A great starting point for your explorations of Alice Springs would be the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve – the reason for the town’s being. Situated 4km north of the town centre, this site was where communication was first established between England and Australia in 1871. There is also a cute little café here, which sells a selection of ice creams, snacks and killer vanilla slices.
If you ever wondered how kids went to school in the outback, head to the Alice Springs School of Air Visitor Centre next. Opened in 1951, this wonderful place once relied on two-way radios to educate children in remote areas. Today, it utilises satellite technology to conduct classes for just over 100 students living in an area covering 1.3 million square kilometres. A real eye-opener.
Also worth a visit is the legendary Royal Flying Doctor Service, which contains a brilliant small museum where you can peek inside a replica aircraft and look at historic medical equipment. The café has a reputation for making the best coffees in town, and the meat pies are truly mouthwatering so maybe make time here for lunch!
Inspect aircraft used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service
Todd Mall is Alice Springs’ main street, lined with Aboriginal art galleries, souvenir shops, and cafés. The excellent Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre can be found here, and if you feel a need to stretch your legs, take a stroll to the lookout at the top of Anzac Hill. Known as “Untyeyetwelye” to the Central Arrernte people, this prominent mound offers great views over the town.
For anyone with an interest in Central Australian wildlife, the Alice Springs Reptile Centre off Stuart Terrace is a must. This excellent facility houses over 100 reptiles on grounds carefully landscaped to resemble natural habitat. Some 40 individual species are represented here, including frill-necked lizards, thorny devils and saltwater crocodiles. There are also opportunities for visitors to handle some of the friendlier ones – under supervision of course!
See interesting reptiles such as the thorny devil at the excellent Alice Springs Reptile Centre
Across the Todd riverbed on the west side of town is the Olive Pink Botanical Garden. Founded by an extraordinary woman in 1956 to conserve the area’s spectacular native fauna, this serene little garden now bears her name. It contains over 600 plant species, including 40 rare ones, which you can inspect by following the network of walking tracks that thread the premises. If you’re getting hungry, park your Alice Springs hire car and stop in at The Bean Tree Café to feast on generous home-style meals while watching western bowerbirds forage for food and pretty things to line their nests with.
If you have a half-day to spare, consider driving out to the Alice Springs Desert Park, which lies along Larapinta Drive around 8km west of town. This brilliant educational facility is situated on 52 hectares, and showcases a number of different Central Australian habitats ranging from river beds and sandy desert to woodland. The excellent Nocturnal House lets you observe endangered native animals that prefer the cover of darkness, whilst guides provide an insight into how the local Arrernte People survive even in the harshest desert environments. You’ll have the opportunity to see emu and kangaroo in their natural habitat, as well as view a large variety of birds including raptors and cockatoos. Plan to go early to avoid the hot afternoon sun.
There are over 1,000 works in the Araluen Cultural Precinct
On your way back to town, consider dropping by the Araluen Cultural Precinct. This well organised facility showcases Aboriginal art and culture, with significant works from Central Australian artists including renowned watercolourist Albert Namatjira. The property is built around a culturally significant corkwood tree that is the focal point of the Sculpture Garden.