The Northern Territory is one of the most sparsely settled environments on the planet, spanning more than 1.4 million square kilometres from the centre to the northerly coast of Australia. Ancient woodlands meet sandy beaches and escarpments tower above lush billabongs in this land of diversity.
The tropical north is home to rich wetlands, wild rainforests and thundering waterfalls. The climate is so varied that the local Aboriginal people recognise six seasons in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
The ocean off the coast of the top of the Northern Territory offers anglers a buzz of excitement while chasing schools of mackerel that are being chased by even bigger schools of shark. Tidal rivers such as the Adelaide River, and calm billabongs, like Yellow Water, are stacked with spitting archer fish and jumping barramundi.
Red desert sand, rainbow coloured rock formations and golden tinted chasms give the Centre a distinct quality. The semiarid environments of the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, Finke Gorge National Park and Watarrka National Park host a variety of flora and fauna, such as Spinifex grass and the thorny devil.
Aboriginal art and culture holds a spiritual connection to the land that dates back tens of thousands of years, yet these experiences can still be shared in the present day. Travellers can walk through the scrub in search of bush tucker on a cultural tour or visit on of the many ancient rock art galleries in the national parks, such as Kakadu or Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Whether it’s climbing the escarpments, viewing rock art, catching fish, exploring the red desert flora and fauna or trekking through chasms in Central Australia, there’s an experience for everyone in the Northern Territory.
Darwin, is the tropical capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory.
Darwin has a relaxed outdoor lifestyle and enjoys warm weather all year round. Perched on a peninsula with sea on three sides, Darwin is an excellent base to explore the natural attractions of World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, Litchfield and Nitmiluk National Parks, the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land.
Darwin was founded as Australia’s most northerly harbour port in 1869, and its population rapidly expanded after the discovery of gold at nearby Pine Creek in 1871. World War II put Darwin on the map as a major allied military base for troops fighting the Japanese in the Pacific.
Today travellers can see evidence of Darwin’s World War II history at a variety of preserved sites including ammunition bunkers, airstrips and oil tunnels in and around the city. Darwin again made world news when the city was rebuilt in the wake of Cyclone Tracy in 1974 - an event well documented at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Its colourful history has contributed to Darwin’s cultural diversity - more than 50 nationalities make up its 100,000 population, including the area's traditional landowners, the Larrakia Aboriginal people. The cultural and culinary benefits of such a melting pot are best experienced at Darwin's weekly markets, variety of restaurants and through the annual calendar of festivals and other Darwin events.
KAKADU & ARNEHM LANDS
Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land comprise more than 110,000 square kilometres in the north-east corner of the Northern Territory.
The landscapes of Kakadu and Arnhem Land are diverse and set the scene for outback adventure travel, aboriginal culture and nature activities. Kakadu National Park is the largest national park in Australia. It contains one of the highest concentrated areas of aboriginal rock art sites in the world; the most famous examples are at Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr. Nature and wildlife abound in this area, which is known for its level of biodiversity. Wholly aboriginal owned land, Arnhem Land is known for its strong aboriginal culture, towering escarpments, wild coastline, savannah woodlands, lush wetlands and prolific wildlife. Closer to Darwin is the Mary River region. This area is renowned for its wetlands and wildlife, and is home to millions of birds, saltwater crocodiles and fish, including the mighty barramundi, which makes it a fishing hot spot.
KATHERINE & SURROUNDS
Sweeping from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the West Australian border, the vast Katherine region is full of hidden gems.
Its diverse landscapes and unique ecosystems set the scene for outback adventure activities like fishing, canoeing, bushwalking, birdwatching, camping and four-wheel driving.
The outback meets the tropics at Katherine, about 300 kilometres south of Darwin. The township is situated on the banks of the Katherine River, which flows down from the world-renowned Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk National Park). Day trips from Katherine can be taken north to Pine Creek or south to Mataranka. Pine Creek has a strong gold mining heritage, with original buildings dating back to the 1800s, while Mataranka is famous for its tropical thermal pool and nearby Elsey National Park.
The Victoria River region, south west of Katherine, is well known as a premier fishing holiday destination. There are also excellent four-wheel drive tracks and camping spots.
Further north, the Daly River region is another spot popular for fishing and camping travellers with hot springs, gorges and rivers. The remote Gulf region, east of Katherine, is perfect for adventurous anglers who enjoy fishing in remote rivers.
TENNANT CREEK & SURROUNDS
Tennant Creek in Central Australia sits on the Explorer’s Way, 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs and 1000 kilometres south of Darwin.
The town is surrounded to the east by the Barkly Tablelands - a huge expanse of land that supports some of Australia’s premier outback cattle stations.
Tennant Creek is also known as the Territory’s heart of gold; a reference to the friendliness of its people and the area’s gold mining history. Australia’s last gold rush took place here in the 1930s, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about it at attractions around the town. Visitors can even try fossicking for their own gold.
Prior to the gold rush era, Tennant Creek’s first European residents were workers on the Overland Telegraph Line, which established a communication link between Australia and the rest of the world. The Telegraph Station was built in 1872, and this historical collection of stone buildings can be explored today.
Aboriginal culture is strong in Tennant Creek. The traditional land owners of this area are the aboriginal Warumungu people, and they recognise a number of sacred sites in the area, including the region’s most famous landmark – the Devils Marbles – about 100 kilometres south of the town. They believe that these are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent – a creature of a Dreamtime story. The Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre in Tennant Creek is an award-winning aboriginal attraction that showcases the people’s stories and art.
ALICE SPRINGS & SURROUNDS
The heart of Central Australia is comprised of cavernous gorges, boundless desert landscapes, remote Aboriginal communities and a charming pioneering history. Alice Springs was established by the early explorers and remains as the centre of activity in this region.From the early 1900s, the vast desert of Central Australia was explored for its promise of rubies and gold. Today, north of Alice is an adventure travel destination where visitors can still fossick for gems and explore the Australian desert while trekking, camping or four-wheel driving.North-west of Alice, along the Tanami Track and south of Alice Springs in the Simpson Desert, the art styles and stories of the Aboriginal people give meaning to the surrounding landscape. The most well-known natural highlights of Central Australia are the East and West MacDonnell Ranges that straddle Alice Springs and run for 223 kilometres. Visitors to the NT’s Red Centre can enjoy views of dramatic scenery, bushwalking, swimming, four-wheel driving or quad-bike riding.
ULURU KATA-TKUKA & SURROUNDS
Rising from the broad desert plain in the deep centre of Australia. Uluru Ayers Rock is Australia's most recognisable natural icon.
The famous sandstone monolith stands 348 metres high and, like an iceberg, has most of its bulk below the surface.
It is located 440 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. 40 kilometres to the west of Uluru/Ayers Rock is Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas. This massive pile of rock domes dates back 500 million years.
Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta have great aborioginal cultural significance for the Anangu traditional landowners, who lead walking tours that inform about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories of the area.
Watarrka National Park, encompassing Kings Canyon, lies 300 kilometres to the north-east of Uluru and 310 kilometres west of Alice Springs. Kings Canyon has 300-metre-high sandstone walls, walking trails, palm-filled crevices and views across the desert.