Alice Springs is known as the capital of Australia’s “Red Center” and is the launching pad to many popular tourist attractions. The town is full of tremendous natural beauty, offering visitors scenic bushwalking trails, botanic gardens, and historic buildings, as well access to head to Uluru (or Ayers Rock), which is probably the reason why 99% of people visit this town. I loved Alice—the town had a good, rough, independent feel to it. Stop and stay in the town on your way to Uluru. On my list of one of the top reasons to visit Australia, this is a detour well worth it and this travel guide while help you plan your trip.
Hostel prices – Hostels cost around 26 AUD per night for a dorm room. Private rooms with a double bed and a shared bathroom in hostels cost around 40 AUD per night.
Budget hotel prices – For budget hotels, you are looking to spend around 50 AUD for a single room or 100 AUD for a double room, private bathroom, TV, and breakfast.
Average cost of food – There are cheap meals for under 14 AUD, but expect to pay around 20 AUD for a meal in a casual restaurant. If you cook your own meals, expect to pay 95-108 AUD per week. Food out here tends to be more pub based and will be your best option.
Transportation costs – Taxis are expensive and since the downtown area is walkable, there’s no real reason to hop in taxi. A shuttle from Alice Springs to Uluru costs 190 AUD and takes 6 hours. Instead, you’re much better off going down there as part of a multi-day tour, which begin at 400 AUD.
Read more information on the cost of traveling Australia.
Money Saving Tips
Go camping – If you intend to spend a few days up at Uluru, camping is an option as the resorts here are expensive. Expect to pay 65 AUD for a site with electricity during high summer season, 55 AUD during low winter season.
Combine tours – Combine tours of Uluru, King’s Canyon, and Kata Tjuta to save money on the cost of individual excursion. Expect to pay around 675 AUD for 3 days and 2 nights including accommodation.
Top Things to See and Do in Alice Springs
Uluru – Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is the most popular trip from Alice Springs. This giant rock in the ground is well, simply, a giant rock in the ground, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s of great religious importance to the local Aborigines. Visitors here are allowed to walk around the base, visit the information center, and can get guided walks with local Aborigines. However, since the site is sacred, climbing Uluru is really frowned upon. Try to catch a sunset or sunrise over the rock—it is a fantastically beautiful experience (see my photo above).
Camel rides – Take a camel ride in the picturesque Ilparpa Valley alongside the MacDonnell Ranges. Trips range from 1 hour to 5 day excursions, which allow you time to explore the bush, camp, and really rough it. (I was perfectly happy with a one day trip since riding a camel isn’t the most comfortable experience in the world!)
The Reptile Centre – If you’re fascinated by these cold-blooded creatures, then a trip to the Reptile Centre is essential as it’s the largest reptile house in Central Australia. Inside you’ll find poisonous snakes like Inland Taipans, Death Adders, and Mulgas, as well as a range of lizards like the Perentie Goanna, Frill Neck Lizards, and Thorny Devils.
Cultural museums – Head for the Cultural Precinct where highlights include the Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Central Australia, and the Namatjira gallery that displays the territory’s largest collection of original paintings by the famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. Alice Springs’ museums are fairly small so they don’t take a lot of time to see but are interesting nonetheless, especially the Museum of Central Australia.
Hot air ballooning – Get an aerial view of the outback by taking a trip in a hot air balloon. This is a really popular activity, and there are many companies offering ballooning in and around Alice. Expect to pay around $250 USD for a half hour journey.
Alice Springs Desert Park – Just ten miles from the center of town lies the Desert Park where you can see hundreds of central Australian species of plants and animals as you walk through the trails of the Desert Rivers, Sand Country, and Woodland habitat. It’s an excellent way to learn about the region’s environment.
Royal Flying doctors service – The Flying Doctors were the first aeromedical organization in the world and patrol the outback to provide emergency medical care to the region’s remote communities. The short museum tour provides all you need to know about this fascinating and essential service for residents in this part of Australia. As a history buff, I was super enthralled by this museum! Growing up in a big urban area, it’s hard to imagine my ambulance being a plane!
MacDonnell Ranges – The ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges run parallel to the east and west of town and cover 400 miles of outback in central Australia. The West MacDonnell National Park is great for a day of hiking or a longer camping tour. Pretty much every tour operator in town can help you organize your trip.
Olive Pink Botanic Garden – The Olive Pink Botanical Garden is located close to the scenic Todd River. Stroll through the magnificent landscaped gardens and check out their important collections of exotic plants, mature native trees, and shrubs.
The Old Court House – Built in 1928 (which in Australia terms is very old), the Old Courthouse was originally the office of the administrator for this part of Australia, before becoming the courthouse in 1980. It is now home to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, a small museum immortalizing 100 Australian women who were first in their fields.
The Larapinta Trail – If you’re a hiking enthusiast, this 155 mile trail through high mountains in a semi-desert area is a challenge for you. Situated within a national park, the area is heavily populated by a range of bird species so you find a lot of bird watchers there. You’re in the desert so bring lots of water and gear. It’s best hiked in the cooler winter months.
Aboriginal Australia Culture Center – This incredible gallery highlights the cultural history of the Aboriginal people of Australia who ruled the land prior to the Europeans. You can listen to traditional music, learn how to play a didgeridoo, or even try to throw a spear. It has much more robust information than the visitor center at Uluru.