Alice Springs, or “The Alice” as it’s more popularly known among Australians, is a settlement that is the third largest in the Australian state of the Northern Territory. It’s positioned in the centre of Australia at the southern end of the state. The town of Alice Springs straddles the Todd river, which is usually dry, due to the climate and extreme temperatures that never seem to cease in this part of Australia.
The surrounding area is known as the “Red Desert” or, more simply, Central Australia. Several deserts converge in the region to create a hot, arid environment that is harsh during the seasons with temperatures varying between extremely hot and extremely cold. That is, extremely hot in the day and extremely cold at night. Now, if you’re not a heat loving person, it might be better to stay away from Alice Springs in the harbour city of Sydney for example, but if you do then you’re missing out on seeing some of the most spectacular landscape scenes in Australia.
History of Alice Springs
Alice Springs was founded by Europeans in the 1870s but the original inhabitants of the area, the Arrernte, know the area as “Mparntwe”. You’ll have to find out how to pronounce that correctly. They have lived in the area for thousands of years and today even some of the Arrernte descendants still live there to this day and continue to proudly represent their people’s rich cultural heritage. When the Europeans settled there the first few decades, Alice Springs was a typical “Wild West” kind of town, isolated and nobody really went there except if they absolutely had to. Indeed, only 500 people lived in the town in its formative years.
This all changed though when World War Two rolled around. Suddenly the Alice was very popular, especially with the Australian military, which completely took over the town and made it their base for staging operations into the Pacific. Suddenly, Alice Springs became the focal point of much of the Allies military brass, at the height of the War, no fewer than eight thousand troops were stationed in Alice Springs. Thousands more were visiting this once backwater town, including United States General MacArthur.
After the war ended, the US military remained in Alice Springs and the town grew when the Pine Gap installation was founded in the 1970s, Pine Gap is a joint operation between the United States and Australian governments and today, half of the Alice’s population are United States citizens. Americanization has of course creeped into most of Western culture but where there’s a big population of Americans, there’s a big injection of the culture, for example there’s a massive fireworks display and other celebrations in Alice on the Fourth of July, which is the USA’s Independence day.
Transport Options to Alice Springs
So how can you get to Alice Springs? Well, you can drive but since it’s in the geographical centre of Australia getting there by road is a little bit of a challenge and also time consuming. One of the more popular ways to see Alice Springs is by Train. The Adelaide to Darwin has a stop in Alice Springs and the “Ghan” is as famous as the Orient Express is in Europe. It is is so named after one of the crew gave it its unofficial nickname of ‘The Afghan Express’ after the early Afghan camel drivers who explored the desert of Australia in the 19th century.
Adelaide to Darwin is a long 54 hour journey so it’s especially nice that they have a stop in Alice Springs for passengers to mull over the converging deserts and also visit the Alice Springs Desert Park which gives the passengers of the Afghan Express a chance to experience the true Australian Outback and sample some of the local indigenous cuisine. Of course, if you want to get to Alice Springs quickly, flying domestically is your only option. Qantas operate a flight out of Sydney daily and this is how many of the tourists come to Alice Springs.