The lifestyle and landscapes vary between the north and south of the state due to the amount of rainfall in each area.
The hot monsoonal Top End is governed by the wet and dry seasons leaving it green and tropical fringing with warm turquoise seas. In contrast, are the deserts and outback of the arid Red Centre to the south. A time-worn land by millions of years of erosion.
The Arnhem Land region is an ancient, untouched world of high rocky plain, mountains and gorges. Almost all is reserved for Aborigines.
Kakadu National Park, with its atmosphere of harmony and solitude, is among the most valuable in the nation. It has a vast variety of animals and birds, glistening waterfalls in the rainy season, and a fine collection of Aboriginal galleries. The park is classified as a World Heritage Area. Away from the coast anthills are often more numerous than spindly trees and the grass grows up to three metres high across broad expanses of savannah woodland.
In the south, the landscape becomes increasingly desolate and in summer it shimmers under a blistering sky, a dazzling colour combination of red earth and deep blue sky. This barren, ancient land has a relentless brilliance which can be found in the ridges of the MacDonnell ranges and the elevated mass of Ayers Rock (Uluru) and The Olgas (Kata Tjuta).
A must-see is the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets for local arts & crafts, food & live entertainment. Have a fish feeding experience to the local wild fish that swim to the shoreline with Aquascene. The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory includes exhibitions such as Cyclone Tracy, Indigenous artefacts & the crocodile named “Sweetheart”. The wharf precinct is also popular for dinner, drink & live entertainment. Darwin Harbour Cruises offers sunset, dinner or day cruises.
Kakadu National Park
Make a stop at the Kakadu Bakery for fresh, made-to-order sandwiches. About 1km from Cooinda Resort, visit Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre which exhibits hunting techniques, history of the park, blood lines & marriage rights, tribal elder stories & the effects of white settlement in the Top End. For nature lovers, Gunlom Falls is easily accessible. Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls are accessible by 4WD only. Ubirr is an Indigenous art site & well worth the look.
The Devils Marbles is located approximately 100 kms south of Tennant Creek. This is a great photo opportunity capturing huge round red coloured boulders which appear carelessly, almost impossibly balanced in comparison to the barren landscape surrounding it. The Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is spiritually significant and a sacred site to the Aborigines.
Alice Springs & Surrounds
In Alice Springs itself ensure you visit the Reptile Centre for a hands on experience. The Anzac Hill lookout is particularly spectacular at sunset. The Telegraph Station Historical Reserve marks the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs and is situated 4kms north following the Stuart Highway. The MacDonnell Ranges is perfect for day or overnight trips for picturesque landscapes, gorgeous swimming holes including Ormiston Gorge, and bushwalking.
The canyon is a massive gorge, with red sandstone walls that rise over 100 metres to a plateau of rocky domes and other sandstone formations. There are two main walks in the area, the Rim Walk & the Creek Walk. The Rim Walk starts off with a steep, strenuous, natural stair climb to the top (about 500 steps), but once there, the rest of the walk along the rim is relatively easy and very rewarding. The views are magnificent. The Creek Walk is much easier and shorter.
Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Uluru is very impressive and should be observed at sunset and sunrise from the viewing area for the complete experience. The 9.4 km Base Walk, which should be started as early in the day as possible for cooler temperatures, captures the serenity and majestic-like features as you weave the way around the rock. There are shorter walks along the base within the full Base Walk. Climbing Uluru is still very controversial as the Aboriginal people prefer that you don’t – and ask you not to. Before you leave, ensure you take the time to visit the Uluru Cultural Centre which has interpretive and interactive displays that convey messages about Anangu culture, particularly Tjukurpa, Park values, and the commitment to joint management.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Kata Tjuta is located 53 kms from Uluru, on a well maintained sealed road, and also has it’s own sunset viewing deck. There are two walking trails, Walpa Gorge & Valley of the Winds, winding through the valleys and gorges between the rocky domes. Whilst Kata Tjuta is not as renowned as Uluru it’s not to say that it’s any less impressive. Take the time to experience Kata Tjuta whilst in the area, you will be glad that you did!