Greetings from Alice Springs

Between 1926 and 1931 the Northern Territory had been split administratively into two regions, Central and North Australia, each with its own government head. Stan Cawood, who came to the Territory when his father was appointed the first and only Government Resident for Central Australia, remembered the early days of tourism:

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Well for some time I didn’t do a great deal, but Albert Bond, from Bond’s Coaches in Alice Springs, was one of the first – well, he was the first that I know of – that decided to get involved in tourism in the Centre. And he timed it with the arrival of the first Ghan in 1929, but I think he was there a little before that. And I got to know him. And of course I hadn’t been there that long, but I was there before he. He had a big six Studebaker. And talking about the Dodge being big – this was about twi

ce as big. There weren’t many options in those days. You couldn’t get out to the Rock, but we used to go to Arltunga which was a pretty popular one, and out to Hermannsburg and down to Palm Valley. We didn’t have a lot of space, but we used to pile the luggage on between the mudguards and the bonnets and so forth, and along the running boards, and the tourists had to climb in over the top and all that sort of business. And then when we got to Hermannsburg – that’s as far as we could go – we used camels and horses…

A little big later on Mrs Underdown – decided after she’d established the hotel in 1932, when she got her license – she decided to put a chalet out at Palm Cove [Valley] and we used to run four-wheel drive coaches. Well, what they were mainly were four-wheel drive vehicles from the Army, ex-Army. Up till then there was no four-wheel drive – this was a great innovation, a great chance to go places. And we used to take it down the bed of Finke to this chalet at Palm Cove [Valley]. It was fairly rough, as you could imagine. It cost £15 for three days at Palm Valley; that included your transport to and fro, and all your accommodation and what-have you. That was the complete cost in those days…

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 702 and NTRS 219, TP 819, Stan Cawood]

Palm Valley party, Tuit’s Tours

Advertisement, Tuit’s Coach Services, Centralian Advocate, 22 July 1955

Ayers Rock Christmas card

After the war, Alice Springs was probably the most famous place in the Northern Territory. The scenic beauty of the Centre, made accessible by train and road, made Alice Springs a logical tourism destination.

Tourism to Uluru or Ayers Rock, as it was known, did not begin until 1958. Again, Stan Cawood recalled:

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Yes, Actually the first one to operate organized tours to Ayers Rock was Len Tuit, and he had a camp there, just with tents. I’m not sure really what year that was, but Alice Springs Tours, had the first accommodation at the Rock.

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 702 and NTRS 219, TP 819, Stan Cawood]
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