Destinations / Travel

Explore the Northern Territory in a way you never have before with these unmissable holiday destinations

Northern Territory holiday destinations

It's no secret that Australia has no shortage of holiday destinations; each nook and cranny offering something unique and oftentimes otherworldly. But there's something about the Northern Territory – the place considered the heart and soul of Australia – that sets itself apart.

The vast deserts, wetlands, monsoonal rains, red-rock gorges, and raging rivers represent a land of diverse and stark beauty. An adventure-seeker's mecca; an opportunity to connect and honour sacred aboriginal sites-and space; an honest picture Australia. A trip to the Northern Territory is truly unforgettable.

But there's more to this holiday destination than what you'll find on the inside of a tour brochure. Although we definitely recommend ticking the bucket-list destinations off, planning a holiday in the Northern Territory is a great opportunity to explore lesser-known parts of Australia you may never have heard of.

If you are planning your next trip, the best time to visit the Northern Territory is during the dry season; which stretches from May to October. Here, we're sharing our guide to the most unmissable Northern Territory holiday destinations that you need to add to your itinerary immediately.

1. Alice Springs

One of the best places to start for your tour of the Northern Territory is in Alice Springs; situated in the southern part of the territory. Although it is still considered 'remote', this outback town (one of the most famous in Australia), serves as a great starting and returning base. To the locals, the town is known simply as "Alice" – nestled between the East and West MacDonnell Ranges.

Don't be fooled by its remote setting; Alice Springs is packed with restaurants, luxury hotels, caravan parks, entertainment venues, shops, and galleries overflowing with aboriginal art.

While there's plenty to do in town, an escape to nature is also just at your fingertips. As we mentioned, Alice Springs is an important base camp for many of the most popular tours; particularly for the Red Centre Sight Seeing attractions. If you're after a day trip that's more casual, you can explore the desert landscapes on a camel, Can-am ATV or mountain bike. There are endless waterholes to discover – and you'll definitely need to take a dip to break the day up.

Some must-see attractions include the Alice Springs Desert Park and Alice Springs Reptile Park (especially if you're travelling with little ones); a visit to the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve; or if you feel like getting your steps in, you can tackle the epic 223km Larapinta Trail. But if your time is limited, you must fit in a day trip of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Make sure to cool off in one of the park's many permanent waterholes.

2. Kakadu

 

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On the opposite plane to Alice Springs is Kakadu – situated at the north end of the Northern Territory. The area is most well-known for its national park; which is listed as a World Heritage site. The park is Australia's largest national park and encapsulates all of the country's incredible landscapes in one place.

On the north coast you will find the tidal zone, with river estuaries, mangrove swamps, and tall monsoon rain forests. Whereas inland, you'll discover the flood plains that eventually lead out into the sea. Of course, this is also one of the many Northern Territory holiday destinations known for its incredible waterfalls. Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are two of the most famous and are definitely worth a visit.

If hiking is more your bag, there's no shortage of hiking tracks for all difficulties. One of the most scenic lookouts (which also happens to be one of the more challenging to climb), is Ubirr. What you'll find when you reach the top is the sight of one of the park's most famous Aboriginal rock galleries.

If you want to make your visit to Kakadu a true luxury experience, a stay at Bamurru Plains is a must.

3. Darwin

 

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If you're more of a city guy or gal but still want to experience the Northern Territory, Darwin is the place to go. Lying on the Indian Ocean within easy reach of Southeast Asia, Darwin is one of Australia's youngest capital cities. It's one of the most diverse holiday destinations in the Northern Territory; offering everything from pristine beaches, art galleries, botanic gardens, sea life feeding areas and national parks.

A supremely multicultural city, if you happen to visit during the months of May and October, be sure to check-out the Mindil Beach Markets. You can listen to live music, grab some souvenirs and visit the food stalls to taste local delicacies like barramundi, kangaroo and crocodile. As the Northern Territory's only seaport, try to experience this harbour city by getting on the harbour itself by jumping on a sunset harbour cruise. For something more low-key, don't miss the Deckchair Cinema located on the edge of the harbour.

Darwin is also another great base camp for Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, and Katherine Gorge.

4. Yulara

 

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Yulara is the town that the Red Centre calls home. In addition to the World Heritage-listed Uluru National Park, the town is jam-packed with cultural experiences, safaris and walking tours.

Uluru, or Ayers Rock (as it is sometimes referred to), is one of the largest monoliths in the world and dates back 300 million years. The dome-shaped rocks called Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), lie 40km away from Uluru; making a trip to this sacred Aboriginal site one not to forget. One way to experience these incredible formations is from above, in a scenic flight tour.

Of course, there are so many other things to see and do in the Red Centre. Explore the culture of Kings Canyon; and learn about the significance of bush tucker, medicines, dot painting and traditional wood artefacts made by the local Luritja and Pertame (Southern Aranda) people. Wander through the Field of Light as dusk turns to night or dine under the outback stars for an unforgettable experience you won't forget.

The ultimate marker of luxury is of course a stay at Longitude 131. There's nothing quite as special as drawing the curtains each morning to be greeted by one of the most spectacular views in the country.

5. Katherine

Northern Territory tourism says it best with the sentiment that Katherine is where the "outback meets the tropics." Situated directly south of Kakadu National Park, Katherine is well known for the Nitmiluk National Park (also called the Katherine Gorge). Housed inside is a treasure trove of sites and experiences to explore with guided cave tours, outback experiences and easy walking trails. A boat trip through the gorges – which can get up to 100 meters deep – is one of the most popular activities.

In addition to the Nitmiluk National Park, you can also visit Elsey National Park; which is home to the famous Mataranka Thermal Pool. A site that needs to be seen to be believed.

6. Litchfield National Park

The waterfalls in Litchfield National Park are reason enough to add the Northern Territory to your list of upcoming holiday destinations. The site is approximately a 90-minute drive from Darwin, which makes it the ultimate day trip to break up your time in the capital city.

As we already mentioned, the main attractions are the waterfalls and springs on the escarpment of the Table Top Range. or bushwalkers, there’s the 39km (24mi) Tabletop Track, or the more serene 3.5km (2mi) Walker Creek trail. Of course, during your visit, you have to see the Lost City; a formation of large sandstone columns near the Tolmer Falls in the park's west.

Litchfield National Park is a great way to experience the magic of the Top End wilderness without making the trip all the way to Kakadu.

7. Tiwi Islands

One of the most unknown but undeniably beautiful holiday destinations in the Northern Territory are the Tiwi Islands. Nicknamed the "Islands of Smiles," these unsung tropical islands sit about 100km north of Darwin; and can be reached by a 30-minute flight or by Ferry.

The two main islands are Bathurst and Melville, which sit alongside nine smaller, uninhabited islands. The reason why the Tiwi Islands have remained such a well-kept secret, is because they don't offer the same tourist attractions other destinations do. This doesn't mean your experience won't be memorable.

Almost 90 per cent of residents on the island are of Aboriginal descent; and you can learn more about their culture, language and life on the island through many of the diverse tours. The white-sand beaches, dense jungles, and fantastic fishing tours are also not be missed.

As for where to stay, the Tiwi Island Retreat is the ultimate lesson in beachfront luxury.

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