Although it lies over 1,500 kilometers from the nearest city, Alice Springs’ remote setting amidst the endless outback is exactly what attracts so many people to the small town. Set in the center of the Outback, it acts as a gateway to some of Australia’s most spectacular sights, such as Uluru and Kata Tjuta with the captivating Kings Canyon also nearby.
While it is perfectly placed for exploring the Red Center, the town also has an excellent arts and culture scene with superb museums and galleries. Other things to do in Alice Springs include learning about the Aborigines’ rich history and discovering their heritage.. The town is home to a large Aboriginal population with countless sacred sites located nearby.
Add in the awe-inspiring desert landscapes, massive mountains and native fauna and flora that surround it, and it is no wonder that so many visitors end up in this remote and rural, yet remarkable, small town.
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12. Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park
Just fifteen minutes’ drive southeast of the center you can find Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park. Nestled amidst the East MacDonnell Range, the two gaps count among the most atmospheric and important Aboriginal sites around Alice Springs.
Around each of their waterholes you can spy amazing rock paintings and sacred symbols etched on the craggy, ochre-colored walls of the gorges. These incredible artworks and the range around them are part of the Caterpillar Dreaming story that recounts how Alice Springs and its surroundings were formed millennia ago.
Besides enjoying the striking scenery and learning about the significance of the site to the Central Arrernte people, you can go hiking, stop off for a picnic or simply snap photos of the Aboriginal art.
11. John Flynn’s Grave
When heading to the wildly popular Alice Springs Desert Park, it is well worth stopping by John Flynn’s Grave, which lies just a few hundred meters along the same route. Located just ten minutes’ drive west of town, the moving memorial is set in a pretty spot with the MacDonnell Ranges rising up dramatically in the background.
Protected as part of a historical reserve, it marks the burial place of John Flynn, an Australian Presbyterian minister who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Perched precariously atop an urn containing his ashes is a huge boulder. A plaque documenting his life and legacy can be found at the foot of the monument.
In addition to paying your respects and taking some photos of the grave’s stunning setting, there are a number of hikes you can do here with the most rewarding yet arduous taking you up to the top of the nearby Mount Gillen.
10. Araluen Arts Centre
Lying at the heart of Alice Springs’ thriving arts and culture scene is the outstanding Araluen Arts Centre that puts on all kinds of amazing performances and exhibitions. Set just west of the center, it has four fantastic art-filled galleries with a state-of-the-art theater also on offer.
Established in 1999, it contains exquisite artworks by Aboriginal artists with wonderful watercolors by Albert Namatjira displayed alongside colorful carvings, sculptures and elegantly embroidered garments.
Aside from seeing its more than 1,100 unique art pieces, you can also take classes at the centre with ceramics, stained-glass and painting workshops. Its terrific theater also hosts excellent live music, dance and drama shows and puts on thrilling films and documentaries.
9. Alice Springs Telegraph Station
Now preserved as a historical reserve, the Alice Springs Telegraph Station is actually the original birthplace of the town. Located just five minutes’ drive north of the centre, it offers a fascinating look into how Alice Springs was settled and what life used to be like amidst the endless expanses of the outback.
What started in 1872 as a remote telegraph station slowly morphed into a small town as stockyards, a police station and a blacksmith’s workshop all sprung up alongside other structures. After serving for sixty years, it was later turned into an Aboriginal reserve and then army barracks during WWII.
In addition to exploring its well-preserved buildings and interesting exhibits on the station’s history, visitors can hike or mountain bike around its gorgeous grounds or enjoy a picnic or snack at its on-site cafe.
8. Simpsons Gap
While all of the West MacDonnell Ranges are well worth exploring, one of the most picture-perfect spots in the national park has to be Simpsons Gap. Situated just 25 minutes’ drive west of the center, it boasts beautiful scenery with fine wildlife-watching also on offer.
Just one of the many gaps in the range, its ruddy red rock cliffs tower over a lovely little streambed with ponds, plants and trees all dotted about. An important spiritual site of the Arrernte People, its permanent waterhole attracts black-footed rock-wallabies with peregrine falcons and painted finches swooping overhead.
Aside from taking in its stupendous scenery and wildlife, visitors can hike amidst the gaps, gorges and mountains with incredible nature and views wherever you go.
7. Olive Pink Botanic Gardens
Just across the Todd River from the center of town you can find the pretty paths and desert plants of the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. A very picturesque place to amble around, it sprawls across a huge site with more than 500 species of flowers and plants, shrubs and trees scattered about its scenic confines.
First opened to the public in 1985, it is named after Olive Muriel Pink; a prominent anthropologist and Aboriginal rights activist who lobbied tirelessly for the area to be protected as a park. Over the decades, her and her Warlpiri assistants planted an eclectic collection of flora from Central Australia, such as mulga and red gums, cacti, quandongs and colorful flowers.
As you wander about, you’ll come across wild areas, a waterhole and sand dune habitats with divine views over Alice Springs and Ntyarlkarle Tyaneme – a sacred Aboriginal site – to be enjoyed from the summit of its small hill.
6. Larapinta Trail
Stretching a staggering 223 kilometers in total, the Larapinta Trail takes you past some of the most spectacular scenery in Central Australia. An absolute treat to hike along, it mainly follows the West MacDonnells Range and passes numerous important and impressive sacred sites of the Arrernte People on the way.
Increasingly popular among hikers from all around the world, the trail is split into twelve sections with the mighty Mount Sonder making up its western endpoint and Alice Springs its eastern. Widely considered one of the country’s most breathtaking bushwalks, it winds its way along ridges, through canyons and by dry creek beds and waterholes, with epic scenery and views the whole way along.
It’s well-signposted with campsites and trailheads spaced out along the route. Highlights include, not only Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm, but the gorgeous gorges of Glen Helen, Redbank and Serpentine too.
5. Kangaroo Sanctuary
As no trip to Australia or Alice Springs can ever be complete with seeing some roos, stopping by the Kangaroo Sanctuary really is a must. Besides learning about their diets, habitats and behaviors, you can also meet some of the stars who featured in the BBC/National Geographic show Kangaroo Dundee.
Originally dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned baby kangaroos, the sprawling site has since expanded to include large bucks and does. Whole troops of them can be spotted bouncing about the sanctuary. Since opening in 2005, its founder Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns and his dedicated team have returned over a hundred of the majestic marsupials to the wild.
While its most famous resident Roger – a humongous alpha-male – sadly died in late 2018, visitors can still meet cute baby roos or take magical sunset tours around the site’s savannah which lies just fifteen minutes’ drive southeast of the centre.
4. Alice Springs Reptile Centre
Home to all kinds of amazing creatures, crocs and snakes; the Alice Springs Reptile Centre is one of the town’s most popular tourist attractions. Set right in the center, it has a huge collection of reptiles from the Northern Territory with interesting exhibits on each of them.
Established in 2000, it now impressively houses over a hundred reptiles with death adders and king brown snakes to be spied next to perentie, thorny devils and frill-necked lizards. In addition to these unique and unusual-looking creatures, there is a saltwater crocodile exhibit for visitors to explore which includes fascinating fossils and traces the evolution of the ferocious hunters.
Every day, guests can attend fun and informative talks on the reptiles, snakes and crocs and can even handle some of the center’s more laidback residents and snap photos with their new friends.
3. Anzac Hill
Boasting the best views of Alice Springs and its surroundings, Anzac Hill rises dramatically above the town center down below. Very popular with locals and tourists alike, its prominent peak can’t be missed as its hulking great mass almost seems to blot out the sky.
Located at the northern end of Bath Street, it is named after the moving memorial at its summit that is dedicated to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought in World War I. The large hill also serves as a sacred site for the Arrernte People who instead know it as Untyeyetwelye.
Aside from taking in the fine features of the sparkling white war memorial, visitors can bask in unparalleled views over Alice Springs with the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges to be spotted off in the distance.
2. Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum
Right in the center of town you can find the excellent Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum which offers an interesting look into the history of one of Australia’s most iconic institutions. Home to maps, models, medical equipment and more, its artifacts and exhibitions occupy the original Radio Station House.
Informally known as ‘The Flying Doctor’, it was established in 1928 to provide remote, rural and regional parts of the country with emergency aid and primary health care. In the museum you can learn how the first pilot, Arthur Affleck, navigated vast swathes of the state, largely using landmarks such as fences, rivers and telegraph lines to orient himself.
As well as seeing replicas of planes and historic radios, visitors can hear how the unique and utterly indispensable medical service evolved, and see photos, films and memorabilia from throughout its history.
1. Alice Springs Desert Park
While most people use the town as a base from which to visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, stunning landscapes, scenery and nature can be found much closer by at the awesome Alice Springs Desert Park. Just fifteen minutes’ drive west of the center, its sprawling confines offer a comprehensive look at Central Australian desert environments and local Aboriginal culture.
Protected as part of a park since 1997, it has various scenic sections for visitors to explore with dry Desert Rivers and shady Woodlands set alongside the sun-scorched Sand Country. You can learn how the Arrernte People survived in these arid and desolate areas by foraging, finding water and hunting.
In addition, guests can see reptiles, invertebrates, mammals and birds from Central Australia, watch enthralling live presentations in its Nature Theater or even take an atmospheric Nocturnal Tour through the bush at night.