A MUST FOR YOUR BUCKET LIST: ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA
A couple of months ago, I was left pondering my options for the Easter long weekend. I wanted to do something really different and a few friends at work recommended Uluru. And I thought...why the hell not? After a bit of research, I decided to explore Alice Springs for a night before setting off on a three day tour with The Rock Tour. You could do this area of the outback yourself but there is something quite comforting being in the hands of a local expert who also is educated by the Aboriginal community. So for my first guide to the Australian outback, I thought I would start with Alice Springs. Alice Springs is located in the Northern Territory, bang smack in the middle of the Australian desert. Known by Australians as 'the Alice' or 'Alice' (very original huh - well, we like to keep things simple here), the town straddles the usually dry Todd Rover on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges.
When to go Alice Springs is virtually hot all year round with average temperatures hitting anywhere up to 45 degrees. In the winter months, the minimum can get quite low to temperatures around 7 degrees - even cooler if you're camping under the stars in your swag. Which we did...more on that later. Rainfall is typically seen in the hot summer months with the dryer season in winter seeing less rainy days. Locals will tell you it only ever really rains once or twice a year, and mid tour we got caught in one of the wettest days this year has seen. It was a lot of fun!
How to get there I flew with Qantas direct from Sydney to Alice Springs. My recommendation for booking these flights is to book as early as possible as they can get a little expensive closer to your selected departure date, which is standard. So preparation is key. You could also drive if you had the time. However, for us frequent weekenders, we're always on the side of being time poor so flying is your best option. Virgin Australia also has direct flights to Uluru. Pretty cool huh!
Where to stay There is a lot of variety when it comes to booking accommodation in Alice Springs. I had been there a few times previously when I worked as a flight attendant with Virgin Australia many moons ago and we always stayed at the Crowne Plaza. Located just down the road from the Alice Springs casino and in front of a huge golf course, I would recommend staying here as it has a big pool and is super cool - as in it looks like it hasn't had an upgrade since the 80's. So rad. If you're looking for budget accommodation, there are also plenty of other options. Accommodation is available quite freely in the Alice, so you can usually book last minute on Wotif.com or Lastminute.com.
Getting Around Getting around Alice is super easy and you do what most locals do, walk. We were warned by our hotel and The Rock Tour not to walk around at night on your own as it can get a little dangerous. There are plenty of cabs who'll be more than happy to take you to your hotel/hostel, even if it is only a $7 cab fare.
What to wear The Alice is hot, very hot. Shorts and skirts with a cotton tee and a pair or sandals or trainers are best for walking around Alice. It's certainly not a fashionable destination, so you can get away with walking around in a super casual get up - which I loved.
What to do At first glance, there isn't overly a lot to do in Alice Springs. During the day I would recommend walking up Anzac Hill to get a great view of the town. There is a Reptile Centre where you can get acquainted with all sorts of Australian creepy crawlers, as well as the Royal Flying Doctors museum where you can learn about the great effort the Flying Doctors have contributed to our outback communities.
The town's focal point, the Todd Mall, also hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. If you're looking for a decent steak, head to Bojangles Saloon. It is your typical Australian pub with crocodile skins hanging from the roof, Bundaberg Rum paraphernalia everywhere and a pet snake which gets fed a rat every Saturday at 5pm. Cool. The Rock Bar is also another great local watering hole and gets really busy on a Sunday night!