Alice Springs is known as the capital of Australia’s “Red Center” and is the launching pad to popular places like Uluru and Kings Canyon. In fact, you’ll find that when you visit Alice Springs there’s not too much to do here beyond Uluru and the canyon. It’s a very, very small town.
But the town does have tremendous natural beauty, offering visitors scenic bushwalking trails, beautiful gardens, and lots of historic buildings.
The town has a rough, independent feel and is bursting with small-town charm. I found the locals here a lot friendlier than on the coasts too.
Stop and stay in the town for a day or two on your way to Uluru. This is a detour well worth it. This Alice Springs travel guide will help you make the most of your trip.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Alice Springs
2. The Reptile Centre
3. Hot air ballooning
4. Alice Springs Desert Park
5. MacDonnell Ranges
Other Things to See and Do in Alice Springs
1. Cultural museums
Head for the Cultural Precinct where highlights include the Sculpture Garden; the Museum of Central Australia, which has all kinds of fossils and meteorites; and the Namatjira Gallery, which 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.
2. Royal Flying Doctor 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! Admission is 19 AUD ($14 USD).
3. Olive Pink Botanical Garden
Opened in 1985, the Olive Pink Botanical Garden is located close to the scenic Todd River. Spanning over 40 acres, here you can stroll through the magnificent landscaped gardens and check out their collections of exotic plants, mature native trees, and shrubs. Admission is free but donations are accepted.
4. 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 then became home to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, a small museum immortalizing 100 Australian women who were first in their fields. That museum has since evolved into the Women’s Museum of Australia, which celebrates “any woman who is a pioneer in her chosen field from settlement to present day.” Admission is 15 AUD ($11 USD).
5. The Larapinta Trail
If you’re a hiking enthusiast, don’t miss this 250-kilometer trail through high mountains in a semi-desert. 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. Most people spend 12-15 days hiking the trail, though it’s broken up into 12 sections should you just want to hike part of it. Admission to the trail is free, though there are some fees for camping. A 3-day guided trek costs around 1,450 AUD ($1,092 USD).
6. Hike Kings Canyon
Located just over 300 kilometers from Alice Springs, Kings Canyon is a great place to get out and hike while taking in the amazing natural beauty of the region. The walls of the canyon are over 100 meters high, offering amazing views and great hiking. There are a few short trails you can explore in a couple of hours, as well as a longer full-day trail (the Giles Track is 22km). If you do visit, be sure to stick to the paths. Much of this area is sacred to the Aboriginals and leaving the paths is frowned upon. Half-day tours for Kings Canyon start around 100 AUD ($75 USD).
For more information on specific cities in Australia, check out these guides:
Alice Springs Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostels cost around 25-30 AUD ($19-22 USD) per night for a dorm. Private rooms with shared bathrooms cost around 65 AUD ($49 USD) per night.
For those traveling with a tent, you can camp just outside the town for 10-15 AUD ($8-11 USD) per night.
Budget hotel prices – Double rooms in a budget hotel or motel start at 110 AUD ($83 USD), but most are closer to 200 AUD ($150 USD).
On Airbnb, a private room in an apartment averages about 120 AUD ($90 USD), however, if you book in advance you can find them for as little as 80 AUD ($60 USD). Entire homes/apartments average 130 AUD ($98 USD) per night. Keep in mind there are very few Airbnb listings here.
Average cost of food – There are cheap meals for under 15 AUD ($11 USD) at many of the grab-and-go and ethnic food shops, but expect to pay around 20-25 AUD ($15-19 USD) for a meal in a sit-down restaurant. Food out here tends to be more “pub” based with fewer luxury dining options than other cities.
If you cook your meals, expect to pay 100 AUD ($75 USD) per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foodstuffs.
Activities – There’s something for every budget in Alice Springs. Admission to nature parks like the Alice Springs Nature Park start around 37 AUD ($28 USD), while admission to museums and historical sites cost around 20 AUD ($15 USD) (although there are also plenty of free sites).
You don’t visit Alice Springs without seeing Uluru. While multi-day tours cost around 225 AUD per day, you can book a shorter half-day tour if you’re on a budget. Sunrise tours last a couple hours and allow you to take in the sights while the sun is coming up. They will cost around 135 AUD ($94 USD) per person. Rangers offer free guided tours around the base of Uluru. Half-day tours for Kings Canyon start around 100 AUD ($75 USD).
If you want to rent a car and see either park yourself, try splitting costs with other travelers. That way you can share the cost of the rental and the gas (as well as the actual driving).
Backpacking Alice Springs Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to visit Alice Springs? On a backpacker budget, you can visit here for 80 AUD per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a cheap hostel or camping, cooking all of your meals, and using local transportation to get around. On this budget, you could stick to mostly free activities or admission fees for museums/sites. If you wanted to rent a car to see Uluru, you’ll need to add another 100 AUD to your budget (a bit less if you can split the rental with other travelers).
On a mid-range budget of about 225 AUD, you’ll be able to stay in a budget hotel or Airbnb, eat out for most meals, enjoy a drink or two, split a rental car to go to Uluru, and pay the entry fee for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
On a luxury budget of 395 AUD or more, you can stay in a mid-range hotel, eat out for all your meals, hire a rental car to get around, and do any tours. The sky is the limit at this budget!
To give you an idea of what you’ll need to budget, here are some suggested guidelines. Prices are in AUD.
Alice Springs Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Australia is an expensive place to visit. If you aren’t careful, you’ll blow through your entire budget in no time flat! Here are a lot of ways to save money when you visit Alice Springs:
- Bring food to Uluru – Food at the visitor’s café near Uluru is highly overpriced. Stock up on snacks from the supermarket before you set off on an adventure in this area.
- 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 45 AUD ($34 USD) per night for a basic plot.
- Combine tours – Combine tours of Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta to save money on the cost of an individual excursion. Expect to pay around 650 AUD ($490 USD) for 3 day/2 night trip.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation here can be pricey. If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts all throughout the country. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see. Alice Spings doesn’t have a huge CS community, but it never hurts to check!
- Drink goon (box wine) – Goon is infamous on the Australian backpacker hostel trail. This cheap box of wine is the best way to drink, get a buzz, and save a lot of money at the same time.
- Cook your food – Again, eating out is not cheap. The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. Alice Springs is a great place to bring snacks and meals to. You can make your own picnic out there!
- Share a ride – If you’re renting a car, find other travelers to split the price with. Dividing up the rental price and the gas will save you a good chunk of money.
Where To Stay in Alice Springs
Alice Spings doesn’t have a ton of budget-friendly accommodation but here are my favorite places to stay here that offer great value for your money:
How to Get Around Alice Springs
Walk – The downtown area of Alice Springs is incredibly walkable so it’s entirely possible to get around without having to spend much on transportation at all!
Public Bus – Alice Springs does have a public bus system. A single ticket is 3 AUD ($2.25 USD) and lasts 3 hours. A single-day pass is 7 AUD ($5.25 USD). You can also get a 10-trip pass or a week-long pass for 20 AUD ($15 USD).
Taxi – Taxis are expensive. Fares are a minimum of 5 AUD ($3.75 USD) and cost 2 AUD (1.50 USD) per kilometer so this isn’t a budget-friendly option.
Bicycle Rental – Bicycle rentals are available in Alice Springs starting at 40 AUD ($30 USD) per day.
Car Rental – Getting a car rental is one of the most practical ways to get around Alice Springs and the area, and you can find prices starting from about 80 AUD ($60 USD) per day. That might be out of budget, but it’s cheaper to drive to Uluru than it is to hop on a multi-day tour.
Multi-Day Tours – You can combine tours of Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta to save money on the cost of an individual excursion. Expect to pay around 650 AUD ($490 USD) for multi-day camping trips. Depending on your travel style, this price can increase quickly. Some tours will include all the extras, like meals.
When to Go to Alice Springs
Alice Springs’ climate can be extreme, with scorching hot summers and cold winters. Summer lasts from December to February, and the average temperatures range from 60-95°F (20-35°C), but sometimes can climb as high as 104°F (40°C). It’s dry here most of the year, but January is considered the wettest months.
Winter (June to August) is “cold,” with average temperatures between 41-68°F (5-20°C), and July is the coldest month. Temperatures may even drop below zero, making it not the best time to be camping! On the other hand, prices are definitely lowest during the winter.
Spring (September to November) is pleasant with warm temperatures, but fall (March to May) really is the best time to visit. The days are warm and the nights are cool, with temperatures ranging from 54-81°F (12-27°C). This is also a great time to go to Uluru, but it can get a lot colder out there — sometimes dropping as low as 46°F (8°C). Pack plenty of layers!
How to Stay Safe in Alice Springs
Alice Springs is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel to. People are nice and helpful and you’re unlikely to get into trouble.
Most incidents in Alice Springs tend to occur because visitors are not used to the country’s unique climate and wilderness. Be sure you have plenty of sunscreen and stay as hydrated as possible. This is especially true if you’re driving through the outback. There are long, long distances without any towns in sight, so if you break down, you’ll want to be prepared. Make sure your vehicle always has lots of fuel too as you never know where the next gas station will be!
If you’re hiking, make sure you know what to expect ahead of time. Be on the lookout for snakes and spiders, and if you’re bitten, seek immediate care. (Don’t worry though – all those horror stories about giant spiders and vicious animals are pretty rare!) Always check the weather before you head out.
As a general rule, if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Alice Springs. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Alice Springs Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Alice Springs. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are always my starting point when I need to book a flight, hotel, tour, train, or meeting people.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands out the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings!
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Australia, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get discounts when you click the link!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Alice Springs Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Alice Springs Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one of the best travel writers in the world. This book chronicles a journey through Australia and takes you from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. Bryson includes lots of trivia in his tale as he travels around in awe — and sometimes in fear (thanks to box jellyfish, riptides, crocs, spiders, and snakes) — of this enormous country. This is the book that inspired me to go to Australia.
The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
This is an Australian classic, originally published in the 70s, which follows the epic saga of a family living in sheep country in the Australian Outback. The story focuses on two main characters: Meggie Cleary and Ralph de Bricassart, a parish priest whose passion for Meggie haunts him. Even if this isn’t your type of book, it’s a really awesome insight into life in the Australian Outback (especially during the 70s).
A Long Way From Home, by Peter Carey
Irene loves to drive fast, and her husband is the best car salesman in southeastern Australia. Together they decide to enter the 1954 Redex Trial — an endurance drive that circumnavigates the entire country. Willie Bachhuber, a failed schoolteacher, joins them. If they win their lives will be forever changed — but, first, they’re led out of the comfortable Australia they know so well and into an unexpected adventure full of twists and turns. Peter Carey is a two-time Booker Prize winner, and one of Australia’s most well-known writers.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, by Robyn Davidson
This is Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her incredible 1,700-mile journey through the Australian desert accompanied only by four camels and a dog. Davidson fends off sweltering heat, poisonous snakes, and dangerous men – all while wrangling her temperamental camels. It’s definitely one of those transformative stories that allows you to get super invested in the author as well as the severe Australian desert landscape.
The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
You can’t come to Australia without learning a little bit about the country’s Indigenous Australians. This is part travelogue and part autobiography, and one of Chatwin’s most famous books. Here, Chatwin searches the Australian Outback for the source of the Aboriginal “dreaming tracks,” the invisible pathways from which the Aboriginals’ ancestors sang the world into existence. The Songlines was an instant best-seller when it was published, and nowadays it’s a classic.
Alice Springs Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Australia travel and continue planning your trip: