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Searching for a destination that combines astonishing nature and adventurous activities with lush tropical towns and cultural hotpots? Then look no further!
The Northern Territory (NT) is the destination for you.
With an area the six times the size of Britain, the Northern Territory is home to various bucket list worthy destinations and activities and is a must-visit when traveling to Australia. You will have the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating Aboriginal culture, spot Australia’s famous wildlife, and experience the authentic Outback hospitality. Do we need to go on?
In this blog multiple highlights are listed from the southern part of the NT (Red Centre) all the way up to the most Northern part. Each spot will provide you with heaps of fun, unforgettable memories and amazing adventures in its own distinctive way.
The Red Centre of Australia, the area in central Australia renowned for the red sand in the region, has more highlights to see than just Uluru (Ayers Rock).
There’s a vast expanse of country with both geological and cultural highlights to be discovered. The area is geological playground, a place where slowly more is revealed the more you look and understand
For some, just driving down the rich red dirt roads is a highlight. For others, exploring the Western MacDonnell Ranges is an unexpected highlight.
Find out a little more about these places you can see on Red Centre tours here:
- Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Everyone’s favourite rock monolith, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is at times breathtaking in its enormity and beguiling as its colour changes at sunrise and sunset. The rock has been around for millions of years and its 348 meters high. To see the immensity of ‘the rock’ loom out of the desert at dawn darkness and slowly become illuminated really is wonderful sight. It is one of the main highlights that people from all around the world come to see. Fun Fact: It is believed that a big part of the Uluru (Ayers Rock) extends underground with an astonishing 2,5 kilometres.
2. Kata Tjuta
translated from the local Aboriginal language means “many heads”. The name is a reflection of the domed rock formations that could be imagined to be heads protruding from the ground.
The first European explorer to the area in 1872, Ernest Giles, named the highest dome Mt Olga at the request of his patron Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Von Mueller had recently been made a baron by Queen Olga of Württemberg and her husband King Charles I of Württemberg. Collectively the domes have commonly become known as ‘the Olgas’
The domes are a harder basalt formation that have been revealed as the surrounding land has been eroded away over the millennia.
Kata Tjuta lies 55km from Ayers Rock Resort and Airport within its own National Park. Several walks are possible in this area, the most popular of which is the ‘Valley of the Winds’ walk. Many areas of the park have restricted access because of their ongoing significance to the local Anangu people. The rock structures create cooler, shaded areas and their airy curves make for unusual contrasts in the desert environment.
All tours that also visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) will also visit Kata Tjuta.
See one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Golden sand, amazing scenery and a boat tour with lots of chances for snorkelling. The access point for the Whitsunday Islands is from Airlie Beach. From here most travellers go on overnight sailing boats for a 2 day 2 night experience around the 77 Whitsunday Islands. for more info on how to choose the right boat check out our detailed article on which boat to choose.
3. Watarrka (Kings Canyon)
While not technically a canyon (canyons are formed via erosion from a stream or river), Wartarrka, as it is known to the indigenous Luritja people, has been eroded and carved by wind and water over the centuries. The resulting cliffs create an amphitheatre-effect and are a spectacular sight.
You can walk the 7km rim of the canyon where you can stop and peer off the the cliffs. The entire walk might take up to 5 hours depending on your fitness and the time of year. The walk passes the ‘Garden of Eden’ waterhole – a permanent water hole that looks inviting but has fairly stagnant water. It is a relatively steep climb for the first section of the walk and a fairly steep descent. Those walking in the heat of summer or not in good health should consider their alternative options here.
Another significant feature seen on the walk are the weathered domes of rock known as the ‘Lost City’. Wartarrka (Kings Canyon) is 3-4 hours drive from both Ayers Rock Resort and Alice Springs. A popular option is to take an optional helicopter ride into the canyon for an aerial view.
Most tours that travel to Uluru (Ayers Rock Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) also travel to Wartarrka (Kings Canyon).
4. Camel Farm
Camels were introduced into Australia in the 19th century to assist overland desert journeys to supply remote communities and to aid exploration of the interior of Australia. Today, camels run feral in the outback and they are also farmed and exported. Most tours will stop at an outback camel farm to see camels. You will also have the option (at own expense) to go for a short ride on a camel.
5. Oak Valley Aboriginal Community
Nestled in the Western MacDonnell Ranges, the Oak Valley community live in a pristine environment. Here you can spend time with the local Traditional Owners of the land, be shown rock carvings and petroglyphs. You will travel to Oak Valley on the 5-day 4WD Kangaroo Dreaming tour.
6. Glen Helen
Glen Helen is situated in the pretty Western MacDonnell Ranges. The rugged red rocks have many gorges cut into them by streams and waterholes. it makes for a great place to explore and stay in permanent camps. You will go to this region on the 4WD tours departing from Alice Springs.
Another beautiful spot to stopover when visiting the Western MacDonnell Ranges is Ormiston Gorge. It is a sheltered area with a water hole that is usually present year-round. This makes it a great place for wildlife spotting and creates an environment for diverse plant life. The rocky scenery is inspiring in its craggy texture and changing colours as the light changes at sunrise and dusk
7. The Devils Marbles
The Devils Marbles, or Karlu Karlu to the area’s traditional owners, are situated on the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin. These naturally perched granite boulders look like they are about to roll away like giant marbles. It’s a great spot to stop as it is situated just off the highway and a perfect location to capture some unique photos. The granite was once encased in the surrounding sandstone rock, but over the years the sandstone has eroded away leaving the harder granite rock exposed.
All tours travelling between Alice Springs and Darwin both directions will stop at the Devils Marbles.
8. Outback red dirt roads
If you are taking a 4WD trip in the Red Centre, you will drive along long red dirt roads. It’s an experience in itself. Just you, the vehicle and the wide-open expanse of the outback. It’s a different way of travelling to your normal highways.
You will have the chance to explore Australia’s outback and wildlife on the following tours:
Budget backpacker trips to Uluru which depart from both Ayers Rock and Alice Springs.
Whichever trip you take, you will be blown away by the red dirt and spectacular scenery in Red Centre.
- Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge is located in Nitmiluk National Park, some 244km from Darwin. The beautiful gorge was created by the Katherine River as it cut deeper and deeper into the soft sandstone rock of the area and. The deep sided gorge walls do not only create a spectacular natural amphitheatre through the river flows, but it is also the perfect place to spot wildlife including many bird species and fresh and saltwater crocodiles.
Not only provides the gorge breath-taking viewpoints, there are also multiple awesome optional activities you can choose from:
Canoeing on the Katherine River
Cruise up into the gorge on a scenic cruise
When visiting Nitmiluk National Park make sure to check out Edith falls as well. The hike to the stop of the falls is short and gives superb views of the area, cascading waterfalls and pools to swim in.
You can access the area off the main Stuart Highway at the town of Katherine. Please note that all tours that travel between Alice Springs and Darwin in both directions will stop at Katherine Gorge.
2. Kakadu National Park
Kakadu is a World Heritage Listed environment. The animals and plants are often unique to this environment. The National Park status in itself is a reflection of this. The cultural heritage of the Aboriginal Traditional Owners adds another layer of interest.
From the rocky outcrops to the floodplains, from the crocodiles to the Aboriginal rock art, from the waterfalls to the abundant birdlife – there’s something of interest around every corner.
3. Litchfield National Park
Just a relatively short drive from Darwin, Litchfield National Park is renowned for its accessible waterfalls and swimming holes. Wangi, Tolmer and Florence Falls are the most notable waterfalls.
In need of a refreshing swim? Then Buley Rockhole is a great place to enjoy the picturesque scenery and escape the heat in the freshwater creek.
4. Mary River Wetlands
Lying just outside Kakadu National Park, the Mary River wetlands have the highest number of wild saltwater crocodiles per square kilometre of any area in Australia. Not only that the rich habitat of the wetlands supports abundant birdlife. All tours that travel to Kakadu National Park include a 90-minute guided wildlife cruise to see crocodiles and get a better understanding of this important eco-system.
5. Gunlom Falls
Gunlom Falls is accessible in the drier months. The falls won’t necessarily be flowing but you will be able to swim in a natural infinity pool that looks out over the lower landscape and offers great views. It’s a steep climb up to Gunlom Falls taking around 30 minutes and not for the faint hearted. Slow and steady is the key here, but it’s well worth the climb as the infinity pool is spectacular.
6. Maguk (Barramundi Gorge)
Visiting the NT during the drier period?
Then Maguk should be on your visiting list. It is one of the few waterfalls in Kakadu National Park which has a constant flow. Additionally, it provides its visitors with a pristine natural plunge pool.
The perfect spot to cool down and enjoy the beautiful landscapes.
7. Jim Jim Falls
Jim Jim Falls is only accessible by 4WD vehicle in the dry season (June-September). It’s a highlight of Kakadu National Park and one of the most famous waterfalls to visit in the park. You will walk along Jim Jim Creek through the lush undergrowth until you finally reach the large amphitheatre at the bottom of the falls.
You will be able to swim in the plunge pool and rest up on the sandy beach. The walk is relatively flat but challenging with all the boulders to climb over, take your time and enjoy the surrounds as you hike.
8. Twin Falls
After an exciting 4WD drive across creeks and bumping along the bush track, you will park up and walk through the bush deeper into the gorge to Twin Falls. The falls flow year around and the last part of the walk in is along some board walks and you will be ferried on a boat some of the way.
9. Ubirr Rock
Ubirr Rock is a fantastic Aboriginal rock art site and offers grand views over the Arnhem Land floodplains. Your guide will explain the significance of this place and you will see examples of a European ship painted reflecting first contact and extinct species including the Tasmanian Tiger. It’s a fascinating insight into the lives of the Aboriginal people who have and do live in the area over thousands of years. This area has a lot of spiritual significance that can be felt as you explore. Up on top of Ubirr you see vast views of the Kakadu flood plains, realising just how large and wondrous this area is.
10. Arnhem Land
Access to Arnhem Land is restricted and getting a permit to travel here means the best way to experience this remote area is on a tour. Exceptional rock art at Injalak Hill can be seen as well as seeing traditional and contemporary artworks at the Injalak Art centre. Arnhem Land area covers about 34,000 square kilometres with an estimated population is around 16,000. It is one of the largest aboriginal reserves in Australia and with many Aboriginal Rock Art sites to see here.
The Northern part is a region that has many tropical seasons including a wetter season (summer – December to February) through to a drier season (winter – June to August). All year though you can explore this vast area on tour.