Indigenous aboriginal tribes have been meeting in Alice Springs – Australia’s “Red Centre” for generations. A desert oasis, the modern town rapidly expanded after becoming a telegraph relay station, handling communications between the southern Australian cities and the rest of the world. Today, Alice continues to be an important place for communication and a meeting point for people from all over the world.
Capable of servicing everyone from intimate groups to conferences with delegate numbers in the thousands, the Alice Springs Convention Centre is at the heart of the town’s meetings and events industry. Recently fully refurbished, the centre is serviced by the adjacent Lasseters Hotel Casino, one of a number of high-end hotels in town.
Indeed, Alice’s hospitality options are not only world class but also unique, being heavily dusted with a thick coating of outback authenticity. No trip here, for instance, is complete without stopping by the Overlanders Steakhouse for thick cut camel steak, some damper bread and a wobble board sing-a-long.
As exceptional as the double-hump delicacy is, there are a number of activities that only Alice can offer. Here are four unique reasons to make Alice a priority for your next antipodean event.
Eat a Kangaroo’s Tail
You can find full size Kangaroo tail in the freezer department of the local supermarkets in Alice. The best way to sample this local delicacy, which is characterised by a delicate gamey flavour, is with a local. To do that, take a trip to the Purple House, the headquarters of the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation. The organisation supports members of the aboriginal community undergoing dialysis by giving them a place to meet and share cultural traditions and beliefs. Dialysis procedures are also performed at the house itself, plus the organisation runs the Purple Truck, a mobile unit that takes the lifesaving treatment out to remote communities to limit the need for stressful relocation. Groups can volunteer at the house and from general house keeping to essential maintenance projects, there is always something to do. As a community project, the house functions as a local community centre, so expect to find indigenous art being produced, traditional medicines being applied and, of course, Kangaroo tail being cooked.
Dine with the stars
In most places, the idea of eating in an old quarry may not sound so appealing but the old quarry site in Alice offers planners a unique desert location. As soon as the sun dips, the temperature drops and the crystal clear skies reveal the twinkling stars above. It’s a mesmerising venue that’s ideal for an outdoor banquet. The heavenly bodies aren’t the only stars out here. The location makes for a perfect rodeo style show and a former stunt man and celebrity double – who has appeared in many of Australia’s prime time dramas, including McLeod’s Daughters – is on hand to entertain. From whip cracking to horse riding, the sunset show gets things off to thrilling start. Next up, why not get up close and personal with some of the local wildlife? Professional handler Rex Neindorf of the Alice Springs Reptile Centre can add a little snake charm as an exciting entrée. As the sun dips away, there’s no better way to entertain guests than with the music of Tommy Crow, an aboriginal artist and musician. Overhead, on the quarry’s edge, he plays the didgeridoo, enchanting guests with the powerful sounds of this indigenous wood instrument. Crow is also one of the founders of the Sunset Dreaming, which sells artwork to fund projects to empower indigenous Australians and raise the life expectancy of black Australians. The quarry itself can host large-scale events for sit-down meals. Staging of live performances is its specialty and the quarry’s sheer walls are perfect for nighttime projections.
Race a boat along a dry riverbed
The Henley-on-Todd Regatta is held along the dry sandy bed of the Todd River and is the only dry river regatta in the world. The annual race, which takes place in August, began more than 50 years ago to raise money for local rotary clubs – and as a bit of fun at the expense of British highbrow regattas. Teams come together to race bottomless boats across a wide range of classes, from enormous “ships” carried by great squads of participants to small, one-man “canoes”. A perfect teambuilding activity, regattas can be structured to any scale and incorporate a number of different elements, including aspects of a treasure hunt, problem solving and boat decoration. While the local Admiral may tell you that it’s all a bit a wheeze, don’t be fooled. Carrying a bottomless boat along the soft sand of the Todd riverbed is hard work, but ultimately it’s a rewarding, one-of-a-kind experience.
Get fitted for an Akubra
The ultimate outback fashion icon, the Akubra – a wide-brimmed bush hat – is the perfect souvenir for event attendees visiting the red centre. Okay, you can buy the hat anywhere but the Akubra and Alice go together like Kylie and Jason, and this is the best place to get measured up for one. Akubra fitting stations can be set up almost anywhere and a specialist will size the hats for each individual guest. A range of customisation options is available, including embroidery and removable pins that make the hat even more of memento. Prices start at US$56 and as a real piece of craftsmanship, the Akubra is a brilliant icon to remember an excellent Aussie event.
The Purple House
Sunset Dreaming Australia
Danny Brennan and Leeann Scholz
Henley-on-Todd Dry River Racing