"Whistle Stop Alice Springs to mind" Alice Springs by sirgaw

Alice Springs Travel Guide: 348 reviews and 1,151 photos

Underlined = tips

It might sound like a very odd title for an introduction for our visit to the central Australian iconic town of Alice Springs – but when you learn that we were there for all of 4 hours on a Whistle Stop tour while The Ghan waited for us at the rail station – hence my attempt at a play on words for the title, so now you know and no need to e mail Sir Gaw to ask if he’d gone stark raving mad. Sort of like the Noel Coward hit: Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

The Ghan offered a number of choices for their Whistle Stop tours and since we’d never visited the town before, we wanted to get in as much as possible during our all too brief 4 hour stop over. Although expensive at $84 each, we choose the ‘Essentials Alice Springs Tour’ which included luxury coach travel with expert commentary and entry into 4 of the top attractions – The Royal Flying Doctor Service, Telegraph Station, ANZAC Hill and then a choice of either the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame or the Reptile Centre – it was a very difficult choice between the 2, so a toss of a coin settled the issue – heads where there is a likeness of a Liz - short for lizard (Queen Elizabeth 11 to you Sir Gaw) - and tails for the old dragons, err pioneer women (I’m sure you can see how Sir Gaw gets himself into real trouble – LOL). Tails came up and so just to be sure we decided to make it 2 out of 3 – still tails so the old dragons did win in the end as they usually do!!!!!

Our luxury coach was waiting and we lucked in and were the second couple to board, so we chose the elevated directly behind the drivers’ seat and glad we did.

After a reasonably brief drive with ‘expert commentary’ through the rather harsh landscape of Central Australia, we arrived at the famous Telegraph Station for a fascinating look at the well-preserved monument to the overland telegraph line that linked southern Australia with the world and allowed almost instant communication (not quite as you’ll read in my tip).

We returned to the coach (warning; never, ever refer to a coach as a bus – people have died for making that mistake) and a quick return along part of the Stuart Highway and turned off at a fast food joint for the dash up the top of ANZAC Hill for an all too brief a panoramic look at the town of Alice Springs with the back drop of the starkly beautiful Mac Donnell Ranges. Sadly we were told we only had time to do one quick lap of the lookout area – and aging The Ghan passengers’ bodies were really not up to so much being pushed around.

Panting we returned to the coach for a quick trip to The Royal Flying Doctor Service, where we viewed an interesting film that could have been watched on The Ghan via on-board videos rather than using up valuable time during our Whistle Stop tour.

At this point I’m going to be critical of the organization for the Whistle Stop tour that we enjoyed. In our case breakfast was at 8am and dinner 8pm, so it is a long 12 hours without anything to eat and no warning that there would be nothing availabe on the Whistle Stop tour. There are no facilities on The Ghan to purchase something to take on the likes of the 4 hour stops, without a very long and difficult walk through heaps of carriages to get to the Red Class ‘Matilda Café’ where wraps and filled rolls are available from $6.50 each. Nor does the Whistle Stop tour stop anywhere that food can be purchased – although we sort of lucked in, the ladies auxiliary of The Royal Flying Doctor Service did serve up snacks (coffee/tea, cold drinks, pre-made sandwiches and a range of cakes), BUT that was at the expense on missing out on the Flying Doctor museum. I would like to see some sort of pre-warning regarding non-availability of food and either The Ghan arranges for snack boxes to be pre-purchased prior to arrival in Alice Springs or Katherine for the Whistle Stop passengers, or the tour includes some sort of stop/pre-arrangement for food.

OK no pun intended (not much!!) but that’s my beef out of the way.

After the flying visit to the Flying Doctors we were told to meet the coach driver who would ask us to select between pioneer women of the reptile centre as both were a very short walk from the Flying Doctor exhibit.

I have to admit the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame was fascinating, located as it is in the kitchen section of the now closed Alice Springs Jail (Sir Gaw really wants to make comments about kitchens, jails and women but is not going there – LOL). Lady Gaw and I separated so we could look at what appealed to each, rather than waiting for each to finish reading panels. I also got to look around the former prison.

Time was against us so we bolted back to the waiting coach and then a very quick tour of the central area of Alice Springs before we returned to the rail station where The Ghan was waiting to take us south. There was a little bit of time to have a quick look at the station and then the all important ‘All aboard please.’

  • Last visit to Alice Springs: Jul 2012
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Comments (1)

  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo
    Jul 16, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Lovely page. We had slightly longer there than you. I also enjoyed the telegraph station; plus the walk along the dried up river. Irene


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