Alice Springs – Central Australia

Alice Springs is located halfway between Adelaide and Darwin – 1,500km away from each – and from the moment we arrived, we fell in love with Australia’s best known central outback town. It took us three big driving days from Darwin to get there, and on arrival it felt a lot bigger than a town of 30,000 people. There are heaps of tourist attractions in and around Alice, so to do it properly you’d need a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days. What we didn’t realise is that Alice itself has stunning landscapes and a rich history, as well as being the gateway to Uluru, Kata Tjuda, and the McDonnell Ranges.

Alice Springs School of the Air Visitors Centre

As a home schooling family, we were super-keen to visit an actual remote distance school, especially seeing as we’d considered enrolling in one before we left on our trip around Australia. Here we were given an insight into the history and current operations of the largest school in the world, which covers 1.3 million square kilometres. Depending on the time of year, you can observe a real lesson between the teacher and students in progress, and see how technology enables teachers to provide a rich education experience to kids in isolated areas.  The service started back in June 1951, and in those days they send out packages and communicated via radio between the stations. What started with pedal radio – and became a way of life for the remote stations of the vast pastoral industry of Australia’s semi-arid zone – is now taking full advantage of modern technology. Today computers are providing a deeper education experience, and teachers deliver lessons from a purpose-designed audio visual booth here at the school. These days teachers are required to travel to the children regularly, and vice versa, to strengthen the relationship between the school and the students.  The NAPLAN results of these distance education schools speak for themselves as they usually out perform normal schools academically, showing that distance is no longer an inhibitor for a good education.

Royal Flying Doctors Service Visitors Centre

We’d been to the RFDS visitors centre in Kalgoorlie, but this is Australia’s best known RFDS centre, complete with a museum, shop, cafe, replica plane, and a hologram video of RFDS founder the Reverend John Flynn. We enjoyed the live animation which showed the location of the many RFDS planes in Australia, on a big screen TV outside the hologram theatre.  The hologram presentation was not of John Flynn himself, but of a young actor playing John Flynn as an old man and it wasn’t great. The gift shop had half of a plane on display, fit out as an intensive care unit and you could give a gold coin donation to look inside. The kids crawled into the cockpit to fly the plane and things went a little bit haywire!

Central Australia Aviation Museum

A must for any aviation enthusiast, this is one of our top 5 favourite museums in Australia. Housed in the original hangars of the first Alice Springs town airfield, it showcases the integral role aviation has played in the outback. Maintained and run by volunteers including retired pilots, we were intrigued by the history revealed in its exhibits. Our favourite exhibit was the 1970’s documentary about the Connellan family who were aviation pioneers and had an enormous influence that aviation had on the development of Alice Springs. Not only was it a fascinating look at their achievements over the years – and they were making incredible inroads into aviation even on a global scale – but the documentary was shown inside a DC3, with the original plane seats forming the movie cinema.  It was such a thrill, we all loved it.