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Where to Visit in the Northern Territory? Here's Ten Great Places.

by Scrubba Guru |

A state that acted fast to keep on top of the Covid-19 spread, with low case numbers, no community transition and zero fatalities, the Northern Territory is now easing back into normality. In some well-received news, Territorians have been given the green light to camp, hike and swim through some of the NT’s parks and reserves!  

Known as Australia’s ‘spiritual heart’, the NT is a land rich in aboriginal history and traditions, incredible space and landscape ranging from vast deserts and wetlands to red-rock gorges and rapid rivers, epic wildlife and a cosmopolitan city. Attracting visitors from far and wide to immerse themselves in the state’s unique character, It’s no surprise then that in 2019 the NT was voted as one of the top 30 emerging travel destinations in the world for 2020 by Travel Lemming. Our top ten list of must-sees starts at theRed Centre, in the south of the territory, and is a land of parched deserts and striking rock formations...

1. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park 

Uluruone of Australia’s most iconic tourist attractions, is an 863m high red monolith rising up from the desert within the World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. A magnificent rock structure which holds deep spiritual significance to the Anangu people, who manage the park in conjunction with Parks Australia to ensure that their traditional lands are protectedAnother sacred site, which lies roughly 40km from Uluru within the parkis a formation of dome-shaped rocks called Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). To appreciate both sites, a tour led by an aboriginal guide is recommended, and a visit to the fascinating Cultural Centre at the base of Kata Tjuta is a must. The 10km walking/biking track around the base of Uluru provides some great views, with multiple more viewing platforms around the park allowing for stunning photo opportunities, particularly at sunrise or sunset, when the rich burnt orange colour of both rock formations is at its finest. Hot air balloon flights, camel tours and sunset BBQ dining also provide some spectacular experiences! 

 The unmissable Kata Tjuta. Photo via @ntaustralia

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Now, THIS is what we call an entrance! The ancient red rock formations of #KataTjuta (#TheOlgas) rise seemingly out of nowhere from the dusty land. From a distance it may look like one single rock, but it's actually a group of 36 domes that sit shoulder to shoulder and form a spectacular and unique configuration of deep valleys and steep gorges spread over more than 20 kilometres (12.4 miles). Kata Tjuta is a Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal word meaning "many heads". Roughly 35 kilometres west of #Uluru, you can see them up close along one of the walking trails or from a helicopter on a scenic flight. Kata Tjuta looks particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset when the formations change colour 🧡 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @haylsa and @jordhammond. #SeeAustralia #RedCentreNT

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2. Kakadu National Park 

Another world heritage-listed National Park and Australia’s largest is Kakadu which lies in the NT’s north. In contrast to Uluru National Park, the coastal landscape of Kakadu consists of river estuaries, mangrove swamps and tall monsoon rainforests, with flood plains further inland through which rivers wind and weave into the sea. Stunning waterfalls such as the famous Gunlom Falls, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls can be found within the escarpment of Arnhem Land, and incredible hiking trails further inland. The park is home to amazing wildlife varieties including 70 species of reptile with the most dangerous and largest being the saltwater crocodile! Explore the park by car, on foot, or by boat, with camping options aplenty! 

Take a plunge at Gunlom Falls! Photo via @kakadutourism 

 

 3. Darwin 

The NT’s vibrant capital, Darwin, is next on our listA multi-cultural hub on the Indian Ocean which visitors flock to for its tropical outdoor lifestyle, impressive harbour and beaches, rich war history and delicious Southeast Asian-influenced cuisine. Sample laksa, mud crab or Kakadu plums at the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets where 60 food stalls stand alongside arts and crafts stalls, street performers and musicians! History buffs will relish in a visit to Darwin’s defence force museumsor the Cyclone Tracy exhibits at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. With temperatures sky high all year round, cooling off at the city’s wave pool or awesome free water park in Leanyer is essential! Darwin also offers a great base for visiting some of Australia’s best national parks such as Litchfield and the aforementioned Kakadu or you may like to take a road trip to one of the top end’s famous jumping crocodile boat tours or swim amongst these incredible beasts -  if you dare - in The Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove Darwin! 

 A little close for comfort. Photo via @ntaustralia 

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Come face to face with the world's largest reptile, the saltwater crocodile, at @CrocosaurusCove in what's called the 'Cage of Death'! Would you hop in? 🙋‍♂️🙈 This is @Australia's only crocodile swimming experience where you'll be lowered into the crocodiles' water in a perspex enclosure. Nothing compares to locking eyes with these modern day dinosaurs! Located in the centre of #Darwin, discover Crocosaurus Cove's daily interactive shows, and learn all about the Top End's incredible wildlife. Watch a huge saltie dine on his lunch during the Big Croc Feed Show, see a snake or lizard during the Meet the Reptiles Show, and feed a feisty juvenile croc from the Fishing for Crocs platform. ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @kotravellers! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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4. Litchfield National Park 

A 90-minute drive south of Darwin is the beautiful Litchfield National Park, which makes it a great first port call of call when heading out of the city or even as a day tripSwim at the park’s stunning waterholes, gaze at powerful waterfalls or for a bit of adventure hit some wild bushwalking trailsFor the experienced and well-prepared, the 39km Tabletop Track takes hikers through Litchfield’s savannah woodlands, along beautiful creeks and to breathtaking swimming holes and waterfalls such as Florence Falls and Wangi Falls. Buley Rockhole with its relaxing shaded tiers of crystal clear water is also a must-see and for something a little unique, check out the two-metre tall magnetic and cathedral termite mounds here too! Our top tip is to take a scenic 4WD trip to the Lost City, a formation of large sandstone columns near the Tolmer Falls in the park’s west where you can take a dip in a plunge pool, explore the ruins of the Blythe Homestead and enjoy a peaceful picnic. Camp for a night or three amongst the magnificent surroundings of a national park not to be missed! 

The mesmerising Florence Falls. Photo via@ntaustralia 

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We'd caption this with a waterfall pun but that's too mainstream...😜 #Litchfield National Park is one of the Top End's many regions shaped by water 💦 Over the millennia, the relentless flow has created a dramatic landscape of sheer escarpments and deep gorges, not to mention some of the most inviting swimming spots in @Australia - including stunning Florence Falls. Take a couple of days to explore the 1,500 square kilometre park, studded with hiking trails, gushing cascades and croc-free waterholes - there's plenty to see! There are several major freshwater swimming holes fed by beautiful waterfalls, many of which are accessible by conventional two wheel-drive vehicles. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@robmulally! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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5. Alice Springs 

Australia’s most famous outback town and geographical centre, Alice Springs, is an important launching pad for the four big sightseeing attractions in the Red Centre such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta, the MacDonnell Ranges and Kings Canyon. The town itself, once unassuming and dusty, now boasts a number of restaurants, hotels, caravan parks, shops and galleries showcasing Aboriginal art. Learn about indigenous culture at the Araluen Cultural Precinct, spot some incredible wildlife at Alice Springs Desert Park or check out more crocs at Alice Springs Reptile Centre! The surrounding countryside also offers visitors the chance to hike the Larapinta Trail, one of Australia's most challenging walks, and drive the Red Centre Way from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon or to the iconic Karlu Karlu aka Devils Marbles a few hours away! Desert safaris on quad bikes, hot air balloon rides, and camel rides are other popular things to do! 

Epic Red Centre Drives. Photo via @ntaustralia 

 

6. West MacDonnell Ranges 

Heading west of Alice Springs you’ll find the majestic West MacDonnell Ranges snaking almost 200km into the sunset. The West Macs, as they’re often referred to, are home to some of Central Australia’s most spectacular scenery, including some truly amazing waterholes, hidden gorges and intriguing chasms. There are so many special spots in the West Macs but if we had to pick a few we’d start with Simpsons Gap as it’s a great way to experience the rugged topography of the ranges, where deep gorges contrast wide desert-like plains with black-footed rock wallabies making an appearance early morning and late afternoon. Other must-see places include Emily Gap with its shallow pools and green budgerigars, Standley Chasm with its glowing red rock walls and Ellery Creek Big Hole with its dolomite rock formations and refreshingly cool swimming hole. For the keen hikers, there are many trails to choose from such as the 24km hike from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap which marks the first section of the famous Larapinta Trail, one of Australia's most famous outback walks. Enjoy stunning views on foot and on four wheels; the road that winds past the ranges, aka The Red Centre Way, is one of Australia’s most iconic drives along with the Mereenie Loop Road. Take this 1140km route to tick off many of the outback’s iconic sights in one four-day trip.

Cool & serene Ellery Creek. Photo via @ntaustralia

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Always wondered what it looks like through the gorge at Ellery Creek Big Hole? 😍 High red cliffs, a large waterhole and a sandy creek fringed by gums makes this one of the prettiest spots west of #AliceSprings. Bring your bathers over the summer months, float on your back and gaze up at the rock sandwich, formed over thousands of years by flood waters 🙌 Whether you pack an overnight bag, or plan to finish the route in one day, you'll get major bang for your driving buck in the West MacDonnell National Park. With it's stunning beauty, permanent waterholes and rich diversity of plants and animals, the park is not to be missed. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @pianemec! ​#SeeAustralia #RedCentreNT

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7. Kings Canyon 

This aforementioned famous dirt track will also take you to the ever-popular Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park located about midway between Alice Springs and Uluru, where you’ll find the deepest gorge in the Red Centre and more than 600 species of native plants and animalsPerennial waterholes can be found at the canyon’s base, while the upper part of the gorge, known as the Garden of Eden, features lush ferns and palm forests, as well as historical indigenous rock paintings. Located on a plateau above the canyon is an area rich in flora and fauna known as the Lost City which features red sandstone rocks weathered into the semblance of ruined houses and streets. To take in the most jaw-dropping views of the gorge, there is the 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk which takes a challenging few hours to complete and is particularly rewarding at sunrise. The less adventurous, or those with aversions to heights, can venture deep into King’s Canyon at ground level and be dazzled by the beautiful canyon walls from below. Stay in the caravan park for the night to ensure that you have enough time to take it all in; get up early, hit the trails, take a scenic flight or even a camel safari! 

 Challenging hikes with rewarding views! Photo via @ntaustralia 

 

8.Tiwi island 

Translating to "Islands of Smiles", a visit to this unique haven will make you do just that! Take a 2.5 hour trip north across the water from Darwin to this tropical paradise for a fascinating dose of indigenous culture, white-sand beaches, dense jungles, world-class fishing and breathtaking sunsets. The Tiwi Islands comprise of two main islands named Bathurst and Melville (and nine more uninhabited islands)with permanent residents being of mostly aboriginal descent. Whether you visit via an organised day trip or you stay a little longer at a beachfront lodgelocals are friendly and welcoming and there is plenty on offer to keep the whole family entertained. Take in the beautiful scenery, immerse yourself in the traditional lifestyle, enjoy a cultural or wildlife tour, watch an artist paint or carve at a gallery, learn how to weave pandanus mat, witness a dancing and smoking ceremony or sample some delicious fresh seafood! Head to Tiwi in March for their Aussie Rules Football grand final; a sport which is held in high regard amongst islanders!  

 A happy paradise. Photo via @ntaustralia

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The #TiwiIslands (made up of 2 main islands and 9 uninhabited) are famous for their aboriginal arts culture, secluded fishing lodges and love of AFL. If you're keen to explore this off-the-beaten track destination, you can hop on a day tour from #Darwin with @SeaLinkNT. After a 2.5 hour ferry trip, you'll meet your local guide in Wurrumiyanga, the Tiwis' largest community. Following a traditional welcome ceremony performed by some of the local ladies, you'll explore the cultural museum and arts centre where you can watch artists at work. You can even pick up a little souvenir to take home! It won't take long for you to discover why they're nicknamed the 'Island of Smiles' 😃 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @stevint! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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9. Mataranka 

For a touch of magic, a visit to Mataranka is not to be missed. A picturesque place made famous for the beautifully scenic sandy-bottomed thermal springs in which you can float on the gentle current of crystal clear warm waters around the natural circuit shaded by pandanus palms. The Thermal PoolatMataranka Homestead remains an icon for visitors, and the environmental walk and swimming at Bitter Springs Thermal Poolis a beautifully relaxing experienceFor a change of pace, check out the free Barramundi feeding at the Territory Manor where fish are caught with bare hands! A lovely spot to set up camp for the night and another amazing location to tick off on your big NT road trip. 

 Tranquillity awaits. Photo via @ntaustralia

 

10. Nitmiluk National Park 

Another incredible national park holding deep spiritual significance for Australia’s aboriginal people and another of the NT’s most iconic locations lies 244km south-east of Darwin and closest to the town of Katherine. Nitmiluk comprises a series of natural gorges up to 100m deep on the Katherine River and Edith Falls. Katherine Gorge is the main feature, being one of the park’s 13 interior gorges which are peppered with waterfalls, rapids and of course amazing views. Flowing out of the neighbouring Kakadu National Park, the Katherine River has carved a remarkable route through the rocky layers of the vast outback of Nitimulik. There are many sights to behold and explore within the park’s pristine wilderness; pull the walking boots on for a two-hour or perhaps five-day hike, take a dip at one of many swimming holes, enjoy a boat trip through the gorges, take a scenic helicopter flight or rent a canoe! Nitmiluk has become a popular stop-off for those brave enough to make the long drives across the NT’s vast wilderness!

 Paddle through the impressive gorge. Photo via @ntaustralia

 

The red dirt roads of the Aussie outback are calling! The NT is undeniably Australia’s home of truly epic road trips, amazing camping locations, the most rewarding hikes and endless adventuring into the unknown. And when it comes to travel gear, Scrubba has your back. Pack up the car or RV, grab your portable washing machine and hit the road. Whether you wind up in the outback off the beaten track or at a busy campground with a trunk-full of dusty, sweaty clothes, your Scrubba wash bag has your laundry covered! Having no need to seek out communal laundry facilities gives you the freedom to travel clean, light and free. Browse the Scrubba wash bag store to pick up some handy gear before you go! 

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Tags: camper, campervan, Domestic travel, eco-friendly travel, green travel, National travel, Northern Territory, NT, Post Coronavirus, Post Covid19 travel, Road trip, RVer, Vanlife