Alice Springs: Cultural Oasis in Australia’s Outback

When Ryan Kannett thinks about the people of earth’s Northern Hemisphere, he thinks about Australia’s Outback, and imagines a vast desert that is not a viable vacation destination. While it is the driest of Australia’s regions, it is the only home for many of the continent’s unusual flora and fauna. Thriving beside patches of scrub brush, Alice Springs seems to have suddenly materialized slightly north of Australia’s reddish center. Its location makes it the ideal place to get a feel for the lives Australia’s first settlers built, without the discomfort.

This isn’t a quick trip, though. You and your family will need at least three days to absorb the town’s sights, view the outback’s original wildlife inhabitants and discover Aboriginal artistic traditions. While Alice Springs is quite isolated, modern hotels, hostels and vacation apartments are available and within easy reach of Alice Springs Airport, which is seven-and-a-half miles from town. The town has modern facilities with shopping at Todd Mall, the Museum of Central Australia and the National Women’s Pioneer Hall of Fame. For tourists in Australia who seek some metropolitan atmosphere, there is a nightclub and casino in the town’s luxury hotel.

 

Local Attractions

Children will enjoy the Alice Springs reptile center with its demonstrations starring snakes and lizards of the region, and the brave get to touch the quiet companions that have grown accustomed to humans and enjoy being handled. If you prefer something less challenging, try the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens with its mature trees, planted as long ago as the 1950s and 60s, and active wildlife. Founded by Olive Pink, an anthropologist who died in 1975, the gardens nurture native plants of central Australia. You can stroll from one habitat to another, finally reaching Meyers Hill to appreciate views of Alice Springs and its surroundings.

When you are ready to go indoors, visit the Araluen Cultural Precinct containing the Araluen Arts Center, Museum and Central Craft, with its workshops and retail center. Tourists may rave about Central Craft’s handmade goods, but locals see the center as a lifeline, attracting travelers to this remote outpost.

 

Desert Adventures

The springs’ sightseeing tours have a distinctive Australian flair and avoid comparisons to tamer venues with expeditions by camelback, hot-air balloon and helicopter. Visitors preferring a more traditional tour can join a four-wheel drive adventure or hike the Larapinta trail, discovering their connection to nature’s primitive landscapes and sunsets without leaving the ground. You can see the world-famous Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, red and rising from the desert floor. This bare mesa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is just over 208 miles southeast from Alice Springs, so most travelers spend the night at Yulara, a town near this natural monument. They spend the following day climbing Uluru, or using the six-mile-long footpath to explore Uluru’s base. Even without the climb or exploration, Uluru’s breathtaking presence asserts itself at sunrise and sunset with shades of violet and blue playing on the terracotta sand.
Alice Springs, part of Australia’s Northern Territory, embraces Australia’s natural wonders while honoring the Aboriginal people, who have lived on the land for 40,000 years. Visit between May and August and gain a lifetime of memories