Alice Springs in the Red Centre is the second biggest town in the Northern Territory. It is the gateway to some of Australia's most fascinating attractions - Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Each year tens of thousands of tourists bus or fly east to Australia's best-known icon, Uluru.
Known for many years by millions of tourists as Ayers Rock until Aborigines reclaimed The Rock and the timeless name, Uluru is the world's largest monolith and stands 546 metres above the plain in the heart of the largest island continent. The road ringing Uluru gives a magnificent, three-dimensional view of the Rock and an appreciation of its awesome size. Alice's desert climate supports horticulture and grape industries worth $50 million a year.
The park contains rugged ranges, gorges and rock-holes and is a refuge for many plants and animals. The most spectacular of these formations is Kings Canyon, a rich and fertile garden that is pocketed between towering sheer rock walls. The surrounding area is otherwise inhospitable desert. The canyon takes its name from the Kings Creek that flows through it.
The King's Canyon Walk - a 6 km loop that climbs to the top of the canyon and traces the rim of the towers before descending to the carpark. Delightful waterholes, cycads, riverine vegetation and the "Garden of Eden' are to be seen on this track. You'll also see the "Lost City" rock formations and a rock shape curiously called the "Camel's Head". Allow 3-4 hours as there are some steep sections, stairs and boardwalks.
Uluru is one of the most magnificent sights in Australia - Remote, awesome and splendid in colours that vary as the day unfolds from soft blue hues to glorious orange-reds. Part of the experience of travelling here is becoming acquainted with Aboriginal customs and beliefs, and the sense of Aboriginal spirituality that envelopes the rock. Aboriginal guides lead tours around the base of the rock and explain the significance of features to their culture. For those exploring on their own, interpretative signs assist in gaining an understanding.
Things to do and see:
- Mereenie Loop - linking Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Uluru, Kata Juta along the West MacDonnell ranges and Glen Helen (permit required for some parts of this track that pass through Aboriginal land.)
- Anzac Hill - for the best views over the town, particularly good at sunrise and sunset
- Old Timers' Museum - with exhibits from the 1890s and the Ghan Railway Museum at MacDonnell Siding
- Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve - where a meteorite hit the earth thousands of years before
Suggested drives and adventures:
- Hire a campervan in Alice Springs or four-wheel-drive and travel through the West MacDonnell Ranges to Glen Helen. There are many natural attractions to stop at along the way such as Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.
- Continue the drive by four-wheel-drive from Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon, where 300-metre sheer cliff faces and a palm-fringed swimming hole are special highlights. Make a scheduled stop at Redbank Gorge and Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve - a huge crater formed by a comet over 130 million years ago.
- Next morning take the Kings Canyon Walk for breathtaking views over the red landscape. Spend some time at Uluru (Ayers Rock) and learn about the Aboriginal custodians of this land at the cultural centre. Also do not forget to try dining under a million stars with the monolith in the distance.
- Continue the experience and enjoy the sun rise over Uluru (Ayers Rock) from atop a camel then really take in its sheer size with a 9-kms walk around the base. Alternatively take a scenic flight over Uluru or you can also book a ride around Uluru on a Harley.
- Returning to Alice Springs, you can leave the Red Centre Way and go via the Lasseter and Stuart Highways. You must stop at Rainbow Valley, a massive sandstone formation of coloured bands just an hour out from Alice Springs.
- Visit local galleries in Alice Springs or one can venture into the colourful desert landscape and journey to a community art centre.