Five unforgettable Northern Territory experiences
From walking through a 440-million-year-old canyon to eating dinner under the outback stars, the Northern Territory offers incredible encounters around every red-dust corner.
There is nowhere quite like the Northern Territory. From the pristine coast to the harsh beauty of the Red Centre, its wild landscapes are filled with adventures you simply can’t enjoy anywhere else. Here are five experiences to add to your bucket list.
Live a desert island lifestyle
The picture-perfect islands that dot the Northern Territory’s coastline are one of its best-kept secrets. Just consider Groote Eylandt (the name, courtesy of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, means “big island”). It has snowy white beaches washed by turquoise waters, sandstone cliffs and forests of pandanus, stringybarks and casuarinas. There is only one accommodation option, Groote Eylandt Lodge, and not a whole lot to do apart from go fishing, check out rock art sites, chat with the locals and enjoy the tropical sun. Just what the doctor ordered.
Dine under the stars
When night falls, the desert is transformed into an altogether different place. Experience the Red Centre under cover of darkness with one of the desert dinners organised by Ayers Rock Resort. With the Outback night sky as its canopy, the Sounds of Silence dinner starts with sunset drinks on a viewing platform overlooking Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park followed by a buffet dinner.
For those wanting a more intimate experience, Tali Wiru (it means “beautiful dune” in the local Anangu dialect) offers a four-course dinner for no more than 20 guests at a time. Don’t forget to cast the occasional glance upwards, where a dazzling blanket of stars ups the wow factor.
Plunge into a croc-free waterhole
There are few better ways to cool off in the Territory than by plunging into a picturesque waterfall or waterhole. For some people, however, the lure of the water is offset by the fear of lurking crocodiles. Head to Litchfield National Park and you can breathe easy. Just 90 minutes from Darwin, several of its beautiful waterholes are certified “very low crocodile risk” (in the wet season check the Parks Northern Territory website before visiting, and remember to be Croc Wise).
Take your pick of the park’s inviting swimming spots, from the double cascades at Florence Falls to the isolated Tjaetaba Falls – it’s about a 45-minute walk – which has a fantastic view of the park from the pool at the top of the falls.
Attend Australia's largest Indigenous Festival
One thing is guaranteed: attend the Garma Festival hosted by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land, and you will return home having learnt something new: how to dig for shellfish, or what a smoking ceremony looks like, or maybe just a better understanding of life in a remote community.
This annual gathering is instructive, but it’s also a lot of fun, with a packed program of events, workshops and nightly ceremonies. There is no fancy accommodation – everyone camps out – but the opportunity to experience Indigenous culture first-hand is not to be missed.
Discover a hidden world
Even in the harsh landscapes of the Red Centre there are hidden oases, none lovelier than Wattarka National Park (Kings Canyon). Located halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, the soaring walls of the canyon – more than 100 metres high – shelter a verdant oasis known as Garden of Eden, also home to a waterhole.
Follow the trail into the interior of the canyon and you will find that the waterhole has created a micro-climate that supports more than 600 species of plants and animals, including ferns and cycads. Keep an eye out, too, for the unusual rock formations known as the “lost city”.