I spent one month in Alice on a work exchange from the hustle and bustle of the 24/7 reception at Sydney Central YHA to the laid back and often motionless front desk of the Alice Springs YHA. My time there was hot, isolating, exuberant, weird and memorable. Everyone I met had a story or three.
The hostel guests in Alice were an outlandish mix who seemed to either want temporary escape from city life or adventure en route to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, world heritage national parks. There were also the vagabond labourers passing through Alice on their way to their next outback job – there were cowboys heading to the next cattle stations, fortune seekers looking for lucrative mining jobs and a few adventurous backpackers doing a stint between outback pubs. And they were all drawn into Alice by her quirks. Ever attend a Camel Cup? A beanie festival? A river regatta with no river to speak of? Alice hosts these every year.
Alice is a town that has always attracted eclectic groups of people – it has inspired explorers, feminists, and artists. John Stuart who the town was named after until 1933 led the first successful expedition to traverse the Australian mainland from south to north and return. His story is her story too in Alice where more than 100 Australian women were pioneers in their fields and are featured in the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame.
If you’re in town for a few days some worthwhile attractions include the Alice Springs Desert Park which harbours many of the surrounding desert environment and the Olive Pink Botanic Garden, which is surprisingly colourful for an arid climate botanic gardens; both are only a short distance from the town centre.
Take the time to wander to the middle of nowhere and you’ll find Alice. It’s a journey well worth the effort and a journey you won’t soon forget. Breathtaking, moving and absurd, this little town epitomizes the spirit of Australian culture and dreaming – it’s a rollicking off-the-beaten-track town that has it all.