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As the heart of the Red Centre, as well as the physical and spiritual hub of Australia, Alice Springs is a town steeped in culture and history, surrounded by vast red desert, ancient landscapes and awe-inspiring natural beauty. From its fascinating indigenous culture and unique pioneering history to its diverse wildlife, Alice Springs is filled with a rich array of sights and activities guaranteed to enthral and entertain every visitor of the region.
Explore the Red Centre’s deep connection to art on the Alice Springs Art Trail. One of four art trails that traverse the region, the Alice Springs Art Trail loops around seven of the town’s most impressive and varied galleries and workshops within an easily walkable route. Encompassing everything from Aboriginal artworks to jewellery and crafts, most spots on the trail are owned and operated by local indigenous people or are community-based initiatives, like the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, the Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists Studio and the Tjutangku Tjukurrpa. The art trail also includes two annual events — the Alice Springs Beanie Festival and the Desert Mob Exhibition, which are both pretty incredible in their own right.
A must-visit spot in Alice Springs, the Araluen Cultural Precinct encompasses some of the most important historical, cultural and artistic experiences in the town. A ‘keeping place of stories’, the precinct covers the Museum of Central Australia, the Araluen Arts Centre, the Central Australian Aviation Museum, Central Craft and Yaye’s Cafe. It also includes some important Arrernte cultural sites connected to the local Caterpillar Dreaming stories, Arltyerre, and public works of art.
Did you know Alice Springs was once home to the largest bird that ever lived? Well, it was, and you can see its giant skeleton in the Museum of Central Australia, along with that of a colossal croc and plenty of other cool finds. Part of the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, the museum is a great place to learn more about the ancient history of this incredible landscape and the animals and plants that have called it home. The museum also houses the Strehlow Research Centre, one of Australia’s most important and culturally significant collections of archival records, artefacts, sounds and films about indigenous ceremonial life, gathered between 1932 and 1970 by anthropologist and professor TGH Strehlow.
Alice Springs first came to prominence in the 1870s as the central point of the Darwin to Adelaide telegraph line. Visit the restored Old Telegraph Station Reserve to learn more about this extraordinary feat, see some of the first buildings of Alice Springs, and to find out what life was like for the early pioneers of the Red Centre. You can also visit the site of the world’s first Royal Flying Doctor Service, the School of the Air, the Australian remote learning program for kids across the territory, and explore Central Australia’s first town, Hermannsburg.
Located in the East MacDonnell Ranges, 10km (6mi) out of Alice Springs, Yeperenye – or Emily Gap – is a sacred spiritual site to the Eastern Arrernte people, due to its importance in the Caterpillar Dreamtime story. Featuring a large Aboriginal rock painting of the caterpillar dreaming, Emily Gap is believed to be where the caterpillar beings of Mpwarntwe, now Alice Springs, originated. From Emily Gap, you can also continue to Trephina Gorge, which has over 5,000 ancient rock climbings and explore the ghost town at the Arltunga Historical Reserve.
A real must-do experience in Alice Springs, Simpsons Gap, is a gorgeous natural plunge pool in the middle of a towering gorge. Perfect for swimming, Simpsons Gap is also a great hiking spot, with several short walks including ancient Ghost Gums and incredible vistas over the West MacDonnell Range. Known as Rungutjirpa to the Arrernte people, this sacred gap was once home to a group of mythological giant goanna ancestors.
From Simpsons Gap, the West Macs span a further 150km (93mi) or so to the west. While you could spend a few days traversing the entire range, there are plenty of incredible places to explore that are closer to Alice Springs, including the epic Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen and the Ochre Pits. You can also go for a swim in Ellery Creek Big Hole and stop at Tyler’s Pass for a great view over the Tnorala (or Gosses Bluff), a 5km-wide (3mi) crater believed to have been created by the impact of an asteroid approximately 142.5 million years ago.
One of the finest extended walks in the world, the Larapinta Trail, was voted by Nat Geo as one of the top 20 trekking experiences to be had on the planet. Covering 223km (139mi) from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder, the Larapinta Trail is split into 12 sections and can be broken down into short walks, including some that are just a couple of hours, or the full shebang, which takes around 20 days. The trail covers many famous attractions like Simpsons Gap, Glen Helen and Ellery Creek Big Hole, along with epic vistas of the bush and the rugged landscape and some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world.
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