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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.


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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

Our tropical summer sunrises are something else 💜 Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is a haven for wildlife, particularly a wide variety of birds. There are a handful of different walks to choose from, all of which allow you to really explore the wetland area... without getting your feet wet! Wander along the easy paths through shady forests of paperbark and stop at the various lookouts and viewing platforms for stunning views across the floodplains. The reserve is only a 45 minute drive from #Darwin and a great stop on the way to #Kakadu National Park. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @rachstewartnz! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Keeping cool, NT style! 💦 If you're a big fan of waterfalls like us, a visit to #Litchfield National Park is definitely a must! Fed by twin falls and fringed by shady trees, Florence Falls ranks as one of the park's front runners, particularly as it's swimmable almost year round. Reaching the fall's glistening jade-green swimming hole is half the appeal 👉 the walk is short, relatively easy and showcases the dramatic contrast between mighty sandstone escarpment and lush monsoon forest. An easy day trip from #Darwin, Litchfield may be a fraction of the size of Kakadu, but when it comes to swimming opportunities it packs a serious punch 👌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @outtaorbit_! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Need some inspo to get out of bed earlier? This should do the trick! @beyond925 recently captured this stunning sunrise overlooking @Darwin.Waterfront and @stokeshillwharf, #Darwin's very own leisure land with swimming lagoons, lush lawns and waterside restaurants. The NT's capital isn't just crocodiles and palm trees, Darwin offers travellers the chance to mix the outback with the city and the coast while also taking in some incredible sunrises and sunsets 💜 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Karen! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Visiting #Darwin? Make sure you hop on a scenic helicopter flight like @robmulally, who witnessed this spectacular sunrise over the winding Adelaide River with @airborne.solutions 🚁 This iconic river is known for its large population of saltwater crocodiles, arguably one of the NT's most fascinating animals. One of the best ways to see them in their natural environment is on a 'jumping crocodile cruise' with @jumpingcrocodilecruises or @adelaiderivertours. Watch as they rise (often vertically!) in the air to catch food as your knowledgeable guides explain more about these ancient creatures. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Rob! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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The much anticipated @tropicallight.darwin by world renowned artist, @brucemunrostudio, launches tonight in #Darwin lighting up a number of locations from the city to the @darwin.waterfront ✨🙌 Follow the 2.5km self-guided path to view the installations, with contributions by local artists across various mediums. Locals and visitors alike can see the sculptures during the day, but they hold special significance when they are illuminated at night from 7-10.30pm. This free event will run until April 30, 2020. #NTaustralia #SeeAustralia #TropicalLight

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#Darwin's nature playground, #Litchfield National Park is close enough to visit just for a swim in a waterfall and take in beautiful tropical forests 💦👌 The park's big-ticket attraction, Wangi Falls (pronounced wong-guy) flows year round, spilling either side of a dramatic rock face and filling an enormous swimming hole. Bring your bathers and googles to spot small fish! If you can pull yourself away from this epic pool, you’ll find various walking tracks, including a three kilometre track that takes you up over the falls and back to the car park. If you’d like to stay a bit longer and explore more, there is a kiosk onsite, campground with hot showers and barbecues nearby. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jade_elise_collins! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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The @territorywildlifepark is in the midst of an unprecedented baby boom with zookeepers swamped by 11 baby animals! Talk about cuteness overload 😍 The animals include four baby wallabies, a baby possum, two baby barking owls, two baby red flying foxes, a black-footed tree rat and one baby curlew. Feeding time just got a bit crazy for the zookeepers at the park, located only 45 minutes' drive from #Darwin! Most of the animals are being hand reared until they're strong enough to survive alone - they'll then be released into the park. If you're looking to get up close and personal with the animals and plants of @TourismTopEnd, the wildlife park is the ultimate place to visit with a mix of natural bush and zoo-type exhibits spread out around a 4 kilometre loop. Check out our story to see more of these cuties! ​#NTaustralia #SeeAustralia

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Keep an 👀 out for the Poinciana tree in @TourismTopEnd - they're only in full bloom for around 4-6 weeks usually during October-November! Commonly known as Flame trees, their bright red flowers are arguably one of the Top End's prettiest sights at this time of the year. You can spot them around #Darwin and surrounds 🧡😍 ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @akarshmohan! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Our mates at @cottonon are offering the trip of a lifetime for two people to the Top End, including return airfares and accommodation 🙌 You’ll get to stay at #Darwin’s iconic @mindilbeachresort, enjoy a helicopter ride over the breathtaking Nitmiluk Gorge with @nitmilukhelitouring, indulge in a sunset dinner cruise with @nitmiluktours and explore tropical hot springs, waterfalls and waterholes—and so much more. Click the link in our bio to enter or check out our story 👌 Open to AU + NZ only #NTaustralia

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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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