Northern Territory Travel Guide
With a population that is less than half of Tasmania (despite being Australia’s second largest political division by area), the Northern Territory is a great place to go if you want to get away from civilization. To be completely honest, you’ll find most of its comforts in outposts like Alice Springs and Darwin, but everywhere else, there’s nothing but wide open outback for thousands of kilometres in all directions.
Even if you are a bit tight on time during your visit to Australia, a visit to Uluru is a must, as its natural and cultural significance has made it a national icon. If time is a luxury, discovering its watering holes, cattle stations, and lonely roadhouses will give you a taste of Australian frontier life that may have you longing for wide open spaces not long after returning to a more populated place.
Any traveler visiting the Northern Territory would be remiss if they didn’t include a trip to Uluru in their itinerary. One of the world’s largest outcroppings of rock, this monolithic attraction sticks out from the surrounding desert like a sore thumb.
You may be tempted to climb this landmark, but please refrain from doing so – this rock is regarded as a sacred site by local Aboriginals. Instead, there are trails that will lead you around its base, giving you plenty of angles to gaze up at this natural wonder. Besides, there’s nothing to really look at from the top – just endless red desert. Not exactly worth getting arrested/fined over!
However, not all of the Northern Territory is unproductive desert. As you get closer to the Top End, an increase in annual rainfall makes the land suitable for raising herds of livestock. This has given rise to numerous cattle stations, which can stretch for thousands of square miles per ranch.
While most of these operations are closed to the public, the Katherine Outback Experience welcomes travelers who want to see what life on these massive farms is like. At this attraction, you’ll get to see a 90-minute show hosted by Tom Curtain, an Australian country artist who was a horse trainer before his music career took off.
During your time here, you’ll get to interact with horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and other farm animals, making this attraction perfect for traveling families.
Darwin easily the biggest city in the Northern Territory, making it a great place to go museum hopping. While there are a few worth your time, start by visiting the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
There are a number of highlights, including a wide range of locally produced Aboriginal art, the stuffed remains of a giant croc named ‘Sweetheart’ by wildlife rangers, and an exhibit detailing the swathe of destruction cut by Cyclone Tracey, a tropical storm that hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974.
Situated on Darwin’s hop on hop off tourist bus route, it is easy to include in a comprehensive tour of Darwin – just be sure to set aside at least a couple of hours, as there are numerous exhibits of interest here.
There is also info on the time Darwin was bombed by the Japanese in 1942, but if you want to get an immersive look at that fateful day, be sure to visit the Defence of Darwin Experience. Effectively Australia’s Pearl Harbor, this attraction allows to feel the shock and horror many soldiers and civilians felt that day as more than 180 Japanese aircraft left the capital of the Northern Territory in shambles.
You’ll also find tanks, gun emplacements, and other relics of the Second World War here, making it a must see for any follower of military history.
Despite being located in the same national park, Kata Tjuta often gets ignored by visitors who come to the area to see Uluru. This is to your benefit if you hate crowds, as this slightly smaller but still impressive rock formation is similar to its more famous cousin, all while getting a fraction of the visitors.
There are great hikes that will take you up to the base of these beautiful rocks, but be sure to respect their sacredness – no climbing on Kata Tjuta is allowed. Additionally, you should seriously consider buying a fly net for your head before going on a bush walk, as the bugs here are relentless.
Looking for Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon? When traveling through the Northern Territory, we think you’ll find Kings Canyon to be a worthy competitor. With sheer 100 metre high walls rising above a gorge filled with water and greenery, it is a stunning natural sight to behold.
Just be sure to start your rim walk early in the morning, as this part of the Northern Territory can become uncomfortably hot after 11 am.
Those looking to commune with nature in the Top End have a couple of options available to them. Nitmiluk National Park is the first of these – home to Katherine Gorge, it is a rare body of water in the interior that is free of saltwater crocs in the dry season. As such, it is a popular place for locals and visitors to go swimming during this time.
North of Nitmiluk National Park lies Kakadu National Park. Extending all the way to the tropical north coast of the Northern Territory, this park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the cave paintings and rock carvings found within the bounds of this massive park. In addition to this, there are numerous waterfalls and swimming holes to found within its bounds, so don’t miss it while you are in this corner of Australia.