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Located almost in the centre of the continent, 1513 km south of Darwin, Alice Springs (population 27,520+) is to many the epitome of the 'Red Centre', gaining international fame as one of the places to visit in Australia. The town is located at the very foot of the rugged MacDonnell Ranges, near Heavitree Gap, where the Todd River has cut its way through this rocky barrier to give access through the range. It began life as a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph line in 1871. The station takes its name from the spring, or waterhole, in the bed of the Todd River, close to the original telegraph station, which was named by Superintendent of Telegraphs, Charles Todd, after his wife, Alice. The location was near a regularly used ceremonial ground of the Arrernte Aboriginal clan. These stations, the first European buildings in Central Australia, are now an excellent museum and picnic spot -they are a short distance north of the town centre.

Initially the town was called Stuart, after the great explorer who blazed a way north across the continent in 1860Š61; while his route passed through another gap in the range a little to the west, it is on the whole his route that the telegraph line and the original railway line followed. Cattle stations were taken up in this region in the 1870s and there was soon a police station as well. In 1887 gold was found at Arltunga, 130 km east of the telegraph station. At its height, this small outpost supported over 400 people, making it the biggest enclave of Europeans in the Centre; most of them followed the telegraph line to Alice before pushing into the more remote, harsh country further east.

Between 1926 and 1931 the separate territory of Central Australia was formed, and its administrative centre was Alice. In 1929 the railway finally arrived from the south -the name of the town was officially changed to Alice Springs
soon after. As a railhead, the town grew as a major supply centre, not only to the outlying cattle stations but also to the rest of the Territory. During World War II the Stuart Highway north to Darwin was bituminised as part of the war effort to supply the thousands of troops in The Top End. In the 1950s a novel by Neville Shute, A Town Like Alice, along with the subsequent film and television program, brought wide acclaim to this remote town, and really started the tourist industry on which much of the town now bases its economy.

The town and its surrounds have much to offer. In the centre of Alice Springs are the historic buildings of the old town gaol (1909), Adelaide House (1926), designed by the Reverend John Flynn (founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which was established here in 1939 and still operates from near here), and the old Hartley Street School (1930), the first school in the region. Within a few kilometres of town are the buildings and pleasant surrounds of the old Telegraph Station, the Strehlow Research Centre with its great Aboriginal cultural display, the stunning displays of the Alice Springs Desert Park, the Transport Heritage Centre and the Central Australian Museum, to name just a few.

The area is also well endowed with natural attractions; the West MacDonnell National Park incorporates such well-known attractions as Standley Chasm, Simpson's Gap, Ormiston Gorge and Pound and Redbank Gorge. In the eastern MacDonnells are Trephina Gorge, N'Dhala Gorge, the Ross River homestead, and the historic site of the Arltunga goldfields. Further afield are such international attractions as Rainbow Valley, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kings Canyon and the Simpson Desert. You can enjoy camel rides, horse rides, balloon trips and 4WD excursions in and around the local area, as well as Aboriginal cultural tours that take in bush food, art or Dreaming trails.

The Alice also has a good range of restaurants and cuisines. You can share your dinner with a camel, take a balloon ride to breakfast, or enjoy the friendship of a bush gourmet barbecue. The Overlander Steakhouse, like a number of eating places in the town, has buffalo, kangaroo, emu, crocodile, camel, barramundi and more traditional fare on the menu.

There is an absolute host of annual events: Heritage Week in April; the Central Australian Country Music Festival in April/ May; the Bangtail Muster, which incorporates a parade of floats down the Todd Mall, in May; the Finke Desert Race, Australia's fastest desert race for motorcycles and vehicles, in June; the Alice Springs Show and the famous Lions Camel Cup in July; the Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition in July/ August; the Alice Springs Rodeo, also in August; the Henley-On-Todd, the world-famous waterless regatta where 'boats' are run down the sandy bed of the Todd, in September; the International Cultural Festival in October; and the Corkwood Festival in November.

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