Many travelers visiting Alice Springs have just one thing on their minds - Uluru. The monolith of enormous, cultural, importance to the local Anangu people, is 275 miles south-west of Alice Springs, but if you do whizz in and out of the airport at Alice, you're missing a town with a beautiful setting, fascinating history and loads of culture.
John McDouall Stuart, the explorer, camped close to Alice Springs in 1860, and the small settlement was known as Stuart Town for some time. Romantically, it was named Alice after the wife of Charles Todd, who was the superintendent of telegraphs. In 1933, it officially became Alice Springs.
The town is nestled among the MacDonnell ranges. To the west of Alice are Simpson’s Gap, Standley Chasm and the Finke Gorge National Park. To the east is Emily Gap, Trephina Gorge Nature park, Arltunga Historic Reserve, Ruby Gap Nature Park and N’Dhala Gorge.
Alice itself, is a town of wide streets shaded by eucalyptus trees. It has a strong cultural and artistic tradition that matches its natural beauty. Along Todd Mall, art galleries exhibit, and sell, Aboriginal art work from local artists, including the renowned Albert Namatjira and Rex Batterbee, Namatjira's mentor.
Visitors should remember that Alice was home to Afghan cameleers, flying doctors (Alice is a major base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service) and tough outback explorers. None tougher, perhaps, than the women who settled here. Today, the National Pioneer Women's Hall Of Fame celebrates their contribution to life in the Northern Territory.
Alice Springs climate
This continental desert is, as you'd expect, dry, with hot summers (December to February), cool winters (June to August) and rainfall sporadically. Summer temperatures range between the 85-115 F, while winter temperatures can hover between 45-50 F during the day. Night-time temperatures can fall below 32 F. The spring months (September and early October) can have very changeable weather - big variation in temperatures, thunder storms, dust storms and hail. The fall months (March to May) are, perhaps, the best time to visit Alice Springs. The days are warm and the nights are cool and temperatures stay fairly static throughout the day.
Best Time to Fly to Alice Springs
April to September is high season, when most travelers visit Alice Springs.
October to March is considered the off season.
Getting around Alice Springs
Multiple car-rental companies have desks at Alice Springs Airport. There's an Airport Shuttle that operates 365 days per year, taking passengers to their accommodations. Taxis are available, too.
It's easy to get around Alice Springs on foot and the ASBUS runs four services - North, South, East and West. Buses operates on weekdays and Saturday (except public holidays).
Alice Springs Travel Information
- Alice Springs is a dry city except for the Telegraph Station picnic area and Namatjira's camp.
- The Reverend John Flynn was a Presbyterian minister and aviator who established the world's first air ambulance - the famous Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Flynn Trail is a self-guided heritage walk in and around Alice Springs. Some of the stops include Adelaide House, one of the oldest buildings in Alice Springs. It was built in 1920 by the Australian Inland Mission and has been, in its past, a hospital and a nurses' home. It's now a museum of local history. John Flynn Memorial Church was built after Flynn's death and fulfills his dream of a cathedral in Central Australia where people of different faiths could pray.
- There are several festivals held in Alice Springs. A popular one is the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, a race along the dry Todd River bed.
- The Pitchi Richi Sanctuary was established in 1955 by Leo Corbet. It was originally proposed as a bird sanctuary, but Pitchi Richi has become better known for its collection of sculptures by William Ricketts, rock displays and items, such as old wagons, relating to pioneering times.