The Best Time to Visit the Northern Territory
The outback by seasons
When it comes to climate, the Northern Territory can be split into two zones: the Red Centre around Alice Springs and Uluru, which experiences considerable variation in weather across the four seasons; and the Top End near Darwin, Katherine and Kakadu, which has just two seasons, wet and dry. Where you go and when depends on your interests, but to help you decide, we’ve listed our seasonal suggestions below.
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September - November
Spring is the ideal time to visit the Red Centre. Days are mild, the skies are clear and conditions are perfect for hiking Kings Canyon and visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Temperatures hover in the low 20s, so it’s still warm and sunny, while up in the Top End temperatures are higher – up to 32°C – and days remain dry until the wet season begins in November.
Alice Springs Desert Song Festival: for 10 days in September, celebrate the diversity of Alice Springs with mesmerising performances by local aboriginal choirs.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market: although the market runs from April until October, the clear skies of spring make this a great time for a sunset beach picnic while watching the musicians and fire jugglers.
December - February
By December, the Top End wet season is in full swing, with sunny mornings and building humidity as the day progresses, followed by electric storms in the early evenings. Join the locals on Darwin’s beaches to watch the drama. In the Red Centre there’s thankfully less humidity, but temperatures can hit 40°C, so be sure to bring a hat and drink plenty of water, although nights are much cooler.
New Year’s Eve: on December 31st, get down to Darwin’s waterfront to ring in the new year at the spectacular annual fireworks display.
Wildlife watching: with the rivers in full flow, the Top End is filled with lush greenery in summer, making it the ideal time for wildlife watching cruises in Litchfield National Park.
March - May
Storms cease and temperatures cool as autumn draws in, once again bringing ideal hiking conditions. Uluru, Katherine Gorge, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta are all at their finest, and the clear skies bring spectacular sunsets. The Top End transitions back to the dry season, which begins in May and brings plentiful fish to the rivers and billabongs.
Fishing: as the dry season begins to make an appearance in March and April, join the anglers down on Darwin’s tidal riverbanks to catch barramundi.
Merrepen Community Festival: in late May, head for the Daly River to watch traditional weaving and bush tucker demonstrations and purchase some exquisite indigenous artwork.
June - August
Although winter is the coolest time of year, Top End temperatures still stay between 17 and 23°C at night, and can hit the low 30s in the daytime. Warm days and a lack of humidity mean Darwin buzzes with festivals and fetes. Around Uluru, it’s a different story, with cooler, pleasant days, and temperatures sometimes dropping below freezing at night, bringing frost.
Darwin Beer Can Regatta: in July, one of Australia’s quirkier festivals sees participants race in elaborately designed boats made from empty beer cans, many of which sink, adding to the fun.
Birdwatching: in August and September up to a third of Australia’s bird species descend upon the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve near Darwin, so get down there and tick them off your birdwatching list.