Our stay in Alice Springs was slightly interrupted with a stay in hospital. In fact we saw more of Alice Springs Hospital than any of the attractions. Fortunately, it was a second visit for Hubby, BJ and myself. AJ was lucky enough to have a school friend also visiting Alice Springs at the same time and the family kindly took AJ sightseeing for the day which we appreciated so much.
I find Alice Springs fascinating and challenging at the same time. Many of the Indigenous community in Alice Springs suffer from great health and social challenges and from our time in the hospital we’ve a greater understanding and empathy for these. As far as sightseeing, Alice Springs offers a wonderful insight into the logistics of living in a remote area of Australia with the Royal Flying Doctors Service Museum, School of the Air and the Telegraph Station. There’s also much to explore in the great outdoors with the West MacDonnell Ranges, the Kangaroo Sanctuary and Alice Springs Desert Park all within an easy drive of Alice.
ROYAL FLYING DOCTORS SERVICE
John Flynn was the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, with the first service taking flight in 1928. Flynn identified the “terrible isolation of Inland people, who were so remote from medical and religious care.” At the time he began his missionary work in 1912, only two doctors served an area of some 300,000 square kilometres in Western Australia and 1,500,000 square kilometres in the Northern Territory.
John Flynn saw the need for air transport and radio to assist with the isolation and to provide adequate medical care for people affected. However he had to wait many years before he could translate his vision of a flying doctor service into practice.
Today The Royal Flying Doctor Service offers medical care to families in remote areas of Australia. The museum in Alice Springs explores the history of the service and gives visitors an insight into how the service operates.
The museum’s centerpiece is John Flynn the Hologram, a pioneering holographic show about the foundation and evolution of the 87-year-old organisation into the modern day RFDS, the world’s largest aeromedical organisation.
The Royal Flying Doctor Museum has easy access throughout and provides a unisex accessible bathroom.
You can find out more on the Royal Flying Doctor Service website.
ALICE SPRINGS SCHOOL OF THE AIR
Alice Springs School of The Air was established in 1951 to provide educational lessons to primary school students living in remote Central Australia. Given AJ has always lived within a 10 minute drive of school, it was wonderful for her to gain an understanding of the lifestyle of children in remote areas in Australia. Remote education comes in the form of The School of the Air.
Our visit to Alice Springs coincided with the school holidays in the Northern Territory so no lessons were being conducted. Despite this, it was still educational to visit and see examples of how children in isolated areas learn via remote teaching.
The visitor centre explores the history of the School of the Air which used to be provided via radio. Obviously, technology has advanced in recent years and the internet has changed lesson delivery.
Many visitors are lucky enough to see and hear lessons in progress when they visit.
Funds raised in the visitor centre support the student enrichment programs including interstate excursions, in town activities and providing funds for the purchase of expensive IT equipment.
We bought a book to donate to the library for the children which is another way to make a small contribution to the education of children in remote locations around Australia.
The Alice Springs School of the Air Visitor Centre is wheelchair accessible.
Australian Companion Card is accepted.
Opening hours and information can be found on the Alice Springs School of the Air website.
ALICE SPRINGS TELEGRAPH STATION
We visited the Alice Springs Telegraph Station on our way to the airport so literally did a quick look around. AJ had the opportunity to visit for several hours and came back to us with stories of the trail around the Telegraph Station she completed with her friend. The kids were each given a questionnaire to fill out and when they completed it they were given a lollipop or ice block as a reward. Each child received a questionnaire which was appropriate to their age.
The Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve is the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. It was established in 1871 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide and also linked with an underwater cable network to London. The result, the creation of the first real communication between Australia and England.
The Telegraph Station has good accessibility with ramp access to the buildings onsite and concrete pathways. There is some grass to cross but we had no difficulty. Accessible male and female bathrooms are available within a short walk nearby.
The Australian Companion Card is accepted.
You can read more about the Telegraph Station here.
Our favourite attraction in Alice Springs is The Kangaroo Sanctuary. As fans of the show Kangaroo Dundee we couldn’t wait to tour the sanctuary, meet Brolga (the owner and kangaroo whisperer) and his mob of beautiful kangaroos.
We particularly loved our cuddles with two joeys, Madeleine and Sebastian.
This is a sanctuary for kangaroos so there are no cement paths but we found the hard packed sand easy to get over with BJ in his chair but he did have his off-road tyres on.
The Sanctuary is open for sunset tours Tuesday – Friday and booking well in advance is recommended. We timed our whole trip to ensure we could do this tour.
The bus to the Sanctuary isn’t wheelchair accessible so you’ll need to make your own way there. I suggest contacting the tour operator before making your booking to ensure the level of accessibility is appropriate to your needs. Contact Centre Bush Bus on 08 8965 0038 during business hours or [email protected]
You can read more about our visit to the Kangaroo Sanctuary here.
ALICE SPRINGS DESERT PARK
People had so many good things to say about Alice Springs Desert Park we had this park on our must-see list. This World Class Advanced Ecotourism Accredited Desert Park is only 10 minutes from Alice Springs and gives visitors a good insight into the life of Central Australian Deserts.
Walking through the park we visited three desert habitats including Desert Rivers, Sand Country and Woodland Habitats. We saw a variety of birdlife, plants and wildlife, finishing with the popular free-flight bird show.
The park is wheelchair accessible but please note there are large distances to cover if you are using a manual wheelchair and some areas have sandy paths. Electric scooters can be hired at the Desert Park.
Unisex stand-alone accessible bathrooms are available.
The Australian Companion card is accepted.
Free accessible parking is available in the parking lot.
There’s a cafe which is accessible serving sandwiches, light snacks and pies.
You can find out more about Alice Springs Desert Park here.
WEST MacDONNELL RANGES
Using Alice Springs as our base allowed us a full day to explore some of the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. This is a vast and spectacular section of the MacDonnell Ranges which we loved. The colours of the ranges, the soil and the contrast of the blue sky makes for stunning scenery.
The West MacDonnell National Park stretches 161km west of Alice Springs and makes a lovely day trip.
If you have limited time we recommend Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge. It should be noted National Parks only list Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Creek Big Hole as being wheelchair accessible but we managed at all the places I’ve listed above.
Ormiston Gorge has a stand-alone accessible bathroom.
I’ll be writing in greater details about the West MacDonnell Ranges soon.
We stayed at Quest Alice Springs and found this to be a good location and truly accessible accommodation.
You can read my full review of Quest Alice Springs here.