Old Ambalindum Homestead, dating back to the early 1900’s, has been recently renovated making for a comfortable, affordable and friendly authentic outback experience with a host of options, whether staying for a couple of days or longer.
Ambalindum Station is a working cattle station of more than 3,000 sq km’s about 135km northeast of Alice Springs. A range of accommodation is available, from camping sites and van sites to the air-conditioned comfort of the Old Ambalindum homestead itself.
Within the expanse of Ambalindum there are literally hundreds of kilometres’ of private roads and tracks, passing through spectacular scenery, from rugged ranges to rolling plains, from deep gorges to river crossings (almost always dry and sandy). Activities include 4-wheel driving, bushwalking, mountain bike riding and bird watching.
Old Ambalindum is off the Arltunga Loop tourist road to the east of Alice Springs and also on the newly promoted Binns Track.
Arltunga was officially Central Australia's first town, born through the discovery of gold in 1887 and whose heyday lasted until 1913. Fortune seekers had to travel 600 kilometres from the Oodnadatta railhead, often on foot, to seek their fortune in a harsh environment. At the time, Alice Springs consisted of just the Overland Telegraph Station, and was little more than an outpost that had expanded as it became the supply base of Arltunga.
The town was named after a subgroup of the Arrernte people who had been living in the area prior to the arrival of Europeans.
At its height, Arltunga supported a population of 3000 people but by 1911 it was 56 and down to 25 by 1933. The problems of the town are still clear - lack of water, isolation and the difficulty of access - which all conspired to make permanent settlement difficult.
Arltunga was extremely isolated, had limited supplies of basic foods, suffered extremes of temperature, and with high transportation costs, the cost of living was exorbitant. The lack of water meant that fresh vegetables could not be grown and limited water supplies were drawn from wells and water soaks in creeks.
Amongst these residents was Frederic Cavenagh who travelled to Arltunga as an assayer.
He recognised the potential of the low lying open areas over the range as an agricultural food bowl and took up the lease of Ambalindum Station in 1906 where he proceeded to raise sheep and grow vegetables. Up until 1942, sheep were the primary stock and were herded by the local aboriginal people to protect them from dingoes. The old stone ruin was once the shearing shed and the wool was taken from there and washed in the creek 500 meters away in the gully.
Claraville, nearby Ambalindum also offered a source of food. Frederic and his wife Caroline planted extensive vegetable gardens that sold produce once a week to the miners at Arltunga.
Frederic and Caroline built the original part of the homestead in 1908 from bricks made from local creek sand. The trusses were made from mulga trees and today support the roof over the twin room we call “the dungeon”. The other part of the house was built in 1935 and in 1940 the Cavenagh’s joined the two residences together by bridging them with a single roof and putting in a false wooden floor.