When you think of Australia’s Northern Territory (NT), do you imagine red deserts, enormous rocks, and perhaps a few crocodiles sunning themselves in the river? Perhaps, but there’s more to discover when you take a closer look….
With two distinct regions - the 'Top End' to the north and the ‘Red Centre’ to the south – and two different climates, this is true Outback country. You can hike through rainforest then soak in a scenic swimming hole, uncover Aboriginal rock art on cave walls or admire their contemporary dot paintings in a gallery. Camp beneath the stars or retreat to one of Australia’s finest lodges – you can find the perfect balance of discovery and relaxation here. Here are 20 photos to introduce you to the Northern Territory – true Outback Australia.
Sunrise and sunset are the best times to see the spectacular changing colours of Uluru, both the colour of the rock itself and the endless sky above it. During the day, the rock seems to be a brownish orange colour, but both dawn and dusk reveal the fiery red.
Crocodile Dundee springs to mind when you think about the Outback and these mighty reptiles are some of the most famous wildlife in the Northern Territory. Whether you take a Jumping Croc cruise on the Adelaide River or come face to face with them at Crocosaurus Cove, getting to see these fearsome animals is a thrill you won’t forget!
With views to die for, Longitude 131 has long been one of Australia’s most impressive lodges. With nothing in between your luxurious tented pavilion and unfettered views over Uluru, your time here is spent dining under the stars on desert-inspired food and locally foraged herbs, hiking through red rock gorges and simply relaxing and soaking up that five-star view.
The Northern Territory is sometimes characterised as an arid region, but a visit to the vast gorges of Kakadu National Park sets this misconception straight. Two of Kakadu’s most impressive waterfalls are Jim Jim and Twin Falls, filled with gushing water after the monsoon rains but there plenty of other pretty little waterfalls feeding tiny swimming holes to spend the afternoon.
Hiring a campervan in Australia is just one of many ways to experience Uluru. Imagine this view as you wake up in the morning! Many people find it’s the best way to visit, especially if you’re unsure how long you plan to stay or are including a trip to the Red Centre in part of a bigger trip to Australia.
Arnhem Land is one of Australia’s wildest areas, where overhanging rocks are carved with ancient art.’ X-Ray art’, also known as ‘skeleton art’, is a common form, where the shape of the subject is depicted but also the bones and organs inside. These pictures indicate how much the indigenous people understood about anatomy and offer a unique glimpse into an ancient culture – the best way to see them is with the help of a local guide.
This vast art installation near Uluru (Ayers Rock) comes to life as the sun goes down. ‘Field of Light’ has been mesmerising visitors to the Red Centre for two years and is guaranteed to stay until 2020. Watching the sun go down over Uluru as the colourful lights begin to shimmer across the ground is sure to be a lasting memory of your Northern Territory trip.
The towering termite mounds in Litchfield National Park are an impressive sight – some over two metres high and all created facing the same directing to minimise exposure to the sun. It’s incredible that these huge structures have been built by such tiny creatures to create the eye-catching landscape of Litchfield.
Standing so prominently amongst the wide, red, desert, Uluru is clearly a striking landmark. But take a helicopter flight and soaring high above you’ll gain a different perspective on these sacred sites and why they’re considered so special.
Forget the swimming pool – in the Northern Territory you can enjoy gushing waterfalls and emerald pools if you fancy a dip. Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks both have plenty of swimming holes to choose from; our favourite is Sandy Creek Falls in Litchfield, where a short hike will bring you to a plunge pool under the dappled sunlight – perfect for cooling down after a day in the sun.
Imported by Europeans to take on the great desert voyages across the newfound territory, camels have long been a presence in the NT. There are huge feral populations across the country these days, as well as a few doe-eyed creatures in the Red Centre with whom you can hitch a lift across the desert to get to the Sounds of Silence dinner, as well as visiting them on the farms just outside Alice Springs.
Darwin is a tropical, beach-side city and locals flock to sandy Mindil Beach each Friday night where stalls selling aboriginal art, local crafts and souvenirs fill the roadside. Closer to Asia than most Australian cities, Asian fusion food is popular here, from Thai-style curries to Balinese street food, so it’s easy to grab dinner and watch the sun sink into the sea with a splash of pink across the sky.
Classic Aboriginal art takes the form of dot painting but there are plenty of Aboriginal Australian artists who are producing innovative and modern artwork. You can see contemporary Aboriginal designs by visiting the Araluen Arts Centre, a collection of galleries in Alice Springs featuring both local artists and travelling exhibitions.
If you’re looking to experience the Top End in style, head to Bamurru Plains. Set on the edge of the Mary River floodplain, this eco-resort takes luxury glamping to another level. Private safari bungalows, beautifully clear night skies and an inviting infinity pool await you after a day exploring the delta by airboat, where buffalo look up to watch you skim past and crocodiles lurk in the green water.
Driving the lonely road between Katherine and Alice Springs, the sights are few and far between so the Devil’s Marbles are a welcoming sight. Appearing as if balancing on top of each other, these round rocks vary in size from 6 metres in diameter to small enough to wrap your arms around. It’s a novel spot to snap a photo of you appearing to hold the rocks or prise them apart!
Gliding across the desert between Darwin and Adelaide is the Ghan, a 30-carriage train that delivers its passengers from the Top End to the southern coast of Australia in a silver flash of splendour. Cabins range from Gold to Premium and endless luxuries await those onboard, from off train excursions like cruising through Katherine Gorge to indulgent Australian cuisine in the dining car.
The Northern Territory is full of magnificent viewpoints – our favourite is the scenery of Kakadu National Park, as seen from Gunlom waterfall and plunge pool. What better spot to relax in the shade of the gum trees and soak in the views.
An iconic Red Centre experience, the ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner is an enjoyable way to catch sunset over Uluru whilst enjoying a delicious Australian meal. Enjoy canapes as you watch the skies change colour, then you can feast on a barbeque buffet after sun down. Round off the evening with a glass in hand and a spot of stargazing – simply perfect.
If you’re searching for an authentic Aboriginal experience – head to the Tiwi Islands, just 80km north of Darwin by ferry. Bathurst and Melville are the main islands where landscapes change from tropical rainforest to white sand beach over just a few miles. The Tiwi Islands are famous for their Aboriginal art and friendly locals, nicknamed the “Islands of Smiles”.
The red rock peaks of Kata Tjuta are the oft-overlooked little brother of Uluru, yet they’re regularly voted as a highlight by visitors to the Red Centre. Hiking at dawn means you’ll see the deep red rocks that come alive with colour and with a local guide you can learn about the rare plants and trees that are sacred to the local Anangu people.
If you’d like to explore the Red Centre or the Top End, we can show you how to include Darwin, Alice Springs or Ayers rock in a multi-stop ticket. Our experts can tailor-make your Australia holiday with flights, stopovers, trains, accommodation and touring and show you how to combine your visit with other destinations in Australia and further afield.
Call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email to start planning your trip of a lifetime.