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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

As far as rail journeys go, they don't get much better than #TheGhan! A unique and awe-inspiring experience, you'll explore the wonders of the country's diverse interior in style and comfort on a 2,979 kilometre journey from #Darwin to Adelaide. Known for its iconic place in Australian history and strong connection to the vast landscape, The Ghan is currently celebrating 90 years of outback adventure 🤠 Having been in operation since 1929, its conception and construction is an epic tale of pioneering endurance. At this time of year, @journeybeyondrail runs The Ghan Expedition over three nights (as opposed to the usual two) with excursions in #Katherine, #AliceSprings and Coober Pedy. @jarradseng and @thehatchling recently embarked on the southbound journey - check out our story to see more of the highlights! #NTaustralia #JourneyBeyond

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How's the serenity? 🤩 Our version of Goldilocks, Buley Rockhole involves hopping from pool to pool until you find one that's just right! With a cascading collection of emerald rock pools that seem to go on forever, you could easily spend the whole day here...so, you can skip those expensive spa treatments and take a seat while fast flowing whitewater gives you a shoulder massage 😜 At just over an hour from #Darwin, #Litchfield National Park is a water-lovers' paradise with a number of dip-worthy destinations dotted throughout the area, including Florence Falls and Wangi Falls. If you're looking to stay and explore longer, accommodation is available in the small township of Batchelor along with a number of camp grounds within the park.  Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @eefexplores!  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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If you're looking for a pretty picnic spot with a healthy side of wild swimming, look no further than #BerrySprings 💦 These shady pools are less than an hours' drive from the #Darwin CBD, making it the perfect day-trip. Walking trails await, so you can work up a sweat or take an easy stroll through the tropical rainforest. Afterwards, why not pop in to @crazyacresnt for what has been described as the best mango ice-cream in @Australia 🙌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @darwin_style! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Sit back and relax...it's time to take in the afternoon show 😎 The top pick of the short walks from the Nitmiluk (#Katherine) Gorge visitor centre, Baruwei follows the path of a dragonlike Jawoyn Creation Ancestor. There are two options: the 1.8km trail to the lookout for glorious views, or the longer 4.8km loop. Starting with a short, steep climb, the entire loop provides beautiful views over the Katherine River. There are lots of ways to explore this ancient gorge system, located 3.5 hours' from #Darwin, including by kayak, helicopter or boat cruise 👌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jonny.melon! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #NitmilukNT

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#Darwin in the dry season... need we say more?! 😍  @jonesaroundtheworld captured this cracking #sunset from the pool at @MindilBeachResort where hotel guests have direct access to the beach 🌴 The city's iconic @mindilmarket is just a five minute walk from here, and is on every Thursday and Sunday evening from April till October. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Dave! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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We're coming to you from picture-perfect #EastArnhemLand at sunrise 🌸 This is Lonely Beach, a very beautiful (and real!) place that you can explore on a tour with aboriginal-owned company @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 lives 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, @melissafindley! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #ArnhemLand

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Nature lovers will love what's on offer in close proximity to #Darwin, particularly the waterfall-laden #Litchfield National Park! @robmulally recently captured this spectacular photo over Wangi Falls, one of the park's signature swimming hubs. With a stunning cliff face, an emerald-toned plunge pool and a cafe on-site, there's every reason to stay awhile and enjoy your surroundings. If you're looking to stretch your legs, the 1.6 kilometre return Wangi Falls walk will take you up to the escarpment where you'll have an amazing view of the stone country above the falls. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Rob! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Visiting #Darwin? Make sure you get a window seat like @toripix86, who witnessed this spectacular sunrise over the winding Adelaide River on a recent trip to @TourismTopEnd. 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, Tori. #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Welcome to @TopEndSafariCamp 🤠 @jockpurcell stopped by @mattwright1's little piece of "wild @Australia", set amongst the #Litchfield region's spectacular cathedral termite mounds and lush open floodplains. This is one overnight adventure you'll never forget! Collected from #Darwin, you'll stop at Berry Springs for a refreshing dip before heading to the camp and settling in to your deluxe lotus bell tent. Afternoon activities include an introduction to Matt's incredible 17 foot saltwater crocodile, Tripod, along with a helicopter flight over the surrounding landscape and a delicious BBQ dinner held on the Star Deck. You might not want to return to Darwin the next day!  #NTaustralia #SeeAustralia

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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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