Destinations

There’s more to Alice than Uluru

Sarah Motherwell - AAP

Where in Australia is Uluru?

Before my outback adventure, I thought the infamous landmark was right next to Alice Springs.

I had pictured flat red dust plains, tin sheds, leather skinned blokes in Akubras and kangaroo steaks for dinner.

So it came as a shock to this born and bred city girl when I learned that Alice is close to Ayers Rock in the same way that Canberra is close to Newcastle – about 450km apart.

But if you’re keen to tick a trip to the iconic rock off your bucket list, don’t let distance deter you from a visit to the Top End’s smaller city.

Alice Springs is nothing like the rough and tough, wildlife-eating town I had imagined.

Her beauty struck me first: grassy plains teaming with colourful birds are skirted by the magnificent MacDonnel Ranges.

There’s no better place than the Alice Springs Desert Park to learn about the abundant plants and animals of the outback.

That’s unless you’ve got enough time on your hands to walk all or some of the 223km long Larapinta Trail that winds through the Ranges’ many gaps and sheltered gorges.

But whether you’re standing on top of a mountain or on the pavement, you’re guaranteed spectacular views of the landscape against a big blue or starlit sky.

If you want a real treat, look down on it all from 3000ft with a scenic helicopter ride – and make sure you ask the pilot to take the doors off.

Back in town, you can unearth Alice’s rich indigenous and colonial histories, which collided in the late 1800s with the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line that linked Adelaide to Darwin.

To gain an appreciation for just how isolated the outback can really be, visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum for a 3D lesson from founder Reverend John Flynn.

I’m sure you’ve seen him around: he’s on the $20 note.

Admittedly, I did chomp down on some novelty meals during my trip – I’d recommend the camel koftas – but I didn’t have enough time to visit Uluru.

However, if Alice taught me anything, other than geography, it’s that there’s so much more to the Northern Territory than a rock.

Once you’ve got a taste for the outback, it will stick to you like red dirt.

IF YOU GO

Pack sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat, especially if you want to do outdoor activities like quad biking or a camel ride.
Learn how to photograph the night sky with your camera – you will miss all the stars once you’re back in the city.
Rent a 4WD. It’s worth having a hire car to drive around town but a 4WD will open up the MacDonnel Ranges’s many off-road attractions.

GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia flies direct from Adelaide, Melbourne and Darwin to Alice Springs, with new lounges now open in both Northern Territory destinations for business class and Velocity Platinum and Gold members.


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