Contrary to popular belief, Alice Springs has so much to offer for those that take the time to stick around.
Alice Springs is technically the closest settlement to Uluru (Ayers Rock), even though it’s still a good 6 hour drive away. But we’re not going to talk about the red rock in this article.
No, instead we want to convince you to spend some time in this beautiful area of the central Australian desert.
Whether you want to hit the tourist scene or discover insider tips; we’ve got you covered.
Looking for a great hostel?
Check out our guide to the 3 best hostels in Alice Springs.
Without further ado, we cover:
- Best activities in Alice Springs
- Handy map of all mentioned activities
- Where to stay in Alice Springs
List of Cool Things to do in Alice Springs
Let’s get to it, shall we?
What makes Alice Springs so special is the burning question.
In no particular order, the coolest things to do in Alice Springs are…
1. Enjoy a sunset on top of ANZAC Hill
This is considered the best location to end the day in Alice Springs.
Not only will you be able to see the entirety of the city from up here, but you’ll see the stunning West Macdonnell Ranges snaking off into the distance.
Top tip: avoid the small crowds right on top and find a comfortable rock to perch on halfway up the hill.
2. Take an early morning stroll to Olive Pink Botanic Garden
…and spot a wild wallaby or two!
This widespread garden is home to native flora and fauna, a wonderful view point and a peaceful cafe set amongst the trees.
Olive Pink was an Australian botanical illustrator and a very interesting character. Her book can be bought at the Bean Tree Cafe inside the gardens.
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I feel like I have been to a lot of places today. Not bad in 37C Alice Springs heat. My day started at #olivepinkbotanicgarden which was divine. The cafe is also gorgeous. I was going to put the very delicious food as the second picture but the hero of the cafe is really the setting.
3. Buy one-of-a-kind Aboriginal artwork on the street
Alice Springs has to be one of the few places in Australia where it’s possible to approach local artists relaxing on the grass selling their beautiful artwork.
This method of buying ensure you know exactly who painted it, and who the money is going to.
Wander down Todd Mall – the main street of Alice Springs – and you’ll nearly always find some for sale.
Important: be respectful and make sure you ask before taking photos of Indigenous people.
4. See what’s on at the Araluen Cultural Precinct
This is a world class performance centre and visual hub of central Australia.
There is an annual programme of art exhibitions, performances and film taking place here – a real joy for the art enthusiast!
Desert Mob exhibition is held here annually and stands to be one of the most important Aboriginal art and cultural events in the nation.
Tip: check out what’s on at the Araluen Cultural Precinct here.
5. Explore the stunning West Macdonnell Ranges
More commonly known as the West Macs in Alice, this long stretch of protruded rock formations is great for hiking, swimming and camping.
The main areas to visit include:
- Simpson’s Gap (closest to Alice Springs)
- Ellery Creek Big Hole (amazing water hole)
- Ochre Pits (Aboriginal ochre pigments)
- Glen Helen (permanant waterhole)
- Mt Sonder (1,380m peak)
You’ll need a car to access the West Macs, and some parts can only be reached with 4×4.
Not a fan of driving? Join a 1 day tour with Emu Run Experience.
6. Don’t be a tourist: head to the East Macdonnell Ranges
For some reason the East Macs don’t get much attention at all.
Which is why this is a perfect choice for the real adventurers out there!
Trephina Gorge is the main attraction here and you’ll most likely get it all to yourself.
It’s the perfect spot for natural beauty and peaceful hikes with the option of camping for a small fee.
Note: you’ll need your own car to reach Trephina (no guided tours go this way). There are taps, basic toilets and free BBQ’s at the camping areas.
7. Get snaky at the Reptile Centre
Here is your chance to hold a snake, cuddle a lizard and get close and personal with a huge salt water croc!
The Alice Springs Reptile Centre holds three informative talks per day which is a great addition to freely exploring the centre.
This is also home to the snake catcher in town. If you happen to be visiting during snake season (summertime) then it might be worth noting down his number!
8. Clamber to the top of Mount Gillen and stare across a whole lot of nothing
This is a great one of experienced hikers that aren’t afraid of heights.
Mount Gillen stands around 914m high and is located 7km west of Alice Springs.
The last section to the top requires scrambling up rock with sheer drops.
Yet honestly, if you’re brave enough the spectacular views are worth it!
Ask your chosen accommodation for help with the route as it’s a little tricky to find. Take plenty of water.
9. Secure a ticket for Wide Open Space Festival
Calling all happy-go-lucky-hippie-types!
Hands up if you fancy music, art and desert culture all warped into one over 3 days in the heart of Australia.
This beautiful festival has been running for 10 years and still has a small capacity of around 2500 people.
Good to know: the next one will be in 2020. Keep up to date on the WOS Website.
10. Discover interesting history at The Telegraph Station
Take a 4km stroll along the dry Todd River bed and you’ll come across the Alice Springs Telegraph Station.
This is in fact the birthplace of the township Alice Springs. It was the successful completed of this telegraph that connected Australia with the rest of the world.
If you’re not too keen to pay the entry fee, have a wander up Trig Hill for stunning views, and enjoy a coffee at the on-site cafe.
11. Spend a day at the Alice Springs Desert Park
This place is huge – 1,300 hectares to be exact! You’ll definitely want to set aside between 4 and 6 hours for a visit here.
Throughout the day there are really cool activities and shows to check out all about animals, plants and local people. This includes a free bird show and guided walk around the Nocturnal house.
The Alice Springs Desert Park is a fantastic way to get to know about the surrounding desert and local Arrente people.
12. Parrtjima – A Festival in Light
This surely is a unique festival dedicated to showcasing the oldest continuous culture on earth through the newest technologies.
It’s held once a year at the Desert Park and is completely free of charge. This includes a free shuttle bus!
Experience fantastic light shows, moving stories, film and intricate artwork.
Keep up to date via the Parrtjima Asutralia website.
13. Go nuts on nearby Mountain Bike Trails
Whether you’re a mountain bike pro or novice, it doesn’t matter.
The MTB trails 4km outside of Alice Springs are suitable for anyone willing to give it a go and stretch for 45km!
Tip: walk to the telegraph station and rent a MTB from Outback Cycling.
They can offer you all the information you need for a good day on the tracks. They also offer super fun night time tours!
14. Witness live art creation at the Street Art Festival
Brand new to 2018, the Alice Springs Street Art Festival has added a serious splash of creative colour to the town.
It should become an annual event and no doubt it will get bigger and better each year.
Even if you can’t be there for the event itself, it’s fun to wander around and find all the hidden masterpieces dotted around.
15. Disappear for a couple of weeks on the Larapinta Trail
Did you know one of Australia’s most spectacular bushwalking and trekking experiences is on the doorstep of Alice Springs? You do now!
It’s made up of 12 sections that stretch a whopping 223km long through, over and around the West Macdonnell Ranges.
Super cool: there are no trail fees and only some camping fees apply in certain places.
Don’t take this trek lightly! Get clued up on everything you need to know on the official Larapinta Trail website.
Look to Larapinta Trail Trek Support for all your support needs.
We know this company personally –they’ll go above and beyond to look after you.
16. Meet Kangaroo Dundee
If you’re not familiar with Brolga and his Alice Springs Kangaroo Sanctuary, shame on you! Just kidding…
This wonderful human has dedicated his life to rescuing, caring for and re-releasing orphaned baby kangaroos.
It’s possible to visit the Kangaroo sanctuary by tour booking only via the website. But be quick; spaces fill up fast!
Meet a fully grown red kangaroo male, cuddle a sleepy Joey and shake the hand of Kangaroo Dundee himself.
17. Become a real life outback cowboy
If you’re ever going to get away with dressing like a cowboy/girl that’s not at a fancy dress party; it’s in the central Australian desert.
Outbush in the centre of town is where you’ll find Akubra hats of the finest quality.
18. Enjoy an all day breakfast at the best cafe in town
For such a small place, there are many great cafes in Alice Springs: the best and most popular being Page 27.
The barristers offer nothing but awesome coffee and the all day food menu offers something for everyone. See if you can resist the freshly made cakes… we dare you.
Note: most cafes in town close at 2pm. Who came up with that idea?!
21. Meat eaters: Try Kangaroo
For those that would like to treat their taste buds to something exotic; head to The Overlanders Steakhouse.
Here you can try kangaroo and wallaby steak!
Fun fact: In many parts of Australia kangaroo populations are out of control so controlled hunting is legal. No kangaroos are farmed in Australia for meat.
The building is rustic and filled with quirky decor that does well to heighten the overall dining experience.
22. Veggies: divulge at the purely vegetarian and vegan restaurant
That’s right; Alice Springs has all bases covered!
The Tea Shrine is an Asian styled vegetarian and vegan only establishment that have the biggest bubble tea menu I have ever seen.
Pop in for lunch and ask what the special of the day is and treat yourself to a vegan cupcake whilst you wait.
23. Load up on Australian books
Red Kangaroo Books is surely special when it comes to Australian literature – around 75% of the stock is dedicated to Aussie stories!
Read about Aboriginal culture, language, explorers, wildlife and so much more.
There’s even a great little DVD and children’s section on all things Australian.
Warning! You may spend a fortune here.
24. Boogie on down to Epilogue Lounge
Every weekend you’re guaranteed to have an awesome time at Epilogue Lounge.
On Thursdays there is open mic night, and Saturdays are dedicated to DJ sets, live music and themed parties. All of which takes place on a beautiful open rooftop with palm trees!
There’s a decent food menu downstairs and often great cocktail deals upstairs.
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25. Meander at the Sunday Market
During the winter season (May – September) there are fortnightly markets held on Todd Mall, the main pedestrian street in Alice.
Grab some street food, pick up a second hand book or treat yourself to beautiful paintwork.
In the summer night markets start up to avoid the midday heat.
26. Enjoy a cold cider at the best bar in town
Introducing Monte’s Lounge with its bizarre ‘travelling circus’ decoration, chill vibes and enticing food menu.
This is by far the top choice for travellers and locals alike!
Most weekends there is entertainment of some kind. However the place is split in to two areas so it’s possible to enjoy a quiet drink, too.
The best bit: on hot days there is a gentle sprinkler system above the outside seating areas.
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27. Join a boat race… on a dry river bed
The Henley on Todd ‘boat’ race is ridiculous and fun. This event happens every year on the third Saturday of August.
The idea? Race your hand-built boat along the dry Todd River for a chance to win the gold medal!
There are tons of family friendly events taking place and the entire town of Alice Springs gets swept up in the mayhem.
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No water in the river? No worries! 👍 In fact, the annual @henleyontodd Regatta in Alice Springs is the only one in the world that’d get cancelled if there was actually water in the river. 😂 This unique event is on this Saturday, so check out http://bit.ly/2bteEhC if you’ll be in the #RedCentreNT. Thanks for this brilliant photo, @damienjryan!
28. Delve into a vintage treasure trove
The Alice Texas Second Hand Shop is a collection of bizarre and unusual wares, made up of religious icons, clothes, antique furniture and bric-a-brac.
This is a hoarders dream and will keep you entertained for quite some time!
29. Ride a camel
Not too far from the centre of Alice there is a place called Pyndan Camel Tracks.
There are few options to choose from but we recommend opting for the 1hr sunset tour.
And guess what? They offer free pick up from your accommodation.
30. Stare up at 10 billion stars
Whilst you’re in the middle of nowhere you just have to witness the night sky with little light pollution – it’s a true spectacle.
The Earth Sanctuary offer weekly astronomy tours which can be combined with a 3 course BBQ dinner.
You’ll even be welcomed by beautiful didgeridoo music!
31. Join in the Desert Festival
Yet again Alice Springs is home to another awesome annual festival.
The Desert Festival brings together dancers and musicians from far flung Aboriginal communities, with some of the best contemporary acts in Australia.
In 2018 there were 33 shows spread over 7 venues, just to give you an idea of how big it is.
32. Pop in to Red Hot Arts Central Australia
Alongside the bigger events already mentioned, there is SO much more happening in Alice Springs. Especially during the winter months of May – October.
There’s community yoga, outdoor film screenings, poetry slams and painting workshops to name but a few.
The best way to keep up to date with what’s going on?
Sign up to the Red Hot Arts newsletter or pop in to the office in Alice Springs. Many cafes in town also display posters of upcoming events.
33. Visit the brand new Alice Springs Brewery
This was in fact only established in 2018 and is yet to officially open its doors!
In the meantime Alice Springs Brewing Co has released a few of their beers exclusively at Jump Inn hostel 10 minutes out of town.
34. Dance all night at a bush doof
One of the most unique things to do in Alice Springs!
If you’re a keen raver it is definitely worth your time to plan a little in advance to be in town when there is a scheduled bush doof.
Picture this: locals DJ’s, awesome sound system and dancing in a dry river bed until the sun comes up.
It’s a BYO event – own water, camping gear, food etc – and a small entry fee goes towards the excellent set up.
Ask to join the Alice Springs Doof Collective group on facebook and stay in the loop.
35. Swing your hair at Blacken Festival
Do you absolutely love heavy metal music?!
Then you’ll love the 3-day open air Blacken Festival which runs every year in May.
Buy a ticket to rock out as a guest, or fill in the band application on the website if you think you’ve got what it takes.
36. Rise high on a hot air balloon
If this isn’t on your bucket list, it really should be. For us, one of the coolest things to do in Alicea Springs and area!
We’ll be honest and say it isn’t exactly budget friendly, but the experience of drifting high above the desert of central Australia is second to none.
Outback Ballooning offer 30-minute and 60-minute flights.
Scared of heights? Join what’s called a ‘balloon chase’ and follow the flying balloon from the ground after watching it take off.
37. Visit the world’s largest classroom
The School of Air is a first-of-its-kind school that reaches over 1.3 million square metres to isolated children across the Northern Territory.
It’s possible to join a tour at the visitor centre in Alice Springs to learn more about the techniques and teaching strategies used here.
All activities in Alice Springs put on a map
Lovely to see you’re still with us!
By now you’re surely blown away by the many awesome things to do in Alice Springs, right?
Here is a really handy map pinpointing most of the activities previously mentioned. Some of them change location each year, which is why we included website links in the text for you.
Day Trips from Alice Springs
This list of activities to do in Alice Springs would not be complete without day trips, right?! The most popular day trips from Alice Springs are to
- The West Macdonnell Ranges
- Palm Valley
Unless you have a car the best option is to book on a tour with Emu Run Experience for a reasonable price that includes lunch.
If you’re really short on time, it is possible to do a day tour to Uluru with the same company.
However we really recommend doing a 3 day tour as there is so much to see and the drive is 6 hours each way from Alice Springs.
Where to stay in Alice Springs
There are 5 hostels in Alice Springs and Hostelgeeks writer Kelly checked out the hostel game here.
In fact, we’ve put together a guide to the 3 best hostels in Alice Springs.
But OK, we understand you’ve already read this huge handy article, so let’s make it easier for you.
If you’re looking to stay in the coolest, friendliest hostel in town we cannot recommend Alice’s Secret Travellers Inn enough.
It’s a small, family run hostel that’s built on gorgeous detail and chilled vibes.
Stay here if you like a lush garden, swimming pool and hammocks.
Summary: BEST Things to do in Alice Springs
Believe it or not, there are still more things to do in Alice Springs!
By no means is this the full list. But not to worry; we will always keep this guide up to date and fresh.
You can find all tours and activities here.
We hope that this list has inspired you to spend a little more time in this beautiful part of Australia.
Over to you
Any questions? Please please bother us and leave a comment.
Your comment helps us to improve this Alice Springs guide.
Perhaps you have something to add? Maybe something isn’t quite right? We’d love to extend this list and make sure it’s spot on!
Please leave a comment below!
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Hostel Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality hostel, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate hostel packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.The most important things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Nomatic (our review of Nomatic here) or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 45 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock (fitting all locker types)
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries