So you are stopping in Alice Springs on your way to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and you have no idea what there is to do in this small desert town. I can safely say there is plenty of amazing places to explore so grab yourself a hire car and as the Aussies say: get on out there! Enjoy my top ten suggestions in no particular order and for more information and stories about my personal experiences visit the posts mentioned at the end of this article.
1.The Kangaroo Sanctuary – Town Pick up
Made internationally famous by the BBC television show ‘Kangaroo Dundee’ this kangaroo sanctuary is definitely a must-see. Learn about how Brolga has dedicated his life to raising kangaroos in this unusual desert town, you even get to meet the family!
2.Pyndam Camel Tracks – Town Pick up
Pyndan Camel Tracks in Alice Springs are the only camel riding tour operators in the area which makes it a pretty special experience. Take a ride at sunset against the backdrop of the astounding West MacDonnell Ranges. You will learn all about why camels arrived here and history of the area, well worth a visit.
3.Standley Chasm – 2WD One of the few natural attractions that cost in Alice Springs however worth the small donation. Owned by the Iwupataka Land Trust and operated by Aboriginal family the chasm is at it’s most beautiful either side of noon. Formed over hundreds of thousands of years by surging flood waters, Standley Chasm is a beautiful natural alley way.
4.Rainbow Valley – 2WD Our trip to Rainbow Valley made for an interesting story which you can read about in the link at the end of this article. The sandstone layers in the main formation resemble the colored stripes of a rainbow (hence the name) and the area is protected due to the presence of Aboriginal artwork. It can be done in a day however there are over night camping facilities, the road leading up is one of the worst I have experienced for corrugations so it might be worth spending the night to save your teeth and sanity!
5.Simpson Gap – 2WD
At only 18 kilometers west of Alice Springs, Simpsons Gap makes for a nice day trip. The area is an important spiritual place for the Arrernte people, who inhabited the area since before European discovery. A great place for a picnic or playing outdoor sports with friends, after rainfall there is even some shallow waterholes to go for a paddle.
6.Palm Valley – 4WD Only A stunning oasis in the middle of the desert, this track is strictly 4WD only although you can arrange group tours from town. There are plenty of walks to do but make sure you come well equipped/prepared especially during the low season. The palm trees here are the only of their kind in Australia also enjoy driving through and alongside the oldest river in the world; the Finke River.
7.Ellery Creek Big Hole – 2WD Situated about 90km from Alice Springs, Ellery Creek is a magnificent water hole formed over thousands of years. It’s a sacred site and provides for a beautiful picnic spot. This water hole is said to be up to 28m deep in some areas and is freezing due to the lack of movement and sunlight. It is possible to get hypothermia even in the summer months so don’t swim for too long!
8. West MacDonnell Ranges – 2WD
The range is a 644 km long and contains many beautiful gaps and gorges as well as areas of Aboriginal significance. Walking tours are available from the town or you can just drive alongside them and explore at your leisure. Flying into Alice Springs you can really see the magnitude of these mountains, they look not too dissimilar to the surface of Mars.
9.Climb Mt Gillen Get your climbing legs on and head up Mt Gillen which stands at 944m in height. The walk up takes around an hour depending on fitness levels and the last part is a vertical free hand rock climb, so not for everyone. The summit offers 360° views which are spectacular at sunrise and sunset – bearing in mind you will have to climb in the dark. The climb ranks highly as one of my favorite experiences in Alice Springs.
10.Chambers Pillar – Recommended 4WD
A teeth shattering 160km south of Alice Springs this amazing natural wonder is not to be missed. The drive there is beautiful, following the old Ghan Track and I would recommend a 4WD although on a good day a 2WD with high clearance would make it. There are free camping spots available and you can even climb right up to the pillar for amazing views of the Simpson Desert.
I hope you enjoyed my top ten must-do in Alice Springs, after living there for a year these were my personal favourites and actually advocates for visiting the town itself. I would love to hear about your experiences of this desert town, which holds a special place in my heart!
You can read in more detail about these places below…