A land of stark beauty, sacred aboriginal sites and space, the Northern Territory has always stood apart from the rest of Australia. Vast deserts, wetlands, monsoon rains, red rock canyons and raging rivers instill the spirit of adventure in those who visit, and these same natural features have enabled the local indigenous people to maintain their traditional way of life. Today, travelers flock here from all over the world to see these spectacular sites and learn about the fascinating culture of the tribes that have thrived in this rugged land for thousands of years.
The Red Center , in the south of the territory, is a land of parched deserts, gorges and striking rock formations. Uluru , the iconic red monolith, is one of the region’s best-known features. Northwest of here is the legendary Outback town of Alice Springs , a popular base for wilderness safaris. The tropical Top End, or northern part of the state, includes the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, famous for its crocodile Dundee scenes; beautiful Litchfield National Park; Katherine Gorge; and the aboriginal settlements of Arnhem Land. Also in the Top End is multicultural Darwin , the capital of the Northern Territory.
1 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
In the Red Centre, Uluru National Park, a World Heritage Site, is one of Australia’s best-known tourist attractions. The park’s main features include Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), the 348 m high red monolith that rose from the desert and called the domed rocks Kata Tjuta(the Olgas), which is 40 km away from Uluru. Oxidation or rust of iron in the rock gives the structures their beautiful red color. Both sites hold deep spiritual significance to the traditional owners, the Aṉangu people, who, along with Parks Australia, manage the park. Around dusk, visitors gather at sunset to photograph these impressive structures when the play of color is at its best. To truly appreciate these sacred sites, join a tour led by an Aboriginal guide.
Official Site: https://parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/
Read also: 8 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Kuranda
2 Kakadu National Park
Listed as a World Heritage Site, Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest national park and one of the world’s most spectacular wilderness areas . On the north coast is the intertidal zone, with estuaries, mangrove swamps and tall monsoon rain forests. Inland are the floodplains where rivers follow a winding path to the sea. The slope of the Arnhem Land plateau runs diagonally through the park from southwest to northeast. After heavy rain, water pours over its bare rocks and down the slope in beautiful waterfalls.
Further inland, the gently sloping highland is criss-crossed by the main access roads. The amazing variety of wildlife includes over 70 different species of reptiles, the largest and most dangerous of which is the saltwater crocodile, as well as a wide variety of fish, mammals and birds. In addition to all these natural attractions, the park is home to many sacred native sites and rock paintings. For comprehensive information on the natural history and culture of this unique area, stop by the National Park Visitor Center in Jabiru . Note that seasonal flooding can close some areas of the park – especially during the wet season.
Official site: https://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/index.html
Lying on the Indian Ocean within easy reach of Southeast Asia, multicultural Darwin is the youngest of the Australian state capitals and the Northern Territory’s only seaport. On Christmas Day 1974 Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin with winds of up to 280 km per hour destroying almost the entire city. Unsurprisingly, the recovery of efforts brought strict safety rules for cyclone safety. About half a million visitors flock to this tropical Top End city each year – especially during the dry season. Shoppers love the famous sunset Mindil Beach marketswith Asian style souvenirs, art and snacks. Other highlights include the Darwin Botanic Gardens, the open air Deckchair Cinema, the shops and restaurants of the Darwin Wharf Precinct and the city’s museums – especially the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory with a giant stuffed crocodile and exhibits on Cyclone Tracy. Darwin is also a great base for outback adventures Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park , and Katherine Gorge , and the city is a starting point for tours to the islands in Tiwi Territory and the Cobourg Peninsula, although access is limited.
Official site: https://www.australia.com/en/places/darwin.html
4 Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park
Katherine Gorge belongs to Kakadu National Park and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park as one of the Northern Territory’s three major tourist magnets. The main scenic attraction is the series of gorges, up to 100 m deep, that the Katherine River cuts through the soft sandstone of Arnhem’s southern plateau. During the dry months, the Stuart Rivercarries little water, creating a series of pools separated by rocks and boulders. The river is at its most impressive during the wet season when it rises tumultuously through the narrow gorges. In contrast to the dry sandy and stony soil of the Arnhem Plateau, the perpetual flow of the Katherine River nurtures lush vegetation and diverse wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles and over 160 species of birds. In addition to boat rides through the canyons, visitors can explore the park on foot with routes ranging from a 2-hour hike to the lookout above the first canyon to a 5-day hike to Edith Falls in the park’s northwest. Helicopter tours are also offered.
Official site: www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/parks/find/nitmiluk
5 Litchfield National Park
About an hour and a half drive from Darwin, beautiful Litchfield National Park is a popular day trip from the capital and a great way to experience the Top End wilderness without traveling all the way to Kakadu. The main attractions are the waterfalls and springs on the slope of the Table Top Range . Parkscapes range from forest mosaic forests around the falls and ponds to open woodlands and giant termite mounds. The Lost City is a formation of large sandstone columns near Tolmer Falls in the west of the park. This large protected area offers ample space for bush walking. Visitors can also enjoy a dip in the park’s plunge pools and swimming holes, the ruins of theBlythe Homestead and visit Wangi Falls , one of the most popular swimming and picnic spots. Sealed roads lead to most major attractions, but four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended to access some of the park’s more remote features.
Official Site: https://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/parks/find/litchfield
6 Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park)
Part of the Watarrka National Park and located about halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, Kings Canyon has the deepest canyon in the Red Center. Rising to a height of 100 m, the sandstone walls sometimes look as if they have been cut with a knife. At the bottom of the gorge are perennial waterholes, while the upper part of the gorge, with lush ferns and palm groves, is the Garden of Eden . For the indigenous people of Luritja, this area was sacred and their dwellings and places of worship are decorated with petroglyphs.
On the plateau above the gorge is the Lost City , an area of red sandstone rocks weathered into the appearance of ruined houses and streets. The area is rich in flora and fauna. More than 600 species of endemic plants and animals live in the region. To explore the canyon, visitors can hike the steep 6 km Kings Canyon Rim Walk , which takes about 3-4 hours, or take a shorter hike through the canyon floor to a viewing platform. Scenic flights and camel safaris are also available.
Official Site: https://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/parks/find/watarrka
7 Finke Gorge National Park
Finke Gorge National Park is known for its prehistoric red cabbage palms, which grow in the valley of Palm Creek , a tributary of the Finke River . Extinct elsewhere, the palms are remnants of a much wetter period. The imposing rock formations in the park are also of ritual significance to the Western Arrernte Aborigines. Because of its inaccessibility, Finke Gorge National Park attracted few visitors until a campground was established on Palm Creek, near Palm Valley. Organized tours depart from Alice Springs for visitors without an all-terrain vehicle.
8 Alice Springs
Alice Springs is an oasis in the red-earthed desert and affectionately referred to as ‘the Alice’ by Aussies. It is one of Australia’s most famous Outback towns. It is also an important base camp for trips to Red Center attractions including Uluru , Kata Tjuta , the MacDonnell Ranges , Kings Canyonand the boundless expanse of the outback. Neville Shute’s novel, A Town like Alice, and its movie version propelled this humble town into the international spotlight. Once a dusty outback settlement, Alice Springs was replete with restaurants, luxury hotels, caravan parks, entertainment venues, shops and galleries brimming with Aboriginal art. At the Araluen Cultural Precinct, visitors can learn about the region’s history and Aboriginal culture in the complex of museums and galleries.
Other top attractions include the Alice Springs Desert Park and the Alice Springs Reptile Park, as well as the annual camel races at the end of April and early May. The biggest event of the year, however, is the Henley on Todd Regatta at the start of October, when locals haul boats across the dry riverbed and round off the day with a festival. Adventures abound in the surrounding countryside. Travelers can hike the Larapinta Trail , one of Australia’s most challenging hikes, and drive the Red Midway from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon . Desert safaris on quad bikes, hot air balloon rides and camel rides are also available.
Official site: https://www.thealice.com.au/
9 Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve)
These huge granite boulders, worn and split by weathering, are striking landmarks in a flat expanse of sand. In Aboriginal mythology, these massive rocks falling to the ground or piled on top of each other are the eggs of the rainbow sera and are called Karlu Karlu. The shade they provide and the dew that settles around them provide a habitat for low-growing plants and many birds. Karlu Karlu is a favorite subject for photographers; they are best seen just before sunset.
Official Site: https://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/parks/find/devilsmarbles
10 Simpsons Gap, West MacDonnell National Park
A visit to Simpsons Gap National Park, near Alice Springs , is a great way to experience the rugged topography of the western MacDonnell Ranges . Deep gorges carved by prehistoric watercourses provide a striking contrast to the vast desert-like plains and dunes. Areas of white sand, huge river eucalyptus trees and white-bark ghost gums lead to a permanent waterhole in the shelter of rugged cliffs, which are especially impressive in the slanting late afternoon sun. For the Aranda tribes who live here, the canyon is home to their giant goanna ancestors. Hiking trails lead to quiet spots where rock wallabies appear in the early morning and late afternoon, and Cassia Hilloffers beautiful views of the Larapinta Valley . A 15-mile walk from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap marks the first section of the famous Larapinta Trail , one of Australia’s most famous Outback walks.
Official Site: https://www.nt.gov.au/westmacs/places/simpsons-gap