Alice Springs Tourist Attractions
Apart from Canberra (ACT) Alice Springs (alt. 550m; pop. 25,000) is the only important town in the interior of Australia.Alice Springs is an important base camp for tours (either by independent travelers in a hired car, all-terrain vehicle or camper van or by organized groups), to the fascinating natural beauties of central Australia - Ayers Rock, the western and eastern MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon or the boundless expanses of the outback.
This arid desert region was from time immemorial the home of the Aranda tribes. In 1871 a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line was established to the north of the Heavitree Gap in the rocky MacDonnell Ranges, close to a waterhole in a normally dry river bed. The site was selected by the surveyor William Mills and the waterhole was named after Alice Todd, wife of Charles Todd, postmaster-general of South Australia, and the river became the Todd River. Charles Todd was responsible for carrying out the project for a transcontinental telegraph line to provide faster communication between Britain and eastern Australia.The town itself grew up 4km south of the telegraph station and until 1933 was called Stuart Town in honor of John McDouall Stuart, who was the first to find his way through the Red Centre of Australia to the north coast in 1862.At first the place attracted few settlers, and the railroad line from Adelaide which had been promised reached only as far north as Oodnadatta. Numerous expeditions, herds of stock and prospectors made a stopover at Heavitree Gap on their journey along the track which later became the Stuart Highway. The little settlement was wholly dependent for supplies on the camel caravans led by Afghan and Indian camel drivers until the coming of the railroad in 1929 marked the beginning of a new era.During the brief period when the Northern Territory was divided into North and Central Australia (1926-32) Stuart Town was the seat of government for Central Australia, and the number of white inhabitants increased steadily. The economy of the Red Centre now depended on extensive cattle grazing and mining. During the second world war Alice Springs became an important military base and, after the bombing of Darwin, the seat of government of the Northern Territory.A major contribution to the development of Alice Springs and the outback was made by the Anglican missionary the Rev. John Flynn (d. 1951), the moving spirit in the establishment of the Flying Doctor Service and the Inland Mission with its hospitals and welfare centers. The first hospital in the center of Australia was built in 1920-6.Neville Shute's novel A Town like Alice (1950) and its filming made Alice Springs - familiarly known to Australians as 'the Alice' - famed throughout the world.The new Alice SpringsAfter the Second World War the tourist development of Alice Springs and the Red Centre began, stimulated by the enthusiastic accounts by ex-soldiers fascinated by the outback. As a result the town has been completely transformed, and little is left of the dusty outback settlement that it once was. It is now a town of restaurants, luxury hotels and caravan parks, entertainments of all kinds and innumerable shops and galleries. The development of the town's administrative and supply functions is reflected in many new buildings within the town and on its ever-spreading outskirts.
Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre
The Arrernte Aborigines' Culture Centre is must for every visitor to Northern Territory. It presents a tribe which lives in a homeland about 100km south of Alice Springs. As well as a museum and an art gallery there are shops selling Aboriginal craftwork. Those who are interested can also attend courses on such subjects as Aboriginal history and playing the didgeridoo, and go on excursions to the Arrernte homeland.
From Anzac Hill, to the north of Alice Springs, there are good views of the town with its rectangular grid of streets, the carefully tended gardens and rows of trees, supplied with water by irrigation, and the MacDonnell Ranges to the south, with the Todd River, the Stuart Highway and the railroad line finding their way through the narrow Heavitree Gap.The river is normally dry, but after heavy rain it can turn into a raging torrent, making the roads impassable for days.
The camel races at the end of April and beginning of May are an important annual event. The Bangtail Muster in May, with a street parade and sports carnival, commemorates the herding together and counting of the cattle which took place in earlier days. The greatest event of the year, however, is the Henley on Todd Regatta at the beginning of October, in which the boats are either carried or trundled along the dry river bed and the day ends with a festival.
In Hartley Street, which runs parallel to Todd Street, and Parsons Street, which runs between the two, are relics of the past, the old courthouse and the residency, both built for Alice Springs' short period as a seat of government in 1926-31, now a museum on the development of the Northern Territory. Hartley Street School (1929, with later extensions) was the first school established by the government. It now houses the regional tourist office and the National Trust.
The late 19th C cemetery, with weathered tombstones, is in George Crescent, near the railroad station. In Memorial Avenue, which goes off Larapinta Drive to the west of the railroad, is a cemetery containing the graves of the painter Albert Namatjira (1902-59) and the prospector Harold Lasseter, who died in the desert in 1931 while looking for a fabled seam of gold.
In a hut behind the hospital Flynn and Traeger installed the pedal-powered radio transmitter which made possible the development of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (established 1929). Adjoining the former hospital, in Todd Mall, is the Flynn Memorial Church (1956). John Flynn's grave is under a large boulder on the fringes of the hills west of the town (Flynn's Grave Historical Reserve).
Olive Pink Botanic Garden
The Olive Pink Botanic Garden is an arid botanic garden displaying the vegetation of central Australia.The garden features an eclectic collection of trees and shrubs native to the central Australian region as well as various cacti, and garden flowers.
In Todd Mall (pedestrian zone) is Adelaide House, built in 1920-6 under the direction of John Flynn, which since 1980 has been a museum displaying early radio equipment.
Central Australian Aviation Museum
On the site of the old airstrip, is a display of old aircraft from the pioneering days of desert flying, as well as exhibits concerned with the Flying Doctors Service.
Royal Flying Doctor Service Base
In Stuart Terrace is the regional base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, with displays illustrating its beginnings and development as well as its technical equipment.
Strehlow Research Centre
Strehlow Research Centre features a very informative exhibition on Aboriginal culture. The exhibits were collected by the anthropologist Strehlow, who lived for many years with the Aborigines.
Stuart Town Gaol (Jail)
Stuart Town Gaol (Jail; 1907-9) in Parsons Street, a solid stone structure, is the oldest building in Alice Springs. The prison was closed down in 1938 and now belongs to the National Trust.
Address: 8 Parsons Street, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia
Opening hours: Mar 1 to Dec 31: 10am-12:30pm; Sat: 9:30am-12pm; Closed: Sun
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee in AUD: Adult $2.00, Child FREE
Alice Springs School of the Air
The School of the Air was established in 1951 to provide teaching by radio for children in the remote outback. Visitors can listen to children being taught.
Address: Box 1220, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia
Opening hours: 8:30am-4:30pm; Sat: 1:30pm-4:30pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee in AUD: Family $22.00, Adult $6.50, Pensioners (OAP) $4.50, Child 16 & under $4.50, Child 4 & under FREE
Useful tips: Closed Christmas Day through to New Years Day.
Araluen Centre for Arts
The Araluen Arts Centre is a modern cultural center that features art exhibitions, theatrical performances and film shows.