The Northern Territory is home to a plethora of national parks and isolated towns. If you’re trying to decide where exactly to visit in the state, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover the best destinations in the Northern Territory.
Darwin is the Northern Territory’s capital city. It was named after Charles Darwin and has been nearly entirely rebuilt four times, due to destructive cyclones and WWII Japanese air raids. Darwin experiences a tropical savanna climate, which means it has two distinct seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is the best time to visit, when the weather is warm but humidity is low. Things to do in Darwin including visiting the Waterfront Precinct, Crocosaurus Cove, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Mindil Beach and the Botanic Gardens.
Litchfield National Park is the perfect day trip from Darwin. Many locals visit on the weekends to cool down in the swimming holes at Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole. For bushwalkers, there’s the 39-kilometre (24-mile) Tabletop Track, or the more serene 3.5-kilometre (two-mile) Walker Creek trail. Another two attractions that bring people to Litchfield National Park are the magnetic termite mounds and the Lost City, which includes a series of large freestanding sandstone formations that look like ancient city ruins.
The World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park covers an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometres (7,722 square miles). See ancient Aboriginal rock art sites at Nourlangie and Ubirr, which is known for its spectacular sunsets. Cruise the Yellow Water billabong; swim at Maguk, Jim Jim Falls or Gunlom Plunge Pool with its panoramic views; or take a scenic flight and see Australia’s biggest national park from the air.
Northern Territory Tourism says Katherine is where the “Outback meets the tropics.” Located 320 kilometres (200 miles) southeast of Darwin, there’s a lot to see and do around the small town. Firstly, there’s Nitmiluk National Park and its world famous Katherine Gorge. Then there’s Elsey National Park, which is best known as the setting of Australian novel, We of the Never Never. Here you’ll find Mataranka Thermal Pool and the less crowded — but nonetheless pretty — Bitter Springs. Finally, Cutta Cutta Caves is one of Australia’s only tropical limestone cave systems.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas) are both beautiful destinations to visit within this World Heritage-listed national park. The large red sandstone monolith that is Uluru is said to have begun forming over 550 million years ago. Uluru is culturally and spiritually significant to the local indigenous Anangu people. The Olgas are another ancient red rock formation within the national park. Both sights are best seen at sunrise or sunset, when the sun makes them change colour.
Alice Springs is a very remote town. However, it’s a great destination to base yourself in the Northern Territory, as there are plenty of things to do around Alice Springs. Firstly, there are the West MacDonnell and Finke Gorge National Parks. Then there’s the Alice Springs Desert Park that “seamlessly blends the plants, birds, animals and people of our arid regions within one tourism and conservation facility.” There’s also the Olive Pink Botanic Garden and the Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
Speaking of West MacDonnell National Park, it’s a destination in itself. It’s home to several enticing permanent waterholes, including Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Redbank Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. There are also many walking trails, but the most extensive is the 223-kilometre (139-mile) Larapinta Trail, which stretches through the national park. Finally, don’t miss the ochre pits, which local Aboriginal people have used for generations, in paintings and for body decorations.
Watarrka National Park is best known as the home of Kings Canyon. The Luritja people have called the area home for over 20,000 years. With its 100 metre-high red sandstone walls and expansive desert views, Kings Canyon is an unique place. The best way to experience it is via the six-kilometre (3.7-mile) Rim Walk. Take time to visit the lush and permanent waterhole at Garden of Eden, as well as the weathered rock formations of the Lost City.
Arnhem Land is one of the world’s least inhabited regions, so it’s the epitome of an off-the-beaten-path destination in the Northern Territory. It’s known for untouched fishing habitats, where you can catch species like barramundi, Spanish mackerel and coral trout. When in Arnhem Land, visit Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, which is home to authentic Aboriginal bark paintings and carvings. Ensure you also check out East Woody Island and Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.
The Tiwi Islands are located 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Darwin. The two main inhabited islands are Bathurst and Melville Islands. Nicknamed the Island of Smiles, the indigenous Tiwi people are known for their art and love of AFL. People can visit the Tiwi Islands via a scenic flight or the ferry. There are cultural day trips available from Darwin as well, where a local guide shares the islands’ history and takes you to a museum and art-making workshop.