The best of the NT on a budget. Yes, it’s possible!

Jun 19, 2019
Watching the sunset at Mindil Beach in Darwin is a must-do if you’re visiting the Top End – the best part is that it won’t cost you a thing.

If you’ve been wanting to tick off the Northern Territory’s many bucket-list experiences but have been put off by worries about the cost, you may be surprised at just how affordable it can be to experience the territory.

If you’re a savvy traveller who knows how to find a good deal, there are plenty of free or low-cost things to do if you want to stick to a shoestring budget or just ensure you keep your costs to a reasonable amount.

Have a look at these examples and see if you’re still putting off that once-in-a-lifetime NT visit – we bet you’ll be more tempted to go than ever before!

Take in the incredible sights

From scenic waterfalls to stunning national parks, the NT is full of natural wonders that cater to all types of travellers.

If you enjoy romantic walks by the waterfront, a trip to Darwin’s most-visited beach, Mindil Beach, is a must. Not only is this location counted among Australia’s best beaches, it’s also famous for its spectacular sunsets. Grab your camera, picnic rug and take in the incredible evening skies. The best part? It won’t cost you a thing to watch.

For the adventurous, head to Litchfield National Park to admire thunderous waterfalls and lush waterholes and get up close and personal with Top End animals, such as brown bandicoots, kingfishers and northern quolls. (There is some wildlife you’d probably prefer not to encounter while actually in a waterhole, which is why it’s important to check the official guidance on safe swimming sites to avoid crocodiles! If you are keen on crocs, you can safely observe them for free at Cahills Crossing near the Ubirr Border Store in Kakadu or for a small fee at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin.)

Stroll through Darwin’s famous markets

There’s nothing better than waking up early on the weekend and heading to a local market to grab a bargain, and one of the best is Rapid Creek Markets, Darwin’s oldest market.

Only a 20-minute drive from the city centre, it’s a great place to pick up local produce such as tropical fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices – perfect if you’re saving cash by self-catering. This iconic market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 6.30am to 1.30pm.

Meanwhile, if you’re visiting the Red Centre, a trip to the Todd Mall Markets in Alice Springs is a must. Here you’ll find local crafts, jewellery, knick-knacks and art, plus you can sample delicious market food. The markets are held every second Sunday from 9am until 1pm.

If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of daily life, a trip to Darwin’s Nightcliff Markets is good fun. Locals and tourists alike flock here to shop at a variety of local art and craft stalls, satisfy their cravings for street food and enjoy live entertainment. These markets take place at Nightcliff Shopping Centre every Sunday from 8am until 2pm.

Hop on a bargain sightseeing tour

Sometimes there’s no better way to admire a region than hopping on a sightseeing tour – especially when you can pack in plenty of sites for one low price.

Go sightseeing in Darwin with a hop-on hop-off bus tour and visit the city’s many great attractions, such as Mindil Beach, Crocosaurus Cove (the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles – all safely enclosed! Senior discounts are available) and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. The route has 12 hop-on hop-off stops throughout Darwin and is a bargain at $28 per person for a one-day ticket.

If you have an interest in Aussie history, a cruise on the Darwin Harbour is perfect for you. Take in significant World War II sites on this hour-long cruise, which honours the men and women who protected Darwin in the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. Starting at $35 per person, the cruise covers the historic Stokes Hill and Fort Hill wharf areas, the Pearling Luggers, the wreck sites of the USS Peary and the old flying boat base at Doctors Gully.


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Another fascinating place to discover is Cutta Cutta Caves, located just a 20-minute drive from Katherine. You’ll get to go on an hour-long guided tour that explores amazing limestone caves that can only be found in a few places in northern Australia, all for $25 per person. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot local wildlife like the brown tree snake and the orange horseshoe bat.

Make the most of great free entertainment

The NT is famous for its huge variety of events, from high class to classic Aussie fun.

When it comes to the latter, if you’re a bit of a larrikin and love your beer just as much as your water sports, you can’t miss the Beer Can Regatta. Running since 1974 – this year it’s happening on July 14 – the regatta sees hundreds of people take to the shallow waters of Darwin’s Mindil Beach in surprisingly buoyant boats made from beer cans.

Other activities include sandcastle-building, tug-of-war and a thong-throwing competition. You can’t get more Aussie than that!


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Beer Can Boats have arrived #beercanregatta2017 #darwinbeercanregatta #beercanboat #mindilbeach

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If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, Kakadu National Park is a great place to visit for an encounter with some feathery locals, especially during Kakadu Bird Week, which runs this year from September 28 to October 5.

If you enjoy warm outdoor festivities, travel to the NT from August 8-25 to experience the bustle and energy of the Darwin Festival. This year is its 40th anniversary and they’re pulling out all the stops, with cabaret, theatre, comedy, visual arts, music, food stalls, pop-up bars and more.

Have you done the Northern Territory? What’s your favourite budget-friendly thing to do in the NT?

Events in the Northern Territory

From the Top End down to the Red Centre, the Territory is home to a rich program of events and festivals. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie, an off-beat art fanatic or an Aussie sports buff, we're sure there's an event happening in the NT that you'll love.

Explore Events