Alice Springs

Kings Canyon in AustraliaAlice Springs is known as the capital of Australia’s “Red Center” and the launching pad to many popular tourist attractions. The town is full of tremendous natural beauty, offering visitors scenic bushwalking trails, botanic gardens, historic buildings and is the base from which to check out Uluru (or Ayers Rock), which is probably the reason why 99% of people visit this town. I liked Alice a lot – the town had a good, rough, independent feel to it. Stop and stay in the town on your way to Uluru. It won’t disappoint.

Typical Costs

  • Hostel Prices: Hostels cost around $20 USD per night for a dorm room. Private rooms with a double bed and a shared bathroom in hostels cost around $65 USD per night.
  • Budget Hotel Prices: For budget hotels, you are looking to spend around $80 USD for a double room, private bathroom, TV, and breakfast.
  • Average Cost of Food: There are cheap meals for under $10 USD but expect to pay around $15 for a meal in a casual restaurant. If you cook your meals, expect to pay $70-80 USD per week. Food out here tends to be more pub based and cheaper.
  • Transportation Costs: Taxis are expensive and since the downtown area is walkable and there’s no real reason to ever take a taxi anywhere. A shuttle from Alice Springs to Uluru costs $140 USD and takes 6 hours. You are much better off going down there as part of a multi-day tour, which begin at $300 USD.

Read more information on the cost of traveling Australia.

Top Things to Do

  • 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 and sunrise over the rock as it is a fantastically beautiful experience.
  • Camel rides - Take a camel ride in the picturesque Ilparpa Valley alongside the MacDonnell Ranges. Trips range from hour to 5 day excursions, which allow you time to explore the bush, camp, and really rough it.
  • 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, displaying the territory’s largest collection of original paintings by the famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira.
  • 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 $240 USD for a half hour journey.
  • Alice Springs Desert Park – Just ten miles from the center of town lies the Desert Park. The hundreds of species of plants and animals found in central Australia are all here to see as you walk through the trails of the Desert Rivers, Sand Country and Woodland habitat.
  • Royal Flying Doctors Service – The Flying Doctors patrol the outback to provide emergency medical care to the region’s remote communities and were the first and largest aeromedical organization in the world. The short museum tour provides all you need to know about this fascinating and essential service.
  • 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’s 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. This place is also has many picnic spots.
  • 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 pioneering in their field.
  • The Larapinta Trail – For hiking enthusiasts, this is a 155 mile trail through high mountains in a semi-desert area. Within a national park, the area is heavily populated by a range of bird species.
  • Aboriginal Australia Culture Center – This awesome gallery highlights the cultural history of the Aboriginal people of Australia. You can things like listen to traditional music, learn how to play a didgeridoo or how to throw a spear. Learn about the people who were here before the Europeans.

Budget Tips

  • Bring food to Uluru – Food at the visitor’s café near Uluru is highly overpriced.  Try to stock up on snacks from the supermarket before you set off.
  • 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 $19 USD for a site with electricity.
  • Travel off-season – Consider traveling between October and April to take advantage of reduced accommodation rates and smaller crowds of visitors.
  • 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 $500 USD for 3 days and 2 nights including accommodation.

Other Destinations in Australia

Brisbane Cairns Gold Coast Fraser Island Melbourne Perth Sydney