Featured image by Nick Rains, courtesy of Tourism Australia
Rugged and remote, Australia’s Northern Territory is a vast and largely inhospitable region. Ruled by its unique wildlife and riotous weather extremes, it’s one of the continent’s most untamed regions. Behind its harsh exterior however, lies a fascinating land, full of captivating natural sights and an ancient culture that out-dates any other on the planet.
Be warned – a trip to the Territory is no all-inclusive package deal. It is, however, a rewarding, exciting and unforgettable experience. So do you reckon you’re ready for a bit of adventure? Hire a car in Australia and hit the road to explore the outback.
As the vibrant capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin is a small city with a big heart. This tropical destination is where the different cultures of the NT come together. From World War II history to ancient Aboriginal heritage, the museums, galleries, tours and festivals on offer are a great introduction to what lies ahead in the Territory.
Don’t miss the Mindil Beach Sunset Market for local arts and crafts and a melting pot of cuisine options, all set against the balmy back-drop of a relaxed Darwin evening. Make the most of your home comforts here in the city however; you’re about to head out back. Hire a car in Darwin to start your epic adventure.
Take a dip at Litchfield National Park
If the heat of Darwin is getting to you and the temptation to go in the water is just getting too strong, dive into your outback adventure at Litchfield National Park. Popular with tourists and Darwin locals alike, this is the place to take a dip in one of the beautiful rock pools, cool down at a waterfall and explore remote 4WD tracks.
Although the threat from freshwater crocodiles isn’t entirely non-existent, you’re less likely to encounter one here than in any other Northern Territory park. This may feel like small comfort from the safety of your reading chair in the UK, but in the dusty Australian heat, you might just find yourself liking those odds…
Go crocodile hunting on the Adelaide River
What’s that you say? You’d rather see the crocs from the safety of an air-conditioned boat with a nice thick piece of non-shatter glass between you and them? Then a river cruise on the Adelaide River is right up your street. This wide brown river with its overhanging tree line embodies the image of a proper outback waterway…and the menacing eyes of the ‘salties’ peeping out above the murky water just add to the excitement. Choose the jumping croc cruise to witness the real strength of these monumental beasts as they propel themselves out the river. Just make sure you keep your fingers inside the boat.
Stop for a jar at the Daly Waters Pub
About as Aussie as it gets, Daly Waters Pub is visited by travellers from all over the world. Spend a long lunch examining the memorabilia pinned to the walls of this historic watering hole or take advantage of the B&B facilities to rest up and refresh as you listen to a few outback yarns.
Cards, pictures and personal mementos of all kinds cover the walls of every inch of this intriguing pub, including a wide range of underwear (no doubt donated after one too many local brews). However you decide to do it, make sure you leave your mark as well.
Take to the skies in Kakadu National Park
Lying around 240 kilometres east of Darwin, Kakadu is the largest national park in mainland Australia, covering 20,000 square kilometres and offering everything from coastline to canyons.
Here you can see ancient Aboriginal rock art and learn about the spiritual connection its traditional owners have with the land. For the best way to see it all, take to the skies with a scenic flight. Soaring over the wetlands and gorges of this World Heritage-listed region is truly an experience of a lifetime.
Feel on top of the world at Uluru & Kings Canyon
Further south, in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre, Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is high on the list of must-see sights for just about every outback adventurer.
However, majestic as it is, there’s a lot more to this part of the world than the famous rock. 40 kilometres from Uluru, visit the rounded domes of Kata Tjuta, which have been formed by over 500 million years of erosion. And don’t miss the (relatively) nearby Kings Canyon and Watarrka National Park, where you can channel your inner ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ as you stand on the rim looking out over this vast and remote region. This is a place to make memories that last a lifetime – and with a number of stirringly named sights like the “Garden of Eden” and “the Lost City”, you’re not likely to forget this trip any time soon.
Don’t have time for the drive from Darwin? Hire a car from Alice Springs and take a day or two to enjoy the best of the Red Centre.
Go off-piste in the Tiwi Islands
The Northern Territory is not all rocks and dust you know. To really get off the beaten track (as if you weren’t far enough off it already) a trip to the Tiwi Islands is sure to trump all your friends in the unusual destination category.
80 kilometres north of Darwin, take a day tour from the NT capital (if you can get your hands on a permit) and discover pristine white-sand beaches, tropical rainforest, indigenous culture and world-class fishing.
(Images 1 – 6, 9 – 13 & featured image courtesy of Tourism Australia.)
Looking for more Australian adventures?
Check out our guide to the best of Perth and Western Australia!