The NT is around 1.35 million km2, approximately one sixth of Australia's landmass. That space is equivalent to France, Spain AND Italy! So where to even start? A must see list is a personal affair, we’ve tried our best to include a little something for everyone.
Sit back with your dreaming cap on as we are about to convince you that the NT is a must see.
We are here to nudge your imagination and plant the seed that will grow into your outback dream. We here at Wayoutback have an itinerary for all!
It’s the sheer contrast of the aquatic wonderlands and their dehydrated surrounds that make the NT so authentic and leave the mind in raptures of awe, wanting more.
Sacred sites scatter the land, home to indigenous cultures which will astound and amaze you. Boasting swimming holes, waterfalls, canyons, gorges and a colossal sized rock. The NT will make your soul sing!!
So jump aboard our 4WD and dip your toes in the top end as we give you a trailer of our favourite territory treasures:
1. Kakadu National Park
An easy 240 kilometres east of Darwin (close by Australian standards), sprawls a diverse 20,000 square kilometers of national park called Kakadu. The world heritage listed Kakadu is acclaimed for it biodiversity.
Stretching across a variety of ecosystems, the park encompasses estuaries, billabongs and floodplains through to rocky outcrops and stone country further South.
With one third of Australia’s bird species found here and over 2000 plant species, Kakadu is vibrantly alive. It is even home to Kakadu plum which has been proven to hold the highest concentration of vitamin c in the world!
We recommend visiting the region in the early dry season before visitor numbers peak and whilst there is still enough water to make the falls plummet. When visiting Kakadu, it is important you understand the culture of the local guardians of the land to fully appreciate the wonderment of Kakadu.
The Bininj/Munnguy traditional owners have carefully protected and nourished Kakadu for tens of thousands of years, leaving it for you to enjoy, so respect is paramount when visiting these areas. An array of rock art (gumbin) provides visitors with a fascinating insight into indigenous culture throughout thousands of years.
As we stressed before, exploring Kakadu will make you hot! But do not swelter, the national park encapsulates a stunning selection of swimming holes! One of our favourites is Twin Falls.
Chances are, you’ll still be in need of rehydration, so let us present to you, the majesty of Mataranka. A 422 km journey south from Darwin and 107 km south of Katherine into the Elsey national park will find you in awe of the unique riparian ecosystem. After a long drive as they often are in the territory, relax by meandering down bitter springs or soothing your tired muscles in the Mataranka thermal pool (both close together).
The delicate water way of Bitter springs spans 500 meters, reflecting sapphire hues as its gentle flow of water feeds you down it’s rivulet lined by cabbage palms. Keep an eye out for the fresh water turtles!
Just down the way, glistening under the paperbarks, is the soothing turquoise water of the Mataranka thermal pool. Fed by an underground spring, with temperatures consistently in the early thirties, your body will sigh with relief as you plunge into it’s warmth.
If you don’t want to soak up the ecology and prefer to experience it on dry land, a runway awaits you. Strutt along the well constructed walking path, under fan palms, past the pristine pools and through the unique riparian oasis.
For the history buffs- Mataranka is also rich in World War II history and once home to the notable author Jeannie Gunn who wrote about the area in her autobiographical account of the year 1902, named- ‘we of the never never’. The house she shared with her husband has been reconstructed and stands on the grounds of the ‘Mataranka homestead’. Visit Mataranka in the dry season from May to October as it may be inaccessible due to flooding in the wet season (November to April).
3. Litchfield NP
Litchfield National Park is your natural aquatic playground with a plethora of waterfalls for your picking, plummeting from the mother sandstone plateau named the tabletop range. These invigorating cascades hold endless hours of entertainment for the energetic traveller or soothing tranquility for the chillers.
The fact that the Darwin-ites flock here on their days off says it all. The 1,500 square kilometer park lies 115km to the southeast of Darwin and doesn’t exclude - most must see attractions are linked by sealed roads and can be accessed with two wheel drive.
When you're fully watered and your fingers turned to prunes, experience one or all of Litchfield's plentiful short walks.
Step through woodlands, monsoon rainforests, skip along creek lines and feast your eyes on the purity of the plunge pools, whilst spying native wildlife such as wallabies, northern quolls, possums and an array of exotic bird species. Yet again, we recommend this walk for the early dry season (May-August), as the track is usually closed for the wet season.
4. Katherine Gorge- Nitmaluk National Park
Yet another lively watercourse, the Katherine gorge will astound you with her severe beauty.
Deeply carved out of sandstone by the Katherine river, its sheared cliff walls, plummet in display of its serene water force. Katherine (Nitmaluk) Gorge, is the central attraction of the Nitmaluk national park, located 244 km southeast of Darwin and a 50 minute drive from the gateway town of Katherine.
The spectacle is made up of 13 gorges, falls and rapids. Home to the traditional owners- the Jawoyn people, the plunging walls of the gorge speak of their age old stories and represent a thriving culture, respectfully in tune with the ecosystem. Whilst it’s a pleasure to walk along the cliffs of the gorge, it’s grandeur is best admired from boat or canoe which can both be booked from the info centre.
The ideal time to visit the gorge is from May to September as flooding of the river during the wet season may limit the accessibility of activities and prevent access to Nitmiluk.
On your way to her ladyship's gorge, treat yourself to a delightful cafe experience at ‘the finch cafe’ in the township of Katherine. This gem provides the perfect atmosphere conducive to a little life admin and reorganising before you swagger off to your next adventure.
5. Uluru (Ayers Rock)
A famed Australian icon, you may be thinking how a single rock can command so much attention? This is a classic case of "you had to be there." Nothing can prepare you for the serene feeling that washes over you when the sun sets at Uluru.
The Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people are the traditional owners and protectors of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National park in which the rock radiates. It’s no wonder, this enigmatic rock is referred to as the red center, a central site for ceremony and rites of passage for its tribal groups for thousands of years. With over 40 sacred sites and eleven dreaming trails present in the scape, you may be in for an awakening.
It is always best to gain understanding of indigenous culture from a traditional guardian who holds sacred knowledge close to their core. At Wayoutback we facilitate authentic indigenous cultural exchange.
Your tour to Uluru will usually start at the gateway town of Alice springs or the Ayers Rock Airport. From Alice, a five and a half hour drive (463 km) will find you in the unmistakable presence of Uluru. Another one of the territories world heritage listed sites, Uluru formed millions and millions of years ago through complex geographical processes and is said to be merely the tip of larger rock slabs which continue under ground for approximately 6 kilometers!
A cultural hub, there’s no shortage of inspiration at Uluru. Be inspired by the ageless rock art displays or the delightful desert blossoms which have sustained indigenous Australians for ever. Glow in the hues of the sunrise and sunset- the best you’ll ever have.
Stay cool and experience Uluru’s vibrancy at its best by visiting the area between May and September.
ALL SET FOR YOUR ADVENTURE? LET’S GO!
If we’ve successfully inspired you, take the next step towards your journey and have a browse at the variety of itineraries and tours we have on offer to the Red Centre or the Top End.
These are ancient lands that command respect and will change your life. Mother nature didn’t skip out on this unique territory of Australia and neither should you!
Written by : Wayoutback on 23 November