Many travellers visiting Alice Springs have just one thing on their minds - Uluru. The monolith of enormous, cultural, importance to the local Anangu people, is 440km (275 miles) south-west of Alice Springs, but if you do whizz in and out of the airport at Alice, you're missing a town with a beautiful setting, fascinating history and loads of culture.
John McDouall Stuart, the explorer, camped close to Alice Springs in 1860, and the small settlement was known as Stuart Town for some time. Romantically, it was named Alice after the wife of Charles Todd, who was the superintendent of telegraphs. In 1933, it officially became Alice Springs.
The town is nestled among the MacDonnell ranges. To the west of Alice are Simpson’s Gap, Standley Chasm and the Finke Gorge National Park. To the east is Emily Gap, Trephina Gorge Nature park, Arltunga Historic Reserve, Ruby Gap Nature Park and N’Dhala Gorge.
Alice itself, is a town of wide streets shaded by eucalyptus trees. It has a strong cultural and artistic tradition that matches its natural beauty. Along Todd Mall, art galleries exhibit, and sell, Aboriginal art work from local artists, including the renowned Albert Namatjira and Rex Batterbee, Namatjira's mentor.
Visitors should remember that Alice was home to Afghan cameleers, flying doctors (Alice is a major base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service) and tough outback explorers. None tougher, perhaps, than the women who settled here. Today, the National Pioneer Women's Hall Of Fame celebrates their contribution to life in the Northern Territory.