|The Alice and The Red Centre|
|Alice Springs and the Red Centre offer an experience of Australia like noother. Instead of skyscrapers there are enormous natural formations, and the environs are beautiful, dangerous and vast.|
If the Red Centre has a capital, it is Alice Springs, just under 1500 kilometres south of the Northern Territory's capital, Darwin. It is an ideal starting point or base for a journey to the Red Centre. The town started to develop when 19th century pioneers opened up Australia's interior, and since their arrival 'The Alice' has evolved into a modern outback town, with all the creature comforts of a capital city. You'll find plenty of accommodation in Alice Springs.
The early history of Alice Springs is carefully preserved in several museums and a visit to the School of the Air or the Royal Flying Doctor Service will give you an indication of the facilities necessary for everyday life in remote locations. Other attractions of the Alice are the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, Alice Springs Desert Park, Frontier Camel Farm and the Alice Springs Winery. After a short while in Alice Springs, you'll realise why the town is so much more than just an oasis in the Outback.
Beginning from Alice Springs and extending across the West MacDonnell Ranges is the world-renowned Larapinta Trail. This bushwalking trail is slowly being extended to become an unbroken 220 kilometre track to Mount Sonder, and is a challenge for serious walkers - the less experienced should attempt it in smaller stages. Among the many attractions on the way is Standley Chasm, a 5 metre wide channel carved by nature through solid rock, which puts on a wondrous display of colours when met by the midday sun. Walkers attempting the Larapinta Trail should register with the Parks and Wildlife Commission or at the Visitor Information Centre in Alice Springs.
South of the Larapinta Trail, is the Finke Gorge National Park, attractions of which include not only the gorge after which the park is named, but also Palm Valley, where the plants have a prehistoric look about them, making it a botanical time capsule.
East of Alice Springs and worth visiting are Trephina Gorge Nature Park, Arltunga Historical Reserve and the East MacDonnell Ranges. Arltunga actually preceded Alice Springs as the unofficial capital of Central Australia, due to the influx of prospectors and associated merchants following the discovery of alluvial gold in 1887. The town thrived for 30 years, and its buildings, mines, camps and machinery have been preserved. You'll find it 110 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, easily accessible by two-wheel drive vehicles.
Five hours drive, or a short flight, from Alice Springs is one of Australia's icons, Uluru (previously named Ayers Rock). The world's largest monolith is awe-inspiring as it changes colour and mood with the passing of the sun. Fifty kilometres away from Uluru is the another natural wonder - Kata Tjuta (previously named The Olgas) - a collection of giant, weathered rock domes. These two geological marvels are the main attraction of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and both have a number of bushwalks and viewing areas. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre, located near Uluru, with its distinctive buildings in the form of a python and a poisonous snake, will give you a good background on the history and significance of the area to the local people. The Yulara Visitors Centre, 20 minutes north of Uluru provides information on the history, flora, fauna and geology of the area. Here you will also find a wide choice of accommodation.
North of Uluru is Watarrka National Park, and its star attraction, the awesome spectacle of Kings Canyon. Highlights include 300 metre sheer cliff faces, The Lost City - a marvellous display of geological antiquity - and a palm fringed waterhole named the Garden of Eden. Watarrka National Park, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are all part of the Pioneers' Path, a 1,150 kilometre drive along the Mereenie Loop, Larapinta Drive and Lassetter Highway, with InfoStands along the length telling the story of the area's pioneers. There are a few options of road along the route, but please note that Mereenie Loop Road is unsealed and is best travelled with a 4x4 vehicle.
The vast distances in the Outback together with harsh conditions and lonely stretches of road are potentially hazardous. You must approach driving in this part of Australia with care and planning. Check out Travelmate's tips for Outback driving.
|Where can I stay?|
| Travelmate has a wide range of accommodation in the Red Centre to suit all budgets. |