Central Australia, also known as the Alice Springs Region, is one of the five regions in the Northern Territory that centres on Alice Springs. Sometimes referred to as Centralia, the region is located in the southern part of the Northern Territory spanning from the west on Western Australia Border and to the east on the Queensland border.


Rich in aboriginal culture and home to Australia’s most iconic natural landmark, Uluru, the Central Australia region is a must see destination for anyone wanting to experience true outback culture. Our Central Australia travel guide helps you discover some of the best things to see and do while there.

History of Central Australia

Alice Springs

Before european settlement Alice Springs was inhabited by the Arrernte Aboriginal people. Mparntwe (pronounced mbarn-twa) is the Arrernte word for Alice Springs and was created by the actions of several ancestral figures including the caterpillar beings Ayepe-arenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye, the MacDonnell Ranges being but one of their creations.


Creation stories also describe traditional links with areas as far afield as Urlatherrke (Mt Zeil) in the West MacDonnell Ranges and Port Augusta in South Australia. Arrernte people continue to live in Mparntwe, observe traditional law, look after the country and teach children the Arrernte language and the importance of their culture.


Tennant Creek

European history of this area began in 1860 when explorer John McDouall Stuart passed this way on his unsuccessful first attempt to cross the continent from South to North. He named a creek to the north of town after John Tennant, a financier of his expedition and a pastoralist from Port Lincoln, South Australia, in gratitude for the financial help Tennant had provided for Stuart's expeditions across Australia.


Though it might seem hard to believe today, there was a time, when Tennant Creek was bigger than Alice Springs and Tennant gold kept the wheels of the Australian economy. The Telegraph station was the first building in Tennant Creek, and was one of the stations built every 250 kilometres along the 3600 kilometre line.


Gold was discovered in the ranges three miles north of the current town area in 1926 by J Smith Roberts. In 1927 Charles Windley, a telegraph operator, found gold on what would become Tennant Creek's first mine, The Great Northern. Australia's last great Gold Rush did not commence, however, until after Frank Juppurla, a local Indigenous man, took gold to telegraph operator Woody Woodruffe in December 1932. The population quickly grew to about 600, 60 of whom were women and children. "Battery Hill" which overlooks the town of Tennant Creek is the site of one of the last two operating ten-head stamp batteries, a Government owned ore crushing machine.


The town of Tennant Creek was located 12 km south of the watercourse because the Overland Telegraph Station had been allocated an 11 km reserve. Local legend offers a different explanation for the town's location. In 1934 Joe Kilgarriff from Alice Springs built the Tennant Creek hotel on the eastern side of the telegraph line. The pub still exists and is a historic monument to the early days.



The small township of Yulara, located in the Uluru/ Kata Tjuta National Park, was built to help with the amount of tourists and to reduce the impact that they were having on the land surrounding Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Once the Northern Territory was granted self government in 1978, it became a priority to build basic infrastructure, accommodation, staff housing and a shopping centre.


When the new facilities became fully operational in late 1984, the Commonwealth Government terminated all leases for the old motels near the Rock, and the area was rehabilitated by the national parks service (now called Parks Australia). Around the same time, the national park was renamed as Uluru Kata- Tjuta and its ownership transferred to the local Indigenous people, who leased it back to the Parks Australia for 99 years.


There were originally three competing hotels, however this added significantly to the problem of lack of viability, and the company incurred massive operating losses.


In 1990 to 1992, the competing hotel operators were replaced by a single operator, the government owned Investnorth Management Pty Ltd. In 1992, the government sold through open tender a 40% interest in the Yulara Development Company (and therefore, the resort) to a venture capital consortium.


Kings Canyon

Watarrka National Park/ Kings Canyon had been known to white settlers since the mid-19th century, but it was not until John Muir first visited in 1873 that the canyon began receiving attention. Muir was delighted at the canyon's similarity to Yosemite Valley, as it reinforced his theory regarding the origin of both valleys, which, though competing with Josiah Whitney's then-accepted theory that the spectacular mountain valleys were formed by earthquake action, Muir's theory later proved correct: that both valleys were carved by massive glaciers during the last Ice Age.