Given its remote location, right in the centre of Australia, it would seem that there aren’t too many things to do in Alice Springs. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s a wonderful destination for any type of traveller of any age and offers myriad of activities ranging from climbing the world’s greatest monolith to watching as children learn their lessons via the School of the Air.
Uluru and Alice Springs are enormously popular attractions visited by people from all over the world, many of whom return because they spiritually feel called back to discover more.
Its profound and ancient Aboriginal culture still permeates the atmosphere and is one of the reasons why the region is so well loved. Following are just a small selection of the kinds of activities you can do in ‘the red centre’.
Undeniably one of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks, Uluru is a giant sandstone formation with a total circumference of 9.4 kilometres and a height of 348 metres.
People all over the world who have visited this monolith have reported that it appears to change colour several times a day, most noticeably when it glows a rich red at sunrise and sunset.
First called ‘Ayers Rock’ in 1872 by European explorer, Ernest Giles, it was named after Sir Henry Ayers, the then-Premier of South Australia.
On 26th October, 1985, the federal government officially returned the ownership of Uluru to the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people who had always been the traditional custodians of the land. Today, it is called either name or a combination – Uluru/Ayers Rock – and the National Parks and Wildlife agency was granted a 99-year lease to co-manage it.
While it’s a fact that the traditional Aboriginal owners of Uluru would prefer that visitors didn’t climb it, it is not illegal. The climb is of enormous spiritual significance to the local Anangu people who ask that visitors respect their wishes, laws and culture and decline the opportunity.
Certainly it is not an easy or danger-free climb and deaths have occurred as a result. Visitors are encouraged to find alternative ways to experience Uluru such as joining a cultural tour or participating in a dot painting workshop.
Can you imagine a baby nursery for kangaroo joeys? The Kangaroo Sanctuary is an Alice Springs institution where TV celebrity Brolga takes in injured and abandoned roos and gives them a home where they can be safe and recover.
You can visit the sanctuary as part of a guided sunset tour and see how Brolga plays ‘Mum’ to the beautiful creatures, hand feeding them from a bottle and watching over baby and fully grown kangaroos. You may even want to make a donation so that this valuable work can continue.
For the best possible view of the red desert and Australian outback, a flight in a hot air balloon has to be the choice. As long as the weather is good, the balloons go up every day and the experience is not only fun and memorable but completely safe.
You can arrange with the operators to have a romantic bush picnic ready with a bottle of sparkling Australian wine or juices plus cheese and fresh fruit or other snacks.
It’s “the world’s largest classroom”, covering an area of more than 1,300,000 square kilometres! Established in 1951, the School of the Air began broadcasting lessons to children in remote locations via radio.
Eventually, two-way radio was used so that students could interact with the teacher and each other. Since 2006, satellite technology has been used and as of 2016, there are 141 students enrolled in the Alice Springs School of the Air. Visitors are welcome at this award-winning tourist attraction.
At the Araluen Cultural Precinct, you’ll be able to follow Central Australia’s evolution from the Big Bang to the ancient period where rocks were formed that contain the earliest evidence of a massive inland sea.
The Museum of Central Australia provides fascinating insight that simply boggles the mind. Also part of the precinct is an aviation museum featuring two aircraft hangars that house aviation and aircraft memorabilia dating back many decades.
The Araluen Arts Centre boasts a professional theatre and art galleries including the highly regarded Namatjira Gallery which displays important artworks by Albert Namatjira, the man behind the development of the region’s Aboriginal art.
One of just two women’s museums in Australia, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame (NPWHF) recognises and honours pioneering women who have contributed to the development of Australia.
Such women include aviator Nancy Bird, Aboriginal Olympians Nova Peris and Cathy Freeman and Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Housed in the Old Alice Springs Gaol, the NPWHF is also a museum that documents the history of the gaol in the form of artworks, newspapers and photographs.
Billed as “the most visited landmark in Alice Springs”, the ANZAC Hill Memorial was originally dedicated to fallen members of the defence force.
Today, it stands as a memorial to all who have served in defence of Australia, in all wars in which our country has participated. Enjoy the views of the town and the surrounding ranges.
There are numerous ways you can participate in Aboriginal culture in Alice Springs. Some are free and others are not but all of them will provide you with a rich experience.
In Alice Springs and at Uluru, the remoteness from bright city lights means the sheer number of stars visible in the night sky is infinite!
It’s often said that you can choose 5-star hotel accommodation or billion-star open air accommodation, and of course there are hostels, motels, bed and breakfasts and other options. But with so many things to do in Alice Springs and around Uluru, who’s got time for sleep?