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Northern Territory: The Indigenous Heart of Australia

The Northern Territory will enhance your Australian experience with its magical mix of ancient Indigenous culture, unforgettable wildlife encounters, untamed rivers, laidback towns and awe-inspiring scenery.

Big, vast, expansive, huge – whichever way you cut it, the Northern Territory is daunting. This, in many respects, is the “real Australia” as you imagine it – remote, mostly uninhabited, the landscape ground down over millennia. Few visitors who explore Australia’s remote Red Centre and wild Top End are left unmoved by the stark, expansive beauty of the landscape. The Outback’s amazing World Heritage national parks, many on the ancestral homelands of the traditional indigenous owners, are home to some of Australia’s most fascinating and iconic natural attractions, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the vast bird-filled wetlands and raging waterfalls of Kakadu. The Outback contains deeply carved rock canyons, deserts with unending horizons, and prolific wildlife. It is Australia at its wildest, rawest, and most sublime, and it’s a landscape that will sear itself onto your memory forever.

The Northern Territory’s top and bottom halves are distinctly different; one steamy and green, the other dry, sandy and ochre stained. The Top End rallies in the Wet, with its gushing waterfalls, soaked wetlands and spectacular electric skies. Further south, the Red Centre responds to rare rains with carpets of colour, its desert grasses and wildflowers relishing the opportunity to shine. Both regions harbour World Heritage-listed wonders – think Kakadu and Uluru – and between them, tens of thousands of square kilometres have been protected, ensuring that nature roams free and ancient Aboriginal traditions can be maintained in the places they originated. Accessible, authentic and awe inspiring, the Northern Territory is a region of extremes with a vibe like no other.

Top Reasons to Visit Northern Territory


The diversity of landscape and wildlife makes the Northern Territory one of Australia’s most inspiring destinations. So, take a trip to the “Top End” of Australia for some of the world’s greatest natural environments.

With spectacular terrain, one-of-a-kind plant and animal species and rugged national parks, the Northern Territory is a place of wild, rugged beauty. The tropical Top End is bursting with birdlife, wild rivers and untamed wilderness, while the Red Centre is the landscape most closely associated with Australia’s Outback – endless horizons, vast deserts of red sand, mysterious monoliths, and cloudless blue skies.

The most famous of Australian icons is the red monolith of Uluru (Ayers Rock), but it is just one of the area’s stunning natural features. Kakadu National Park is home to wetlands teeming with crocodiles and birds; Arnhemland is a stretch of rocky escarpments and rivers owned by Aborigines and seen by few others, while the town of Katherine is famous for its river gorge.

Not-to-be-missed natural attractions:

  • Uluru (Ayers Rock)
  • Kakadu National Park
  • Arnhemland
  • Katherine Gorge


The Red Centre and Top End are the best places to experience one of the oldest cultures in the world, that of Australia’s Aborigines. It is also the custodial land of Australia’s most famous Indigenous instrument, the didgeridoo.

For thousands of years the area of northern and central Australia has been home to Aboriginal communities that have undiminished ties to the land. Today, much of Australia’s Outback land is still Aboriginal-owned, enabling their ancient culture to flourish. Stunning examples of ancient Aboriginal rock art remain – on cliffs, in hidden valleys, and in city art galleries and cooperative art centres in remote communities. Kakadu National Park is one of these places where a trail of ancient rock paintings can be traced across the land.

But there is more to Aboriginal culture than art, and there is no better place to try and understand it than in the Northern Territory, on a guided tour of some of the country’s most spiritually significant Aboriginal sites.

Best places to experience Aboriginal culture:

  • Uluru (Ayers Rock)
  • Kakadu National Park


The main centres of the Northern Territory are Darwin in the lush north and Alice Springs in the arid Red Centre. Both cities make a great base from which to explore the surrounding areas.

The Northern Territory’s capital, Darwin, is a small city but it’s modern, wealthy, tropical, and rapidly growing. It may be Australia’s smallest capital city, but everything about tropical Darwin is larger than life. It’s fun-loving, multicultural and buzzes with upbeat energy – evident in its vibrant markets, bar-lined streets and on its harbour sunset-cruises.

Alice Springs gives you a better flavour for the Outback than Uluru. A frontier town quite literally in the middle of Australia, Alice Springs, or simply ‘Alice’ to the locals, contrasts its dusty streets with the richness of its Aboriginal art galleries, the beauty of its surrounding ranges, the depth of its rural history and the diversity of its never-ending desert landscape.

Top city experiences:

  • Shopping at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market in Darwin
  • Exploring Aboriginal art galleries in Darwin and Alice Springs
  • Learning about Northern Territory history at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Northern Territory History

Australian Aborigines have occupied parts of the Northern Territory for around 60,000 years, although the central regions were not inhabited until about 24,000 years ago. The first significant contact with outsiders occurred in the 17th century when Macassan traders from early-day Sulawesi in Indonesia came to the Top End to collect trepang (sea cucumber).

While the process of white settlement in the Northern Territory was slower than elsewhere in Australia, it had an equally troubled and violent effect. By the early 20th century, most Aboriginal people were confined to government reserves or Christian missions.

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In the early 1870s, during digging to establish the Overland Telegraph (from Adelaide to Darwin), gold was discovered. Though the gold finds were relatively insignificant, the searches for it unearthed a wealth of natural resources that would lead to mining becoming a major economic presence in the Northern Territory.

Today, Aboriginal people own about half of the land in the Northern Territory, including Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks, which are leased back to the federal government for exploration and mining.


Northern Territory Weather

May through September (Australia’s winter) are the best months to visit the Red Centre and the Top End of the Northern Territory; nights are crisp and cold and days are pleasantly warm. Summer temperatures in the Centre – which can rise above 43°C (110°F) – are oppressive, while the wet season (December – April) means that Darwin and surroundings are hot, humid and wet.

In the Top End the year is divided into the wet season (the Wet; December-April) and the dry season (the Dry; May-November). The Dry is a period of idyllic weather with warm days and cool nights, while the Wet brings monsoonal storms that dump an average of 52 inches of rain in a few months and result in widespread road closures. You can also catch spectacular electric storms, particularly over the ocean. The “Build Up”, in October, is the Top End’s most oppressive weather period and should be avoided.

Northern Territory Map

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