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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.

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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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Nature at its very finest 🙌 Found in #Litchfield National Park, the spectacular Florence Falls cascade into a clear plunge pool, set in a pocket of tropical forest. Floating in this lush waterhole, you'll feel yourself instantly relax 💚 Only a 90 minute drive south of #Darwin, the park is filled with sweet swimming spots surrounded by dramatic landscapes. Take note, swimming fans! 📝 ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @elleschembri. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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He's a big fella! 😮 Always wanted to see a saltwater crocodile up close? 🐊  @jumpingcrocodilecruises offer 1 hour boat cruises along the Adelaide River, only 60 minutes drive from #Darwin. You'll get to learn all about these magnificent, ancient creatures in their natural habitat from the safety of a boat. Tag a mate who you think would enjoy this in the comments below!👇 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jax.que.lyn. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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When it comes to extraordinary sunsets, #Darwin definitely delivers, particularly in the dry season! @nath_lew captured this winning shot at Nightcliff, a popular locals hangout spot with food vans, bike paths and lush lawns. Enjoy the free evening show from a picnic rug with your favourite local takeaway 👌🌅 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Nathan! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Just another stunning evening in our tropical capital, #Darwin 🌅 We'll certainly never tire of views like this! Swipe across for double the orange glow goodness 🧡 While we can't share these magnificent scenes with some of you in person at this time, we can reflect on our favourite D-town moments... tell us yours below!👇 ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @michae1patrick. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Daydreaming about THESE views 😍 #Darwin's colourful coastline is a special sight, particularly from the air. We're adding a scenic helicopter flight with to our future NT must-do list 👌 ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @_danieltran_. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Ocean views, fresh seafood and an epic sunset... how's that for the ultimate combination at @theDarwinSailingClub 👌 One of three community clubs set right on the beach at Fannie Bay, only a short drive from #Darwin CBD, this outdoor-dining bistro is a great spot for a casual meal serving a crowd-pleasing menu of tapas, pastas and pizzas. Grab a table on the manicured lawns, choose your fave cool drink and watch the boats bob up and down in the bay. As the sun sets across the Arafura Sea, there isn’t a better view in town 💗 ​#NTaustralia #SeeAustralia #HolidayHereThisYear

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If you're looking to get back to nature combined with a healthy side of wild swimming, then Robin Falls is for you! 💦🍃 This three-tiered waterfall can be found at the end of a short-ish walk that winds through ancient tropical woodlands and a crystal clear stream. Most travellers head out to Litchfield National Park to chase waterfalls, but what many people don’t know is that just outside the park boundary lies this amazing spot - just 90 minutes south of #Darwin! Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @izzyj6. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #HolidayHereThisYear

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Looking flash, #Darwin ⚡😉 Our @TourismTopEnd capital is pretty awesome year round, but between November and April Mother Nature regularly likes to light up the sky with breathtaking electrical storms, followed by showers that transform the city into a cool oasis where the sweet scent of frangipanis fill the air. @StokesHillWharf, @thedarwinsailingclub and Cullen Bay are all prime spots from which to watch nature's light-show 👌 ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @darwin_style. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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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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