Fun & free things to do in the NT
Whoever said the best things in life are free probably lived in the NT, as Travis Godfredson and family discover.
Our NT adventure starts in Darwin. It’s Australia’s gateway to Asia, but feels more like a big country town. And, just like a rural township, there’s plenty to see and do without busting the budget.
The lush green parks and playgrounds of the Bicentennial Park separate Darwin from the Timor Sea. It’s the perfect spot for cycling and walking with plenty of viewing platforms and some pretty impressive play equipment to entertain the kiddies.
There are water parks, wave pools and natural springs around Darwin that serve as a cool place to drench the kids in sun and laughter. Leanyer Recreation Park and Howard Springs Nature Park rate highly on our family’s fun-o-meter and, best of all, they’re sheltered in shade cloth and completely free! In fact, most of the springs dotted around Darwin are no-fee affairs. The adventure rating steps up the further we head out of Darwin.
About 2 hours south is Litchfield National Park and its Buley Rockhole. We meander to the cool, clear waters spilling from pool to pool and Mum enjoys a free natural massage courtesy of the cascading water. We’ve barely finished our smoothies before discovering the waterhole at nearby Wangi Falls, which is also free to the public.
The School of the Air in Katherine, a three-hour trip from Litchfield, is a public service funded by the Department of Education. There’s no cost for kids to call in and learn about “education on the airwaves”. It’s the biggest school in the world, covering more than 1.3 million square kilometres of the Outback. Our kids watch in amazement as the teachers broadcast to kids at cattle stations, roadhouses, Aboriginal communities and national parks. 6-year-old Abbey jumps on the radio and gets friendly with Lilly from Tennant Creek, who was working on a maths project.
Not far from Katherine is the Baruwei Lookout in the Nitmiluk National Park, through which the Katherine River has carved a series of deep gorges. You can join a cruise to explore them, but we take the loop track that opens out to some amazing views of the gorge. Best of all, the walks are completely free!
East of Darwin, the Kakadu National Park is full of must-see NT experiences available for the cost of a park pass. The Bowali Visitor Centre in Jabiru is virtually a free museum. Here you’ll find stories of the people, landscape and wildlife of Kakadu. Shortly afterwards, we’re exploring first-hand the Nourlangie rock art site as well as the Angbangbang Billabong. A few hours away, Gunlom brings out our inner adventurers. Everyone, including 4-year-old Molly, climbs for 45 minutes to be rewarded by an amazing view of Kakadu, which we enjoy from the infinity pool overlooking the gorge. At Maguk, the whole family treks to crystal clear pools fringed by a monsoonal forest, then snorkels with banded grunters and long-tom fish in the rock pool, surrounded by huge pandanus palms.
Free & fab in the NT
- Nitmiluk Gorge, Katherine
- Nourlangie rock art, Kakadu
- Lenayer Recreation Park, Darwin
- Gunlom plunge pool, Kakadu
- Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park