Guide to the Northern Territory

An adventure seeker's mecca, the Northern Territory teems with spellbinding national parks, Aboriginal culture, clear waterholes, desert monoliths and tropical town charms. Guide to the Northern Territory
Site Requires Javascript - turn on javascript!

Guide to the Northern Territory

An adventure seeker's mecca, the Northern Territory teems with spellbinding national parks, Aboriginal culture, clear waterholes, desert monoliths and tropical town charms.


By Jennifer Pinkerton

The Northern Territory is vast, extending from the centre of Australia's map, near Uluru and the town of Alice Springs, to the coastal capital city of Darwin and its neighbouring islands.

Despite its geographical footprint, this is a territory rather than a state because of its small population. Just over 250,000 people live here – less than half the headcount in Tasmania.

A village feel makes Territorians some of the friendliest folk you'll find. Strong indigenous cultures offer thriving art practices, ancient storytelling and deep spiritual tradition. And diverse national parks provide striking landscapes.

Above all, the Northern Territory is fun. To venture beyond Australia's big cities to the Outback of the Red Centre and the Top End tropics is to launch yourself into an out-of-the-ordinary travel experience. The Northern Territory is a place that stays with you. 

HOW TO GET THERE

To explore Central Australia, catch the Ghan train from South Australia, or fly into Alice Springs with Qantas or Virgin Airways. Alice Springs is a two hour flight from Sydney. To arrive in the Top End, continue north on the Ghan or fly into Darwin with Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar or Tiger Air. Darwin is a 4 1/2 hour flight from Sydney. If you don't mind long distances, the Northern Territory is an ideal road trip destination – hire a campervan from Alice Springs or Darwin.
 

DON’T MISS 

  • See the glowing red monolith Uluru at sunset
  • Swim below towering waterfalls in Kakadu
  • Eat Asian food at Darwin's markets

Northern Territory Highlights

TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY 

See sunset at Uluru
Standing 350 metres (1150 feet) high, ringed by ghost gum trees and waterholes, Uluru is a giant sandstone rock and a spiritual Dreaming site for the local Aboriginal Anangu people. Uluru is at its most captivating at sunset when the rock's surface shifts through a gamut of colours. Spend an afternoon walking the 10.6 kilometre (6.6 mile) base trail before relaxing at one of the two designated sunset viewing area.

Walk the West MacDonnell Ranges
Drive 110 kilometres (68 miles) beyond Alice Springs to the gentle West Macs, a landscape characterised by ochre soil, cliffs and royal blue skies. Swimmable creeks and semi-arid desert walks abound. Ormiston Gorge is a jewel in the West Macs crown. Its four hour Pound Walk leads visitors into an ancient valley, across a dry creek bed and past a shimmering waterhole flanked by ghost gums. 

Swim at Mataranka Thermal Pool
Further north, 420 kilometres (260 miles) shy of Darwin, luxurious 34° Celsius (93° Fahrenheit) waters that glow turquoise due to their mineral content lie inside Elsey National Park. The sandy-bottomed Mataranka Thermal Pool is alive with fish and freshwater turtles. Explore it with a snorkel in hand. The site's sister lagoon, Bitter Springs, is a 10 minute drive away. 

Canoe inside Nitmiluk National Park
With a network of 13 gorges that cradle the Katherine River, Nitmiluk National Park is ideal to explore by canoe, thanks to its placid waters, scenic surrounds and low-lying rock shelves. Hire a canoe from Nitmiluk Tours (AUD$57) and paddle your way to Butterfly Gorge for a picnic and swim. Or escape the busier gorges and take a guided three day canoeing tour (AUD$1090) with Gecko Canoeing

Take a scenic flight over Kakadu
World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is famous for its dramatic waterfalls, and hosts all six of the Top End's ecosystems: stone country, wetlands, savanna woodlands, tidal flats, hills and basins and flood plains. See it from above on a scenic flight

Eat at Darwin's Mindil Market 
The lively Mindil Beach Sunset Market runs on Thursday and Sunday nights from April to November and features street performers, kids’ rides, musicians, craft stalls and an eclectic range of Asian food stalls. Try local favourites such as a Thai papaya salad (AUD$6.50), or be bold and visit Go On Be Game, a stall serving kangaroo, crocodile and buffalo fillet burgers (AUD$12). 

Laze around Litchfield National Park
About 115 kilometres (70 miles) from Darwin, Litchfield National Park's Buley Rockhole is a series of descending, connected swimming pools with clear waters. Secure a small site all to yourself and lounge about as the stream bubbles past. From here, continue on to the park's signature swimming hubs, Wangi and Florence Falls

Get an art fix on the Tiwi Islands
Dubbed the Islands of Smiles, the Tiwis – 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Darwin – are accessible via charter plane (AUD$925) and boat (AUD$335). Take a three day trip (AUD$1485) with Sail Darwin and visit the islands' key art centres. The Tiwis specialise in wooden sculptures, traditional painting and vibrant, modern fabric designs. Artists are often around to have a chat and share the stories behind their creations. 

latest articles about the northern territory

Darwin's Arts Precincts

Darwin's Arts Precincts

Art is everywhere in Darwin, with inner-city Parap fast becoming a hub for contemporary and Aboriginal galleries. See the future of Darwin art in these exciting arts spaces, which showcase both emerging and established artists. Browse Aboriginal art from across the Northern Territory and view cutting-edge contemporary works, from audio installations to photography. Afterwards, check out Darwin's other galleries or join a tour to discover the colourful art and craft of the Tiwi Islands.

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite
Henley-on-Todd Regatta

Henley-on-Todd Regatta

On the last Sunday in August, Alice Springs holds a sailing and rowing regatta on a dry river bed. The outback makes you bonkers. How else can you explain the Henley-on-Todd – an annual sailing and rowing regatta held on a dry river bed in Alice Springs?

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite

More articles like this

Guide to Darwin

Guide to Darwin

With everything from Asian food markets and crocodile encounters to open-air movies and sunset cruises, Darwin may be laid-back but it could never be described as dull.

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite
Guide to Litchfield National Park

Guide to Litchfield National Park

Stunning waterfalls, natural pools and a dramatic landscape lure visitors to Litchfield National Park.

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite
Guide to Arnhem Land

Guide to Arnhem Land

Bordered by Kakadu National Park, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land is a vast, unspoiled wilderness area of more than 97,000 square kilometres (37,452 square miles). Rich in Aboriginal culture, Arnhem Land offers unique indigenous experiences, rock art and some of the best fishing in the world.

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite
Katherine

Katherine

The Northern Territory's Katherine region stretches from Dunmarra in the south to the Daly River region in the north. In total it covers an incredible 480,000 sq kilometres. From east to west it touches both the Queensland and West Australian borders. Katherine and its surrounds are the place to go for true outback adventure and indigenous experiences.

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite
Fishing in the Barra Build-up

Fishing in the Barra Build-up

Snare a prize barramundi during the Northern Territory's ‘build-up'. Lasting from October to December, this pre-monsoon season brings a barra bonanza to the billabongs and estuaries of the Top End. Discover the fishing hot-spots around Darwin Harbour or share the shore with professional anglers on the Daly River. Take a heli-fishing trip to Adelaide River or find the promised barra waters along Mary River. In World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, you can cast your line from a boat in South and East Alligator River. Hire a boat, join a fishing charter with experienced guides or stay at a remote fishing lodge. However you angle it, a fishing holiday in the build-up offers both barramundi and the wild, natural beauty of the Top End.

View more information

Add to your dream trip Add to your favourites add favourite

make your trip happen

Property Type
Hotel Class
Price Range
Type
Main Course

Prices are indicative

Liquor Licence
OOPS! The search results for your query are currently unavailable. We apologise for any inconvenience. Please try again later.
loading