shopping and markets, aboriginal culture and art and, of course, access to the amazing natural beauty that is the Australian Outback.  This is a region that offers remote desert landscapes to explore, deep and mysterious gorges to hike through and fascinating Aboriginal communities.  Alice Spring’s is the second largest town in the Northern Territory, after Darwin, and has a population of around 27,800.  Alice Springs is almost equidistant between Darwin and Adelaide, and is situated in the region called Central Australia or the Red Centre of Australia.  This part of Australia is called the Red Centre because of the amazing rich, red colour of the soil, which creates a wonderful colour contrast between the bright blue of the sky and the green of the vegetation. The region is mainly semi-arid desert, with very little rainfall and huge fluctuations in temperature. The temperatures in Alice Springs can vary by as much as 28 °C (50 °F) during the year, with the summer being very hot with a maximum average temperature of 36.6  °C (97.9 °F) and the winter months being considerably cooler with an average minimum temperature of 7.5 °C (45.5 °F).

Alice Springs, NT

History of Alice Springs

Alice Springs is situated alongside the MacDonnell Ranges and has been built up along the Todd River, which unusually for a river is normally dry.  The area around Alice Springs is the traditional homeland of the Arrernte, who have inhabited this region for around 50,000 years, and the Aboriginal name for Alice Springs is Mpamtwe. When the European settlers arrived in Australia, the first expedition to find an overland route from the south to the north was led by John McDouall Stuart in 1861-62. Ten years later a settlement was built on the site that was to become Alice Springs, in order to build the repeater station for the Overland Telegraph Line that allowed communication between Adelaide and Darwin.  The Overland Telegraph Line was finished in 1872 and the region started to be settled by Europeans when gold was discovered just east of the Alice in 1872. The opening up of this remote and inhospitable area was greatly facilitated by the Afghan Cameleers who delivered vital supplies to Alice Springs by driving their camel trains overland for 600 km from the Oodnadatta rail terminal.  The rail link from Adelaide to Alice Springs was not completed until 1929, and in 2004 it was extended on to Darwin.  What is generally not known is that Alice Springs was originally known as Stuart, and the name was not changed to Alice Springs until the early 1930’s. Alice Springs was the name that had been given to the waterhole that was discovered in 1871 and was named after Alice Todd who was the wife of the Superintendent of Telegraphs.

Alice Springs Cultural Centre

Getting to Alice Springs

Australia is a huge country and the distances between towns can be huge.  Alice Springs, being situated in the very centre of the country, is a long way from everywhere!  You can hire a vehicle and drive to the Alice from Darwin, Adelaide, Sydney or Melbourne, but be prepared for your journey taking at least several days.  If you are planning to drive, you also need to be well prepared, as there are long distances between fuel stops, so you will need to ensure that you are carrying enough petrol, water and fuel for your journey. As most travellers are short of time, the best way to get to Alice Springs is to fly. There is an airport just outside Alice Springs which has daily flights from most of the major Australian cities. Qantas and Virgin Blue are the biggest airlines that service Alice Springs, but check the schedules for direct flights, as connections only increase your flying time.  Alice Springs is also serviced by the famous ‘Ghan’ railway service which runs between Adelaide and Darwin via Alice Springs. The full rail journey takes two nights, but many passengers break their journey at Alice Springs, so that they can explore and enjoy this unique Australian destination.  Alice Springs also features in many overland tours, and these can range from very basic backpacker camping trips to luxury camping trips or accommodated trips.

Alice Springs Telegraph Station

Alice Springs Hotels and Accommodation

If you decide to stay in Alice Springs there is a huge selection of accommodation to choose from. If you are lucky enough to be on a luxury vacation there are some great 5* resorts for you to enjoy in Alice Springs, such as the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs which offers an award winning restaurant, great swimming pools, a spa and comfortable rooms or the Chifley Alice Springs Resort. For the rest of us there is a great range of mid-priced hotels, self-catering apartments and also some great basic backpacker accommodation if you are on a budget or just want to relax into the party vibe! When you are choosing your Alice Springs hotel have a look at where it is situated on the map, as the town is pretty spread out and some hotels and resorts are a fair distance from the CBD and shops. There is a local bus service and some resorts offer a shuttle bus service, but if you like walking and being close to the action be sure to book your accommodation close to the action.

Alice Springs Baby Kangaroo Centre

Things To See In Alice Springs

There is a lot to do and see in Alice Springs and the surrounding areas.  If you are short of time, you can book some excellent city tours that are either ½ day or full day tours that take in all the major tourist attractions.  So what does Alice Springs have to offer?

Alice Springs Desert Park
If you are interested in the wildlife and plants of the Australian deserts, you will be fascinated by the Alice Springs Desert Park.  You can see some of the amazing creatures that live in this arid region and learn about the trees and plants that make up the sparse desert vegetation and how they all survive in such a harsh environment.
Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre
If you want to experience and learn more about the ancient culture of the Arrernte people, than a visit to the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre is a must. Learn about Aboriginal art, culture, religion, food and society.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service
As Outback Australia is so vast, medical services are delivered to remote communities and cattle stations by the iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service. Visit the RFDS in Alice Springs to find out how the service is run and the history of these unique flying doctors.
School of the Air
Many children in this region simply live too far away to attend school every day, so they are taught by the School of the Air.  Visit the School of the Air to see how the lessons are carried out and learn more about the history of this fascinating educational service.
Alice Springs Reptile Centre
The Red Centre of Australia is home to many fascinating reptiles. Visit them at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, where you can see and learn about many different species of reptile. Marvel at the Gecko Cave and be careful around the crocodile!
Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve
See where it all began by visiting the Alice Springs Telegraph Historical Reserve, where you can explore the restored stone buildings and learn about the history of the Telegraph Station
Old Ghan Heritage Railway and Museum
If you enjoy the romance of the railways, visit the Old Ghan Heritage Railway and Museum. You can explore an old train and carriages, take a train ride on Sunday mornings or get a group of friends together and book dinner on the Old Ghan train.


Uluru and Kata Tjuta

 Uluru truly is the iconic heart of Australia’s Red Centre, and along with Kata Tjuta, is a sacred place for the Aboriginal people.  Uluru is a quite a distance from Alice Springs, but can be done in a day trip – just be prepared for a very early start and returning in the early hours of the morning.  Many people, however, go for a couple of days so that they can enjoy the spectacle of the sun rising and setting over the huge red rock formation, and to have longer to enjoy walking around the base of Uluru, enjoying the Visitor’s Centre and exploring Kata Tjuta.  There is a range of accommodation at Uluru to suit all budgets and there is also an airport, so that you can fly directly in.

Sports and Activities in Alice Springs

Alice Springs is a magnet for hikers and bushwalkers, and there is also an 18 hole golf course to enjoy if you cannot leave your clubs at home.  Alice Springs must be the only town that holds a regatta on a dry river, but you can join in the fun at the annual Henley-on-Todd Regatta every August, where most of the boats are made from beer cans!  If camels are more your thing, July hosts The Camel Cup featuring camel races and camel polo.
So as you can see, Alice Springs offers everything that you could need for a great vacation.  Include Alice Springs in your Australian holiday plans, and experience amazing landscapes, fabulous wildlife, fascinating Aboriginal culture and art, and a truly relaxing, enjoyable vacation.