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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.

Top destinations in the Top End

Things to see & do in the Top End

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#NTaustralia

Just 90 minutes' from #Darwin you'll find Buley Rockhole in #Litchfield National Park. Buley is insanely beautiful and has a collection of picture perfect rock holes for you to pick from 🌱💦 Like many places in the Top End, you'll easily lose track of time here when the serenity starts to sinks in. If you're still not convinced it's a must do, we'd better tell you that Florence Falls and Wangi Falls are only minutes away as well. It really is nature’s ultimate water park! Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jake.applebee. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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There's no better spot to spend your Sunday evening than the @MindilMarket 😍☀️ Watching the sun disappear into the ocean should be a rite of passage for all visitors to #Darwin! The city's best features - its relaxed atmosphere, Asian-inspired food and sunsets - meet in tropical harmony at these iconic markets every Thursday and Sunday evening. Wander the many eclectic stalls, take in the live entertainment, grab yourself a tasty laksa and then settle in for the main show on the beach 👌 ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @flossie_create.talk! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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This is one view you'll never forget 😍 Amidst the lush wilderness of the breathtaking Top End, @WildmanWildernessLodge offers an extraordinary wetlands safari experience 🙌 Situated in the Mary River Wetlands area half way between #Darwin and #Kakadu National Park, Wildman is a small-scale, high quality safari lodge featuring a central building, 10 air-conditioned cabins ('Habitats') and 15 safari tents. There are a ​variety of boutique and environmentally sensitive excursion options, including tours of Kakadu National Park, cruising on the Mary River and sundowners overlooking the wetlands. Its teeming wildlife and unique experiences offer a world far removed from your own, yet with all the modern comforts of great accommodation, delicious meals and wine to enjoy at the end of each day. ​​Photos: Shaana McNaught ​#NTaustralia #SeeAustralia

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Welcome to @TiwiIslandRetreat - the ultimate place to kick back, enjoy the pool, go fishing and experience a pretty all round amazing location. This private retreat 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). It sits on the water’s edge with sweeping views over Port Hurd and the Timor Sea 🙌 The ecosystem around the retreat is virtually untouched with turtles, crocodiles, stingrays, mud crabs, dolphins, sharks and an abundance of birdlife 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. Did we mention the stars are pretty awesome too?! ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @iamsavi! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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This photo of Berry Springs proves that getting out and exploring #Darwin's surrounds is *very* important and will make your mates incredibly jealous 💦😜 Not only is this natural swimming spot ridiculously beautiful, it's also only a 45 minute drive from our tropical capital and well set up with picnic areas, BBQ's and a kiosk. There are several shady pools along Berry Creek which have steps allowing easy access. The top pool even has a small waterfall to sit under for a relaxing massage! A lovely loop walking track takes you through two of the Top End’s natural wildlife habitats. It starts from the picnic area – so take along your binoculars if you are keen on bird watching. ​Yup, this is heaven on earth! ​Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @powershala. ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

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Wondering where this little slice of heaven is? You'll find Sandy Creek Falls/Tjaynera in #Litchfield National Park, #Darwin's very own water wonderland. This pocket of @TourismTopEnd paradise was made for days filled with life's simple pleasures - kicking back with a good book, a cool dip or a stroll through the monsoon forest. Accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicle and a 1.4 kilometre hike, these falls attract less travellers than the readily accessible cascades and pools elsewhere in the park, and with campground facilities, make for a relaxing any-day getaway. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @saltytravellers! ​#SeeAustralia

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The outback meets the tropics in #Katherine, a big country town three hours drive south of #Darwin on the mighty Katherine River. The jewel of this area is Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, an ancient 13 gorge system that winds it way through the sandstone country. The walks around the gorge are one of the best ways to explore the region, ranging from easy 1-5 kilometre trails to serious full day and overnight hikes. They take you to stunning lookouts, secluded swimming holes, through palm filled valleys and over rocky escarpments. As @mooski_adventures discovered, the 8.4 kilometre return Windolf walk is well worth your while, offering sweeping views of the first gorge from Pat's Lookout, along with seasonal swimming at Southern Rockhole down below. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, Amy and Sarah! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #NitmilukNT #VisitKatherine

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Take to the air and witness the magic of #Kakadu National Park 🚁 The complexity of this diverse landscape becomes an epic eruption of colour and life as you fly over world-famous wetlands, mighty floodplains, and on to the ancient sandstone plateaus of Arnhem Land. Helicopter and fixed-wing flights operate in both wet and dry seasons, departing from #Darwin and within Kakadu (Cooinda and Jabiru). Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, ​@jasoncharleshill! ​#SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #SeeKakadu

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It's easy to see why we keep falling more and more in love with #Litchfield National park every day! 💚 Wangi Falls is one of the most iconic waterfalls in the Top End. Less than a two hour drive from #Darwin, it's the ultimate place to cool down and get off the grid for a bit. For those of you who want to delve deeper into the lush tropical bush land, there are walking trails readily available 🍃 You can even finish off the day with a bite to eat at the conveniently located Wangi Falls Café, which is open all year round. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @iamsavi!  #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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