Alice is a bonza place! That’s what Nevil Shute wrote about Alice Springs in my favourite novel ‘A Town Like Alice’ and it certainly is! It is an oasis in the desert of the Red Centre – The Middle of Australia. The highlights of Alice include the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Anzac Hill, Alice Springs Reptile Centre and most importantly the Telegraph Office – where it all started – yes, Alice was the wife of the Postmaster General.
There are lots of hotels, from the modest Ibis where I stayed, to the Lasseters Hotel Casino, made famous more recently by the Film ‘Priscilla – Queen of the Desert’. It’s also a great place for campsites, tenting or Camper-vanning.
You are in the Australian Outback here, the West MacDonnell Ranges. Not far from Alice Springs, stop at Simpson’s Gap and Ormiston Gorge before lunch at Glen Helen, then on to Ellery Creek Big Hole and Angkerle (Standley Chasm). The scenery is breathtaking!
Out here in the vast Australian Bush, I had the best steak ever! It was cooked to perfection over a huge round BBQ in a cattle station near Alice Springs under a blanket of stars. After dinner, around the fire, we learned about the indigenous people that lived here, tried some informative stargazing while Waltzing Matilda played softly in the background! I could have stayed there forever!
But… there was more to come and the next day I travelled on to Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) and visited Kings Creek Station on the way. I enjoyed riding a quad bike around the vast Station, while some of the others in my group took a helicopter ride, and some went to see the Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience. We arrived at Kings Canyon Resort with time to spare and watched the sunset over Kings Canyon with a glass of wine!
Sunset is always followed by sunrise, and this was spectacular during our 3-hour Kings Canyon rim walk, a highlight for me. Although there were 500 steps to the top, the walk around the rim was easier and very worthwhile.
By mid afternoon I was at Uluru (Ayers Rock). The sun was shining and the rock was framed by blue skies making it look magical. I did the short walk to Mutijulu Waterhole and listened to some of the fascinating Storylines that the local Anangu tribe speak of. Dinner that evening was the ‘Sounds of Silence’ – a white linen and crystal glasses affair in the outdoors – so called as after dinner the torches are dimmed and we are silent, and as the silence grows, the noise of the bush rises – sounds you would miss ordinarily. Of course sunrise at Uluru was a must do the next morning, and the rock was beautiful in the morning light – we could see Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in the distance. And this was our next port of call. This was really interesting as I walked Walpa Gorge and marvelled at the many domes that have evolved over millions of years.
Shaking off the red dust of the bush – I headed off and away to Queensland for an entirely different experience!
Cairns is the gateway to Queensland, the air felt warm and tropical, the land so lush and green – a complete contrast to the reds of the outback. Cairns is a lively town with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and even a casino. For a quiet, more sedate stay, choose Port Douglas, which is about one and a half hours drive north.
A must for any visit to Queensland is The Barrier Reef – there are many cruises to the reef to choose from and my experience was The Ocean Spirit. We had a smooth ride out to Bird Island with plenty of time to snorkel and enjoy the beauty of the reef.
If you want a touch of luxury now after the hectic schedule of sunsets and sunrises, then Silky Oaks in the Daintree Rainforest is for you!An absolute retreat, away-from-it-all, hidden in the rainforest – recharge, refresh and relax!
Or don’t relax! There is so much to do! Set sail from Port Douglas Reef Marina and enjoy a champagne sail away, an exhilarating tour of Port Douglas on a Grub’s personalized trike tour, a great way to see the area if you want to try an alternative to a coach tour!
Spend the day exploring the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation. There is a place here for lunch called Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, good food for you and you get to see crocs up close! Later have dinner at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, the local people here, and a chance to learn about their dream time history and culture.
Like me, Nevil Shute’s characters also enjoyed Cairns, Green Island and the surrounding areas. Queensland’s rainforests were a complete contrast from the dry and dusty Outback Northern Territory… but an excellent pairing for a memorable trip to Australia that all began in a town called Alice!