Looking for things to do in Alice Springs? After visiting this Central Australian town twice, here’s my guide to what to add to your Alice Springs itinerary.
Alice Springs, or simply Alice to the locals. Mparntwe, the Arrernte name for Alice Springs. This Central Australian town may be most famous as the gateway to Australia’s iconic Uluru, but after visiting here twice, I’ve discovered it’s got a whole lot more going for it.
This little desert town in the Northern Territory has beautiful landscapes, fun and quirky festivals, rich Indigenous culture, friendly people and surprisingly good food.
It may be a long way from anywhere, but Alice Springs shouldn’t just be a pit stop on your visit to Uluru or while traversing the Stuart Highway between Adelaide and Darwin – it’s a destination that deserves a few days of your time, and I’m here to show you why.
Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Alice Springs, with a few itinerary ideas and essential info to know before you visit.
This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).
Is Alice Springs worth visiting?
Absolutely! This is the heart of Australia, and while the town serves as the gateway to one of Australia’s most iconic attractions – Uluru – it’s also a fantastic destination in its own right.
While the town itself isn’t exactly the prettiest place, the rugged landscapes surrounding Alice Springs more than make up for it. From red desert sand dunes and rocky gorges to lush riverbeds and ancient rock formations, there’s plenty of natural beauty to discover here.
On top of that, Alice Springs is a hub for Indigenous culture and community, so there are plenty of ways to learn about the rich history and traditions of Australia.
So, please ignore the media coverage you may have seen about Alice Springs and come with an open mind and a sense of adventure. The flurry of negative press that seems to appear whenever some politician has an agenda has done this town and its residents a disservice. Come see for yourself what makes Alice such a special place.
Best things to do in Alice Springs
If you’re wondering what to do in Alice Springs for 3 days or even what to do in Alice Springs for a day, here are my top recommendations.
1. See native animals at Alice Springs Desert Park
Framed by the stunning MacDonnell Ranges, the Alice Springs Desert Park is a living, breathing showcase of the kind of life that thrives in the harsh, yet beautiful Australian desert.
It’s one of the best Alice Springs attractions and it’s a great spot to learn more about Australia’s endemic wildlife, including kangaroos, emus and dingoes. You can watch the Birds of Prey show or walk through the many different bird aviaries or learn how Indigenous peoples have survived in this harsh climate for tens of thousands of years.
My favourite spot was the nocturnal house, where we saw rare and endangered animals and cooed at the cute but spiky thorny devil lizards as they bopped up and down. The exhibit is really well done, and you can see creatures that only come out when the sun goes down and the desert cools.
It’s a huge park, so you’ll need at least half a day here to make the most of your visit and to see the talks that take place throughout the day. I highly recommend planning your trip around the Birds of Prey show, which happens twice a day. I also enjoyed the Indigenous bush survival talk (although it did last for more than an hour).
Cover up and put on sunscreen – it’s hot out here, especially in the middle of the day.
Address: 87 Larapinta Dr, Alice Springs NT 0870
Opening hours: 7.30am to 6pm (last entry 4.30pm), Nocturnal House open 9am to 5.30pm
2. Visit the Araluen Cultural Precinct
Alice Springs has deep connections to the local Arrernte people, who have inhabited this land for thousands of years. To learn more about their culture and traditions, head to one of the many art galleries in town.
You can find everything from woven baskets to dot paintings to contemporary pieces that tell stories of cultural survival.
The Araluen Cultural Precinct is a must-visit, with its multiple galleries showcasing both local and national Indigenous art. This Alice Springs gallery has a section dedicated to the works of Arrente painter Albert Namatjira, one of Australia’s most prominent artists, who grew up in Hermannsburg, just a short drive from Alice.
The precinct is also home to the Museum of Central Australia and the Central Australian Aviation Museum, so you really can spend hours here.
Other reputable Aboriginal art galleries in Alice Springs are This is Aboriginal Art and Tjanpi Desert Weavers. Both sell ethically sourced art if you’re looking for a beautiful souvenir from your visit to Alice Springs.
Address: 61 Larapinta Dr, Alice Springs NT 0870
Opening hours: March to October: Daily 10am-4pm; November to February: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 10am-2pm, closed Mondays; Closed 2 weeks over Christmas/New Year period
3. Time your visit with a festival
Alice Springs may be remote but it certainly isn’t a quiet desert town – it’s buzzing when it comes to festivals. If you’re planning a trip to Alice Springs, try to time it with one of the town’s fun (and quirky) events.
One of the most unique and kooky festivals in Alice Springs is the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. We accidentally timed our trip during this festival and were blown away by the creativity! This festival celebrates the art of knitting and crochet, with thousands of handmade beanies on display and for sale. 2024 dates: 21-24 June
Another festival worth planning your visit around is Parrtjima, an annual light festival that illuminates the desert and town with spectacular light installations. There’s also live music, workshops and cultural activities for a deeper understanding of Indigenous Australian culture. 2024 dates: 12-21 April
Fans of the film Priscilla – Queen of the Desert will love fabALICE, an annual festival that celebrates drag and cabaret. It’s family-friendly and showcases how inclusive and diverse the Red Centre is. Grab your glitter and prepare to dance for days. 2024 dates: 7-10 March
And for those looking for some action and adventure, the Finke Desert Race is an off-road race that takes place every June long weekend. Motorbikes, cars and buggies start the track in Alice Springs and wind their way through rugged outback terrain to the small town of Finke. 2024 dates: 7-10 June
4. Explore the West MacDonnell Ranges (Tjoritja)
Stretching for 644km, the MacDonnell Ranges – “the Macs” – are a must-visit if you’ve got a car and a day in your itinerary for exploring.
The West Macs/Tjoritja are the most popular part of the ranges to visit. I recommend driving out to Ormiston Gorge and then making your way back to Alice via Ellery Creek Big Hole and Standley Chasm (Angkerle Atwatye). There are some great hikes at most of the stops, most of them short and fairly easy.
You could also tackle part of the famous 223km Larapinta Trail if you’re up for the challenge!
You can do this trip with a 2WD (we did, on our first visit to Alice Springs) but with a 4WD you’ll be able to get to a few more spots.
If you don’t have your own wheels, then join one of these highly rated day trips to the West Macs:
- Visit Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm on this half-day tour from Alice Springs to the West Macs – check availability online here.
- This full day trip to the West Macs goes deeper, with visits to Simpsons Gap, Ormiston Gorge, Ochre Pits, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek and Glen Helen – check availability online here.
IMPORTANT! If you’re not an NT resident, you’ll need an NT Parks Pass to visit.
5. Head out to the East MacDonnell Ranges
Less visited but equally impressive, the East MacDonnell Ranges has beautiful historic sites, natural rock formations and lovely waterholes. It’s a bit more remote so better for those with a few days more in Alice. I’d recommend camping out here if you can, to truly appreciate this part of the Macs.
Highlights of the East Macs are Trephina Gorge, N’Dhala Gorge and Ruby Gap Nature Park. Trephina Gorge has some great hikes that are definitely worth checking out, while N’Dhala Gorge has ancient Aboriginal rock carvings – it’s one of the largest sites open to the public.
Don’t forget! Like the West Macs, an NT Parks Pass is required to visit.
6. See joeys at the Kangaroo Sanctuary
Kids (and adults) will love visiting the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs. This 188-acre wildlife sanctuary was founded by Chris “Brolga” Barns, who became famous for his work with kangaroos via the documentary Kangaroo Dundee.
Here, you can get up close and personal with orphaned kangaroos and learn about their rehabilitation and care. You may even get the chance to bottle-feed a joey.
To see the roos and learn about the sanctuary, join one of the guided sunset tours. The tours aren’t cheap, but you’ll be contributing to the work that Chris and his team do to rescue and rehabilitate kangaroos. It’s one of the cutest activities in Alice Springs!
Address: Tours include a pick-up from locations around Alice Springs
Opening hours: Public tours are held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, start time varies depending on the season; closed in December and January
7. Take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise
One of the best ways to really appreciate the vast and stunning landscape around Alice Springs is from high up in the sky. Take an unforgettable hot air balloon ride over Alice Springs and witness the desert come to life as the sun rises over the horizon.
There’s nothing quite like floating gently above the red landscape, taking in the views in the peaceful morning light.
Most hot air balloon rides in Alice Springs come with breakfast and sparkling wine – worth the early wake-up call.
I recommend booking well in advance, as spots fill up quickly, especially during peak tourist season.
8. Wander the Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Named after the renowned anthropologist, activist and environmentalist, the 16-hectare Olive Pink Botanic Garden is home to a diverse array of native plants and wildlife.
The garden was originally established by Olive Pink in the 1950s as a reserve for arid region flora, and it now has more than 500 different plant species.
With plenty of walking trails that are all well-signed, it’s easy to spend hours wandering through the garden and learning about all the different plants – including one of my favourites, the bright red Sturt’s desert pea.
As you’re walking about, keep an eye out for all the beautiful birds and you may be lucky enough to spot some black-footed rock wallabies hopping around.
There’s a great cafe on site, the Bean Tree Cafe.
Entry is $5, which includes a Guide to the Garden booklet, so it’s one of the cheapest things to do in Alice Springs.
Address: 27 Tuncks Rd
Opening hours: Open daily 8am-6pm (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day)
9. Check out the Todd Mall Markets
You can wander the pedestrian-only Todd Mall at any time – it’s in the Alice Springs town centre and it’s the main street with shopping, art galleries and restaurants.
But the best time to visit is when the Todd Mall Markets are on.
The markets run every fortnight on a Sunday and have a range of stalls including crafts, jewellery, art, clothing, honey and food.
Hours: March to May 9am-1pm; June to August 9am-2pm; September to December 9am-1pm
10. Take in sunset from ANZAC Hill (Untyeyetwelye)
The 600-metre-tall ANZAC Hill/Untyeyetwelye has sweeping views of Alice Springs and the surrounding area.
The hill honours the ANZAC soldiers (there was a camp here during World War I) and there’s a memorial that commemorates the sacrifices of the men and women who have fought for Australia and New Zealand.
The site was originally a sacred women’s place, so be respectful when you are here.
While you can visit at any time of day, the best time to head to the top of the hill is at sunset. Watch the desert transform as the sky turns vibrant shades of red, orange and purple.
You can drive up the (steep) road to the top, or if you’ve got a bit of energy take the Lions Walk from Wills Terrace to the top. The trail takes about 15 minutes.
Address: Anzac Hill Road
Opening hours: Open 24 hours
11. Get a taste of outback life at the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility
If you grew up watching the TV show The Flying Doctors like I did (my mum was a nurse so we always watched the show), then you’ll be fascinated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility in Alice Springs.
As its name suggests, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is an iconic Australian organisation that flies doctors and nurses to people in rural and remote areas. In Australia, that’s a huge area to cover.
If you’ve driven to Alice via the Stuart Highway, you would have seen the many remote areas of the actual highway tarmac that are designated as runways for the RFDS in an emergency!
At the RFDS Tourist Facility, you can learn about the history of this incredible service and how it continues to save lives every day. One of the best attractions in Alice Springs, there’s a replica of an RFDS aircraft so you can see firsthand what it’s like for the pilots, doctors and patients on board.
Address: 8-10 Stuart Highway
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30am-5pm; Sunday and public holidays 12pm-5pm; tours run every half hour
12. Explore the Alice Springs Telegraph Station
The historic telegraph station played an important role in connecting Australia to the rest of the world when it was constructed in the late 1800s.
It was part of the telegraph line that relayed messages from Adelaide to Darwin. The location for the station in Alice Springs was chosen because there was a “reliable” water source from the water hole (which they named Alice’s Spring). The town began to grow around it – however it wasn’t long before the telegraph workers realised that spring was just a temporary waterhole that would often dry up.
Today, the Telegraph Station is a popular tourist attraction and you can explore the restored buildings and learn about the history of communication in outback Australia – and the harsh conditions the workers experienced.
There are also walking trails around the station and picnic areas with BBQs.
Address: Herbert Heritage Dr
Opening hours: Open 9am-5pm daily; guided tours 9.30am and 11.30 April to November
13. Take an astronomy tour
One of the best things about being in the Australian Outback is the tranquillity and lack of light – perfect for some star-gazing. The clear night sky around Alice Springs makes for some beautiful night skies.
At the Earth Sanctuary, you can take an astronomy tour with a guide who will point out constellations and planets and share stories of the night sky. You’ll also get to use telescopes and learn about Indigenous astronomy and Creation stories.
As the Earth moves around the sun, the sky changes, so each night of the tour is completely different.
Address: Colonel Rose Drive
Opening hours: Tours start around 7.45pm
14. Grab a pint at the Alice Springs Brewing Co
It was hard to keep my husband away from the Alice Springs Brewing Co. – every night on our most recent visit he’d pop off for a pint.
Alice Springs may not be the ideal place to brew beer – even the owners admit this – but they’ve created a great spot with beer, pizzas and a lush garden. Every time we went there it was full of locals (go earlier in the day to avoid the crowds – we found the service got slower in the evening) and it has a great vibe.
We didn’t try the pizzas, but they looked delicious.
Address: 39 Palm Circuit
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday: 4pm-9.30pm; Thursday: 4-10.30pm; Friday and Saturday: 12-10.30pm; Sunday: 12-9.30pm
Top tip! There’s an amazing seafood truck that sets up outside the brewery a few nights a week. Get in early for great fish and chips!
15. Visit Uluru
If you’re in Alice Springs, you can’t miss a trip to Uluru. I mean, that’s probably one of the reasons you’re here!
This majestic monolith is a sacred site for the Indigenous Anangu people and is spectacular to see – it should definitely be on your Australian bucket list.
Uluru is actually a 5-hour drive from Alice, so you should plan for at least 2-3 days there. Read my full guide to all the best things to do at Uluru – if you’re anything like me you won’t want to leave, so I highly recommend making Uluru and Alice Springs part of a Central Australia road trip itinerary.
If you don’t have a car, there are several multi-day tours that include Uluru:
- Visit Uluru, Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Tjoritja West MacDonnell Ranges over four incredible days – check availability online here.
- Spend three days camping as you visit Uluru, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta – check availability online here.
If you don’t have that kind of time, then there are day trips – but they are LONG days. This one is an 18-hour day trip with a BBQ dinner that visits both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. Check availability for this Uluru day trip from Alice Springs.
Alice Springs itinerary ideas
As you’ve seen, there’s plenty to do in Alice Springs. Here’s how to put it all together in an itinerary.
2 days in Alice Springs itinerary
Day 1: Alice Springs Desert Park
- Start your morning early at the Alice Springs Desert Park. Check out the natural habitats and get up close with the local wildlife. Don’t miss the free-flying bird show, a highlight of the park. You’ll need a few hours here to see the best of the park.
- In the evening, join a sunset tour at the Kangaroo Sanctuary for the chance to feed a baby joey. Or, you can skip this and enjoy the sunset from ANZAC Hill/Untyeyetwelye and drinks and pizza at the Alice Springs Brewery.
Day 2: History and art
- In the morning, head to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Touristy Facility, the Olive Pink Botanic Garden or Telegraph Station.
- In the afternoon, escape the heat by visiting the Araluen Cultural Precinct. Explore galleries showcasing Aboriginal art and learn about the region’s history.
- End your day with a stroll through the Todd Mall.
3 days in Alice Springs
Days 1 and 2: Follow the 2-day itinerary
- Spend the first two days as suggested in the 2-day itinerary.
Day 3: West MacDonnell Ranges
- Dedicate your third day to exploring the stunning West MacDonnell Ranges. Rent a car or join a tour to visit spectacular sights like Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge.
- Go for a hike and swim in natural pools. Don’t forget to pack a picnic.
- Return to Alice Springs by evening, perhaps stopping at ANZAC Hill for a sunset view over the town if you didn’t do this earlier in your visit.
Alice Springs map
Here’s everything listed in this article on a map so you can plan out your visit.
Visiting Alice Springs: What you need to know
Best time to visit Alice Springs
The best time to visit Alice Springs is during the cooler winter months from April to September. During this period, the temperatures are more comfortable for exploring, and the nights are cool. This time also coincides with several of the festivals and events I mentioned earlier.
The summer months (November to February) are stinking hot and many places to visit in Alice Springs shut down completely.
How to get to Alice Springs
The main way to get to Alice Springs to by flying into Alice Springs Airport, which connects to major cities across Australia including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin. Airlines that fly here include Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Bonza. Alice Springs flights can be seasonal. Alice Springs Airport is small but really lovely.
Alice Springs is also a popular stop on the Adelaide to Darwin (or vice versa) drive. It’s a long way from anywhere! It’s around 1,500km or 16 hours from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Darwin to Alice Springs. The roads in both directions are sealed. Driving between Adelaide and Darwin is one of the classic Australian road trips.
Another option is taking a bus to Alice Springs. Greyhound Australia has coach services from major cities such as Adelaide and Darwin. It’s a great way to see the Australian outback and its vast landscapes.
Getting around Alice Springs
Alice Springs is a small, easy-to-navigate town. It’s best to have your own wheels to get around.
- Alice Springs car hire: Renting a car is the most convenient way to explore Alice Springs and its surrounding attractions. There are several car rental agencies in town, including 4WD drive hire in Alice Springs. Check car rentals online here.
- Taxis: There are few taxis around town, so book ahead. We found it really difficult to get a taxi from the airport on our first visit. We ended up squeezing into a taxi with some strangers because we waited so long. Emu Run can arrange airport transfers.
Where to eat in Alice Springs
Alice Springs has a small but surprisingly good range of food. Some notable places include:
- Epilogue Lounge: A trendy spot with a rooftop terrace and a fusion of Australian and international cuisine.
- Page 27 Cafe: Known for its fantastic breakfast and brunch options, this café is a local favourite (try the macadamia crumble French toast, yum!).
- Hanuman: Inside the DoubleTree by Hilton, this restaurant has been around for 30 years and serves amazing Asian food. It’s probably the fanciest restaurant in Alice Springs.
- Bean Tree Cafe: This cafe at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden is great for breakfast and lunch as well as snacks and drinks.
Accommodation in Alice Springs
There are plenty of accommodation options in Alice Springs. Here are a few suggestions ranging from hotels to serviced apartments, caravan parks and hostels:
DoubleTree by Hilton: (⭐️ 7.6/10) Luxe 4.5-star hotel with stunning views of the MacDonnell Ranges. It’s got comfy guest rooms and suites and is conveniently located close to town. Check rates online with Booking.com | Expedia
Crowne Plaza Alice Springs Lasseters (⭐️ 7.6/10): One of the most popular Alice Springs hotels, this is the hotel featured in Priscilla – Queen of the Desert! There’s a casino, multiple dining options and a spa. Check rates online with Booking.com | Expedia
YHA Alice Springs (⭐️ 8.0/10): A budget-friendly option housed in a historic outdoor movie theatre, this hostel offers clean facilities and a social atmosphere, perfect for solo travellers or groups. Check rates online with Booking.com | Expedia
Alice Springs caravan parks: As a key stop on the Stuart Highway there are plenty of caravan parks around Alice Springs. We’ve stayed at both the Alice Springs Tourist Park (quiet, opposite the Araluen Cultural Precinct) and the Alice Springs Discovery Park (lots of facilities, food trucks, pancake Sundays, movie nights). I’d recommend either for camping, caravan park sites or cabins.
Final thoughts: What to do in Alice Springs
Alice Springs is more than just a gateway to the famous site of Uluru. It’s a destination rich in culture, nature and adventure – and definitely a place you shouldn’t just pass through.
There’s so much to do here and hopefully I’ve convinced you that while this town may not have the best reputation, if you go beyond the media headlines you’ll discover a fabulous little town that’s worth a few days.
Things to do in Alice Springs: FAQs
Is Alice Springs safe to visit?
There’s no denying that Alice Springs does have crime and social issues. But for tourists, it’s generally a safe place to visit. Like any travel destination, take the standard safety precautions and avoid wandering alone at night. Keep your belongings secure.
How much time do I need in Alice Springs?
You need at least two days in Alice Springs to see the main attractions. However, if you want to explore further, then 3 to 5 days gives you time to head out to areas like the West and East MacDonnell Ranges – both of which I recommend visiting. If you’re planning to include a trip to Uluru, then you’ll need at least a week.
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What’s on your Alice Springs itinerary?
Before you go… you might like these Australian travel blogs:
- How to plan an epic Central Australia road trip
- 19 things you must do at Uluru
- What to pack for Uluru
- The ultimate Uluru accommodation guide
- The best things to do in Coober Pedy, South Australia
- What to do in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
- The ultimate guide to Nitmiluk Gorge National Park
- The best things to do in Litchfield National Park
AUSTRALIA TRIP ESSENTIALS
- Book your flight to Australia online with Skyscanner. I like this site because it shows me which dates are cheaper.
- Find a great hotel in Australia. Check prices on Booking.com and Expedia online.
- Check out the huge range of day tours throughout Australia on GetYourGuide or Viator. There’s something for everyone.
- A copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Australia will be handy.
- One thing I always purchase is travel insurance! Travel Insurance Master allows you to compare across multiple policy providers, while SafetyWing is great for long-term travellers and digital nomads.
- Pack sunscreen (look for SPF50 or higher), a hat and sunglasses because the sun is hot!
THINGS TO DO IN ALICE SPRINGS: PIN IT FOR LATER
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