Welcome to the Northern Territory

a local indigenous guide showing people around Uluru and showing them traditional bush tucker from a berry tree

Experience the magic of Uluru with local guides. Photo: Tourism Australia

The Northern Territory is a mystical and magical place. It has a rugged beauty and more than 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture and history waiting for you.  This is your chance to experience the Northern Territory's incredible indigenous culture including ancient rock art, storytelling and spiritual traditions.

The ‘Territory’ as it’s known to the locals, is one huge deep red desert with the occasional town, beautiful national parks, and of course, a massive, stunning rock (Uluru) popping up in the middle of nowhere. Once you've experienced The Territory, it'll remain etched in your memory forever.

The Territory is made up of many stunning areas, but it's often referred to in two sections:

Getting there:
  • Fly to Uluru, Alice Springs and Darwin from any city in Australia.
  • If you're looking for something different, take the 21 hour Ghan rail journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs. The Ghan is Australia's version of the Orient Express. 
  • If you're really keen on a road trip, you'll need to allow a few days, depending on where you're travelling from. For example, a drive from Sydney to Darwin is a whopping 4,000km and will take over 40 hours. Bottom line is that if you're planning to drive, plan your trip with lots of stopovers and breaks along the way.

Getting around the Northern Territory: The Northern Territory is one giant desert. You can drive for hours and still not see another town. If you are driving, make sure you have plenty of time and a reliable, well-stocked vehicle. Get a great deal on your hire car here.

Visit The Red Centre in the Northern Territory

people dining under the stars at Uluru in Australia's Red Centre

This is outdoor dining at its best when you visit Uluru. Photo: Tourism Australia 

The Red Centre is in Central Australia. This is where you'll find Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), the outback town of Alice Springs, the East MacDonnell Ranges, the West MacDonnell Ranges and Kings Canyon.

Things to do in Uluru

a local indigenous guide showing people Aboriginal Rock art in caves in the Northern Territory

Welcome to the world's oldest outdoor art gallery. 60,000 years of Aboriginal Rock art adorns every corner of the Northern Territory. Photo: Tourism Australia

Uluru (Ayers Rock) is a sacred Aboriginal site and is a must-visit when you're in the Northern Territory. This huge red sandstone rock is beautiful any time of day but sunrise and sunset are amazing. Uluru is in the middle of nowhere, so get there by plane, tour group or drive from Alice Springs.

  • Head to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and be introduced to the local Aboriginal culture and traditions. Visit the cultural centre at the base of Ayers Rock where you can book guided walks, sample some bush tucker, explore art galleries and meet local Anangu artists.

  • End your day by dining under the stars with Uluru as your backdrop. Watch the sunset over the Olgas as you feast on barbecued barramundi, kangaroo, crocodile, bush salads and Australian wines. All this plus an Aboriginal dance performance.

  • Other ways to explore Uluru are by riding a bike or a camel, booking a sky-diving adventure, a helicopter or scenic flight, or jumping on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

  • Explore Ayers Rock by taking a walking tour around the 10.6 km base of this monolith with your local Aboriginal Anangu guide. Along the way you’ll visit sacred caves and ancient rock art and paintings, and Kantju Gorge waterholes and springs.

Try eating a witchetty grub when you do a tour with the locals

Try some bush tucker - maybe a witchetty grub. Photo: Tourism Australia

  • Take a traditional bush-tucker tour and forage for your own food. Your Indigenous guide will show you how people have eaten off the land for thousands of years. Other local native delicacies to try include emu or crocodile steaks.

  • 30 kilometres from Uluru is Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas). There's 36 large domed rocks with two walks around them. These include the 7 km Valley of the Winds Walk that circle a few of the Olgas plus the Kalpa lookout; or the 2 km Olga Gorge Walk (Tatintjawiya) leading to the beautiful Walpa gorge.

Things to do in Alice Springs

People participating in the Henley-on-Todd boat regatta, which takes place on dry land

Be part of the hysterical Henley on Todd boat regatta in Alice springs. Photo: Henley on Todd Inc

Alice Springs is a famous Australian outback town and has featured in many movies including Priscilla – Queen of the Desert and Crocodile Dundee. A few suggestions on things to do in the Alice include:

  • Take a walk around this quirky town (either on your own or book a tour)

  • Take a sunset camel ride

  • Check out the annual Camel Cup where camels race around a dusty outback track

  • Laugh yourself crazy at the annual Henley-On-Todd Regatta where people race bottomless boats on the dry sands of the Todd River

  • Be part of the annual Parrtjima Aboriginal light festival in April. This free festival is 10 nights of light installations by Aboriginal artists and is set against the MacDonnell Ranges.

  • Visit the Field of Light where there are 50,000 glowing spheres of colour in the desert with Uluru in the background. This art installation is by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro. This is not to be missed.

  • Visit the Alice Springs Desert Park to see local reptiles, bats, birds, as well as learning about Aboriginal bush tucker and how they create medicines from nature.

    Welcome to the MacDonnell Ranges

    People looking at the water hole at the stunning Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges

    The stunning Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Photo: Tourism Australia & Tourism NT

    The East and West MacDonnell Ranges are one hours drive from Alice Springs. The MacDonnell Ranges are on both sides of Alice Springs and go on for hundreds of kilometres. More people flock to the West MacDonnell Ranges. That said, both have plenty to do including hiking and bushwalking, 4-wheel-driving, swimming holes and great camping spots. The best time to visit is between May and September when the weather is hot but dry. If you're looking for authentic Aboriginal art, visit Ikuntji Artists or Kathleen Buzzacott Art Studio. You can meet the local artists, book workshops or buy your own painting. 

    people in their campervan at sunset at the West MacDonnell Ranges

    Experience a sunset over the West MacDonnell Ranges. Photo: Mitchell Cox, Tourism NT

    Things to do in the West MacDonnell Ranges

    people in floating rings enjoying the Ellery Creek Big Hole.

    Swim, float and play in the Ellery Creek Big Hole. Photo: Tourism NT

    • Take a hike on one of the Larapinta Trails. This walking trail is 223 kilometres long so experienced walkers can choose walks that take a few days.

    • Swim in one of the popular water holes including the Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Redbank Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. These gorges are picturesque and have plenty of walking trails for you to choose from. They are also refuges for local plants and threatened birds and wildlife.

    • Check out Angkerle Atwatye which means “the Gap of Water” by its traditional people. This dramatic rock has been sculpted by floods, wind and heat over many years to create an 80m sheer rock-face. Take the short walk and see this jaw-dropping sacred Aboriginal site for yourself. While you’re there, you may want to book a bush tucker tour or art workshop.

    Things to do in the East MacDonnell Ranges

     amazing Aboriginal rock art on cave walls in the MacDonnell Ranges

    See the amazing Aboriginal rock art as you wander around the MacDonnell Ranges. Photo: Tourism Australia

    • Trephina Gorge is perfect for short walks, swimming in one of the waterholes, checking out the Aboriginal rock art, and local birdlife

    • N'Dhala Gorge Nature Park is a sacred Aboriginal site and home to thousands of prehistoric rock carvings (also known as petroglyphs), walking tracks, rare plants such as Undoolya Wattle.

    • More walking trails, Aboriginal rock art, picnic spots, bird watching and camping can be found at Ruby Gap Nature Park, Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve, and Ambalindum. Ambalindum is set on a working cattle station and offers campsites and 4 wheel drive tours.

    • Visit the historic gold rush town of Arltunga. There's a whole ghost town waiting for you to explore its old mines, miners camps and buildings.

    Things to do in Kings Canyon

    people hiking with a local Indigenous guide around Kings Canyon

    Go hiking at Kings Canyon. Tourism Australia

    • Head to Kings Canyon which is 3-hours from the MacDonnell Ranges (in the Watarrka National Park). Be amazed by the 300-metre high red rock cliffs. Explore Kings Canyon by four-wheel drive, camel tours or one of the many walking trails. Take the stunning 6-kilometre Kings Canyon Rim Walk.  Another must-do is dining under the stars and desert moon at the foot of Kings Canyon.

    Things to do in Katherine

    a couple jumping into the beautiful waters at Edith Falls in the Katherine Gorge.

    Jump into the beautiful waters at Edith Falls in the Katherine Gorge. Photo: Helen Orr, Tourism NT

    It's hard to believe you're still in the Australian Outback when you visit Katherine. Katherine is a tropical paradise with national parks and gorges to walk, waterfalls and hot springs to swim in, and plenty of local culture and art. A few things to do in Katherine include:

    • Visit Elsey National Park where you can float around in many hot springs. Take a hike on one of the parks walking tracks where hopefully you'll catch a glimpse of some of the native wildlife and birds that live in the rainforest. There's also river cruises and fishing tours for you to join.

    • Go 15 metres underground and explore the Cutta Cutta Caves. Take the underground boardwalk and see these karst limestone caves for yourself.

    • Explore Nitmiluk National Park where you'll find 13 sandstone gorges that make up the stunning Katherine Gorge. There are plenty of ways to explore Katherine Gorge – be it by bushwalking, canoe, boat or helicopter. As you travel through these gorges, you'll see waterfalls, ancient Aboriginal rock art and wildlife. Be sure to take a swim in the stunning Edith Falls or Sweetwater Pool. Serious hikers need to do the five-day, 58 km Jatbula Trail.

    • Judburra Gregory National Park is ideal for bushwalking and four-wheel driving.

    Welcome to the Northern Territory's 'The Top End'

    a group of people spending time and enjoying the local culture and traditions in Arnhem Land

    Spend time enjoying the local culture and traditions in Arnhem Land. Photo: Tourism Australia

    The very top of the Northern Territory is known as 'The Top End'. The Top-End includes Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Darwin and the Tiwi Islands. The Top End boasts tropical weather, rich indigenous culture, and spectacular national parks. So read on and find out more about what you should include in your Northern Territory Top-End adventure.

    Things to do in Kakadu

     a group of friends hiking in Kakadu

    Take a hike in Kakadu. Photo: Tourism Australia

    Kakadu is Australia's largest national park and it has 50,000 years of rich Indigenous culture. This is your chance to experience the ancient Aboriginal rock art galleries, and meet the local Indigenous Bininj/Mungguy people and learn about their culture. Kakadu is also home to exotic birds, wildlife and cascading waterfalls. You will fall in love with the lush rainforests, rocky gorges and swimming holes.

    • Take a dip in the crystal clear waters of Gunlom Plunge Pool or the plunge pool at Jim Jim Falls.

    • Bushwalking and hiking. There's walking trails to suit all levels of fitness so choose from an easy stroll, day walk or a challenging trek that includes camping overnight. Along the way, you'll get to enjoy a swim in cascading waterfalls and waterholes, aboriginal rock art, wildlife and birdlife.

    • ​Take a river cruise on Yellow Water Billabong and see the saltwater crocodiles and local birdlife that includes egrets, sea eagles and magpie geese.

    • Go four-wheel driving. There's plenty of tracks to choose from including the trail to Jim Jim Falls where you'll find a stunning 200-metre high waterfall.

    • Check out the Aboriginal rock art that adorns the walls of Kakadu National Park. These rock walls have been painting canvas’ for thousands of years, and the artworks have significant meaning and traditions.
      Visit Nourlangie Rock where you'll find the Anbangbang rock shelter, Anbangbang gallery and Nanguluwur art site.

     Getting there: Kakadu is 2.5 hours from Darwin and really does need to be added to your bucket list. 

    Things to do in Darwin

    see the crocodiles at Darwin's crocosaurus

    See crocodiles of all sizes at Crocosaurus Cove. Photo: Tourism Australia

    Welcome to Darwin, a quirky city that combines crocodile adventures, history and Aboriginal culture, and the stunning Litchfield National Park. While you're in Darwin city, why not do a harbour cruise, sample delicious foods being served up at the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, visit the crocosaurus or take a swim in the Darwin Recreation Lagoon. 

    Visit Litchfield National Park, which is a 90 minutes drive from Darwin. Litchfield National Park is ideal for bushwalking, four-wheel driving, swimming in the abundant waterholes and waterfalls. It's also a great spot to enjoy a picnic or pitch a tent and camp overnight.

    a woman taking a dip at the popular Buley Rockhole

    Take a dip at the popular Buley Rockhole. Photo: Tourism NT / Backyard Bandits

    Just some of the beautiful places to cool off are:

    • The Wangi Falls and Florence Falls waterholes. Take the easy walk to the lookout for great views over the Florence Falls gorge.

    • The popular Buley Rockhole. This waterhole is set in a rainforest and the cool water rolls over your shoulders.

    • Mary River National Park is a 60 minute drive from Darwin. This incredible wetlands is home to wildlife, exotic birds, fish and crocodiles. Take a cruise and do a bit of bird watching, wildlife spotting or fish for some local barramundi.


    Things to do on Tiwi Islands

    a woman cuddling a baby wallaby on the beach at Tiwi Island Retreat

    You too could cuddle a baby wallaby when you visit Tiwi Island Retreat.
    Photo: Elise Cook, Tourism NT

    Just off Darwin are the Tiwi Islands and they are worth adding to your itinerary. Get there by plane or ferry from Darwin.

    The Tiwi islands are 100km north of Darwin. The Tiwi Islands consists of 2 islands - that being the beautiful Bathurst and Melville islands. The islands have wetlands, waterfalls, beaches, mangrove-lined rivers and reefs that are home to abundant marine life, birds and animals.

    You could say that visiting the Tiwi Islands is a holiday where you truly get off the beaten track and relax in your own tropical paradise.

    The Tiwi people have lived on these islands for over 11,000 years ago and have their own distinct culture and language. Even better, they're happy to share their beautiful island paradise with you. 

    Things to do in Arnhem Land

     local Aboriginal men in Arnhem Land playing the didgeridoo

    Get to know the local Aboriginal culture in Arnhem Land. Photo: Lirrwi Tourism & Tourism NT

    Arnhem Land is one of Australia's largest Aboriginal Reserves with strong Aboriginal culture and traditions. Arnhem Land is a truly magical place that's full of history, culture, national parks and beaches. You need a permit to access this sacred area so book an organised tour or apply for a permit at least 10 days before you plan to visit.

    • Take a four-wheel-drive adventure and explore the remote communities and attractions in Arnhem Land.

    • Take a tour with one of the Aboriginal elders and learn about the Indigenous culture, and the Dreamtime stories associated with ancient rock art. Arnhem Land is home to many indigenous artists whose works of art are on display at the local art centres and sites such as:

    • Injalak Hill where you'll find Aboriginal rock art or the art centre where you'll meet artists painting, weaving or carving didgeridoos.

    • ​Yirrkala Art Centre where you'll find Aboriginal bark paintings and carvings.

    two men showing off the fish they caught on their fishing trip at Garrthalala Island in Arnhem Land.

    You really can catch a fish 'this big' at Garrthalala Island in Arnhem Land.
    Photo: Tourism NT & Fishing the Wild


    • Nature-lovers will enjoy the rugged coastlines, rainforests, saltwater crocodiles, turtles, hundreds of fish and bird species. Why not cast a fishing line and try your hand at the local catch that includes red emperor, Spanish mackerel coral trout, or the famous barramundi.

    • If you're there in August, join the 4-day Garma Festival. This is a celebration of the Yolngu culture where more than 2000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people come together to share music, art, storytelling and dance.

    Aboriginal men doing a ceremonial dance at the annual Garma Festival

    Be part of the annual Garma Festival.  Photo: Tourism Australia & Richard Gray at Valarc Films

Northern Territory Map