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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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#NTaustralia

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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Make sure you get a window seat on your way to #Darwin 😉 The NT's unhurried capital is well known for its balmy nights, colourful characters and outdoor adventures. As well as markets, crocodiles and cruises, you'll find strong Aboriginal culture and a number of national parks right on your door step. Perched on a harbour five times the size of Sydney's and home to some of @Australia's most instagrammable sunsets, Darwin is the ultimate tropical escape 🙌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @sparetimelife! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Sending you a postcard from paradise, also known as #EastArnhemLand 🍃 This is Lonely Beach, a very beautiful (and real!) place that you can explore on a tour with aboriginal-owned organisation @Lirrwi Tourism. They offer day and multi-day guided tours into the remote Yolngu Homelands, departing from #Nhulunbuy (#Gove) between April and October. You'll get to see how the world's oldest living culture still does things today - from traditional spear fishing to gathering of bush foods. East Arnhem Land is only a short flight from #Darwin or can be accessed via the Central Arnhem Road.  Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @haylsa!  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Warning: You may never want your holiday to end at @skycitydarwin 🌴 Nestled on 30 acres of tropical gardens fringed by the crystal blue Arafura Sea, Skycity's centrally located resort offers stunning accommodation and dining options. Relax in one of the 152 stylishly appointed hotel or resort rooms, swim in their spectacular infinity edged pool or lagoon pool, enjoy the cuisine of their five distinctive dining experiences, indulge in spa treatments, and relax on the beautiful private beach. Not to mention there's a swim-up bar! Does this sound like your cup of tropical tea? If so, @Qantas are currently offering sale fares to #Darwin from most Aussie capital cities! Meet you at the swim-up bar 😉 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jonesaroundtheworld. #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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We're soaking up some serious vitamin-sea with this spectacular shot of one our famous #Darwin sunsets at local culinary hub Cullen Bay. There’s really nothing quite like the incredible explosion of colour that fills the sky, best enjoyed at one of the bars or restaurants right on the water! Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @bryonyleigh__ .  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Is Buley Rockhole the best all-round swimming hole in #Litchfield National Park? It's so hard to choose 💁‍♂️ Compact and easily accessible, it feels a bit like hanging out in a mate’s backyard pool, but in a setting a thousand times more beautiful. Once you’ve pulled yourself out, wander down the path and try the other swimming spots found at intervals down the hill. At just over an hour from #Darwin, the park is every local's favourite day trip with its waterfalls and waterholes, bush walks, four-wheel drive tracks and wildlife. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @eefexplores! #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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