The Top End is a top spot for family touring
There really is something for the whole family to enjoy while on holiday in the NT, as Travis Godfredson and his tribe discovered.
Choosing a family holiday is like choosing a pizza. The challenge is finding the right toppings to make everyone happy. For our next holiday, I wanted something spicy yet safe for the kids; something fun and adventurous in a natural setting. And my wife? She wanted something exotic but affordable. We placed the order for a family-sized slice of the Northern Territory.
Our adventure started in Darwin. Despite being a capital city, it feels more like a big country town. Open-air plazas are lined with shops that have something for everyone. Ice-creams, pearls and Akubra hats are only a heel’s click away. Food lovers will be drawn to the sweet and savoury smells of the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets which operate during the dry season from late April to late October. Homemade crafts and trinkets adorn the stalls and the sizzling treats on offer are a highlight, served under the warm glow of a Top End sunset.
The Top End can be pretty warm, but the good news is there are plenty of places for the kids to cool off. And the better news is many of them are free. Leanyer Recreation Park and Howard Springs Nature Park featured high on our family’s fun-o-meter and, best of all, they’re sheltered in shade cloth and completely free! In fact, most of the springs dotted around Darwin are no-fee affairs.
The adventure rating steps up the further we head out of Darwin. About two hours south is Litchfield National Park and its Buley Rockhole. We meander to the cool, clear waters spilling from pool to pool and Mum enjoys a natural massage courtesy of the cascading water. We’ve barely finished our smoothies before discovering the nearby Wangi Falls. The cavernous gorge is fed by trickling waterfalls starting high above, where kites circle surveying the humans below.
East of Darwin, the Kakadu National Park is full of must-see NT experiences. Gunlom brings out our inner explorers. Everyone, including four-year-old Molly, climbs for 45 minutes to be rewarded by an amazing view of Kakadu. We enjoy it from the plunge pool overlooking the gorge – as you do.
In Kakadu lies a spectacular natural plunge pool at the base of the sheer rock walls of the Maguk Gorge. The whole family treks for about a kilometre to a crystal-clear pool fringed with monsoon forest to snorkel with banded grunters and long-tom fish. After a bit of a rest and lunch at the bush camping area close by, which offers barbecue facilities, we climb up to the top of the waterfall to check out the amazing view. It’s a moderately difficult climb so a refreshing dip in the pools at the top of the falls certainly hits the spot.
Ogling a crocodile was on everyone’s bucket list – and since our Adelaide River tour, our four-year-old daughter Molly has been snapping around the lounge room like a giant croc. Canoeing the cavernous gorges of Nitmiluk is also a big kid-pleaser – thankfully, everything is clearly signposted so you know where to swim and play safely. There’s wildlife everywhere in the NT, with special places dedicated to sharing stories, such as the Territory Wildlife Park, which was a highlight. The kids loved getting up close and personal with the animals and hearing the handlers' stories.
Storytelling is the heart and soul of the NT. It’s how generations of Indigenous Australians learned the ways of the world and I wanted my kids to understand that. We showed them the Australian history at Darwin’s Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and tried our hand at rarrk painting at the Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery in Katherine. Six-year-old William threw a fair-dinkum spear and has the certificate to prove it! Speaking of stories, the Katherine Outback Experience has plenty to tell, there’s even a bloke that plays a guitar on a horse. There's no doubt you’ll be surprised by everything you see in the NT.
5 Things You’ll Love About the NT
- Sweet aromas of the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
- Learning cool stuff, especially the history of early Australians
- Water-based activities, both natural and manmade
- Crocs, critters and other creatures
- The million-dollar views, for free!