Posted by: Gideon | July 13, 2011

Australia with Kids: The Outback Part 1: Alice Springs.

Wallaby

The Australian outback is one of the most enthralling regions on earth.

But is it good to take kids there – what is there to do and see, what is the weather like and how safe is it?

We traveled to the Outback in December – the height of summer. Certainly not regarded as the best time of year to go. We were warned about the heat, the flies and more. We were told that there is so little water, that the flies will attack your face, targeting your sweat as a source of moisture!

We flew from Sydney to Alice Springs. It’s about a 3 hour fligh to the largest town in the Outback. Alice looks like it’s almost the dead center of Australia on the map and it’s not a big place, with less than 30,000 inhabitants. As we walked down the stairs from the aircraft to the tarmac, the heat hit us – it felt almost like a slap in the face it was so hot! Probably in excess of 40 degrees Celsius. We rented a car, and soon were driving into town to our accommodation Alice has lots of places to stay, and we were staying a small apartment /condo complex with a pool. Nothing too extravagant.

We wandered about the Todd Mall, a small pedestrianized area in the town centre. There are some pretty nice art galleries showcasing Aboriginal art, but they are expensive. There are some places offering didgeridoo lessons, and we walked in and took part in a demo of this incredibly unusual instrument. The kids really loved it though we struggled to get the hang of it. By far the biggest attraction in town appeared to be the supermarket – the car park was packed, and perhaps the great air conditioning had something to do with it.Unfortunately, we noticed many native Aboriginal people lying around, almost prostrate. The Aborigines have had a very tough time since the first English settlers arrived, and it didn’t appear to us as though things are going well for them. We made some important purchases- hats, with fly screens attached!

Our new Outback hats!

Late in the afternoon we drove about 10 minutes out of town to the Heavitree Gap resort. Just outside, there is a big wallaby population – they are simply amazing. They almost come all the way up to you and its like being in an open air zoo. Our problem was that Eitan spent the whole time screaming and crying – hard to imagine anyone could be scared of such gentle creatures, but I can say categorically that if you have a three-year old with you, he or she might be terrified.

That night we went to an Alice institution to eat – the Overlander Steakhouse seems to come straight of a Crocodile Dundee movie – and we loved it. Lost of interesting stuff on the menu that we didn’t taste – crocodile, emu, kangaroo and camel…but they also have regular steaks, a kids menu and even a bunch of dishes for vegetarians.

All in all, a good first day in Alice!

The following day we explored the surrounding region, which has some incredible nature. We did a short hike to Simpson’s Gap, a small waterhole in the desert, and a longer hike to Standly Chasm, where the huge walls that tower up above glow red in the midday sun. These were wonderful introductions to the real, natural Outback.

Eitan and I at an Outback waterhole

We also visited the Alice Springs Desert Park, which is a wonderful intro to the whole ecology of the outback. Best of all was the nocturnal house, a small indoor zoo  where fake moonlight allows one to see little nocturnal creatures scurrying about. The kids loved really enjoyed themselves.

This was our last day in Alice Springs. The following morning we were driving to Kings Canyon, one of the most spectacular sights in the Outback.

PS: I plan great trips for families all over the world – click here for more details.

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