Many travellers visiting Alice Springs have just one thing on their minds – Uluru. The monolith of enormous, cultural, importance to the local Anangu people, is 440km (275 miles) south-west of Alice Springs, but if you do whizz in and out of the airport at Alice, you’re missing a town with a beautiful setting, fascinating history and loads of culture.
John McDouall Stuart, the explorer, camped close to Alice Springs in 1860, and the small settlement was known as Stuart Town for some time. Romantically, it was named Alice after the wife of Charles Todd, who was the superintendent of telegraphs. In 1933, it officially became Alice Springs.
The town is nestled among the MacDonnell ranges. To the west of Alice are Simpson’s Gap, Standley Chasm and the Finke Gorge National Park. To the east is Emily Gap, Trephina Gorge Nature park, Arltunga Historic Reserve, Ruby Gap Nature Park and N’Dhala Gorge.
Alice itself, is a town of wide streets shaded by eucalyptus trees. It has a strong cultural and artistic tradition that matches its natural beauty. Along Todd Mall, art galleries exhibit, and sell, Aboriginal art work from local artists, including the renowned Albert Namatjira and Rex Batterbee, Namatjira’s mentor.
Visitors should remember that Alice was home to Afghan cameleers, flying doctors (Alice is a major base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service) and tough outback explorers. None tougher, perhaps, than the women who settled here. Today, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall Of Fame celebrates their contribution to life in the Northern Territory.
This continental desert is, as you’d expect, dry, with hot summers (December to February), cool winters (June to August) and rainfall sporadically. Summer temperatures range between the 30-45 C (85-115 F), while winter temperatures can hover between 8-10 C (45-50 F) during the day. Night-time temperatures can fall below 0 C (32 F). The spring months (September and early October) can have very changeable weather – big variation in temperatures, thunder storms, dust storms and hail. The autumn months (March to May) are, perhaps, the best time to visit Alice Springs. The days are warm and the nights are cool and temperatures stay fairly static throughout the day.
April to September is high season, when most travellers visit Alice Springs.
October to March is considered the off season.
Multiple car-hire companies have desks at Alice Springs Airport. There’s an Airport Shuttle that operates 365 days per year, taking passengers to their accommodation. Taxis are available, too.
It’s easy to get around Alice Springs on foot and the ASBUS runs four services – North, South, East and West. Buses operates on weekdays and Saturday (except public holidays).