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Alice Springs in Australia's Red Centre

Updated on December 27, 2012
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Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Boarding the Ghan
Boarding the Ghan | Source

How to Get There

Definitely the best way to get to Alice Springs is to travel by the Ghan.

Of course you could fly there or even drive along the Stuart Highway that stretches all the way from Adelaide to Darwin. From Adelaide to Alice Springs, or The Alice as it is frequently known, is about half way, that is 1,530 km, so it's quite a drive.

To get there by plane is the fastest and there are flights daily, but for me the best way is to travel by the train, the Ghan, that is operated by the Great Southern Railway. It arrives there twice weekly from both Adelaide and Darwin. It's fun and there's plenty of time to sit and enjoy the passing scenery. There's something very special about snuggling up in a bunk on a Sleeper and falling asleep to the sound of the chattering wheels and hearing the change as they clatter hollowly over the culverts along the way.

Around Central Alice

Walking is a good way of seeing many parts of central Alice. Begin by climbing Anzac Hill. It's not very arduous and from the top there are great views in several directions. This helps in orientation and getting a good idea of where places are around the city.

In the town there are good museums, interesting monuments, churches, shopping centres and the base for the School of the Air for children living in remote areas. There is also the beautiful stone Adelaide House, the original hospital that was built in 1926 by the Rev. John Flynn, the founder of the world's first Flying Doctor Service. It is now a museum. No visit is complete without seeing the springs and the Repeater Station of the Overland Telegraph Line. The Line linked Adelaide to Darwin - and Britain - and was completed in 1872.

Alice Springs is situated on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges on the Todd River, which is quite wide, but usually dry. It is about 576 m. above sea level and sits near the southern border of the Northern Territory, surrounded by arid red desert country. It is the geographical centre of Australia, the Red Centre, and is the third largest town in the Territory.

The major industry in the area is tourism. There are several events that occur during the year and these are especially of interest to tourist. The events usually take place in the more temperate seasons when the weather is much kinder to visitors; in summer the average temperature is 35.6⁰C and in the winter the minimum is 5.1⁰C. Events include the Henley-on-Todd Regatta (usually on the dry river-bed), the Alice Springs Show and the Camel Cup.

View From Anzac Hill
View From Anzac Hill | Source

The Camel Cup

Held each year, the Alice Springs Camel Races draw crowds of locals and tourists. Many are dressed for the part. There are other events as well and a general air of anticipation and fun. Tents and stalls abound with tempting delicacies and mementoes of the day. Later the camels are paraded and behave well.

Eventually it is time for The Race. The camels are lined up at the starting-line with the animals sitting, the rider on top and a 'strapper' at the front to keep them sitting. The gun sounds, the camels are urged to rise, the strappers hurriedly remove themselves and the race begins. Some lurch ahead, while others turn and gallop back to the start despite the admonishments of the riders. At last there is a winner. We wander off to the tents to rather tentatively try the emu and camel pies that are on offer. Surprisingly, they are delicious.

Parading Before the Cup
Parading Before the Cup | Source

Nearby Places to Visit

Places close to Alice Springs that are traditionally interesting for tourists to visit include Emily Gap, Billy Goat Hill, Heavitree Gap and Ormiston Gorge. Elusive mirages beckon along the roads as they disappear in the heat-hazed distance along the way.

South-east of the Alice lie giant red sand-dunes and the great wilderness area of the Simpson Desert. The surrounding country is mainly dry scrub land or arid desert where introduced animals such as wild camels and goats decimate any growth that survives the harsh climate, making it difficult for native flora and fauna to survive.

The northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges run from east to west through the southern part of the city. It provides hiking trails and gorges, including the beautiful Ormiston Gorge where the colours continually change as the sun moves during the day. The brilliant red and orange cliffs of the gorges contrast with the mysterious purples of the dancing shadows.

The Colours in Ormiston Gorge are Amazing
The Colours in Ormiston Gorge are Amazing | Source
It Looks Like a Painting of Another World
It Looks Like a Painting of Another World | Source

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    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frangipanni: Oh, wow! You must have lots to write about, it's a huge area, but so interesting and beautiful.

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Hi Thanks for following. I actually grew up in Alice Springs and on stations out of Alice.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Lipnancy: Glad you enjoyed the photos and the article. Thank you for your comments. Photos can be very frustrating, especially if they didn't work out the way you had hoped and you're never likely to revisit the place to try again.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      What gorgeous pictures of the stones! That is our one disappointment with our digs, our pictures of the stones never come out as beautiful as they are.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Thank you for your many useful and positive comments during the year. May 2013 be a great year for you, too. Happy New Year.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      Happy New Years and may 2013 be as creative and as entertainging as your 2012

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      alancaster419: I was born in Australia and yet when we were planning our trip to Alice Springs I had no idea that Uluru was so far from there, I thought we could just drive over one afternoon to see the sunset on the Rock! Sadly, as there was work to do in the Alice, there was no time, so I still haven't been there. Hope your books sell well and that you make it.

      always exploring: Thank you. Like you, I imagine, I love to visit new places and go exploring.

      Eiddwen: It's lovely to share with you. Is it too early to wish you a Happy New Year? I do, anyway. And look forward to more of your lovely poems.

      bdegiulio: Glad you enjoyed the tour. I'm sure you'd enjoy it in real time. Those camel races were really fun, but I'm glad it wasn't me perched up there. Even the Australian Army had an entry and the poor fellow fell off and broke his arm!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great tour Blossom. Look like a place that I would enjoy visiting? The Gorge looks beautiful. And the camel races would be something to see. Great Hub.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub Blossom together with amazing photos. Thank you for sharing this gem and I wish you a wonderful day.

      Eddy.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Very interesting and such beautiful pictures. Thank you again for sharing your travels...

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      What about Uluru (formerly known as Ayres Rock)? The region seems to have the same geology as Colorado in the US.

      D'you know the story of the young woman on the train who asked the coach attendant when they expected to get into Alice? She said she was heavily pregnant and when the attendant told her she shouldn't have got on the train in that condition she retorted that at that time she didn't even know the father! Have they built the under-bridges to guard against flash-floods? (Them and the termites eating the wooden sleepers were the reason the trains had to run slowly in the first place).

      Still wouldn't mind looking the place over, though. Neville Shute got me interested in Alice, and then I saw the film with Bryan Brown. Unfortunately you don't get to see much of the town and surroundings in the film.

      The wife's got a cousin in Western Australia and a pen-friend in NSW. Maybe I'll get out there with her when my books start selling (and someone chases me for the film rights).

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      billybuc: The colours are amazing, I just loved them. Interestingly, not all do, they miss the green grass.

      Faithful Daughter: They would make great paintings, but I'm not sure I could do justice to this part of God's wonderful creation without it seeming to be exaggerated. I've only done a couple of pastels, but they sold. Maybe next year.

      points2make: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      phoenix2327: That's because the scenery is amazing.

      WillStarr: Thank you. You're observant. That was in Adelaide.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Spectacular! And is that you standing by the train?

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Fabulous hub. The photos are amazing.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      Great hub and I loved your photos. Alice Springs is on my "list" and hopefully, one day, I will see it for real. Thanks for the great info. Voted up.

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      These are beautiful places to visit and the photos are strikingly beautiful! Awesome! They would make great paintings. Thank you for sharing this with your readers.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow! The colors in the gorge are unbelievable! Excellent tour; thank you!