In the middle of the Australian continent lies the iconic heart of Australia, the red stone landmark of Uluru. But the monolith of Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, is just a rock after all, so travellers looking for the true beating heart and living centre of the Outback are best advised to look for it in Alice Springs. The town called Alice is the place where the rugged spirit of the early explorers was shaped by the ancient culture of the first peoples, and so created the modern mythos of the outback so central to Australian nationhood.
The traditional owners of the lands of the Red Centre are the Arrernte people, who called the place Mpwante. The Arrernte have lived in central Australia for thousands of years, and according to their ancient stories the landscapes and mountain ranges around Alice Springs were formed and shaped in the Dreamtime by totemic caterpillars, wild dogs, wallaroos and mythical ancestral figures.
The Heart of the Outback
For any traveller wishing to experience the full flavour and rhythms of Australia’s true Outback, Alice Springs is the destination hub where explorations of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre should begin and end. From here visitors can explore the ecology of boundless desert landscapes, hike mountain chains pocked with cavernous gorges, discover hidden waterholes of unparalleled beauty or visit remote Aboriginal communities where the living history of Australia’s first peoples can be experienced first-hand.
Alice itself is a place of quirks and character that grew from a simple telegraph station in the 1870s. The town has grown over the years and today is the cultural, administrative and economic centre for a vast area. The quirks and character are still there, however, as no other place boasts such things as a yacht club with no lake or ocean to yacht on, an annual boat race on a dry riverbed and a knitting and beanie festival in one of the hottest and driest places on earth.