Things to see & do in
the Northern Territory

A mix of Aboriginal, European and Asian influences set against a backdrop of dramatic wilderness makes the Northern Territory the most memorable region in Australia. NT is closer to Bali than Sydney, and its 1.35 million km2 terrain has an impressive portfolio of wildlife and natural beauty, from the world-famous bulk of Uluru to the ancient, croc-filled rainforests of Kakadu National Park and the barren, endless plains of the outback. So pull on your hiking boots, head out into the wild and immerse yourself in soulful stories of Dreamtime and songlines.

Things to do in the Northern Territory

Learn about Aboriginal culture

There is no better way to learn about the connection between cultural and natural heritage than straight from the First Peoples of Australia. They have been caretakers of these stunning landscapes for millennia, and Northern Territory is the beating heart of Aboriginal culture. There are 11 Aboriginal peoples in NT, and since the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed, they’ve had their native title over much of the land restored. Half of Kakadu National Park is Aboriginal owned, while entry to spectacular and isolated Arnhem Land is possible only with a pre-arranged permit.

All our tours offer the chance to interact with indigenous guides or artists, and to learn about songlines, the Dreamtime and their often painful recent past. You could visit rock art in Kakadu and Uluru, learn about bush craft, or view an exhibition at one of the NT’s many indigenous art centres. If you’re lucky you might get to experience the rituals and ceremonies of an Indigenous festival, too. Some tours will take you as far as East Arnhem Land, a region that’s been home to the Yolngu Aboriginal people for thousands of years.

Immerse yourself in the great outdoors

The outback’s appeal is difficult to quantify. There’s something almost spiritual about it, and on first setting eyes on Uluru or the Olgas, people often have a visceral, emotional reaction. Even during busy periods, high tourist numbers don’t detract from the beauty and mysterious pull of this landscape.
4WD trips, nature walks with indigenous guides and even camel rides, are some of the ways of seeing this magnificent landscape. Uluru is the biggest draw around these parts, and if you’re wondering whether it’ll be a disappointment in the flesh, the answer is a most definite no. Protected by Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, it’s one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders, as are the 36 sandstone mounds nearby known as the Olgas, of which Kata Tjuta is the highest. Explore these spectacular sights with a native Anangu guide, and, if you can, visit at sunrise or sunset.
Watarrka National Park is often combined with Uluru, too. It’s home to Kings Canyon, where red walls soar 100m over Kings Creek, with natural highlights known as the Amphitheatre, Lost City, the lush and ancient Garden of Eden and North and South Walls.
Further north, in the tropical ‘Top End’, Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest at approximately 200km long by 100km wide. Part owned by the Bininj/Mungguy Aboriginals, it’s home to dense rainforest, spectacular escarpments, waterfalls, and pools and is a fantastic place for watching wildlife. If you’re going hiking, make sure you take an expert guide, drink enough water, protect yourself from the sun and cover up with long trousers and sensible footwear.
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Go wildlife watching

You won’t be short of top notch wildlife sightings in NT, and top of the pack is Kakadu National Park, where wallabies and wallaroos, crocodiles and over 280 species of birds are just some of the attractions, revealed by rainforest hikes or river cruises amongst the billabongs and mangroves. You can also take in the buffalo and birdlife in the wilderness wetlands around Mary River National Park, see black-footed rock wallabies in the West MacDonnell Ranges, or view marine mammals and sea turtles way up north in the remote Cobourg Peninsula. Wherever you go you’ll have brilliant local naturalist guides.

Sleep al fresco

If you’re heading into the Red Centre then immersing yourself in the landscape by camping out under the stars makes the experience here even more magical, and it can be as rugged or as comfortable as you wish. On more ‘rustic’ tours most nights will involve back to basics camping – rolling out your swags and sleeping out in the open at a bush camp with long drop toilets and no running water, and cooking over an open fire under a clear, unpolluted night sky. Or, you can stay at permanent campsites with full facilities (as well as full canvas over your head) where you enjoy perks such as proper beds and nightly candlelit dinners of locally sourced food.

Combine with other Aussie destinations

Most visitors to NT will combine it with other Aussie hotspots. You could, for example, do Adelaide to Alice Springs on a small group tour, taking in the Flinders Ranges, the Oodnadatta Track, Coober Pedy, Kings Canyon and Uluru along the way; or embark on a two- to three-week tailor made odyssey, taking in the highlights of New South Wales and Queensland, too.
Read more about the Northern Territory in our Northern Territory travel guide
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: pixculture] [Top box: Andrea Schaffer] [The Olgas: Paul Arps] [Wildlife watching (Lotus bird): Jean and Fred] [Flinders Ranges:]