Top 10 things to do around Tennant Creek
Explore the friendly town of Tennant Creek, the headquarters of the Barkly Tablelands between Alice Springs and Darwin, and discover a rich history shaped by gold mining, a strong Aboriginal culture and the Northern Territory’s original cattle kings. Here are 10 of the top things to do in and around Tennant Creek.
1. See Karlu Karlu (the Devils Marbles) at sunset
Camp at sacred Karlu Karlu (the Devils Marbles), an hour’s drive south of Tennant Creek, where hundreds of granite boulders, some up to six metres tall, are scattered. The best times to visit are sunrise and sunset, when the morning and evening sun highlights their deep red colour. Learn about the Dreamtime story of the site on an interpretive walk or from a ranger during the cooler months.
2. Meet local artists at Aboriginal art galleries
Hear the local Warumungu legend of ‘Nyinkka’, the spiky tailed goanna that shaped the town, at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre (considered one of the best in the NT). Then meet the clever women of Julalikari Arts, just north of the town, who welcome visitors to watch them create their art – paintings, pottery, screen-printing and sewing – using bright colours and amazing textures.
3. Do the Desert Harmony Festival
Join in five days of music, dance, art, film, food, theatre, workshops, sports and cultural activities at the Desert Harmony Festival, held in Tennant Creek every August. The program is a mix of locally produced work that showcases the immense talent in the Barkly region, community performances and travelling Australian productions that collaborate with local artists.
4. Visit the site of Australia’s last gold rush
Re-live Australia’s last gold rush in the 1930s on an underground tour at the Battery Hill Mining Centre. This area was Australia’s third-largest gold producer, and the centre has Australia’s last operating ten-head gold stamp battery. Check out the new Borella Exhibit about Albert Chalmers Borella, the Northern Territory’s only Victoria Cross recipient, awarded in 1918.
5. Swim and relax at Lake Mary Ann
Pack a picnic and take the walking track through the Honeymoon Ranges to Lake Mary Ann, where you can swim, canoe or feed the friendly ducks (about 5km north of the Tennant Creek township). The grassy reserve has barbecues, a kids’ playground, bushwalking tracks and wildlife watching areas.
6. Journey back in time at the Telegraph Station
Wander around the stone buildings of the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station and get a feel for life here 140 years ago. Built in 1872, the telegraph station was part of the Overland Telegraph Line that linked Australia with the outside world. Take the self-guided walk and read about the area’s telegraph communications and pastoral history. Particularly beautiful just before sunset.
7. Unwind in one of the NT’s best-kept secrets
Tackle some of the NT’s best four-wheel-drive tracks in the Davenport Range National Park, east of Tennant Creek and one of the NT’s best-kept secrets. Spot black-footed rock wallabies, emus and hundreds of waterbirds that flock to the permanent waterholes in the 1,120 square kilometre reserve. It’s peaceful and beautiful, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
8. Wander around The Pebbles
Visit the sacred women’s dancing site at The Pebbles, a granite rock formation just north of Tennant Creek where dancing and healing rites of the Munga Munga Dreaming take place. It’s known as ‘Kunjarra’ to the Warumungu people. Go at sunset to watch the rocks change from glowing red to deep purple to grey as the sun sets.
9. Take in some history
Stop in at the Attack Creek Historical Reserve, 75km north of Tennant Creek, where a stone cairn memorial marks the most northerly site of John McDouall Stuart's expedition in June 1860. The etchings tell the saga of Stuart’s journey with his companions William Kekwick and Benjamin Head, who reached this point and were forced to turn around.
10. Birdwatching at Connells Lagoon
Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve is an unexpected wildlife haven that sits between Brunette Downs and Alexandria Station via an unsealed road, accessible by 2WD vehicles. Home to several of Australia’s rare and endangered birds including the flock bronzewing pigeon, pictorella mannikin finch, red-chested button-quail and the Australian bustard. The grass plains are known to inhabit large numbers of bird species, reptiles and mammals. It’s the only reserve in Australia established primarily for the conservation of Mitchell grassland.