In the Northern Territory – particularly the tropical Top End – winter can be the perfect time to visit.
By Simon Webster
The Northern Territory is amazing at any time of year, but the mild weather in winter makes this the most popular season for visitors. Territorians, too, love to get out and about and enjoy it. If there’s an idea for an event – however quirky – you can guarantee they’ve thought of it, organised it and put it on. From the Top End (Darwin and Kakadu) down to the Red Centre (Alice Springs and Uluru), winter is the time for getting outside and enjoying life. “In the Top End, it’s our dry season,” says Sara Jentsch, consumer communications executive with Tourism NT. “There’s no humidity – the weather’s perfect. In the Red Centre, the mornings and evenings are cooler, but the days are still warm and sunny. It’s a nice break from the heat and this is our peak time to visit.” With nature more accessible and plenty of events to keep you entertained, what are you waiting for?
Plunge into a waterhole
The Top End’s dry season, from May to October, is its coolest time of year. But there’s no need to pack your winter woolies: temperatures can range from 17˚C (63˚F) overnight to 32˚C (90˚F) during the day. That’s still plenty warm enough to enjoy jumping into a waterhole. And there are lots to choose from. Darwin locals love a dip and a barbecue at Berry Springs, just out of town. They also like to head to Litchfield National Park, about 90 minutes from the city, to have a splash beneath Florence Falls and kick back in the mini-waterfalls and natural pools of Buley Rockhole. Pack a picnic and a few cold drinks. There are worse ways to spend a winter’s day.
Explore all corners of Kakadu
Speaking of waterholes, the dry season means Kakadu National Park’s most stunning swimming spots are open for business. Gunlom Falls (Kakadu’s natural infinity pool) and Maguk are among the spectacular pools that tend to be cut off in the wet season but open in the dry. You’ll also find Kakadu’s waterfalls more accessible. Jim Jim Falls, for example, can only be visited by helicopter during the wet, but at this time of year, you can bushwalk right up to the plunge pool at the waterfall’s base.
Dig in to Darwin’s foodie scene
The dry season is also the perfect time to discover why Darwin is gaining a reputation for exciting food. From coconut-crusted crocodile tail to cronuts and coffee, it’s all here, waiting to be tasted. Try al fresco dining on the Darwin Waterfront, grab a takeaway from the funky food trucks that pop up around the city and foreshore, and take a seat at a city centre Asian restaurant such as Hanuman. Whatever you do, don’t neglect to visit a couple of Darwin’s famous markets, which are absolutely buzzing in the dry season. Asian street food at Mindil Beach Sunset Market, accompanied by live music and a spectacular sunset, is hard to beat.
Get all territorian in the Red Centre
Winter is a sensible time to be silly in the middle of Australia, which is why you’ll find some of the Red Centre’s quirkiest events taking place at this time of year. Fancy a day at the races with a difference? Go to the Camel Cup (July) and enjoy the Sport of Kings, Alice Springs-style. Want to see a boat race without the tricky water bit? Visit the Henley on Todd Regatta (August) along the dry bed of the Alice’s Todd River. For something a bit more cerebral – and spiritual – visit the Field of Light installation (until December 2020), which illuminates the desert at Uluru. And keep an eye out for the Parrtjima festival, which will light up the MacDonnell Ranges from late September.
Cruise down Katherine Gorge
It’s the dry season, so make the most of it by walking, canoeing or joining a boat cruise down incredible Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk National Park, a three-hour drive south of Darwin. There are actually 13 gorges to explore in Nitmiluk, offering amazing scenery, swimming holes and Aboriginal rock art. If you’re really keen, take on the Jatbula Trail, a bushwalk of five to six days, and camp along the way. June to September is the best time of year to tackle it. While you’re in the area, have a wander around the Outback town of Katherine, and soak in thermal pools at Mataranka and Bitter Springs. It is winter, after all.
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