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The Top End

Map showing the Top End area of Australia

The Northern Territory is huge—six times the size of Victoria or roughly France, Spain and Italy combined. It’s so big that it has different climates: tropical and rainforesty in the northern half and semi-arid desert country towards the bottom. We call the top half the ‘Top End’ (the bottom bit is the ‘Red Centre’).

The Top End chunk of the Northern Territory covers four main areas:

  • Darwin, the NT’s capital city at the northern tip of the Top End
  • World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, three hours east of Darwin
  • remote Arnhem Land, a 90,000 square-kilometre reserve in the north-east corner of the NT
  • the Katherine area, about three hours south of Darwin.


The Top End’s tropical climate allows for a year-round outdoor lifestyle, which locals and visitors are renowned for making the most of.

The dry season, from April to September (when southern Australia is freezing through winter), brings warm, sunny days and cool nights.

That sees a packed Top End calendar of outdoor festivals and events, people cruising on the harbour and fishing for barramundi, and waterfront restaurants and outdoor bars brimming with people having a good time. The Top End is also known for its rich wetlands, wild rainforests and cascading waterfalls, which are all on show at nearby Kakadu and Litchfield national parks. Birds congregate in their thousands around the Top End’s wetlands, as do other iconic animals like the saltwater crocodile.

There are plenty of opportunities to encounter crocs—safely—in the Top End: on a river cruise, at dedicated crocodile parks and in the famous Cage of Death in Darwin city.

Do Darwin

Darwin is a modern, tropical city that offers a special blend of cosmopolitan and outback adventure. You can make it as action-packed or as laid back as you like. There’s no shortage of things to do in Darwin.

Wander around the many stalls selling local art and craft and serving food from every corner of the earth—Thai and Indian to Brazilian and Portuguese—at the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. Watch a movie under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema, or join a three-course dinner cruise on Darwin Harbour (many times the size of Sydney’s). Board the hop-on, hop-off bus to take in the city’s sights.

Explore Darwin’s rich history and its Aboriginal culture at the many excellent art galleries and history attractions. Ride the swell at the Wave Lagoon and soak up the outdoor lifestyle at the Waterfront Precinct with its restaurants, cafes, shops and sprawling lawns. Or jump on a fishing day tour out of Darwin to land a famous barra.

Pack a picnic and take the easy day trip to Litchfield National Park (1.5 hours from Darwin) to bushwalk through rainforest then swim under spring-fed waterfalls at Wangi and Florence falls or soak in the tiered rock pools shaded by rainforest at Buley Rockhole.

Board the ferry or a light plane to the Tiwi Islands to meet local Tiwi artists, explore the islands and make your own piece of art.

When the sun goes down, Darwin comes alive with some of Australia’s best restaurants and eateries, bars and pubs, theatres, nightclubs and an international-standard casino.

Do Kakadu

Oodles of Aussie and international travellers think Kakadu is one of Australia’s best-kept travel secrets. And it’s just three hours drive from Darwin.

Kakadu is World Heritage-listed for both its natural and cultural values—and for good reason. Kakadu is brimming with native wildlife, some 280 species of birds and giant crocodiles. See them on an early-morning cruise on Yellow Water Billabong.

Kakadu’s Aboriginal rock art is some of the oldest and best-preserved in Australia. Visit the rock art galleries at Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwur and see their fascinating record of Aboriginal life over some 20,000 years.

And Kakadu has some of the Top End’s most iconic landscapes—waterfalls, rugged escarpments, sandstone outcrops and rainforests. Explore it yourself or join one of the many tours running from both Kakadu and Darwin.

Top destinations in the Top End

Things to see & do in the Top End

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Drive routes in the Top End

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Find accommodation, tours, activities and events in the NT

#NTaustralia

Welcome to winter in @TourismTopEnd! 🌴Located only 45 minutes from #Darwin, Berry Springs is not only ridiculously beautiful, but it's also well set up with picnic areas, BBQ's and a kiosk. There are several shady pools along Berry Creek, perfect for a refreshing dip, and steps which allow easy access 👌 The top pool even has a small waterfall to sit under for a relaxing massage! Post-swim, check out the nearby loop walk that'll take you through two of the Top End’s natural wildlife habitats - don't forget your binoculars if you're keen on bird watching! ​Yep, this is heaven on earth 😍 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @away_we_coe. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #HolidayHereThisYear

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Look no further than #KingsCanyon for one of the most diverse hikes in @Australia! The six-kilometre Rim Walk will take you down into the Garden of Eden, a beautiful rockhole surrounded by ancient plants, before ascending to 360 degree panoramic views over the surrounding landscape. Have you been dreaming about an epic outback road trip? Discover the highlights and uncover the hidden gems along the Red Centre Way. This incredible drive route will take you to Alice Springs, Uluru, Kings Canyon and the West MacDonnell National Park 👌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @tessmareemusing. ​#SeeAustralia #RedCentreNT #HolidayHereThisYear

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We’re coming to you from Nitmiluk (#Katherine) Gorge on one of our favourite days of the year - #TerritoryDay! Territory Day marks the NT achieving self-government on 1 July, 1978. It’s also a chance to celebrate the Territory’s amazing backyard, larrikin locals and laidback lifestyle 🌴☀️ Talk about perfect timing – guess what landed on Netflix today? @topendweddingmovie! 💍 Starring our very own @misstap! If you’re thinking about a trip to the Top End, this 2019 movie will well and truly have you packing your bags. Open year round, the Katherine region is home to some of the most stunning gorge scenery in the NT. Consisting of 13 separate gorges, this maze of waterways stretches for 12 kilometres and extends more than 70 metres high. Our tip: Check out Pat's Lookout for spectacular views of the first gorge! Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @shall.be.better. #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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#Uluru sure knows how to roll out the red carpet... 😉 @jaydidphoto captured this mesmerising shot on a sunrise scenic flight with @ayersrockhelicopters over Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which recently reopened to visitors. Winter in @visitcentralaus is nothing short of wonderful, with lower temperatures and endless blue-sky days. ​Time your trip and stay at @exploreuluru's Ayers Rock Resort, which is welcoming guests from August. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jaydidphoto. ​#SeeAustralia #RedCentreNT

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#Darwin's @Deckchair_Cinema is a definite must-do when visiting @TourismTopEnd 🌴 Conveniently accessible with a pathway from the Esplanade in the city, the Deckchair Cinema has views of Darwin Harbour during the day, and a sky full of stars at night. This majestic open air cinema is open throughout the dry season and has permanent deck chairs available for film viewers to relax on 👌 Watch the sunset over the sea and enjoy the tropical garden setting with a meal and a drink before the your movie starts!  Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@beyond925. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #HolidayHereThisYear

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Strewn across the outback, it appears the devil himself left a giant game of marbles unfinished 😜 There are lots of fascinating stories around the creation of the #DevilsMarbles/Karlu Karlu - you can read about them along the many walking trails in the surrounding area. Karlu Karlu, translates to 'round boulders' - the name is shared by the Kayete, Warumungu, Warlpiri and Alyawarra traditional owners of the area. ​If you’re driving from Alice Springs to Darwin, be sure to add this unique stop to your road trip itinerary 👌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @mitch.toft. ​#SeeAustralia #RedCentreNT #HolidayHereThisYear

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Always wanted to visit the NT? @AustTraveller has released 100 ways to #HolidayHereThisYear and unsurprisingly, the heavenly #BitterSprings in @TourismTopEnd is the star on the front cover 🙌 ​Check out our IG story for more NT experiences that made the list!  Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@pepelm. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #australiantraveller

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Just what the doctor ordered... a healthy dose of vitamin-NT 👌 Welcome to Moline Rockhole, one of #Kakadu National Park's best kept secrets. This little piece of swimming paradise is best visited during the dry season (May-September) and is a choice spot if you don't like sharing. ​Luck out and you may find yourself wading into the vibrant green pool and swimming under the falls with nothing but bird calls for company. ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @katrina_ashleighh. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #SeeKakadu

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Welcome to @VisitKatherine's very own piece of emerald paradise 💚 After hiking 4 kilometres along the Windolf bush-walking track, from Nitmiluk Gorge car park, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning waterfall of Southern Rockhole. This seasonal wonder-fall is located near the top of the first gorge and can also be reached by ferry with @NitmilukTours. ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @elfidw. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #NitmilukNT #VisitKatherine

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Do Arnhem Land

Experience ancient Aboriginal culture, dramatic landscapes and true Australian wilderness in Arnhem Land, one of the last untouched regions of the world.

This remote 90,000 square-kilometre reserve to Darwin’s east is wholly Aboriginal-owned land and has some of the Top End's most spectacular natural destinations, with beautiful scenery, rugged coastlines, remote islands, tropical rainforests and wetlands, towering escarpments and savannah woodland.

Stay in a beachfront eco retreat or explore Arnhem Land’s natural treasures at a safari lodge.

Into fishing? Arnhem Land is renowned for its prime, untouched fishing habitats teeming with prized sport and reef fish. Fishing lodges are dotted all over Arnhem Land, or you can join a charter from Darwin.

Do Katherine

The Outback meets the tropics in Katherine, a town three hours south of Darwin and home of the famous Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge.

Katherine has plenty of accommodation options and is your base for taking on the area’s many opportunities for adventure: fishing, camping, hiking, swimming, soaking in hot springs, cave tours, helicopter flights, canoeing, speed-boating, four-wheel driving.

Bring your hiking boots—Katherine is home to one of the world’s best bushwalks: the five-day, 58 km Jatbula Trail that takes in waterfalls, monsoon rainforest, stone country and Aboriginal rock art, camping alongside swimming holes.

For a softer adventure, take in Nitmiluk Gorge aboard a dinner cruise and stay in five-star luxury at the resort right at the gorge.

The Nitmiluk Visitor Centre explains this icon’s significance for the Jawoyn and Dagomen people.

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