Northern Territory is one of those places that will blow your mind. It’s all that stark space in the desert, the sacred sites and the extraordinary landscapes that give it that special magic. The Red Centre & The Top End include a plethora of unique adventures and phenomenal sights, it’s the trip of a lifetime.
Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon, The Olgas and Devils Marbles in The Red Centre are fascinating, unique places you will see nowhere else in the world. The Red Centre is one of our favourite places in Australia. But it’s not all about the Red Centre. There’s more to blow your mind! And for us, Northern Territory’s Top End is where our heart lies.
Heading north after visiting the Red Centre, you will enter yet another world as you get to the Top End. The scenery becomes scattered with green scrub that starts multiplying. As does the size of the enormous termite mounds. They are omnipresent throughout the Top End.
Freshwater Swimming & Thermal Rivers in the Top End
Soon you’re so hot, you feel like cooling down in the crystal clear waters that you only see in movies.
Just in time, you arrive at Elsey National Park and Mataranka Thermal Pools. If you don’t stop here, you’re insane. Imagine this – natural thermal pools, cooling freshwater rivers, casual walks to pretty Mataranka Falls, lazy canoeing down the exquisitely scenic Roper River and time to reflect.
We are devoted fans of thermal areas. In fact, we plan our travels around the world based on where there is a thermal spring. Mataranka is not your average thermal spring. In fact, its vivid green waters are a sandy thermal river. And it feels like heaven. It’s one of our favourites in the world.
Enjoy yourself for a few days and stay at the camping ground among the palms, paperbark trees, fruit bats and cockatoos. Indulge in thermal water skinny-dipping all night. Ah, Paradise! You’ll never want to leave, but when you do, you don’t have to travel far before your next compulsory stop.
Katherine Gorge (Nitimiluk National Park)
The attractions here are plentiful – aboriginal rock art, freshwater crocodiles, along with spectacular terrain. Nitimuluk has 13 gorges and miles of walking tracks along the cliff tops and through the valley. There is a camping ground at Edith Falls with a stunning swimming hole and kangaroos coming by at dusk. There are lots of wildlife around and an opportunity to see a real live crocodile.
To get around the area, you can hire bikes or can rent a canoe to travel through the gorge. Alternatively, there are 2-8 hour boat cruises. The ancient sandstone gorge is absolutely fascinating, and it feels like Paradise. The dawn cruises are the best, with fewer tourists. And seeing the rocky outcrops change colour as dawn breaks is a magical experience.
The Top End is a Region Full of Natural Wonders
Further north is Litchfield National Park. As it’s very close to Darwin, it makes a perfect day trip. Litchfield is comparable to the more frequented Kakadu, with its pristine wilderness, its remote scenery and its abundance of wildlife. The big drawcards are the spectacular swimming holes and cascading waterfalls. There are many campsites in the national park and walking tracks with fantastic photo opportunities.
The termite mounds found here are truly amazing. Some are up to 4 metres high. We found them fascinating and have never seen them anywhere else in the world.
The park offers many adventures, and the camp is a peaceful, relaxing place away from the crowds.
Kakadu – World Heritage Listed National Park
And then there’s the highlight – Kakadu National Park. Over 20,000 square kilometres, this World Heritage-listed park is like stepping back in time. With its plethora of birds, wildlife and estuarine crocodiles, this vast wilderness is a visit to another world. Highlights include the ancient Aboriginal rock art sites illustrating captivating Dreamtime stories. There are lush wetlands and cruises on the Yellow Water Billabong. And, we especially love hiking and swimming to amazing waterfalls with panoramic views.
You can travel to Kakadu independently. But note that some areas are only accessible by 4WD. You can book 4WD tours from Darwin. We recommend these if you have limited time, as they squeeze in as much as possible of the highlights. With a tour, you will see and learn more with all that local knowledge, and they take you to areas that your 2WD car can’t get to. Some include Arnhem land where you will see Aboriginal communities maintaining their traditional way of life the same as the last 40,000 years.
This is crocodile country so keep your eyes open to witness these monstrous beasts. Have your camera ready, as everywhere you turn is an astounding photo opportunity.
There’s so much to do. Spend as long as you can as there are so many habitats to see – rainforest, woodlands, floodplains and swamps.
Darwin – A Laid-back City in the Tropics
Darwin is a modern, laid-back city with a small-town character. It’s an entry and exit point for travellers coming into Aussie from Asia and a gateway to the rest of Australia.
Our Darwin Must Dos are:
- Meet lots of friends to get information, share good times and bump into people you know along your way around Australia.
- Visit the largest crocodile farm in Australia (40 kilometres south of Darwin), and see them in action or at feeding time.
- Mindil Beach markets are on Thursday and Sunday nights. This incredible huge beachside market has a lively vibe highlighted by witnessing the sunset on the beach. Street performers, arts and crafts, entertainment and opportunities to sample delicacies are are a few of the fun things to do. There are stalls with food from all over the world. Also, there are local specialities of emu and crocodile kebabs and kangaroo steaks. And the tastiest mixed tropical fruit shakes.
- Recline at the pulsing Waterfront Precinct. There are cafes, bars and restaurants with scenic beach views. And there is swimming in the wave lagoon and a human-made beach.
Yep, no matter where you’ve been in the world or where you go afterwards, nothing will compare with the uniquely fascinating adventure you have in The Top End. This is the real Australia experience.
Where will you head to next?
Northern Territory’s Red Centre – will you dare to go to the Aussie Outback?
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