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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

It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas! 🎄🧡 These bright red and orange flowers are arguably one of the Top End's prettiest sights at this time of the year. Commonly known as flame trees, you can spot them around #Darwin and surrounds. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@ashleydobson! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Let's be honest, it's the end of the year and we're totally ready for annual leave! Cue, Buley Rockhole! Perhaps the most popular swimming spot in #Litchfield National Park, Buley combines a number of rock pools with a breathtaking backdrop of tropical bush land and escarpment. Set just an hour and a half from the centre of #Darwin, it’s the perfect place to while away the day. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@teigannash! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Fact: wine tastes better with a tropical sunset! ☀️ To fully appreciate #Darwin's magnificent harbour, step aboard the 25 metre multi-level catamaran, the ‘Charles Darwin' and enjoy a delicious Territory-style buffet on their iconic sunset dinner cruise. If you prefer, you can simply relax with a drink and yummy platter on the bridge deck! The stunning afternoon colour display is the highlight of this Top End experience with no two sunsets the same. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @_markfitz! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Ready for an epic adventure? Tune in tonight at 7.30pm (AEST) for Channel 10’s @amazingraceau finale… held in the Top End! The contest starts in #Darwin with the final teams racing to the finish line in #Katherine. Where the outback meets the tropics, @VisitKatherine boasts a number of attractions, namely the magnificent Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. The gorge-ous views and walking tracks will impress even the most adventurous of hearts! Watch the teams tackle a variety of NT-style challenges, including canoeing, helicopter rides and a visit to @KatherineOutbackExperience. Pssst… keen for your own Top End adventure? @jetstaraustralia are currently offering sale fares to Darwin! Find the link in our bio. ​Photo: Shaana McNaught #NTaustralia

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💡 Watt's happening in #Darwin, you ask? The @tropicallight.darwin installation by world renowned artist, @brucemunrostudio, that's what! These incredible displays are lighting up a number of locations from the city to the @darwin.waterfront ✨🙌 Follow the 2.5 kilometre 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. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@_danieltran_! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Chasing waterfalls...by private helicopter?! Yes, please! Departing from Batchelor, @NTairLitchfield will take you on a 2.5 hour loop of #Litchfield National Park with landings at Sandy Creek, the Lost City and termite mounds. Situated at the top of Sandy Creek Falls, this remote swimming hole is crocodile safe year round and will be all yours to enjoy for a picnic lunch! Just 1.5 hours' drive from #Darwin, Litchfield is spectacular over the tropical summer months with waterfalls in full flow and lush green surrounds. Tip: Be sure to check the NT Parks and Wildlife website if you're hoping to take a dip, as some spots may be closed for swimming due to flooding. ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @ashleydobson! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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If the sight of sunshine ☀️, palm trees 🌴 and an infinity pool 💦 gets you excited for a holiday, then you're going to love @mindilbeachresort! Here in our stunning cosmopolitan capital, #Darwin, the locals will tell you that this is one of the best places to enjoy the year round balmy weather. Set amongst tropical beach-side gardens, there's plenty to keep you busy at this premium accommodation option with five restaurants and seven bars onsite!​ Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@ashleydobson. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Come face to face with the world's largest reptile, the saltwater crocodile, at @CrocosaurusCove in what's called the 'Cage of Death'! Would you hop in? 🙋‍♂️🙈 This is @Australia's only crocodile swimming experience where you'll be lowered into the crocodiles' water in a perspex enclosure. Nothing compares to locking eyes with these modern day dinosaurs! Located in the centre of #Darwin, discover Crocosaurus Cove's daily interactive shows, and learn all about the Top End's incredible wildlife. Watch a huge saltie dine on his lunch during the Big Croc Feed Show, see a snake or lizard during the Meet the Reptiles Show, and feed a feisty juvenile croc from the Fishing for Crocs platform. ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @kotravellers! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Orange you glad you got to witness this golden sunset on the #TiwiIslands, @elisecook! 😜🧡 @TiwiIslandRetreat is situated at Munanampi Point on the south western coast of Bathurst Island, the smaller of the two major islands which make up the Tiwis (located 80 kilometres north of #Darwin). The ecosystem around the retreat is virtually untouched with turtles, crocodiles, stingrays, mud crabs, dolphins, sharks and an abundance of bird-life right on its doorstep.​ Their trip packages are designed for friends, couples or groups wanting to explore more of the Tiwi Islands and include return charter flights and twin share rooms with shared facilities. The retreat also offers various activities such as scenic helicopter flights, mud-crabbing, art and cultural experiences along with a swimming hole adventure. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Elise! ​#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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