Five wildly different ways to experience the NT

Apr 09, 2024
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Send five travellers to three different parts of the Northern Territory. Listen to the lively stories they bring home. You’ll be forgiven for thinking they’ve visited five different continents entirely.

A Northern Territory trip is so much more than the Red Centre landscapes that challenge your very sense of scale; the lovely temperate tropics of the Top End; the unfathomably ancient reaches of Arnhem Land.

The NT experience is just as much about the fresh mangoes from local roadside stalls. The distinctive sweet smells of yellow wattles. The rainbow hues of wildflowers in bloom. The beautiful, breezy warmth of the Top End in dry season. The friendly local debates over which Darwin market stall sells the best laksa. The tiny daily discoveries you encounter every day on a good old Aussie road trip.

Beyond the feast for the senses, it’s about the powerful feelings that can catch you off guard, such as that profound sense of connection to people of the past. Many Top End visitors experience an enormous shift in perspective on glimpsing the Darwin that was lost during World War 2, its remnants now nestled comfortably among the young and thriving new city that emerged. Not to mention the feeling of walking the same earth as fellow humans who have walked this land for more than 60,000 years.

This isn’t a “bucket list” destination, nor a distant dream, nor a “one and done” expedition; it’s sitting right next door, easier and affordable than many believe, with new rewards awaiting you every repeat visit.

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Just go. Planes, trains and automobiles will get you there.

You can make your journey to the Northern Territory as speedy or as immersive as you wish.

Darwin is less than a 4.5-hour flight from most Australian capital cities and Alice Springs is less than 3.5; both are closer than you might think.

The Ghan railway is an experience that lives up to its reputation. The gradual transition of the landscape on this coast-to-epic coast journey — from southern farmlands to vivid red outback to the lush tropical greenery of the north — really does put Australia in a whole new perspective.

However, for more budget-conscious or independent travellers, these highlights can be experienced just as easily by car.

Not sure where to begin? You can start planning your NT driving adventure with these easy, ready-made road trip adventures. Read on for five very different options.

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Five unique ways to experience the NT

These pre-prepared itineraries will take the fuss out of travel planning. Each has been designed by Tourism Northern Territory to help you make the very most of your visit, no matter what your budget, timeframe or fitness/accessibility level.

1. Experience Darwin’s wildlife, history and nature — without venturing outside city limits
Start a delightful day in the city with a stroll around the 43-hectare George Brown Botanic Gardens – or take a Segway Tour to save your legs. Pop into Crocosaurus Cove to see Aussie reptiles (up close and not too personal) and visit Aquascene to hand-feed the fish. Bicentennial Park features walking trails and picnic areas and an easy stroll to the Cenotaph, Darwin’s poignant WWI war memorial. Learn more here.

2. Explore the Top End’s untouched wilderness in self-paced comfort
Starting in Darwin, the “Nature’s Way” tourist drive will take you through three must-see national parks: Kakadu, Nitmiluk Litchfield. Suitable for all fitness levels, this journey delivers an abundance of waterfalls, wetlands — for the many avid twitchers in our community — an absolutely thriving array of bird life.

If you’d like the feeling of going off the beaten track without venturing too far from modern amenities — or simply need to escape the winter chill of the south — this road trip is your perfect starting point. Read the full itinerary here.

3. See Alice Springs in three days
Set against the majestic backdrop of the frequently-painted MacDonnell Ranges, this itinerary is packed with variety and wonder. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Red Centre with a hot air balloon ride; discover the arid-zone Olive Pink Botanic Garden; visit the historic Royal Flying Doctor Service, and take a journey into the eye-opening Reptile Centre… if you dare! This is just a small sample of the fun you can fit into three short days. Click here for more.

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4. Take the iconic Red Centre Art Trail
This six-day road trip will take you from Alice Springs to Uluru in amazing depth; a chance to truly immerse yourself in 65,000 years of human history and connect with the past in some truly profound ways. A fascinating art and cultural tour through Alice Springs continues into the desert lands surrounding Uluru, followed by the opportunity to explore Kings Canyon on a guided walk followed by an Aboriginal cultural experience. Click here for top tips on how to drive the Red Centre Art Trail.

5. Concerned about accessibility? The NT has you covered.
Top End and Red Centre may offer vast untamed wilderness, but that’s not to say they’re challenging to navigate. On the contrary, both destinations are very accommodating regardless of fitness levels, energy levels and mobility/accessibility requirements. Tourism NT has some carefully curated itinerary ideas suitable for wheelchair users (but ideal for anyone specifically concerned about navigating outdoor terrain), as well as vibrant sensory experiences for blind/low vision travellers.

The Red Centre is friendly to virtually any level of mobility. Destinations such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Alice Springs School of the Air, Desert Park and Stanley Chasm are all great, accessible starting points that can be reached easily by car or bus. Even Uluru offers a huge range of options, with most trails at the base suitable for any mobility/fitness level (including wheelchair travel). Visit during winter and you won’t even break a sweat.

When it comes to Darwin and the national parks of the Top End, the lovely warm lagoons and waterfalls are far from off-limits, with many of the most popular destinations catering to multiple levels of mobility and accessibility. The Tourism NT website is a great starting point. Simply head to their dedicated accessibility section and scroll down for an enormous list of experiences waiting for you to enjoy.

Exploring each itinerary, one thing is abundantly clear: there’s far too much to see and do in just one visit. There’s no time like the present to take that first step; it’s just an easy flight or drive away! Head to northernterritory.com to start planning the first of many adventures to come.

Seek different in the Northern Territory.

Discover the beauty of the Northern Territory. Explore iconic sites including Uluru and Kakadu National Parks, enjoy road trips and diverse wildlife. Everyone can enjoy the nature, adventure and cultural experiences the Northern Territory has to offer.

Let’s go