The Northern Territory, or just NT to many Aussies, could easily be described as Australia’s cultural and spiritual heart. Home to the iconic Red Centre, and of course Uluru, the NT is world renowned for its ancient Aboriginal culture, awe inspiring landscapes, history, adventure and as being the least populated state in Australia. There’s a whole lot of desert but so much more to this fascinating and beautiful place.
Six times the size of the UK, the NT is vast, so it pays to know where you’re heading in advance. We’ve made things a little easier and broken down the top 10 places to see during your time in this iconic part of Australia!
Top 10 Sights to visit in The Northern Territory
Witness Uluru for yourself
At the top of the list, for obvious reasons, is the spectacular site of Uluru. Deeply engrained with Australia’s indigenous cultural history and the most iconic rock in the country, Uluru is a must see. Take a guided walking tour around the base of Uluru and learn about the cultural significance this rock holds. Camp nearby and wake up to that spectacular view. The best times to witness Uluru are sunrise and sunset when the sun’s rays transform the colour of the rock from vibrant red to deep, burnt orange and finally purple as the light fades. Watch the sun rise or fall from one of the many viewing platforms in the area, or from atop a camel! Whatever you do, don’t miss this beautiful place.
Fall in love with Kakadu National Park
Get to see the oldest Indigenous rock art in the world, and more, at stunning Kakadu. Rugged and remote, this is the place to come to learn about the oldest living culture on earth, swim in deep cool waterfalls, wander through rainforest and see exotice wildlife along the way. World heritage-listed for many years and covering 20,000 sq km, Kakadu is just a 3 hour drive from Darwin.
Take a walk through Kata Tjuta
Formerly known as the Olgas, Kata Tjuta is a unique and slightly eerie collection of 36 steep domes just 20 minutes drive from Uluru. Meaning ‘many heads’ in the local language, Kata Tjuta is a place like no other. Take a walk through the domes on one of the three established trails. The Valley of the Winds walk is a 4 hour circuit with two lookout points that will take your breath away. Go early to avoid the worst of the sun.
Swim under spectacular waterfalls at Litchfield National Park
Another easy trip from Darwin at just 1.5hrs is beautiful Litchfield National Park. A popular city escape, Litchfield is home to the double waterfalls of Wangi and Florence Falls that plunge into natural swimming holes perfect for a cooling dip. For something a little more off the beaten track, hop in a 4WD over to Tjaynera Falls for a swim without the weekend crowds. This is the place to come to wash off the NT’S famous red dirt and reconnect with nature.
Be blown away by East Arnhem Land
Situated along a remote and rugged coastline and covering a huge 100,000sq km, East Arnhem Land is both beach escape and one of the last strongholds of Indigenous culture. Hang out on one of the many white sandy beaches and watch the sun rise over the vast Arafura Sea. Join a Yolngu cultural tour and learn about local artists and the rich cultural history associated with the land. There are retreats and historic sites, fishing and lazing on the beach. Not to be missed when visiting the Northern Territory.
Take on the rim walk at Kings Canyon
Probably the most famous site in Watarrka National Park, and 3 hours from Uluru, Kings Canyon is a must see. 300 metre sandstone walls plunge down to the canyon floor with palms and waterholes. The famous rim walk takes in spectacular lookout points and is best done at sunrise, taking around 3-4 hours. It’s well worth your time.
Be charmed by Darwin
The NT’s tropical capital city is blessed with gorgeous weather year round and,due to its location, an Asian food scene second to none. Check out the pretty harbour area and learn more about the city’s WWII history, browse Mindil Beach sunset markets and chow down on some of the freshest seafood in the country. Darwin’s proximity to Kakadu and other parks is also a huge draw.
Pay a visit to the Outback’s capital, Alice Springs
In almost the exact middle of Australia is the once remote, but not so much now, town of Alice Springs. “Alice” has come a long way from its early days as a dusty outpost and is now famous for its art galleries, thriving food scene and as a base for many Outback adventures. There is no shortage of adventures on offer from hot air balloon rides to camping tours and camel rides. This is the place to come to purchase some genuine Indigenous artworks from local artists.
Smile all day on the Tiwi Islands
Nicknamed the “island of smiles” and just 80km from Darwin, the beautiful Tiwi Islands are the place to come to live island life for a few days. Sunsets to rival just about every other island in Australia, the Tiwi Islands are home to exotic wildlife and residents who know their way around a football pitch (soccer is hugely popular!). An easy day tour from Darwin but you may well find yourself wanting to stay much longer.
Explore the gravity defying sight of Karlu Karlu
Seemingly dropped out of the sky, this collection of strangely balanced ancient granite boulders look at first glance as if they are defying gravity. Dotted across a valley, the Karlu Karlu “marbles” formed over millions of years and still continue to crack and evolve today. Head out on a self guided walking tour and learn about how they came to be and the Aboriginal cultural significance of these strange but beautiful boulders.
The Northern Territory is huge, spanning 1600km from top to bottom! Because of that, the climate varies. The Top End (north) has a tropical climate with a wet and dry season, and is rarely if ever cold. The Red Centre including Alice Springs and Uluru is semi-arid with four distinct seasons including very chilly nights. Whenever you decide to visit the Northern Territory, the sun will almost certain to be out so cover up and take a hat!
The Northern Territory is home to some of the largest Indigenous communities in Australia and is the state to visit if you want to learn more about Aboriginal history, art, culture and community. It can feel vastly different to other parts of the country in all the best ways.
Don’t underestimate the summer temperatures in the desert. While road trips are popular, many people get into trouble in the steaming summer months. Prepare well and always be cautious when heading out into remote areas. Other than that, you’ll have the time of your life in this stunning state!