Things to do in and around Australia’s new favourite town

It is emerging as a serious rival to tropical hot spots for holidays this year and it’s not hard to see why.

The outback town of Alice Springs is skyrocketing up the ranks of Australia’s most popular destinations, landing third on Skyscanner’s list of top trending locations for autumn and winter 2021 – right behind longtime favourites, the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island.

And while it might be a remote town with a small population, the action never stops.

It’s an incredible drive along the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs – or you could get there by flight or rail. Picture: Sam EarpSource:Supplied

One of the major stops along the Stuart Highway that cuts through the middle of the country, and at the foot of the sensational MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs is a major arts and cultural hub that hosts a full calendar of events and has plenty of places to find a good feed, from bush tucker-style fare to fine dining.

If you think you’ll be running out of things to do in Alice Springs, you’ll be wrong. These are some of experiences you can enjoy in and around town, and some of the annual events you might be lucky to catch while you’re there.

Explore the West Macs

Scenic Glen Helen Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges.Source:istock

An easy drive from Alice Springs is the ancient and majestic Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park, perfect for a day trip.

There are many gems to be found along the ranges, with the national park spanning a massive 250km of stunning landscape.

Stretching across almost all of it is the epic Larapinta Trail walking track. Bring your towel because there are plenty of incredible places to swim, including Ellery Creek Big Hole, Glen Helen Gorge and Ormiston Gorge.

Standley Chasm

Standley Chasm is an important cultural place, as well as jaw-dropping to behold. Picture: Chloe Barry HangSource:Supplied

Another highlight of the West Macs, 40 minutes from Alice Springs, is the must-see Standley Chasm, a striking geological feature known as Angkerle Atwatye in the Arrernte language.

Booking a cultural experience tour is the best way to learn about the geology, flora and fauna, cultural history and ancient stories of this sacred place, and get to know the traditional owners. As you walk to the chasm, put your ear to the trunks of the gum trees – you’ll hear them drink water.

Parrtjima Festival

Parrtjima will be back in 2022.Source:Supplied

A celebration of art, artists and thousands of years of culture from the central desert, Parrtjima: A Festival in Light is one of the true gems of Alice Springs.

For 10 nights each April, Alice Springs Desert Park comes alive with breathtaking light installations, live music, talks, workshops, events, with other activities and installations dotted across town.

A highlight is the nightly Ranges Show, a sound and light show projected onto a 2km stretch of the West MacDonnell Ranges. If you can, visit Alice Springs while this free event is on – it is unforgettable.

Cafe culture

Page 27 Cafe in Alice Springs. Picture: @page27cafeSource:Instagram

Melbourne may claim to be the cafe capital of the country but Alice Springs has some pretty worthy contenders.

While you’re shopping for local art in the many galleries along Todd Street Mall, pop into The Bakery for one of its wildly famous pastries, pies and artisan breads.

For a long and lazy brunch, head to Page 27 Cafe, just off the mall – we can recommend the mushroom florentine, but it’s a tough job choosing from the impressive menu line-up.

Tatts Finke Desert Race

Tatts Finke Desert Race is on June 11 – June 14.Source:Supplied

Alice Springs is gearing up right now for the hugely popular Tatts Fink Desert Race over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend on June 11-14, after it was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. The off-road, multi-terrain, two-day race will see all kinds of vehicles – bikes, cars, buggies and quads – tear through the desert from Alice Springs to the remote community of Aputula, drawing competitors across Australia.

Visit the website to see all the action we can expect from the race’s big return in 2021.

Bloody good craft beer

Alice Springs Brewing Co. is the only operating brewery in the Red Centre. Picture: Chloe ErlichSource:Supplied

Other than water, nothing quenches that desert thirst quite like a cold one, and luckily Alice Springs Brewing Co. – the only brewery operating in the Red Centre – is right on hand to sort you out.

Just three years old, the Alice Springs brewery pumps out a range of ales, stout, kolsch and a delicious ginger beer you can enjoy at the brewery or at pubs all over town, like Monty’s Lounge. A new venue, Hideout at Star of Alice, has just opened up behind the brewery, where you can enjoy pub grub in a relaxed, outdoor setting.

A full calendar of events

Alice Springs is home to major events and festivals, such as FABAlice. Picture: Emma Murray/FABAlice FestivalSource:Supplied

Who knew the Red Centre was so full of activity? There are heaps of events and festivals happening throughout the rest of the year in Alice Springs, including: Dark Skies Festival (May 6-14), Alice Springs Beanie Festival (June 25-28), Run Larapinta (August 26-29), NT Writers Festival (August 26-29), Desert Mob (September 9 – October 24), Desert Song Festival (September 10-19) and the Alice Springs Desert Festival (September 23 – October 3).

Other highlights, which are due to return in 2022, include FABAlice Festival, Alice Springs Cup Carnival and the Wide Open Space festival.

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