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20 Things to Do in Alice Springs, Australia

Australia's Red Centre is a breathtaking expanse of desert plains, rugged mountains and some of the most sacred sites for Aboriginal Australians. At its heart is the remote town of Alice Springs, a small but vibrant community that showcases both the amazing natural landscapes and the rich Aboriginal culture that flows within the nation. If you're passing through Alice Springs, you'll have plenty to keep you engaged and excited every step of the way. In this breathtaking region, you'll find challenging adventures, cultural exploration and endless opportunities to meet wildlife.

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01 Hot air balloon flights

Todd Ryburn Photography / Getty Images

Sky-high views of stunning rugged land await when you book a hot air balloon trip around Alice Springs. Your day starts before dawn, but as you gently float in the air as the sun rises over the horizon, you'll be glad you did.

The desert comes alive with gorgeous hues of red as dawn breaks and stretches over desert oaks and scrubland plants. Keep an eye out as you float; you'll likely see some kangaroos or wallabies making their way across the land.

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02 Explore the MacDonnell Ranges

MacDonnell Ranges at sunset, Northern Territory, Australia

The MacDonnell Ranges create a mountain system extending both east and west around Alice Springs. These stunning mountains are created of sandstone and quartzite ridges, which give them distinctive reddish hues. Both are ready for you to explore.

Hiking trails, natural swimming holes and, most importantly, breathtaking scenes await as you venture into the Outback for your adventure. Many trails wind through the range at different levels, so be sure to pick one that matches your ability.

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03 Alice Springs Desert Park

The sun sets over the dry, red hills of the West Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

If you're not sure where to start your MacDonnell Ranges adventure, here's an idea. The Alice Springs Desert Park leads to the West MacDonnell Ranges. You'll pass through sand country, desert rivers and woodlands, each featuring its own native plants and wildlife.

Throughout the park, ancient cultural stories weave together, along with explanations of the local geography. The Nature Theatre presentations provide expert insight into the area and also show off native animals.

For a unique twist, check out the nocturnal tour, which reveals the secretive lives of nocturnal animals in the area with an expert guide.

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04 Telegraph Station

The first European settlement in Alice Springs is now known as Telegraph Station. It's housed in the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, where you'll see historical buildings and mature trees, experiencing the area as it once was.

This historic settlement was established in 1871, allowing messages to be relayed between Darwin and Adelaide via the Overland Telegraph Line. Daily guided tours take you through the township, including how they lived.

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05 Camel rides

Tourist riding camel in Desert FG Trade / Getty Images

Sure, you could hike through the outback, but why would you when you could see it by camelback? Camel rides through the desert landscape give you a whole new vantage point to the surrounding lands and you'll also get the added benefit of a new experience.

You can often find afternoon and sunset tours for this fun adventure. As the camels meander through the tour, you'll be free to keep your attention on sightseeing rather than where you're walking. Kangaroos and other native species await here.

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06 Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Alice Springs is home to numerous reptile species, and the Alice Springs Reptile Centre puts them on full display. You'll come face-to-face with all sorts of species, from the interesting frill-neck lizard to adorable geckos.

In all, over 100 reptiles across 50 species live inside and out. You won't want to miss the underwater viewing of the saltwater crocodile exhibit, where you'll be at eye level with one of the largest and fiercest reptiles in the region.

Paired with regular informative programming, this destination makes for an ideal excursion for animal lovers who want to get up close and personal with the reptiles in a safe, controlled setting.

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07 Royal Flying Doctor Service

Even people in remote locations, like Alice Springs, need access to emergency medical care sometimes. In this town, it comes in the form of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and this organization operates a tourist facility in Alice Springs.

Take a deep dive into the logistics necessary to provide life-saving care in emergent situations. Take an immersive VR trip as a patient or enjoy a life-sized hologram of the RFDS founder John Flynn explaining the organization. As you explore the museum area, you'll see items and life-sized replicas of communication rooms and flight vessels used in service.

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08 Local art galleries

Despite being a small, remote town, Alice Springs is renowned for its artistry. Several art galleries and museums portray local and Indigenous art to enjoy.

The Araluen Cultural Precinct, for example, proudly displays four distinct galleries with art from across the nation. It's also the host of the largest First Nations art event, Desert Mob. If you're lucky enough to catch this event, it showcases dance, drama and live music.

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09 Anzac Hill

Alice Springs, Australia - March 8, 2016 : View of Spencer Hill and of St Philip's College north of Anzac Hill in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Central Australia

Anzac Hill is the most popular landmark in Alice Springs thanks to its stunning panoramic views of Alice Springs and the surrounding wilderness. You can see for miles from this vantage point.

It's also an important historical location. Here, you'll find the Anzac Hill Memorial, which was first unveiled in 1934 to honor the soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Now, it celebrates all who have passed away in the line of duty during wartime. Several commemorative signs and sculptures can be found dedicated to them.

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10 Attend local festivals

https://www.instagram.com/p/ChzB_GIsPPO/?img_index=1 henley_on_todd_regatta/Shutterstock

Attending local festivals is one of the best ways to get to know a destination. You'll get a real taste of local culture and its values. In Alice Springs, festivals showcase the town's vibrance. Beyond the Desert Mob, which was previously mentioned, you'll find interesting and eclectic celebrations, such as the Beanie Festival, highlighting handmade beanies and offering a venue to sell them to tourists it attracts.

The Henley-on-Todd Regatta is a unique twist on traditional boat races. These boats don't sail down a river; they drive down the sandy Todd River bed on foot-powered wheels. You'll likely see some fierce competition, including people spraying each other with water guns to come out victorious.

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11 Kangaroo Sanctuary

Alice Springs is home to the Kangaroo Sanctuary, which has humble beginnings as a baby kangaroo rescue center. Now, it houses numerous orphaned baby kangaroos and adult kangaroos in need of support.

Don't plan on arriving bright and early though; doors don't open until late afternoon when kangaroos start to wake up. You'll need to book a sunset tour to visit, and visitors under the age of 7 are generally not allowed.

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12 Hiking in Larapinta Trail

Larapinta Trail is well known for stretching across the West MacDonnell Range. It's one of the area's most spectacular outback bushwalks, but it's also quite strenuous. You'll cross over hard, rocky land. If you want to hike the whole thing, be prepared. It's a 138-mile trail with 12 smaller sections. However, if you can brave it, you'll get amazing vistas of untouched rugged terrain.

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13 Olive Pink Botanic Garden

The Olive Pink Botanic Garden is a haven for nature lovers. Here, the native arid-zone flora is on full display alongside walking paths, and it's the only garden of its kind in the entire country. It's located along the Todd River, offering more than 500 native plant species.

You'll want to come here after heavy rainfall; the area becomes bright with wildflowers and attracts native species like bowerbirds, wallabies and native butterflies.

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14 Explore historical sites

With its historic roots, Alice Springs has plenty of old sites to visit. The Stuart Town Gaol, for example, is built from local stone and once served as a police station and jail. Now, it's been transformed into a museum.

The Hermannsburg Historic Precinct requires you to drive out of Alice Springs, but you'll find yourself surrounded by German-style buildings surrounded by red gum trees. A school, church and houses all still stand and have been restored to their original glory. You'll learn more about the effects of colonialism and how it impacted Aboriginal history as you explore.

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15 Cycling and mountain biking

All around Alice Springs, cycling and mountain biking trails can be found for just about every skill level. Whether you embark on a tour or head out on your own, you'll find plenty to explore.

The Eastside trails, which take you east of Telegraph Station, tend to be more suitable for intermediate-to-advanced riders and offer areas to jump off. The Westside trails, on the other hand, tend to offer trails for all levels.

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16 Night sky observing

Beautiful night sky

So far from major cities, the sky above Alice Springs largely avoids the dimming effect of light pollution. It's the perfect opportunity to see more stars than you could possibly count, especially on clear nights.

Regular guided night sky tours set out to show off the best of the natural night sky. Tour guides explain what you can see overhead along the way. Try going during a meteor shower for an extra special touch.

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17 Cultural experiences

Cultural experiences appear everywhere in Alice Springs, allowing visitors to discover, engage and appreciate local Aboriginal culture. Guided walks, cultural tours and art workshops all touch on the topic and can take you through culturally significant areas. For example, in Ewaninga Conservation Reserve, you'll discover rock carvings and petroglyphs. Araluen Sculpture Garden takes you to one of the sacred sites in the area.

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18 Water activities in the desert

Simpson Gap, 22 km west of Alice Spings, Northern Territory, Australia

Despite its reputation as a desert, you can still find areas where water flows. One of the most popular areas to seek water activities is in natural waterholes found along the MacDonnell Ranges. After hiking, you can take a quick dip to cool off and beat the heat.

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19 Wildlife encounters

Variegated fairy wren, Malurus splendens, on a tree with blurred green nature background. Desert Park at Alice Springs, MacDonnell Ranges in Northern Territory, Central Australia.

Numerous tours take you out of Alice Springs and into the wilderness, where you have the opportunity to encounter wildlife. Alice Springs Desert Park, for example, takes you out into the wilderness as previously mentioned. Other tourist companies do similar, introducing you to local fauna and creating excellent photo opportunities.

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20 Aerial tours

helicopter in the air

There's nothing quite like seeing the sights from an aerial vantage point. In Alice Springs, opportunities to book a helicopter or small plane tour give you unparalleled views of Alice Springs, its landmarks and the surrounding deserts.

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