Northern Territory travel guide and things to do: Bordering on excitement

For a while there, as the nation's closed border saga dragged on (and on), it was looking like the old Northern Territory tourism slogan could well have been adjusted to "you'll never never know because you'll never never get to go."

But then Michael Gunner, fresh from being re-elected as the Territory's chief minister, suddenly announced that, all going well, the travel-starved citizens of Australia's most populous state would be permitted to visit the Territory as soon as next month.

We're not counting our emu eggs until they're fully hatched but, in the meantime, the Traveller team has prepared this guide to the unique experiences, based on our own visits to the Territory, that define this extraordinary, sparsely-populated corner of our world.

WALK THE VALLEY OF THE WINDS TRAIL AT KATA TJUTA

Between the domes of Kata Tjuta on the Valley of the Winds trail. <br /><br />Australia's Red Centre is home to natural wonder and cultural landmark, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Hike around the soaring rock domes, which glow at sunrise and sunset. Located approximately 40km west of Uluru, the ochre-coloured shapes are an intriguing and mesmerising sight. satsep26coverNT Mandatory credit Tourism NT 

Photo: Tourism NT, Sean Scott

As the star attraction of the Red Centre, Uluru will dominate, especially at sunrise and sunset. But for far more quiet contemplation, head to Kata Tjuta's domes and walk the stony slopes of the Valley of the Winds trail. Sacred to the Anangu people with a request to walk quietly, tread lightly, you'll pass boulders perched at precarious tilts, rock pools filled with tadpoles, squeeze through narrow gaps that give way to green valleys.. See parksaustralia.gov.au; ayersrockresort.com.au

DIG IN IN DARWIN

You might be fasting when you leave, but you might as well feast in the Territory's capital while you're there. There's the fish curry at Hanuman, the calamari and prawns at the waterside Yots Greek Taverna and the hot salads at CHOW on the Waterfront. And don't forget the markets for laksa and mango smoothies and brekkie at the Roma Bar, the NT capital's signature, long-running cafe. See hanuman.com.au; yots.com.au; chowdarwin.com.au; northernterritory.com

TAKE A (NON-PERILOUS) PLUNGE

The swimming holes at Florence Falls are among the most visited tourist attractions of Litchfield National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. satsep26coverNT

Florence Falls. Photo: Tourism NT, julianpetersphotography

Out in the bush, the crocodile risk needs to be taken seriously, but there are swimming holes that are managed – cleared of crocs that might stray into them in the wet season. A couple close to Darwin are Florence Falls and Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park – cascading water, lush forest surrounds and very refreshing plunge pools. See northernterritory.com

STAR-GAZE UNDER CANVAS

You can position yourself in bed in the glamping tents at the wonderful Wildman Wilderness Lodge and watch the stars shine through the flyscreens. In the Mary River wetlands area, the Lodge is surrounded by agile wallabies and has a spectacular bar and pool outside to watch them wander. See wildmanwildernesslodge.com.au

CRUISE WITH THE CROCS

Aerial view of a boat  during a sunset Wetlands Safari Cruise on Corroboree Billabong.<br /><br />Wildlands Wetlands Safari Cruises provide guided airboat tours and river cruises at Corroboree Billabong. Whether you are gliding across the wetlands on an airboat or cruising on a boat through the waterways lined with lotus flowers and water lilies, this is a part of the Northern Territory that you do not want to miss. satsep26coverNT
Tourism NT for Traveller use.
Pls note credit requirements

Photo: Tourism NT

Advertisement

The Mary River's Corroboree Billabong is home for Wildlands Wetlands Safari Cruises. Here are birds like sea eagles, kingfishers and night herons; vast spreads of water lilies and lotus leaves as big as tables. You'll spot freshwater crocodiles, the sports cars of the billabongs; and the undoubted highlight, the prefect, prehistoric, predator, the military-grade saltwater crocodiles. See wildlands.com.au

WING IT IN KAKADU

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park,Australia satsep26coverNT

Black-necked stork. Photo: iStock

Kakadu National Park claims around a third of all Australia's bird species. They can be spotted all over the park, but there's a hide at the Mamukala Wetlands, not far from park headquarters, that is a perfect setting for bird watching – see magpie geese, purple swamp hens, comb-crested jacanas, kingfishers, black-necked stork and more. See parksaustralia.gov.au

LIVE IT UP AT LONGITUDE 131

Longitude 131 , Uluru , NT    SUPPLIED
credit: Longitude 131
satjun27cover
TRAVELLER 
Anthony Dennis
pic supplied by journalist please check for reuse

The Territory's most legendary luxury lodgings, Longitude 131 reopened on a limited, though welcome, basis last month. From the king-sized bed of your deluxe tented accommodation, set amid crimson desert dunes, awake early and toast the sunrise over Uluru, perfectly framed before you, and eschew the crowds at the regular and often crowded viewing spots. See longitude131.com.au

BE FIRED UP BY THE FIREHAWKS

In Kakadu, and throughout the NT, controlled burns are used on Indigenous burn principles for fire management. Birds like black kites and brown falcons follow the fires and swoop on prey flushed out by the flames. In a scarcer sight, some raptors have been seen to carry burning sticks to fresh locations, starting fires for a better feed. See parksaustralia.gov.au

SEE THE SINKING SUN

Ubirr Rock, about a 30-minute drive from Jabiru, has some astonishing rock art (see below) but it's also the place, on the edge of the Kakadu National Park with Arnhem Land in the distance, where you can watch the sun inching into the horizon, setting over the vast, lush, Nadab floodplains and Magela Creek wetlands. See parksaustralia.gov.au

BEHOLD THE MIGHTY TERMITES

Not so popular around the house, in the Litchfield National Park, the termites are builders, not destroyers. Magnetic termites build mounds up to two metres high and shape them according to the compass – thin edges north-south and broad backs east-west for temperature and humidity control. Their cathedral cousins build up to four metre mounds. See northernterritory.com

BE AWESTRUCK BY ANCIENT ART

In Kakadu, the rock art tells the tales of millennia. At Ubirr, a Tasmanian tiger makes an appearance and they disappeared from mainland Australia two or three thousand years ago. There's also a food guide of sorts, with fish, wallabies, goannas and more on the rock walls. At Nourlangie, about an hour's drive from Ubirr, the main gallery features creation ancestors, including Namarrgon, the Lightning Man, who brings in the wet season. See parksaustralia.gov.au

SOAR OVER ARNHEM LAND

Taking off at Jabiru with Kakadu Air, the vast landscape that is Arnhem Land unfolds below, framed by geological masterpieces like The Arch and with the East Alligator River slicing through the wetlands – so-named by the explorer Phillip Parker King because he mistook the crocodiles for alligators he'd seen in the US. Seeing it from the air opens up the scale of this country; it's an entirely new perspective. See kakaduair.com.au

GO FROM DESERT TO THE TROPICS OVERNIGHT

 The Ghan. Photo: Journey Beyond

One of the surest and most relaxing ways to experience the dramatic, nearly 1500 kilometres geographic and climatic transition that occurs in the Northern Territory between the desert and the tropics is to travel between Alice Springs and Darwin (or vice-a-versa) by train on the Ghan. It's of the longest north-south-north rail journeys on the planet, when you factor in the additional 1,534 kilometres to or from Adelaide from the Alice, making for a truly epic and historical journey, See journeybeyondrail.com.au

TAKE TO THE CLOUDLESS SKIES ABOVE ULURU

When climbing was allowed on Uluru (ill-advised) visitors were able to ascend to a mere 863 metres, the elevation of the rock. But the best way to see the monolith from on high has always been aboard a helicopter or fixed plane joy flight soaring many more hundreds of metres above it. There's a wide variety of airborne adventures, including sunrise and sunset sky-dives and even a dramatic night arrival by chopper (preceded by a sunset flight) at the shimmering Field of Light art installation. See ayersrockresort.com.au

CRUISE KATHERINE GORGE

Be drawn to the spectacular sandstone country of Nitmiluk National Park and the majestic Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge with spectacular cliffs that glow in the changing light.<br /><br />Nitmiluk National Park, just 30 kilometres north-east of Katherine, covers a vast area, including 13 impressive gorges carved from the ancient sandstone country which stretch for as far as the eye can see. satsep26coverNT
Tourism NT for Traveller use.
Pls note credit requirements

Photo: Tourism NT, Tess Leopold

The soaring rock walls of Nitmiluk/Katherine Gorge are best seen from the river, cruising along and admiring their scale and features. This was the setting for the landmark 1950s movie Jedda; the boats cruise past Jedda's Rock, just before dinner in one of the most remarkable settings you'll ever experience. Cruises should recommence in April. See nitmiluktours.com.au

* To build demand in the traditionally-low summer tourist season, in a $5 million "NT Summer Sale" campaign the NT Government is partnering with travel retailers to offer travellers a set discount of $200 off for every $1000 spent on an NT booking (up to a maximum of $1000 discount). It will be valid for bookable flights, accommodation, tours, attractions and hire vehicle on bookings made between October 1 and 31 March 2021 with travel also within those dates. See northernterritory.com

BETTER LATER THAN NEVER: FIVE MORE NT EXPERIENCES FOR NEXT YEAR

TUCK IN AT TALI WIRU

satmar14mealplanner

After the success of the long-running Sounds of Silence evening dinner and sky show experience among the dunes the folks at the Ayers Rock Resort decided to up the ante, not the local ants, with Tali Wiru. It's outdoor dinner under the twinkling Southern Desert stars with the emphasis on the quality of the native herbs and spices-infused dishes served and the service provided. Meaning "beautiful dune' in the local Anangu language, Tali Wiru will resume next year when the weather cools. See ayersrockresort.com.au

RELAX IN BUSH LUXURY

Cicada Lodge is a luxurious retreat above Nitmiluk/Katherine Gorge, with award-winning food (try the crocodile appetisers), big rooms with balconies that spill into the bush and smartly designed pool, restaurant and public areas. As with the Gorge cruise above, Cicada Lodge is run by the local Jawoyn people and will open again in April. See nitmiluktours.com.au

TAKE A GANDER AT BAMURRU

Rivalling Longitude 131 as one of the Territory's most extraordinary wilderness lodge, Bamurru Plains is located on a former cattle station on the boundary of Kakadu National Park. Set on a coastal floodplain, soak up the wildlife. which includes water buffalo, crocodiles and literally thousands of honking Magpie geese, on safaris aboard Everglades-style airboats. But you'll have to wait a bit as the lodge is not due to reopen until next year though do book ahead. See bamurruplains.com

GET A KICK ON TIWI

A Aboriginal dancer ahead of the Tiwi Islands Grand Final and Art Sale.<br /><br />Head to Bathurst Island for the epic AFL grand final match for the Tiwi football league, as well as the annual art sale. Footy fans and art goers make the pilgrimage from all over Australia to experience this must-do event.<br /><br />Tiwi Design, located on Bathurst Island, started from a small Catholic Presbytery in 1969. Today, Tiwi Design artists provide diverse works across many mediums, including fine art sculptures and paintings. The ceramic studio produces sculptural pieces that combine traditional satsep26coverNT Mandatory credit Tourism NT 

Photo: Tourism NT, Shaana McNaught

The Indigenous game is played with such skill and passion by Indigenous Australians, and the Tiwi Islanders are no exception. Each March on Tiwi, most of the islands' population turns up for the local grand final and at the same time there is a major Indigenous art sale. As well as their excellence on the oval, the islanders are outstanding artists. See tiwilandcouncil.com; northernterritory.com

RELIVE DARWIN'S DARKEST DAYS

It's reputed that more bombs were dropped on Darwin in World War Two by the Japanese than at Pearl Harbour. Relive the terrifying Top End attacks through the eyes of a guide on a small group Bombing of Darwin Heritage Tour. The tours run during the dry season between April and October but if you miss out there's also the Darwin Military Museum which features the interactive Defence of Darwin Experience, opened to mark the 70th anniversary of the attacks. See bombingofdarwin.com.au; darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au

Comments