The Northern Territory
has two distinctly different regions - the Red Centre
in the south of the territory and the formidable tropical coast of the Top End that abounds with reptiles, birds, escarpments, waterfalls, and gorges.
The Territory's capital city Darwin
is at the commercial centre of the Top End. Often hit by severe cyclones Darwin
is a new looking city since it was totally rebuilt after being flattened by Cyclone Tracy on Xmas Day 1974.
Territorians are an interesting breed - they live in extreme conditions. The dry season from May - October sees them outdoors enjoying markets, sunset Jazz concerts, the annual mud crab tying competition, the beer can regatta and all manner of bizarre and wacky antics. Reputed to be Australia
's biggest beer drinkers, the Territory has its own beer - the Darwin
Stubby in a 2.25 litre bottle. It is a lively, modern place with a young population
and high tourism. Asia's closest neighbours, Darwin
's food scene is influence by excellent Thai, Indonesian, Malay and other Asian fare.Darwin
is one of the best cities in Australia
for backpackers. Entire areas of the city centre are dedicated to the low budget traveller with the backpacker strip of hostels, guest houses, cafes, takeaways, street stalls, Irish theme pubs, nightclubs and late night traders servicing the traveller.
The Top End transforms into a watery floodplain during the monsoonal wet season that builds up in October resulting in daily downpours from Dec - March during the cyclone season. This is also the season for marine stingers and signs warns people to stay out of the water from October - March inclusive.
The Top End's best known feature is Kakadu National Park
, recently declared a World Heritage
area. Breathtaking escarpments give way to open wetlands and rainforest pockets. An incredible diversity of birdlife, plants and aboriginal art makes this a very special place. Rivers such as the East Alligator are favourites with barramundi
fishermen although the threat of large saltwater crocodiles only increases the exhilaration. Popular attractions within Kakadu
are Ubir Rock, Nourlangie Rock
, Jim Jim Falls
, Twin Falls
and the 4WD tracks to Two Mile Hole, Four Mile Hole
and West Alligator Head.
is the area of the Top End given the most credit, there exists many other special places
worthy of visiting.Litchfield
Park just 2 hours drive south of Darwin
along the bitumen is full of fascinating magnetic termite mounds
, rainforests, rock pools and waterfalls, making it a popular day spot
Further south near Katherine
is the exceptional Katherine Gorge
- a series of 13 gorges formed where the Katherine
River has cut through the sandstone
plateau many millions of years ago. The gorge system is breathtaking and activities are focussed on capturing its beauty. You can take a tour on a punt and listen to the history of both the Nitmiluk traditional owners and the geological formation or you can take yourself upstream in a canoe. There are crocodiles in the river but these are the freshwater variety and are harmless to humans.
30km south of Katherine
are the Cutta Cutta Caves
, although these limestone caves 15m deep can be affected by rising water levels during the wet season.
Further south again, the Mataranka
thermal pool near the headwaters of the Roper River
on the Stuart Highway is an excellent spot
Of great fascination to many people is the aboriginal reserve called Arnhem Land that takes up a vast chunk of land on the NorthWest coast of the Top End. Access is possible only from either Katherine
although permits must be arranged in advance.
Also accessible via Arnhem Land is the beautiful Coburg Peninsula, protected by the Gurig National Park
. The remote parks lies 570km east and north of Darwin
and bookings are essential. Activities here include fishing, diving, 4WD and soaking up the atmosphere.Bathurst
Island and Melville Islands lie off the coast of Darwin
in the Arafura Sea. Populated by aboriginal communities you can visit these twin islands by plane from Darwin airport
There are many other fabulous parks and features within the Top End not listed here, and this is intended merely to whet your appetite. As they say, "You'll never never know, if you never never go".