Alice Springs is a gateway for exploring the Red Centre, but spend a few days here, and the area’s haunting beauty combined with the relaxed charm of the locals will get under your skin.
Halfway on the sealed road between Adelaide and Darwin, the outback town of Alice Springs sits wrapped around the caterpillar-like spines of the MacDonnell Ranges.
There’s plenty of wildlife to see in Alice, and that’s before you hit the bars! Visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary to meet Chris ‘Brolga’ Barnes for a sunset tour and to cuddle a kangaroo joey. The place shot to fame thanks to the BBC/Nat Geo documentary Kangaroo Dundee.
Another sunset experience not to be missed is a ride with Pyndan Camel Tracks through White Gums Valley in the West MacDonnell Ranges, as the sky changes from cobalt blue to orange-pink.
Sunrise at Anzac Hill gives you the chance to see the town bathed in the soft pink glow of the morning. There’s a stepped track to the top or drive up to the small car park.
Alice Springs also has one of the largest collections of Aboriginal art in Australia, with an extensive array of private and collectively owned galleries. It’s pleasant to wander from gallery to gallery in Todd Mall, admiring the striking works on display. At the Araluen Art Centre you will find more art and craft galleries with a strong focus on indigenous art.
Best hotels: Alice Springs
Alice on Todd Apartments
For an extended stay where you want to be able to cook for yourself, take a look at Alice on Todd Apartments, located about five minutes’ drive from Street Mall. These self-contained apartments feel like home and have full laundry facilities.
Hanuman at DoubleTree by Hilton
Hanuman at DoubleTree by Hilton is the place for fine dining in Alice Springs. The cuisine is a fusion of Thai, Indian and Nonya dishes, and the banquets are well worth exploring. For a more casual feed, grab a table at the Deck Bar in the hotel’s foyer. The locally inspired share plates and epic burgers are real crowd pleasers.
DoubleTree by Hilton also has Saltbush, a modern Australian-style restaurant with private dining alcoves. Here you can enjoy everything from oysters and seared scallops to roasted lamb racks and whole fried baby barramundi.
DoubleTree by Hilton
The impressive views of the MacDonnell Ranges from the rooms at DoubleTree by Hilton match the excellence of the warm chocolate chip cookie on arrival. This hotel prides itself on customer service. It’s no trouble to find some skim milk for your fridge, and there are extra chocolates on the pillow at night. Todd Mall is walkable from the hotel, and the pleasant trail follows the dry, gum tree-studded river bed.
The palm trees and tropical gardens around the villas at Desert Palms will make you feel like you’ve discovered an oasis in the desert. A family-friendly resort, each room has its own kitchenette.
The Big4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park
Camping or have a caravan? The Big4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park has just the site for you.
Best restaurants: Alice Springs
Kungkas Can Cook Café
For lunch, a roo burger at Indigenous-owned Kungkas Can Cook café, followed by a thick slice of the delicious wattleseed cake, will have you returning for a repeat performance.
Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Start with breakfast at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden followed by a walk to gain an insight into the flora of this arid region. Don’t miss the Instagrammable sculptures positioned throughout the gardens.
Alice Springs Telegraph Station
After you have burned off some calories on a guided tour along the Todd River bed with Outback Cycling, stop for an afternoon tea snack at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. There’s a café here serving Northern Territory roasted coffee and decadent vanilla slices.
Best bars & cafés: Alice Springs
For a choice of four bars, head to Lasseters Casino at the base of the MacDonnell Ranges.
Famous for share plates and live music, Epilogue Lounge on Todd Mall is the place to while the night away until the wee hours, and dance on the rooftop.
Monte’s Lounge calls itself a travelling circus in the middle of Australia. In Alice, that means it’s a great place to meet friends and share a beer or two.
Bojangles Saloon & Restaurant
Bojangles Saloon & Restaurant – or Bo’s Saloon to its friends – has plenty of rugged outback charm and also serves true Territory tucker such as camel, kangaroo, emu and barramundi. Say hello to Ned Kelly at the front door and check out Reggie, the wedge-tailed eagle suspended over the bar.