8 Things to Do in the Northern Territory
Published 09 August 2016
Welcome to the Northern Territory, a dusty, russet-hued land of sheer cliffs, deep canyons and shimmering billabongs, otherwise known as the Outback. Come here to get away from it all; to find peace, tranquillity and one rather large rock, right in the middle of the desert. These are our suggestions of the top eight things to do while you’re here:
Hike the rim of Kings Canyon
The vast chasm and dramatic high walls of Kings Canyon are found in scenic Watarrka National Park, a truly spectacular area of wild bush dotted with refreshing waterholes. Appreciate the nature of the landscape by quad bike or camel, or walk the four-mile rim trail for stupendous views of the red-hued domes and cliffs and the dusty desert beyond. This 3.5-hour hike begins with 400 steps uphill, but don’t let that put you off – the views from the top are definitely worth the slog. Start early though, because it’s hot hot hot here in the desert.
Shop for Aboriginal art in Alice Springs
Over 930 miles from the nearest city, Alice Springs is a dusty desert settlement and gateway to Uluru and the Red Centre. Although at first glance the town may seem like it doesn’t have all that much to offer, take a closer look and you’ll find plenty of cafés and boutiques to explore, as well as Alice Springs Desert Park, where you can observe some of the Outback’s smaller critters in their natural habitat. Alice is also a great place to pick up some authentic Aboriginal art – try the markets and art galleries for fine examples of striking and brightly-coloured Aboriginal dot paintings.
Canoe Katherine Gorge
Within the boundaries of Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine Gorge is actually a series of 13 gorges, all carved out by the Katherine River as it flows through the region, leaving 328 miles of sheer cliffs, caves, nooks and crannies in its wake. The best way to explore is by canoe, easily a full day’s activity, although overnight camping trips are also possible. You’ll paddle past Aboriginal rock art, riverside beaches, and rocky pools, and there are plenty of places to jump in and cool off with a dip.
Look out for crocodiles
The Northern Territory is home to some 250,000 crocodiles, so makes an ideal wildlife watching stop. Try Litchfield National Park or the Adelaide River near Darwin, known for its jumping crocs. If you’re lucky, you might spot Brutus, the infamous three-legged beast thought to measure 5.5 metres long. If rumours are to be believed, he has an even larger six-metre-long brother nicknamed The Dominator.
Cruise Kakadu National Park’s wetlands
It’s not just Litchfield though; Kakadu National Park’s rugged gorges are home to an array of wildlife too. Join a cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong and see if you can spot kangaroos, wallabies, or even one of the 26 resident bat species. It’s pretty laid-back here, with plenty of lush greenery, and lily pads covering the calm waters. Keep an eye out for Aboriginal paintings, which you’ll find inside Kakadu’s caves – some examples are over 50,000 years old.
Dine under the stars in Uluru
Uluru’s giant monolith is impressive no matter what time of day you visit, be it during the soft browns and reds of dawn, the bright orange of daytime or the mauves and lilacs of sunset. On the Sounds of Silence tour, you’ll watch the sunset soften Uluru’s colours and then, as the stars light up across the sky, you’ll tuck into an al fresco gourmet meal and sip fine Australian wines as an astronomer points out the constellations twinkling above you.
See the ‘other Uluru’ at Kata Tjuta
Otherwise known as the Olgas, Kata Tjuta is a collection of giant domed rocks right in the middle of the Red Centre. Being not too far from Uluru and similar in colour and size, Kata Tjuta is often compared with its more famous monolithic neighbour, and it doesn’t come off too badly – in fact some even say that Kata Tjuta’s uneven domes make it more interesting. We’ll leave it to you to decide.
Ride the Ghan Train from Darwin to Adelaide
One of Australia’s legendary long-distance rail journeys, the Ghan Train whisks passengers 1,851 miles between Adelaide and Darwin via Alice Springs in around 54 hours. You don’t have to ride the whole route in one go of course; there are stop offs at Katherine Gorge, Kakadu National Park and Coober Pedy if you don’t fancy sleeping onboard. Those that do stay over are treated to a comfortable private cabin and an intimate three-course dinner in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant carriage.
Inspired to explore the Red Centre and the Top End? Check out our Northern Territory in Depth Journey, which includes visits to Uluru, Kings Canyon and Kakadu National Park, plus a ride on the luxury Ghan Train.