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The Northern Territory is a very underrated Australian state. Many international visitors will often overlook it or simply head to Uluru only. Here are 11 reasons why you should definitely make more time to explore the Northern Territory when visiting Australia.
Darwin has a tropical savanna climate. This means it has distinct wet and dry seasons, but the average maximum temperature is similar year-round. The best time to visit Darwin and the Northern Territory is between May and September. This is the dry season, which equates to beautiful blue skies, warm days and low humidity. What more could you want during an Australian winter?
Speaking of Darwin, the northernmost capital city in Australia is worth a visit. It was named Port Darwin in 1839 by John Clements Wickham, in honour of his former shipmate, Charles Darwin. It has also been nearly entirely rebuilt four times, due to three devastating cyclones and Japanese air raids in WWII. Darwin is home to the renowned Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, Crocosaurus Cove, and recreational and wave lagoons for families. It’s also a great place to base yourself for day trips to national parks and natural hot springs.
If you want an unforgettable crocodile experience in the Northern Territory, but the Cage of Death doesn’t appeal, then check out the jumping crocodiles of the Adelaide River. Located about an hour’s drive from Darwin, there are several tour companies along the Adelaide River that do daily jumping crocodile cruises in the dry season. They know the saltwater crocodiles by name, as they jump out of the water to reach buffalo meat dangling off a pole on the boat.
Yes, other Australian states do have gorgeous beaches. But the Northern Territory has some very impressive and scenic swimming holes. This includes Gunlom Plunge Pool in Kakadu National Park, with its panoramic views; Ormiston Gorge in West MacDonnell National Park; as well as the natural hot springs at Bitter Springs and Mataranka.
Operated by Great Southern Rail, The Ghan is considered one of the world’s greatest rail journeys. The Ghan Expedition from Darwin to Adelaide lasts for three nights and four days, and includes stops in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. From the comfort of your seat, The Ghan says you’ll see diverse and changing landscapes: “From the pastoral hues of the South Australian plains, the rusty reds of the MacDonnell Ranges and the tropical greens of Katherine and Darwin.”
The Northern Territory is home to two incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There’s Kakadu National Park, which is home to very important wetlands and Aboriginal rock art that’s over 18,000-years-old. Then there’s Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This is home to both the Olgas and Uluru, which is a sacred site for the local Aboriginal people.
There are even more amazing national parks than the two World Heritage-listed ones mentioned above. Litchfield National Park is a great day trip option from Darwin, where you can swim under Florence Falls, see magnetic termite mounds and explore the Lost City. Next is Watarrka National Park, which is home to Kings Canyon and its impressive panoramic vistas. Then there’s Nitmiluk National Park, which is where you’ll find Katherine Gorge.
One of the world’s oldest living groups, Australian Aborigines first arrived over 50,000 years ago, and today there are over 40 different indigenous language groups in the Northern Territory. See Aboriginal rock art in several national parks, visit a traditional Aboriginal community on the remote Tiwi Islands, and learn more about Uluru’s sacredness from a local Aboriginal guide or at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.
The Northern Territory is home to such a variety of landscapes — from the desert to wetlands. There’s the sandstone monolith that is Uluru and the ancient sandstone cliffs in Katherine Gorge. Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is home to sacred granite boulders. Then you have the arid desert landscape of the Great Sandy, Simpson and Tanami Deserts. Finally, monsoon rainforest is found in Kakadu National Park’s southern region. The Northern Territory will constantly surprise you.
There are less than 250,000 people residing in the entire Northern Territory; whereas Sydney’s population sits at over five million people. So if your idea of a perfect vacation includes exploring remote and rural national parks, and seeing the stars at night, head to the Northern Territory.