The Northern Territory spans Australia’s Top End and Red Centre. The NT has rich Aboriginal traditions, magnificent scenery, and unique country communities, but just 1% of the continent’s population. The NT is full of exciting things to do and see year-round. Read on for our Northern Territory travel guide.
Darwin – Best Places Northern Territory of Australia
Darwin is a 4-hour flight from Sydney. The Timor Sea and Kakadu National Park surround this tropical metropolis. The city of 150,000 is on Larrakia Indigenous territories.
Darwin is a great location for exploring the Northern Territory, with abundance of restaurants, hotels, and tour operators.
Crocosaurus Cove offers Australia’s only crocodile cage dive, and World War II sites abound. Mindil Beach Sunset Markets on Sundays have local cuisine and souvenirs.
Kakadu is synonymous with the Northern Territory. It’s Australia’s largest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for ecological and cultural features. Gunlom Plunge Pool, Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) rock art gallery, Yellow Water Billabong are highlights.
You may easily spend three days or more touring the area, so reserve one of the dozens of campgrounds, resorts, or hotels. Bininj and Mungguy are Kakadu’s traditional custodians. Take a tour with an Aboriginal guide if feasible.
Litchfield National Park – Best Places Northern Territory of Australia
Litchfield National Park is a 1.5-hour drive from Darwin and is known for its waterfalls. If you’d like to stay longer, there are campgrounds on site.
Florence Falls, Wangi Falls, and Tjaynera Falls have hiking routes and bathing spots. Before opening, park officials check for saltwater crocodiles. Check the park website before venturing out, especially during the wet season.
The Tiwi Islands
The Tiwi Islands off Darwin have a renowned artistic culture. Due to seclusion from the mainland, the Tiwi people established a distinct civilization and creative style some 20,000 years ago.
Tiwi Design and Patakijiyali Museum are on Bathurst Island, while Jilamara Arts and Crafts and Munupi Arts Centre are on Melville Island.
Thursdays and Fridays, a ferry travels 2.5 hours to Bathurst Island. Day flights are possible. Outstation Art in Darwin shows work from Tiwi and other Indigenous tribes.
Katherine – Best Places Northern Territory of Australia
Katherine is the Outback’s entrance, 3 hours from Darwin. The town is a centre for mining and defense employment in the NT.
Nitmiluk National Park, near Katherine, has Nitmiluk Gorge, Edith Falls, and Jawoyn rock art. Take a river cruise or canoe trip through the gorges. Take a helicopter to a private bathing hole for utmost luxury. Before you go, stop at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre.
Mataranka’s thermal pools draw trekkers and RVers 1 hour south of Katherine. Visit the Never Never Museum (named after a classic Australian novel situated in Mataranka) to learn about the Mangarayi and Yangman people, the North Australian Railway, and World War II in the region.
Elsey National Park has streams, hiking paths, historical monuments, and a reconstructed early white settlement homestead in Mataranka. Mataranka’s 200 residents offer minimal lodging and food.
Alice Springs is midway between Darwin and Adelaide. The village provides a starting point for excursions of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, and the MacDonnell Ranges. Uluru has an airport for those who want to go straight to the rock.
On Arrernte land, Alice has 25,000 residents. Araluen Arts Centre, Larapinta Trail, Barra or Red Ochre Grill serve native ingredients.
Most Aboriginal art galleries in the Central Desert settlements near Alice Springs (such Arlpwe, Ampilatwatja, Papunya, and Warlukurlangu) require an appointment.
Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park
This 1,000-square-mile park lies west of Alice Springs. Albert Namatjira’s paintings depict its magnificent terrain.
The Larapinta Trail lets skilled hikers observe the West Macdonnell Ranges. The 150-mile walk is divided into 12 portions that can be done in a day or two. Simpsons Gap, Ochre Pits, Ellery Creek Big Hole, and Ormiston Gorge are popular day trips. Nearby Standley Chasm requires a separate cost. Many Arrernte landmarks are sacred, so obey all signage.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta – Best Places Northern Territory of Australia
Uluru is a 5-hour trip southwest of Alice Springs. The world’s tallest monolith rises from red dirt. The Anangu have long asked visitors not to climb the rock, and as of 2019, climbing is permanently closed.
Cultural experiences, hiking, cycling, camel-riding, and skydiving are all available in the national park. Spend two or three days to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Nearby are hotels, restaurants, and tours.
Watarrka National Park, 3 hours from Uluru, has another magnificent red rock formation. The 300-foot-high canyon walls of Kings Canyon were made famous by the classic Australian film “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
The 3.7-mile Rim Walk offers amazing views of the desert and valley below. The park has hiking paths, camel tours, and lodging.