The Northern Territory is as cosmopolitan as any of the states of the commonwealth. Despite having certain areas of this state possessing an arid climate, it undoubtedly has something distinct to offer to both regular tourists and new visitors who bring their hired campervans to its brave frontier. Although the state is mostly desert and badlands, it also has oasis prepared and ready for those who know where to look.
For first time visitors of the Northern Territory’s wild country, here is a list of some of the best destinations for your family and friends to enjoy. So before you look out for campervans for hire, read on to learn more about the legendary locations in this rugged northern retreat.
Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
Perhaps one of the most iconic natural rock formations in the Northern Territory is the Uluru or Ayers Rock. It is a sandstone monolith which has a spiritual and cultural significance to the indigenous people who are steeped in tradition. These tribal communities consider the massive immovable mound and its surroundings as the abode of their ancestors.
What’s fascinating about this area is that the Uluru has a twin. The Kata Tjuta sits firmly parallel on the northwestern side of the Uluru. The Kata Tjuta, which is also dubbed as the “Valley of the Winds,” is a collection of sandstone facades that form a small valley in the middle of the vast desert plain. The name Kata Tjuta literally translates to “many heads,” which somehow accurately describes what these giants looked like to the ancestors of the indigenous people who have marked these solitary giants their home.
Although this area is considered sacred ground, it is also one of the most remarkable national parks of the Northern Territory. The management lets people in the park roughly 30 minutes before sunrise and closes that area by sunset. The reason behind this could be the magical sunrise that can be witnessed as the sun’s rays hit the curves and cuts of the Uluru.
As the sun climbs up the sky, the entire desert plain starts to turn into gold. It was as if the ancient gods have given the Uluru a Midas touch, infecting everything with a shimmering yellow-orange glow. This scenery might even remind a visitor of the adage that “not everything that glitters is gold.”
BY Sarah Stewart
Darwin is the state capital of the Northern Territory. Apart from being the state’s metropolitan centre, it is also a city that has a very significant part in history, particularly in World War II. On 19th Feb. 1942, Darwin’s harbour was bombarded by the Japanese imperial fleet. The enormity of the attack, as well as the devastation, was second only to that of Pearl Harbour.
Apart from that, there are several markers and memorials that were erected in Darwin to commemorate the country’s participation in both World Wars. Among these memorials is the Darwin Cenotaph, which celebrates the bravery of all the men and women who fought in the wars where Australia participated – World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the conflict in British Malaya and Borneo, and the Vietnam war.
Today, the shadow of war’s atrocities have long dissipated. Darwin is brimming with life and the locals’ youthful refreshing glow provide a sharp contrast to the melancholy shades of international conflict. The city is also considered as one of the best fishing locations, not only in the state but in the entire continent, as well.
Truly, Darwin is a model of resilience as it was able to bounce back from war’s bitter blows. The city was able to build from the lessons of the past, turning the metropolis and its surrounds a globally competitive city with a laid back charm.
A few miles down south, the town of Katherine is a quaint and progressive community that also offers some of the most amazing tourist attractions in the Northern Territory. Nitmiluk (Katherine) National Park is among these popular destinations in Katherine Town.
At the national park, tourists can gaze in amazement at the ancient rock art spread throughout the Nitmiluk Gorge. Nitmiluk has other natural wonders, which would turn a day in Katherine worthwhile. For people who would want to take a dip at warm waters of a hot spring, try Katherine Hot Springs and Mataranka Thermal Springs.
BY Daniel Alexander-Head
Apart from the gorge and the hot springs, the national park also has wonderful bush paths and picnic grounds where families and friends can bond and appreciate the natural beauty of the surroundings. After a wonderful lunch, you can try your paddling power as the gorge links 4 rivers – Daly, Flora, Katherine, and Roper Rivers. You can paddle the entire afternoon or simply let the lite current carry you away.
If you plan to visit in May, July or August, you can end your tour at Katherine by joining in the festivities. The locals are known for orchestrating magnificent parties and festivals that bring out the best in their deceptively sleepy suburbs.
As you move deeper into the heart of the Northern Territory, visit Alice Springs for an immersion to more festivities! The town is known to host several local events all year round. This could be due to the climate that the town experiences most of the year. That’s what gives them a sunny disposition! The town is also the “most popular outback town” in Australia, perhaps to their jovial nature.
Apart from the festivities, Alice Spring is famous for their art galleries. These centre’s of culture and the arts feature pieces made by contemporary artists and even ethnic people from a distant past. Marvel at the diverse collection they present on display to regular tourists as well as first-time visitors. Even the buildings feature modern to contemporary architectural design.
The town is home to gorges and waterholes that would tell you that this is certainly the outback Australia is widely known for around the world. Of course, certain wild endemic species in the country could also be observed in a safe distance at the Alice Springs Desert Park.
After around at the town, you could have dinner in any of the fantastic restaurants in the community as Alice Springs is home to a variety of cafés, bars, restaurants and even casinos that would certainly make your tour even more memorable. Surely, you would never run out of luck, when you’re in Alice Springs.
The Old Ghan
BY Roderick Eime
Perhaps one of the best ways to explore the rugged beauty of the entire Northern Territory is through the epic Old Ghan. The railway service stretches from South Australia’s capital, Adelaide, up to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The train service, fondly called by the locals as “The Ghan” has been making stops to these destinations since the 1980s.
The legendary train service was named after the cameleers who resembled Afghan caravan riders who opened the country’s Red Centre to trade and commerce. Eventually, communities grew in this arid countryside; much of it development being owed to these cameleers. Thus, the Old Ghan even takes the camel with a rider as its official seal in honour of these original frontiersmen.
The Ghan offers several packages that would certainly fit the budget of any tourist wanting to take a memorable ride to one of its carriages. You can book a dinner at the train and take pictures at the brilliantly restored 1930s themed railway station in Alice Springs to cap the fantastic evening. The station also has several souvenir shops opened as well as tea rooms for people who simply want to take in the aged elegance of the railway that once served as a commercial artery of the country.
As we wind down this list of places to visit in your first tour of the Northern Territory, put into mind that it’s always up to you where you’d wish to begin your journey at one of Australia’s most rugged and arid terrains. Many unexpected treats await you in all of the amazing destinations mentioned earlier.
These are the oasis the would quench your wanderlust while you’re in the Northern Territory.
Hire a campervan to complete your journey to the vast outback. Always remember that at each destination, communities bursting with life are ready to greet you as you complete your tour in the continent’s legendary heartland.