I have a confession to make: ‘I am guilty of spending all of my holidays – in recent memory – overseas’. Okay, I said it.
Our customers – the majority – love Europe and North America. With a smattering of Asia, South America and Africa. Notice – we may only have one or two Australia or New Zealand or South Pacific bookings a year. In the ten years Wendy and myself have run our travel agency – Europe and North America has been what we have been asked for and therefore that has been where we have travelled too. We are big believers in being experienced based in our agency and we like to try out and test what we are recommending so of course, these areas were the natural stomping ground for us. But oh how quickly the tides change.
As it seems likely that we will be calling ‘Australia Home’ for a while. We have the very real possibility of travelling exclusively in our bubble for 12-18 months – and now we’re being asked, where can I go? What can we do?
So Wendy and myself are heading off to explore Australia so we can make sure your journeys are exciting and full of adventures and places you never even knew existed. We started our first exploration of Australia in the Northern Territory – travelling from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon to Yulara (Ayers Rock) and Wendy and myself are very excited to share our experiences with you.
Here is a snapshot of our experiences and recommendations.
We hope you enjoy.
Sara & Wendy
Our top experiences:
The Larapinta Trail – starts from Alice Springs
Tnorala / Gosse Bluff Crater – be sure to stop at the Tylers Pass lookout
Kings Canyon – hiking, scenery
Uluru and Kata Tjuta – Field of Lights, Sounds of Silence, Tali Wara Dinner, Longitude 131 for a special occasion or those who enjoy a glamping tent (they are seriously fabulous) – see Blog, part 2 for full details.
Alice Springs has always had a negative undertone and to be honest, there are social issues here to be aware of but should it deter you from staying here? Absolutely not. In fact, Alice Springs was a highlight for the four of us in our travelling party – perhaps because we had low expectations here however there is something seriously fabulous about the Alice.
The people – they are lovely! As with anywhere you travel, it’s nice to see a friendly face and there were many lovely people we got to meet. From the ladies and gents selling their artwork under the shade of trees in the Todd Mall. The local business owners who have time for a chat. The out of this world friendly staff at the Desert Park. And to top it off, our brilliant guide John Stafford from Alice Springs Expeditions who took us out to the West MacDonnell ranges for the day. We heard so many stories of folks who were travelling around Australia and ended up in Alice Springs 16 or 20 years before hand and never left. Seriously all the time! And I can believe how this could be, there is an energy here that draws you in for more.
On our first day in Alice, which was a Sunday, we decided to head out and visit the West Mac Ranges. John from Alice Springs Expeditions was one of the best guides we’ve ever had. He was so knowledgeable and respectful about the area and its people and gave us city folk some valuable insight into the region. We visited the Simpsons Gap, Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ochre Pits and much more. The day was long and full of beauty. The famous artist, Albert Namatjira, world famous for his paintings. His work is so striking and as you travel through this area, you can see just how inspiring this area is and Albert certainly did this with perfection, I’ll link back to this in another blog post at another time. We had lunch and a swim at Ormiston Gorge and John spent the day sharing his stories of the area with us – and some of the 18 years of travel he’s done in the local area – his knowledge was just amazing.
We only had one other full day in Alice – which was a mistake – we needed more time! We spent the day talking to the locals, visiting Desert Park (a must do), sampling food and drink at the local quirky cafes and restaurants, visiting the galleries and heading up to Anzac Hill for city views.
ARRIVAL TO ALICE SPRINGS
Qantas, Virgin, AirNorth and Alliance are currently servicing the Alice.
The flight over from Brisbane was sensational with Qantas. I forget just how spectacular the Australian landscape is from the air and the views as we descended into Alice Springs – fabulous. The clear rock formations and landscapes were our first glimpse of what would be a never ending visual treat out in the Red Centre of Australia. The crew were lovely and the pilots took some photos from the cockpit.
The only sad part of our arrival was aircraft parked there during covid which only serves as a reminder to our current predicament but it is also very impressive to see so many jets in one place.
Where did we stay?
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Lasseters Casino in a Premium Room. They were fabulous – large bathrooms and balconies which you didn’t get in the Superior Rooms. Good for a longer stay. Great pool and next door to the Doubletree by Hilton with some great dining options. A taxi is needed to get into town if you don’t have a car or it is a thirty minute stroll.
How long to stay. If you want to see the East and West MacDonnell Ranges – that’s 1 day each. Add in a day trip out to Palm Valley – that’s another day. Then 1 or 2 days to explore Alice Springs itself. You will need at least 3 nights if you plan on a full exploration – a week would not go astray if you had the desire to really explore the area. It will come down to what you want to see and do.
How do you get here? Qantas have direct flights from most capital cities. You can drive and there is the Ghan train that runs through Alice a few times a week heading North or Southbound.
TNORALA / GOSSE BLUFF CRATER
Talk about an unexpected natural wonder. I had researched the crater before we left and as we were heading along the Mereenie Loop unsealed road I suggested to our group that we drive via Namatjira Drive so we could stop at Tylers Pass for views of the crater and we were not disappointed. The photos speak for themselves. We did enjoy the views to the crater more than being within the crater, the external view is impressive.
THE MEREENIE LOOP
This is unsealed road and you have to have a suitable vehicle (4WD) before you can even think of driving along here. We had some rain during our travels and the puddles are deep and plenty. We only saw 3 vehicles during our drive – it is normally a very busy road and even though there are low numbers of travellers it is very important to watch the road. There were brumbys and newborn foals crossing the road frequently. If we hadn’t been alert we would have had some serious accidents. Drive so you can break and have adequate stopping distance, pull over to enjoy the views, do not pat the camels! This was a long hard drive but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Although it might be nice to have someone else drive next time!
Wow and wow. It was scenery on steroids here. The most magnificent tones of rusty red greeted us on our late afternoon arrival.
The highlight for our group was the Kings Canyon Rim walk, it is indescribable. To think you have walked over ancient river beds is mind blowing. The ancient Garden of Eden. I’m not going to spend much time talking about it, I’ll share my photos – which do not give it justice. All I can say is head to the Kings Canyon and experience it for yourself. It is breathtaking.
Where did we stay?
We stayed at the Kings Canyon Resort. There is no other choice close to Kings Canyon. We enjoyed the Glamping Tents but would not recommend them for hot weather – note this with caution! But they would be perfect in the shoulder seasons. You only need 1 or 2 nights here.
If you are hiking, there is the 2 day Giles Track that we can recommend.
When to go
It’s very hot out here in summer so we recommend visiting from April to October.
Our top ways to travel:
Self Drive – contact Wendy and myself and we can tailor an itinerary to suit your timeframe, your wishlist and your budget. Even if you don’t know what your wishlist is, we can run through the must do’s.
Escorted Touring – we have a select group of tour operators we use within Australia.
Hiking – the famous Larapinta Trail starts and finishes in Alice Springs. There are 3 to 16 day hiking packages available – both guided and self guided. 2021 is fairly full – you would need to be locking in dates as soon as possible. Call us for more details.
Train & Tour or Train & Self Drive
The Ghan operates from Adelaide and you can either stay in Alice Springs for a day or a few days to explore and head back to Alice to continue the journey to Darwin. May to September is an ideal time to experience the Ghan if you want to add on a Kimberley Coastal cruise or land tour.
We’ll have more tours on offer and loaded soon but in the meantime, if you want to look at 2021 now’s the time so call us and we can help guide you in the right direction and help with your travel bookings and travel management. Phone 1300 068 885