No trip to Australia is complete without a visit to the Northern Territory. Start your journey through some of most stunning and rugged Australian Outback with centuries old Aboriginal rock art found in Arnhem land and ending with an Inma Ceremony performed at sunset by Anangu women in sight of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Magical adventures await you as you travel through the Northern Territory and the red heart of Australia, exploring its rugged, diverse and timeless beauty.
Darwin’s Balmy Beaches
Located on the Timor Sea on a bluff overlooking the harbour, Darwin boasts a population of 127,500, the largest city in the Northern Territory, but the smallest when compared to other territory capital cities. In Darwin, you’ll be delighted with a bevy of outdoor markets, eateries and festivals where a melting pot of cultures and foods come together. Take a long walk on the area’s beaches or enjoy a cruise on Darwin’s harbour. If you prefer a walk, take a stroll through a lush and thick monsoon forest. From Darwin, visit Litchfield National Park where you can experience a quick dip in crystal clear waterholes surrounded by tall uniquely formed termite mounds. A variety of museums and galleries await exploration of the area’s rich and turbulent history—or take a jaunt to the Tiwi Islands where you can enjoy a local football game, basket weaving and cultural painting.
Kakadu National Park
The Northern Territory is a composite of hundreds of Aboriginal tribes, languages and cultures that when tied together tell a 50,000 year-old story. The Kakadu National Park in the Alligator Rivers area of the Northern Territory covers an area of approximately 19,804 kilometers, roughly half the size of Switzerland. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization lists the entire park as a World Heritage site, meaning that it is recognized for its rich cultural value needing preservation and protection for the world’s future generations. Kakadu National Park has more than 5,000 Aboriginal art sites that date back 40,000 to 50,000 years.
Just over 170 km southeast of Darwin, Kakadu is located in the tropics between 12 and 14 degrees south of the Equator. The climate is characterized by two main seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The dry season typically starts in April/May and lasts until September /October. During the dry season, humidity is low and rain is minimal. More than 1,700 plant species are found inside of Kakadu, some of the richest flora found in Australia. In Kakadu and Arnhem Land, you can take guided tours through many of the rock art sites that depict cultural and natural history. Some of the world’s best X-ray art is found in Kakadu’s at Ubirr Rock.
Wholly owned by native Aboriginal peoples, Arnhem land is site to the now famous Gabarnmung Cave where archaeologists uncovered a ground stone axe believed to be close to 40,000 years old. The rediscovery of the Gabarnmung Cave occurred when two locals flew over the area in a helicopter in 2006. While in Arnhem Land, fish from the creeks, reefs and ocean of the Cobourg Peninsula or visit Mount Borradaile in the company of an Aboriginal guide.
Found on the Stuart Highway, just south of the Barkly Highway terminus, historic Tennant Creek is township to approximately 3,500 people with about half of its residents being indigenous Aboriginal peoples. Once the third largest producer of gold in Australia, Tennant Creek still produces gold and is accessible by car, train or bus. Between Katherine and Alice Springs, Tennant Creek is situated approximately in the middle of the Northern Territory. With a rich and colorful musical community, home to the Winanjjikari Music Centre with regular podcasts and fans on Facebook, and the award-winning Nyunyu Cultural Centre, there’s plenty to experience in Tennant Creek as you travel through Australia’s Northern Territory.
Travel along the Katherine River and cruise through 13 naturally-created gorges lined by sandstone cliffs nearly 70 meters high. Visit during the dry season and take the time to stop at one of the many pools at the bottom of a plunging waterfall. For the hearty in body and mind, take a four to six-day walk on the Jatbula Trail, camping out as you go and ending up at Edith Falls.
Alice Springs will take you back in time to a true “Outback” town, well-known for its pioneer history and rich Aboriginal art. Called simply “Alice” by the locals, it boasts a population of just 27,481 residents and is the second largest town in the territory. Alice is equidistant between Adelaide and Darwin, Alice bestrides the typically dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. Alice is found in the “Red Centre” of Australia, so named for its red soil and sparse desert greenery. Renowned as the Aboriginal Art Capital of Central Australia, the community serves as host to many art galleries and cultural events and festivals. Some of the town’s yearly events include the Camel Cup, a race among camels and riders, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, the Beanie Festival and the Finke Desert Race south of Alice Springs in the Simpson Desert. Alice Springs is accessible by train, car, bus or air.
Inma Ceremony and Uluru
There’s no better way to finish your visit to the Northern Territory than with the traditional Inma Ceremony performed at the Talinguru Nyakuntjaku viewing site just 3 km east of Uluru or Ayers Rock. Because of the deeply spiritual significance of the Inma Ceremony that draws Anangu peoples from the region, not much can be written about it—it is something that must be experienced. Uluru can be visited from nearby Yulara that sports a variety of motels, hotels, lodges, resorts and campgrounds.
How to get to the Northern Territory:
- Fly into Darwin to start your journey.
- Travel by bus, motorhome, campervan or car.
- The Ghan – a train that crosses the Australian continent twice a week between Darwin and Adelaide.
- Alternatively fly into Yulara and start your journey there.
Travel to Australia’s Northern Territory and participate in a corroboree, visit sacred and ancient sites and enjoy your own dreamtime and bushwalk.