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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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#NTaustralia

#Litchfield National Park is a land shaped by water 💦 Over the millennia, the relentless flow has created a dramatic landscape of sheer escarpments and deep gorges, not to mention some of the most inviting swimming spots in the Top End...including stunning Florence Falls! Take a couple of days to explore the 1,500 square kilometre park, studded with hiking trails, gushing cascades and croc-free waterholes - there's plenty of see! Located just 90 minutes' south of #Darwin, many of the park's freshwater swimming holes have now re-opened for the dry season and almost all are accessible by conventional two-wheel drive vehicle. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @robmulally! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Ocean views, fresh seafood and an epic sunset... the ultimate combination at @theDarwinSailingClub 👌 One of three community clubs right on the beach at Fannie Bay, a short drive from #Darwin CBD, this spacious 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

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Here in the upper regions of the Northern Territory, it’s all about the waterfalls! @rob_mulally recently captured Wangi Falls from these two very different perspectives at sunset - both equally spectacular! With a massive emerald plunge pool, stunning rock formations, plenty of shade and scenic walking trails, these falls are the stuff of water wonderland dreams 🙌 #Litchfield may be a fraction of the size of Kakadu, but when it comes to waterfall chasing opportunities, this national park has it in spades! While it's an easy day trip from #Darwin, you'll likely want to stick around for a couple of days and explore more of the region, including park favourites such as Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole. You'll find a handful of accommodation options in the small township of Batchelor or camping facilities within the park. Note: Wangi Falls is scheduled to re-open for swimming in May. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Rob! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Welcome back @mindilmarket - we've missed you! After a break over the tropical summer, these iconic #Darwin markets are back up and running again every Thursday and Sunday evening ...starting tonight 👌 The markets have an array of stalls offering international cuisine, arts, crafts and entertainment. The unique combination of great food and electric atmosphere make it the ultimate spot to soak up the tropical night air and take in an epic Top End sunset at Mindil Beach ☀️👀 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @nicolaiabano and @lifeindarwin!  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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#EastArnhemLand has seriously raw natural beauty, but Bawaka, home to the Burarrawanga family, is a clear standout 🙌 A couple of hours’ drive south of #Nhulunbuy brings you to the small settlement on palm-tree-strewn, pearl-white beaches where they host a variety of cross-cultural activities run by aboriginal-owned company @Lirrwi. By day your local guide will provide you with an insight into Yolgnu homeland life including traditional spear fishing and basket weaving, while by night, you'll sit around the fire and listen to stories about kinship. The East Arnhem Land region is located on the far northeastern tip of the NT mainland, accessible via a short flight from #Darwin or the Central Arnhem Road. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @melissafindley! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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From one to wow, how epic is this for #weekend plans with your mates?! @airborne.solutions offers a helicopter pub crawl... yes, you read that right... a pub crawl by helicopter! They'll take you on a half or full day tour of the best outback watering holes just outside of #Darwin where you'll arrive in rockstar style. Hands up who's adding this to their must-do list 🙋‍♂️🙋‍♀️ Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @danandmoore! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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If you're looking to get back to nature 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 relatively short 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, @mingoldby. #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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It’s a big call, we know, but we reckon we’ve found one of the most picturesque spots for a swim in @Australia! Say g’day to the wildly photogenic Southern Rockhole in Nitmiluk National Park 😍 The rockhole is located within the first section of Nitmiluk Gorge, about a 3.5 hour drive from #Darwin, near the township of Katherine. While getting here does require a bit of bush-bashing, the beautiful emerald waters are your welcome reward. It’ll take you about an hour and a half to get to the falls from the Nitmiluk Visitors Information Centre, but there’s a strong chance that you’ll have the falls all to yourself when you arrive. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @theadventuresofkel! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #NitmilukNT #VisitKatherine

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Located just an hour and a half from #Darwin, Florence Falls boasts its own plunge pool set under cascading water surrounded by monsoon forest 👌 After a refreshing dip at this little piece of paradise, wander up to the viewing platform high above the falls and take in the view of the valley and waterhole below. Due to it's accessibility, #Litchfield National Park is the locals' pick for a camping weekend or an adventurous day out bush walking and swimming - not to mention its pretty easy on the eye 😍 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @insta_ines_travels!  #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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