Exploring Alice Springs in a day or two
from a Hop-on, hop-off bus
Yes, Alice Springs is in the middle of nowhere, and part of Australia’s famous undiscovered Outback. But although this town started as nothing but a lonely telegraph station, it is now one of the country’s most important and historic locations, boasting a rich Aboriginal heritage. When the Ghan train line opened in Australia at the start of the 20th Century, Alice Springs started to thrive, and you will be surprised at just how modern and civilized this remote town is, and how much fun you will have exploring it.
Alice Springs is full of exquisite Aboriginal art, which you can view in a number of fascinating art galleries. There’s also a selection of unusual sightseeing attractions here, many of them related to the town’s unique history, which focuses on how people have coped with adapting to the harsh environment.
Obviously, there is no better way to explore this one-of-a-kind destination than on a hop-on, hop-off tour. You can either enjoy a 70-minute guided tour of the town on the bus, or you can plan your own itinerary. Just choose which sights you want to see, and hop off the bus to explore them. The tour runs over two days that need not be consecutive. So you can really personalise your sightseeing to suit your stay in Alice Springs.
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing, a two-days pass costs US$ 47.20 for an adult and US$ 30.40 for a child, aged 4 – 14 (Free for infants up to age 3)
Bus departs from a stop directly opposite the Information Centre on Gregory Terrace, in Alice Springs, at 9am and every 70 minutes thereafter, until 4pm :
9am; 10.10am; 11.20am; 12.30pm; 1.40pm; 2.50pm; 4pm
Places to see and things to do along the route:
1. The Old Telegraph Station is literally where Alice Springs started - and it’s also your starting point on the tour. Alice Springs, which is named for a nearby waterhole, opened in 1872 as a telegraph station with red hills and gum trees as its backdrop. This particular telegraph station is the best-preserved of all 12 along the Overland Telegraph Line.
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Before you start your bus tour, do spend some time here exploring. Step back in time as you visit the stationmaster’s residence, the telegraph office which still boasts a telegraph machine that taps away, a shoeing yard full of blacksmith equipment and the stables, home to vintage buggies and saddle equipment. You can even ‘telegraph’ messages back home, or send an old-fashioned letter from the Post Office.
2. Hop off at your next stop to explore the Alice Springs School of the Air, which will give you an insight into what it is like to live in a remote outback station. Here, it’s too far to walk to school, so the School of the Air, which has been in operation since 1951, broadcasts lessons using satellite-linked webcams as well as radio to the 140 children who live in the 1.3 million square kilometers of remote bushland. You’ll even be able to listen in and watch while classes are in session, or if you visit outside of school hours, you can watch taped lessons. You can also browse through the children’s schoolwork and other displays.
3. If you hop off the bus at this stop, you will enjoy magnificent views, particularly at sunrise and sunset, from the top of ANZAC Hill. This excellent look-out point with its war memorial offers a 360-degree panoramic view of Alice Springs and its surroundings, including the majestic East and West MacDonnel mountain ranges. The hill is a memorial to all those who have defended their country in wars in which Australia participated.
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4. The Royal Flying Doctor Base is your next stop. This airborne medical service is another example of how the residents of Alice Springs have adapted to living in such a remote place. The Royal Flying Doctor Base services all the communities within a 600km radius of Alice Springs. You can also see historic displays, including replica planes, and an audiovisual show explaining how the service works, and talking about its history.
5. The next stop, in the heart of Alice Springs, is The Reptile Centre, home to all sorts of lizards, snakes and crocodiles. Children love it here so why not bring out the child in you and drape a python around your neck? You can even hand-feed some of the 30 reptiles on display at feeding time - and don’t miss a chance to see the saltwater croc from an underwater viewing station.
6. Alice Spring’s Cultural Precinct is the next place you can hop off. Here you can explore a number of different fascinating locations, including the Museum of Central Australia with its displays of natural history, meteorites and local fossils. View some impressive Aboriginal art at the Araluen Arts Centre, a hub for Alice Springs’ performing artists that also incorporates the Albert Namatjira Gallery. The Central Australian Aviation Museum is also here; see fascinating displays of the territory’s aerial history including old radios, aircraft and wreckages. The Cultural Precinct is full of beautiful outdoor sculptures, so take a walk around and have a look at some of these.
7. Next stop is in the centre of town at The National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame, which has a fascinating location – it’s housed in Alice Springs’ Old Gaol buildings. This virtual Women’s Museum and Research Centre is the first of its kind in the country. It’s part of a national project that is devoted to preserving the position of women and their special contribution to Australia’s history and heritage. The museum highlights over 100 Australian women who were pioneers in their particular fields and tells their stories through photographs, items and other memorabilia. You can also explore the Old Gaol buildings.
8. At the Road Transport Hall of Fame, hop off to view a collection of trucks, including the chassis of the first Kenworth truck to come off the production line in 1971. This display of over 100 restored trucks and vintage cars boasts some pioneering vehicles used in the Outback and even some traditional "roadtrains"... This museum also explains how the people who lived in this area had to improvise and be innovative in order to create a road transport network in the middle of nowhere.
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9. Our next stop is at the Old Ghan Train Museum, which tells the story of the Great Northern Railway that started in 1878, and was responsible for Alice Springs growing into the town it is today. The southern section of the railway line reached this town in 1929, and the train running along this line was called The Ghan. The museum, located in the Alice Springs Station, tells the story of the hardships faced by the early pioneers through photographs and memorabilia. You can also view a number of the locomotives, including a variety of flattops, dining cars and other carriages.
10. Olive Park Botanic Gardens is the next hop off point, and this 40-acre park is a great place to relax and enjoy some natural beauty. Unbelievably, these beautifully landscaped gardens were created on wasteland in the mid-1950s by a Miss Olive Muriel Pink, hence their name. You will see some of over 500 indigenous plants that have made their home here in the desert, as well as themed art exhibitions and workshops. While you are exploring, enjoy a stroll to a nearby sacred site, or visit one of the scenic viewpoints dotted around the gardens.
11. Your final stop is Todd Mall, home to a number of fun tourist attractions as well as great shopping, art galleries and snack bars. Here you can visit Adelaide House, which was built in the 1920s as an Australian Inland Mission hospital, and designed by the founding flying doctor, Reverend John Flynn. It is part of the Flynn Trail, a self-guided heritage tour in Alice Springs and its surrounds, along with the John Flynn Memorial Church, which was built in Flynn’s memory and opened by the Australian Prime Minister in 1955.
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