Alice Springs Things to Do Tips by iandsmith Top 5 Page for this destination
Alice Springs Things to Do: 140 reviews and 334 photos
Barn owl at the Nature Theatre
Frankly, I was vaguely aware that there were twitchers around, i.e. people who watch birds. Until I got a little into it though I never realised just how many there were. They're everywhere!
So it was that I found myself at Alice Springs Desert Park. This excellent facility has walking trails, aviaries, picture theatres, souvenir shop, restaurant and toilets.
It was said by no less an authority than Sir David Attenborough, “there is no zoo or wildlife park in the world that can match it". That's a big statement from someone so eminent.
When you pay your fee ($20 at 2010 rates - cheaper for concessions) you also qualify for a free audio guide that will explain much about what you are seeing, both geologically, naturally and historically.
This is a quality attraction and well worth your while if you have any interest in any of the preceding.
There are different times allocated to other specialities and I heartily recommend the Nature Theatre when you will see wild birds of prey come in on cue. It's very well done and very informative.
You'll see rare and endangered species as well as those more common and it's not only birds that are on display. Animals such a bilbys and other can be viewed - great for families.
Address: Off Larapinta Drive
Directions: The Larapinta Bike Track takes you straight there also
I wondered if it would live up to its promise. All who know the area rated it highly and most said it was the best. I’d tried to camp the night there a day before but hadn’t made it, tiredness getting the better of me and I’d stopped 40 kms short and then got caught at Inarlanga before I reached Ormiston around 5p.m.
This time I camped here so I wouldn’t get distracted en route and had the free night session with the NP ranger who had a slide show and explained lots of the flora and fauna, occasionally accompanied by howling dingos, one animal that is not endangered here.
Next day I was up early and got on the trails before the sun arrived and I was surprised to see a couple of guys at the lookout before I got there. I then trod on, thinking to do the 2 hour loop trail but got lost searching for some key photographic points and spent the 2 hours scrambling over scree slopes instead. Seems I just have to get my daily dose of spinifex spikes, orb weaver webs and errant locusts running into me.
One of the highlights was coming upon a dingo looking for fish. They die here in some numbers during winter when the temperature is too low. I was lucky enough to see him find and eat one.
Back down by the water pools the reflections were stunning (hope the pics show that) and one of the caravan ladies was sketching the scene, so idyllic was it.
Ormiston is where Heavitree Range meets Chewings Range, the latter being the range that most of the good scenery is in. The Western McDonnell Range is actually south of Heavitree despite the park being named after it.
You can camp here for $6.50 a night and you get a camp site, shower, toilet and barbecue facilities.
Ancient cycads at the base
Ormiston and then Redbank, that was the plan. Oh, and a quick stop at the Ochre Pits as suggested by Ken. 10 minutes should have that tidied up; it was only a 300 metre road in and then a 300 metre walk. Too easy.
3 ½ hours later I stumbled back into the motorhome. I hadn’t taken water with me but when I got to the end of the Ochre Pits there was a sign explaining that “A 3km walk takes you to Inarlanga Pass, a remote and spectacular gorge.....allow three hours return.” Well, three means two so I headed off to see this area I’d never heard of.
I reached the point where the Arrernte Trail, that I was on, met the fabled Larapinta Trail, at the 3 km point and was still a fair way from the pass. Two Larapinta Walkers reached there at the same time and we exchanged pleasantries before I continued on as they were waiting for a third party; one of those silly people that take pictures and hold everyone up.
The pass was not only dramatic, the walking was rugged. I envied not the walkers with their back packs and multi day supply of food and I motored through at a pace considerably quicker than they could match.
I kept going, the promise of even more great scenery lay ahead and it didn’t disappoint. The little I saw of the Larapinta Trail impressed me greatly and I came upon two women heading in the opposite direction at the end of the pass. A further kilometre or so I finally quit and turned around. I was a little tired. In fact I was so thirsty I opted to drink from a stagnant pool on the return journey.
I met the guys again and we took each other’s snap. My lowly status as a day walker was enhanced when I told them I wrote for a walking magazine – instant street cred.
I then met a solo walker who was obviously going against the recommended 3 walkers minimum before I overtook the women from Canberra again. No wonder they left early in the mornings, their pace was excruciatingly slow.
The hill I climbed is on the left
At the end of it there’s a sign spelling out the fact that there’s danger ahead and not to go there. There were about four people there when I went ahead, explaining to them that “It’s only a sign”. Naturally enough I ignored it, as others had done and I met some of them not long after I’d passed the sign.
The canyon split into two and they had come from the left and advised me that it was only more of the same so I chose the right hand side which offered a fairly steep slope of loose boulders. Well, that was at the start anyway. Then I thought if I climbed the hill in the middle I might get some good shots and an idea of the layout. I was right but, oh what a journey!
At times it was hand over foot and seriously steep; precipitous to the point where I was even having palpitations and pondering just how long my stay on earth might be if I continued (pic 3).
The panoramas were awesome however, and made up for the effort in getting there and gave me a whole new respect for those who go on the Larapinta Trail that cuts through one of the gorges. It’s about a 12 day hike along the Western McDonnell’s and a group arrived not long after I got back to the motorhome later on.
I scrambled back down to the opposite canyon and came across Standley Chasm part two; a narrower and slightly smaller version of the main one. To climb above this one would be impossible for any except the expert rock climbers and I wasn’t about to have a go, figuring I’d pushed my luck about as far as I wanted to.
From the second back to the first was no picnic either. At two places where there were waterfalls I had serious concerns I’d have to retrace my steps over the hill but I managed to find a way down both.
Balmy day on the golf course
Someone said it was rated in the top ten of the world's desert golf courses, another (more knowledgeable I suspect) said it was in the top twenty but might be just outside that now.
Whatever, I thought I'd have a crack and, when I sank a forty foot putt on the first green, I thought it might be my day. I also one putted the second but then, on the glass like "greens", I four putted the next two and my whole round started to unravel badly.
However, this was not entirely due to the course which I would recommend if you don't mind swinging a club in anger.
It is a very good layout and well maintained when I was there. Conditions vary greatly due to the weather though so bear in mind that the greens might be lightning fast or a pleasure to putt on.
A round costs about $50 plus a cart if you want one and it's well signposted and close to the centre of town.
These guys are around the 100 mark of the starters
The best known event on a national basis held at Alice Springs is the Finke Desert Race. It attracts over 500 starters and you can be mounted on a motorbike, motorbike with sidecar, quad bike or dune buggy. It's amazing to see them starting over 400 vehicles eight at a time and all thrown in together according to time.
It's held on the long weekend in June so you get 3 days of racing. The first day is the prologue which establishes start position according to your time. The second day you ride south for around two hours and the third day you ride back. Simple.
No, not really. The first time I watched it the top five from the previous year all failed to finish either because they got lost or crashed. One of the problems was they changed 20 kilometres of the course and apparently marking could have been an issue though most seemed to follow the course okay.
The massive red cliffs are a feature of the gorge
My goal for the day was Trephina Gorge, another 60kms up the road though so I headed off, hoping to make it around 11.30. Another 100 photos later I managed to arrive at 12.30 but not too unhappy.
After some melts I headed off on the Rim Walk, a loop that takes you along the northern rim before doing a right hand turn and gently bringing you back down to the river bed where the majority of tourists prefer to wander.
The road in had been spectacular and the gorge does not disappoint though there’s much more to see than what I allowed for. Spectacular cliff faces, river gums and a sandy river bed make it a wonderful place to spend time.
I continued on past the carpark on the return, heading towards where the road crosses the river. Unfortunately I encountered some quicksand and decided to cut the trek short, my boots and socks a tad dirtier than what they had been 5 minutes before.
I’d taken some pictures of Benstead Creek and here I found it was named after a young man of 22 who’d ridden all the way from Adelaide to manage Undoolya Station in 1877. 12 years later he bought two blocks of land and built the first pub in the Alice called Stuart Arms. He also found gold and got the first crusher to the field at Artlunga.
Apparently he was very popular and Trephina Gorge is named after his wife.
The three caterpillars paintings
Every time my foot hit the ground it felt like 50 knives were being shoved into my soles. The pain bordered on excruciating; every step was an exercise in pain management. I reflected how people mention how tough the early explorers had it, and I certainly don’t want to diminish the problems they had; but the aborigines actually used to live here and walk about barefoot, just as I was now doing.
Of course, they had no choice, I suppose I had. However, having to take my shoes off to wade through the pond I thought it a bit silly to put them on again when I wasn’t going to walk that far and would soon have to return through the pond. Heavens I was regretting that decision!
I was only walking on river gravel and it still hurt, exacerbated by the freezing cold temperature, but the 3 caterpillar rock paintings distracted my attention. They represented the three caterpillars that Intwailuka, an ancestral hero, ate here on his dreamtime journey.
I took a few snaps, decided this gap wasn’t as good as Jessie and headed off there again, thankfully with socks and shoes on now.
Emily is only a few kilometres east of town on the Ross Highway and well signposted.
I had other things to do though and packed up and headed for Redbank, the gorge I’d come to see. Tales of the road in were misinformed, it wasn’t at all difficult, it was only the parking area that was dodgy with just a few small spaces.
It’s only 1.2kms to the gorge but it’s not an easy walk. The choice is either rocks or soft sand, both strength sapping but, the gorge is at once stunning and frustrating.
I’d spoken to a knowledgeable local and he said you couldn’t get through unless you had li-lo or a wetsuit. Tick one for local knowledge. The water was marginally above ice temperatures and, though I stripped and tried I only made it to just above my knees before the stupidity of going further sank in. It was so annoying because Redbank is superb. Really narrow jagged cliffs, easily the most spectacular thing I’d seen in the McDonnell Ranges National Park.
This place is the pits
"...when I finally made it back I had to stop again because the Ochre Pits that were somewhat colourless early in the morning were now dazzling with the noonday sun and the tourists knew it."
I'd seen them in the morning and, really, they weren't much but, they really are sun dependent so make sure you time your visit to coincide with afternoon sun.
The ochres are what aborigines used to use for colours for painting.
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