Northern Territory Travel & Holiday Guide
Northern Territory Highlights
Arnhem Land - the most remote NT travel region
Kakadu & Litchfield Parks - iconic NT national parks
Uluru, The Olgas & Kings Canyon - highlights of the red centre
Katherine Gorge - imposing chasm in the red centre
Devil's Marbles - a place from Dreamtime legends
Aboriginal Culture - evident throughout the state
Wildlife Safaris & Fishing - the top end is the place for this
Northern Territory At A Glance
The Northern Territory is home to much of Australia's aboriginal culture. Historical sites, rock art painting and community life are to be found throughout most areas. Many areas are sacred sites and permits are required before entry.
The state is largely untouched by modern development with countryside ranging from rugged, coastal wetlands to the dry, red desert centre. Northern Territory travel involves long distances and roads are limited. Some popular attractions require a 4WD vehicle for access.
The northern end of the state, commonly known as the Top End, is dominated by wetlands at the foot of an escarpment. The wet season pours vast amounts of water over the escarpment which then spreads across the Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.
The wet season has a major influence on activities and the surrounding environment. Above the escarpment the land stretches away into the Tanami Desert in the west and Barkly Tableland in the east before its transition into the dry, red Simpson Desert in the south. This is the real Australian outback.
Like most of Australia, the Northern Territory is big. To travel from Darwin to Alice Springs involves a journey of 2 days. The state is 1600 kilometres (1000 miles) north-south and 950 kilometres (600 miles) east-west. Those are straight line map distances, actual road distances are considerably further.
The Top End, being tropical and humid, has only minor temperature variations between summer and winter. Of greater significance is the Wet Season and the Dry Season. The wet season is between November and April and the dry season is between May and October.
What Will I Be Able To Do?
The Northern Territory is Australia's premier destination for nature and adventure buffs. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing things to do and places to visit.
From the iconic Uluru jutting above the surrounding plains, the unique Olgas and Devil's marbles, the grandeur of Katherine Gorge, the incredible outback night skies, the Kakadu Wilderness area... this is a "must see" destination. The state has great opportunities to see Aboriginal culture at first hand. Keen fisherman will find plenty of opportunities to land the famed Barramundi.
Here are just some of the things to do in the Northern Territory. Book your adventures from the ExperienceOZ ad block in the left column.
What Are My Accommodation Options?
The majority of Northern Territory accommodation is located in Darwin and the surrounding areas. There are several traditional hotels with a small number of self contained apartments. Once you travel beyond Darwin, the rural centres offer a varied assortment of motel and motor inn style accommodation, most of which is an extension of the local pub.
Travellers in the Northern Territory will not find the same range of accommodation choices that are available in the other states. The relative isolation of the towns, and small numbers of stay-over visitors, determine the amount and quality of available accommodation.
How Do I Get Around?
The less adventurous visitor may wish to consider using tour operators as this is a part of the world in which local knowledge can be important.
Air services are available to Darwin, Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock). Local operators of light aircraft fly to some other small towns. Getting around may require some forward planning. Being somewhat of a frontier town with a small population, Darwin does not have a commuter bus or train service comparable to other state capitals, although there is a town bus service.
If you are flying in at Darwin to start your visit, consider picking up a Darwin hire car at the airport and save on shuttle costs.
Some unsealed roads in remote areas will need 4 wheel drive vehicles, especially if travelling in the wet season. Camper and motorhome rentals are also available for self drive travel on sealed roads.
Tour operators provide itineraries that cover all popular sites. Driver information and maps are available from the offices of the regional tourist associations.
Some typical road travel distances are:
When Is The Best Time?
The Northern Territory is a year-round destination. It is a popular spot for many tourists and back-packs are a common sight on the streets in Darwin. A factor that may have an impact on your timing is the onset of the Wet Season or conversely, that may be the very reason for visiting this state.
One factor to be considered in any trip in this state is that, unless you are flying, the popular inland destinations require extensive travel to get there and back. Tourists with a less than robust constitution or a preference for creature comforts may wish to take into account the summer heat in this region and opt for a winter visit.
The Top End, being tropical and humid, has only minor temperature variations between summer and winter. Of greater significance is the Wet Season and the Dry Season. The Wet is between November and April with temperatures averaging 33-35° C during the day dropping to an average of 23-25° C overnight.
The Dry is between May and October with temperatures averaging 30-32° C during the day dropping to an average of 20-22° C overnight. Away from the coastal influence, the inland areas revert to four distinct seasons. Winter is June - August with maximum temperatures around 20-22° C during the day dropping to minimums of around 4-6° C overnight.
Summer is December - February with maximum temperatures around 34-36° C during the day and 20-22° C overnight. Temperatures in the remote inland areas can be more extreme. Summer daytime maximums can climb to 40-42° C with winter nights dropping to 2-3° C.