There are so many things to do in Alice Springs! If you want to explore the beating red heart of Australia, then it’s likely you are flying into Alice Springs. While you can also fly into Yulara at the base of Uluru, flights to Alice (as the locals call it) tend to be a bit less expensive.
Many tours to Uluru and King’s Canyon leave from this desert hub, but there is heaps to do in town, too.
I spent three days in Alice Springs at the tail end of my outback road trip and despite a spotty reputation, absolutely loved it. The town kind of reminded me of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Cool, artsy, and really stinking hot.
It’s a great place to go to enjoy natural geologic wonders, learn more about how Australians manage living so remotely, and shop for some of the coolest art from amazing Aboriginal creators.
Things to do in Alice Springs, Northern Territory
This post is a part of my Outback Road Trip series.
Here are the best Alice Springs attractions to enjoy during your stay, no matter how long it may be.
Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre
Monday to Friday: 8AM to 5PM
Saturday and Sunday: 9:30AM to 4PM
41 Todd Mall, Alice Springs NT 0870
Look, I’m a big fan of stopping into a tourist information office. I love how friendly the guides are. I love picking up all the little brochures on things to do in the area. It’s always a good way to orient yourself when you first land somewhere new. In Alice Springs, it’s not different the office had all the information on different art gallery openings in the area, which restaurants were running specials, and even movie nights in a local park.
Plus, if I hadn’t stopped in, I wouldn’t have seen this enormously helpful infographic about hiking in the heat. 10/10 would follow its advice so you don’t get heatstroke and die.
Visit Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Of course, you are not going to come all the way to Alice Springs and not see Uluru. It is a must-visit. This massive rock formation is one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks and is sacred to the indigenous Anangu people. There are many tours that will pick you up from your hotel, drive you out there to enjoy, then drive you right back.
The great thing about Uluru tourism is that it caters to every budget. Want to take a helicopter ride and stay at a 5-star resort? You got it! Prefer to do the free base walk and camp instead? Also an option.
PS. It’s called Uluru, not Ayer’s Rock.
Royal Flying Doctor Museum
Monday to Saturday: 9:30AM to 5PM
Sunday and Public Holidays: 1PM to 5PM
Last Tour: 4Pm
8/10 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs NT 0870
The RFDS is a beloved and iconic organization in Australia and is widely regarded as an essential part of the country’s healthcare system. It has been recognized for its outstanding contributions to healthcare. It has also received numerous awards and honors over the years. It has a network of bases across Australia, but its headquarters are here in Alice Springs.
Because of this, the museum is a fantastic look into how the service started and how it runs today. And get this: the services are FREE for all Australians. The man who sold me my ticket said that I would need a travel insurance policy to cover the costs of an evacuation should I need one. “Although as an American,” he teased, “you should be used to large hospital bills.” I had to laugh to cover up the pain lol.
My friends and I probably spend about two hours here, although if you are quick, you might be able to cruise through it in an hour or so.
Women’s Museum of Australia and Old Gaol
Open 7 days a week 10AM to 3PM, (last recommended entry 2PM)
2 Stuart Terrace Alice Springs NT 0870
This museum is dedicated to showcasing the amazing contributions of women throughout Australian history. And get this – it’s housed in an old prison! You can explore the cells and other areas of the prison while learning about the struggles and triumphs of women over the years.
While visiting, be sure to check out the Women’s Work Project exhibit which showcases the diverse and resilient women who helped shape the Northern Territory. This museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in women’s history, social justice, and human rights.
It’s a great look at herstory. The staff here was friendly and helpful. There was some construction going on during my visit, but it was only on the outside and part of a larger refurbishment. I hope to go back one day and see how it turned out!
Monday to Friday: 10AM to 4PM
Saturday and Sunday: 10AM to PM
Closed on Tuesdays
21 Todd Street Mall Alice Springs NT 0870
The number one thing I remember about this Alice Springs attraction is also the number one reason I would recommend you visit it. It was SO COLD in here. Like absolutely freezing. I think it was north of 105 outside and this blessed place was about 72. My friends and I enjoyed the natural history element of it. We were fascinated that there were once wombats the size of dump trucks running around the Aussie Outback.
But MAN did that air con feel fantastic. What a place.
Alice Springs Desert Park
7:30AM to 6PM every day.
Last entry 4:30PM
Nocturnal House open 9AM to 5:30PM
Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs, Northern Territory 0870
Alice Springs Desert Park is a zoo and nature reserve that showcases the unique flora and fauna of the desert environment. It’s divided into three sections: Desert Rivers, Sand Country, and Woodland, each with different animals and landscapes. You can see a variety of animals such as kangaroos, bilbies, and reptiles, as well as attend bird shows and learn about Aboriginal culture.
It’s easiest to drive to the park, but you can catch a cab or a public bus + about a 30-minute walk if you are without a car. To fully enjoy it, plan to stay at least three hours.
Anzac Hill Rd, Alice Springs NT 0870
The hill is right in the center of Alice Springs and offers a panoramic view of the town and the surrounding desert landscape. The memorial features a large statue of a soldier with his rifle and a plaque with the names of local soldiers who served in World War I.
Visitors can climb the hill and take in the view from the lookout, and pay their respects to the soldiers who served and sacrificed their lives for their country. The hill is also a popular spot for locals to gather and celebrate important events such as Anzac Day each April, or even just a great sunrise on a random Tuesday.
Alice Springs Reptile Centre
Opening Times: 9:30AM to 5PM / 7 days a week.
Closed ANZAC DAY & MAY DAY (1st May)
Show Times: 11:00AM, 1PM, 3:30PM
9 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, 0870
Alice Springs Reptile Centre is a reptile zoo and education center located in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. The center is dedicated to showcasing the reptiles that are native to the central desert region of Australia and educating visitors about their behavior, habitat, and conservation.
The center features a large collection of snakes, lizards, turtles, and crocodiles, including some of Australia’s deadliest and most venomous species. Visitors can see these reptiles up close and learn about their unique characteristics and adaptations that allow them to survive in the harsh desert environment.
The center also offers daily shows and interactive experiences, such as holding a python or feeding the crocodiles. Visitors can also learn about the reptiles’ role in the local Indigenous culture and how they have been used for food, medicine, and ceremony. If you don’t have a car, this is a great alternative to the Alice Springs Desert Park as it’s right in town.
Alice Springs Telegraph Station
Guided Tours daily at 9.30 am & 11.30am (April-November only)
Herbert Heritage Dr, Stuart NT 0870
The station was established in 1872 as part of the Overland Telegraph Line, which was the first communication link between Australia and the rest of the world.
The telegraph line was a significant achievement in its time, as it allowed messages to be sent from Adelaide to London in just a few hours, compared to the three months it previously took by sea. The line also played a crucial role in the development of the Australian outback, as it allowed for quicker communication and transportation of goods and people.
The Alice Springs Telegraph Station was one of the key relay stations along the telegraph line, and it played a vital role in maintaining communication between South Australia and the Northern Territory. The station was also an important hub for the local community, providing mail and supplies to settlers in the area. Today, you can explore the old buildings and learn about the history of the telegraph line and the role it played in Australia’s development.
Alice Springs School of the Air
Monday, Thursday: 9AM to 4PM
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 9AM to 3PM
Saturdays: 1:30PM to 4:30PM
Sundays: noon to 4:30PM
Public Holidays: 1:30PM to 4:30PM
80 Head Street, Alice Springs NT 0870
The Australian Outback is some of the most unforgiving country in the world. Prior to the 1950s, children in these remote areas were both socially isolated and poorly educated. Books were few and far between, and parents worried daily about their kids falling behind. But then, on the radio, scratchy at first – and only three lessons a week – came the School of the Air.
For hundreds of children in the Australian outback, the Alice Springs School of the Air is now their lifeline to education. The school now broadcasts many lessons each day to a classroom that extends over 1.3 million square kilometers (502,000 square miles). Outback kids and their families tune in from cattle stations, Aboriginal communities, in national parks, mining camps, or roadhouses in some of the most remote areas on the planet.
You only need about 45 minutes for your tour, but they are popular, so book in advance where possible.
Shop at an Art Gallery
I splashed out on this painting from an Aṉangu woman named Tina while visiting Uluru. She gave my group a tour of a portion of the rock’s base and explained the Dreamtime story of its creation. She also spoke about her culture and its connection to the land we were standing out. Back in the visitor’s center, she sat down to resume painting while the rest of us used the bathroom and bought ice creams.
I really love Aboriginal art and so I sat with Tina and watched her finish up what she was working on. I really loved the painting, but there was no way it would dry in time, so she had another similar one that I purchase. It was expensive for me, but the quality of the work (and the chance to meet the artist!) was priceless. Usually, the paintings come with an artist info card, but she didn’t have any left. “Come here girl,” she told me. “Let’s take a photo.” And so we did. I had it professionally framed when I got back to Texas and it hangs in my hallway at home now.
It’s one of my prized possessions. In Alice Springs, I noticed many other galleries around town. If you are into Aboriginal art, it’s the perfect place to purchase some.
Enjoy dinner at the local RSL
There is nothing quite like an Aussie pub. When I arrived in Alice Springs off a tour from Adelaide, my new friends and I were all staying at the YHA and weren’t sure where we wanted to eat. Well, we actually ended up eating dinner at the local pub. Each night, there was something fun to do like movie trivia or musical bingo. We spent hours enjoying some food, having a yarn, and reminiscing about our trip. Seriously, the perfect place for a slice of local culture.
History of Alice Springs
Arrernte people have called this area home for thousands of years. They have a deep connection to the land. The town itself was founded in 1871 by surveyor William Whitfield Mills, who named it after his wife, Alice. I too would like to eventually have a husband who names towns after me.
During the late 19th century, Alice Springs became an important stop on the Overland Telegraph Line, which connected Australia to the rest of the world. The town also became a center for cattle ranching and the mining industry, which contributed to its growth and development.
In the early 20th century, Alice Springs became an important military base during both World War I and World War II. The town was used as a staging point for troops and equipment, and the local airport was expanded to accommodate military aircraft.
In fact, there is even a top-secret spying facility just outside of Alice.
Pine Gap is a joint Australian-American intelligence facility. It is operated by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) in partnership with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA). The facility was established in 1966 and has played a significant role in intelligence gathering and analysis for both Australia and the United States.
The primary mission of Pine Gap is to collect and analyze intelligence on foreign signals and communications, including military, diplomatic, and economic activity. This intelligence is used to support national security and military operations, including counterterrorism efforts.
There was a lady on my tour up from Adelaide who lived in Alice Springs in the 1970s. She was from the USA, so I thought that was kind of weird because I didn’t know about Pine Gap yet. I asked what her father did that moved them to outback Australia from Maryland and she wouldn’t answer me! Even all these years later, it’s still top secret.
Throughout the mid-20th century, Alice Springs continued to grow and develop. The town became an important hub for transportation and communication in the Northern Territory, and many people moved to the area to work in the mining, ranching, and tourism industries.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the town underwent significant social and cultural changes. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1976 granted land ownership to Indigenous Australians, and the town’s population became more diverse and multicultural. The town also played an important role in the reconciliation process between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Weather in Alice Springs
Alice Springs has a dry, desert climate with hot summers and cool winters. The weather is generally sunny and dry throughout the year, with low humidity and little rainfall.
During the summer months of December to February, the temperature in Alice Springs can reach over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) with occasional heat waves. I was there in late November and it already felt like a convection oven outside for real.
The winter months of June to August are generally cooler with average daytime temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius (68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit). The nights can be quite cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Classis desert bait and switch.
Autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November) are mild and pleasant with comfortable temperatures during the day and cooler nights. These seasons are often considered the best times to visit Alice Springs as the weather is pleasant for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Final Thoughts on Alice Springs Activities
Overall, Alice Springs is one of the biggest towns in the Australian Outback. If you’ve been “out bush” long enough, perhaps traveling down from Darwin, up from Adelaide, or even over from Perth, it’s going to seem a heck of a whole lot like the big smoke after thousands of miles of nothing but red dirt. There are plenty of things to do in Alice Springs to keep you well and busy for many days.
I liked it. I’d go back. Plus, if touring all these things on your own feels overwhelming, or you would rather just have someone else take care of it for you, you can book an Alice Springs City Tour instead, which hits most of the highlights.
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