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I’m always telling anyone who will listen that the Northern Territory, or Top End of Australia as the locals call it, is a different side of Australia.
There are so many things to do in the Northern Territory of Australia, it’s hard to know where to begin.
It’s an adventure to The Outback and the Red Centre, a chance to explore some of the nation’s most ancient and sacred sites, a place where you can see amazing natural vistas, swim in swimming holes, be amazed by rock formations, and come face to face with Aussie wildlife.
The Northern Territory is so uniquely Australian and it’s possibly the part I’ll speak most about from our road trip in years to come.
If you’re planning to make a trip there but you’re not sure what to do in the Northern Territory, I’ve listed some of my favourite places, activities and experiences so you can see the best of this region.
- Is the Northern Territory of Australia Worth It?
- Fun Things to Do in the Northern Territory of Australia
- 1. Watch The Sunset at Uluru (Ayres Rock)
- 2. Swim in Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park
- 3. Visit The Kangaroo Sanctuary, Alice Springs
- 4. Catch The Sunset at Mindel Beach, Darwin
- 5. Drive the Red Centre Way
- 6. Walk The Kings Canyon Rim Walk
- 7. Have Dinner and Drinks at the Ski Club, Darwin
- 8. See The Sunrise at Uluru
- 9. Hike to Glen Helen Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges
- 10. Take A Yellow Water Billabong Cruise, Kakadu
- 11. Sunset at Kata Tjuta
- 12. Swim in Buley Rockholes, Litchfield National Park
- 13. Walk the Base of Uluru
- 14. Go Tubing in Redbank Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges
- 15. See Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park
- 16. Watch The Sunset at Ubirr, Kakadu
- 17. Take A Sunrise Cruise in Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk National Park)
- 18. Swim in Mataranka Hot Springs
- 19. Cycle the Base of Uluru
- 20. Explore Kata Tjuta by Foot
- 21. Swim in Ormiston Gorge
- 22. Swim in Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park
- 23. Visit The Darwin Military Museum at East Point
- 24. Take A Camel Sunset Ride at Uluru
- 25. Enjoy Sunset Drinks at SkyCity Casino, Darwin
- 26. Catch the Sunrise at Mount Sonder
- 27. Check Out Standley Chasm
- 28. See Aboriginal Rock Art in Kakadu
- 29. Take the Kids to The School of the Air, Alice Springs
- 30. See the Termite Mounds, Litchfield National Park
- 31. Shop At Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, Darwin
- 32. Check out Simpsons Gap, West MacDonnell Ranges
- 33. Visit Arnham Land
- 34. Sunset Drinks at Uluru
- 35. Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles)
- 36. Visit the Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
- 37. Ellery Creek Big Hole
- 38. Check Out Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu NP
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in the Northern Territory
- More Australia Tips
Is the Northern Territory of Australia Worth It?
Sure, Australia is well known for its stunning beaches that are second to none as far as I’m concerned, but it’s The Outback that’s unlike anywhere else in the world.
There’s something about the vastness, the ancient aboriginal culture, the natural wonders, the starry skies, and the wildlife that you’re unlikely to experience anywhere else down under.
And Darwin, a tropical city boasting incredible sunsets and cloudless skies grows on you the longer you linger.
Like me, you’ve probably seen hundreds of photos and TV commercials about the Northern Territory, but like they say it’s a place you have to see and feel, for yourself.
The Northern Territory gave birth to a deeper love and connection within me for Australia. Below are my favourite experiences. You’re mad if you miss it.
Getting Around The Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is the perfect place for a road trip. You probably are going to need a car to get around the Northern Territory and to see all these things to do in the NT.
This is because most of the best attractions are outdoors. The region is famed for its national parks and nature spots, which are as remote as they are vast. It’s just not possible to see some of them without a car.
The other option for those who don’t drive will be to join tours from Darwin or Alice Springs.
Fun Things to Do in the Northern Territory of Australia
I remember an old television commercial about visiting the Northern Territory, and the tagline simply said, “If you never ever go, you’ll never ever know.”
Well, we spent approximately two months exploring the NT as part of our 18-month road trip around Australia and it certainly captured our heart.
If you’re thinking of a trip to the Northern Territory but not sure what to do, then keep reading to see our favourite attractions and activities…
1. Watch The Sunset at Uluru (Ayres Rock)
We discovered many ways to experience the magic of Ayres Rock, Uluru but let’s start with sunset.
As the sun sinks below the Outback horizon the colours of the rock change by the minute, and it truly is magical.
The most popular viewing spot is the official Sunset Lookout 10 kilometres through the entrance gates to the park.
2. Swim in Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park
I’m putting Kakadu National Park in our top 3 favourite National Parks in Australia, and Gunlom was our favourite waterhole.
Let’s call it nature’s best infinity pool. With spectacular views over the valley and surrounded by shady gums, it’s perfect for a refreshing swim and a spot of lunch. And the bonus – no crocs up here guys!
3. Visit The Kangaroo Sanctuary, Alice Springs
We visited The Kangaroo Sanctuary at the end of our 18-month road trip around Australia and had seen enough roos to last a lifetime, and wondered if this place would be worth it?
You betcha, it was awesome.
We all got to hold a joey – which the kids adored – and Brolga the owner and star of the hit BBC TV series Kangaroo Dundee was as passionate and knowledgeable as anyone I’ve met!
4. Catch The Sunset at Mindel Beach, Darwin
Darwin ranks in our top places to see the sunset in Australia and Mindil Beach is probably the most popular location, especially during the Thursday night markets.
This is when hundreds hit the beach to watch the sun sink below the horizon – a site in itself.
Another great place to catch a sunset is Darwin Harbour or Darwin’s Waterfront, which are slightly less crowded than the beach.
5. Drive the Red Centre Way
Don’t just stick to the main Stuart Highway between Uluru and Alice Springs, our road trip along the Red Centre Way taking in the West MacDonnell Ranges was an adventure to remember with an infinite number of surprises waiting for you to explore.
6. Walk The Kings Canyon Rim Walk
The highlight of the Red Centre Way is the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, a 6-kilometre loop walk including spectacular Cotterill’s Lookout and the Garden of Eden.
The walk has stunning views over the ‘Lost City’, a mini-Purnululu of striped stone domes. A close third behind Uluru and Kata Tjuta for things to do in the Red Centre!
7. Have Dinner and Drinks at the Ski Club, Darwin
My favourite place to finish the day in Darwin is at the Ski Club with dinner and drinks. Super casual and perfect for families, and, you get a front row seat for the famous Darwin sunset.
This place is a great example of Darwins outdoorsy lifestyle that the locals soak up.
8. See The Sunrise at Uluru
Watching the desert come alive is an unmissable moment.
Either head to the main sunrise lookout at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku and see the sun shining on the rock (with bus loads of others) or, to escape the crowd and for a great sunrise silhouette head back to the sunset lookout spot and you’ll get the rock blocking the sun as she rises.
9. Hike to Glen Helen Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges
This beautiful, permanent waterhole lies at the headwaters of the Finke River and the traditional owners believe Glen Helen Gorge is the home of an ancient and powerful Rainbow Serpent.
Stop here a while, the Glen Helen Homestead is the perfect place to base yourself and explore the West MacDonnell Ranges.
10. Take A Yellow Water Billabong Cruise, Kakadu
A journey through Kakadu’s wetlands on the Yellow Water Cruise is a memorable experience, especially at sunrise when the billabongs abundant wildlife wakes up.
Flocks of egrets soar, sea eagles perch above looking for their morning feed, and you get up close with the ancient example of perfect evolution – the saltwater crocodile!
11. Sunset at Kata Tjuta
Also known as The Olgas, Kata Tjuta is the Aboriginal name and means “many heads’.
Kata Tjuta is only 50 kilometres up the road from Uluru, and whilst my sunset family photo doesn’t do the scale of this place justice, once again the changing of the colours in the rocks as the sun goes down is truly remarkable.
12. Swim in Buley Rockholes, Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is only a 90-minute drive from Darwin and is one of the best places in the Top End to go swimming.
Buley Rockholes are a short walk along the Tabletop Track, which takes you to a series of rock pools that has water cascading through them.
They are my favourite part of Litchfield and the perfect place to swim with our kids. Get there early to beat the tour buses!
13. Walk the Base of Uluru
A must do at Uluru, this 10-kilometre loop walk around the whole base of the rock took us 3.45 hours, and that’s with a three-year-old.
Start at first light to beat the heat froma the Kuniya walking point and walk anti-clockwise.
Take lots of water, snacks, short breaks, comfortable walking shoes, and a hat. Be warned, in summer, the flies can be horrendous!
14. Go Tubing in Redbank Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges
You have to go tubing at Redbank Gorge when you visit the West MacDonnell Ranges. The gorge sits in the shadow of Mt Sonder and is known for its chilly but refreshing water.
There’s a small swimming hole that leads to a narrow crack in the wall. Paddle on through it with your tubes and then clamber over the rocks that lead up to each new level.
15. See Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park
Florence Falls is a stunning double-plunge waterfall leading to a popular swimming hole.
There’s a steep staircase down to the pools passing through a lovely viewing point, and you can walk between Florence Falls and Buley Rockholes.
16. Watch The Sunset at Ubirr, Kakadu
The best place to see the sun go down in Kakadu National Park is from up top of the rock at Ubirr with views over the Nadarb floodplains and Arnhem Land. One of the most beautiful sunsets we have seen!
17. Take A Sunrise Cruise in Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk National Park)
Katherine Gorge, or Nitmiluk National Park as its known to its traditional owners, is made up of 13 gorges carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River.
The river has great ceremonial significance to the local aboriginal people.
A popular way to experience the gorge is via a cruise, which also takes you to Edith Falls in the park.
We chose the 2-hour dawn break cruise, and it was magical to see it awaken in the morning light.
18. Swim in Mataranka Hot Springs
This place is awesome. The Mataranka Thermal Pool is a constant 34 degrees celsius, its waters are rejuvenating, and surrounded by a palm forest.
Bring a noodle or other flotation device and let the current take you along. Hop out, and do it again.
Another popular hot spring is Katherine Hot Springs in Katherine South but I think Mataranka is a little less crowded.
19. Cycle the Base of Uluru
If you’re not up to walking 10 kilometres, hire bikes from Outback Cycling ($30 for three hours) or bring your own and cycle it.
We had a tag-along for Kalyra, Savannah sat in a baby seat, and the 15-kilometre track took us two hours, again stopping for more photos and drink breaks.
20. Explore Kata Tjuta by Foot
There are many walking trails that lead you between the domes of Kata Tjuta, such as the Walpa Gorge Walk, but also do the Valley of the Winds Walk for breathtaking views over the desert plains.
Start this walk at first light, especially in the warmer months. Be sure to head over to the Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre to learn about the park’s history and traditional owners.
21. Swim in Ormiston Gorge
Probably the biggest and prettiest swimming hole in the West Macs, and the most popular.
Take a short walk into the gorge for a refreshing swim, or walk up to the steel viewing platform overlooking Ormiston Waterhole (20 min return) or continue walking along the Ghost Gum Walk (1.5 hour loop).
22. Swim in Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park
Litchfield’s most popular attraction with the largest swimming hole, a nice waterfall, and a picnic area and onsite cafe – our kids enjoyed an ice cream here on a hot day – busy in peak season.
If you’ve got young kids like us entering this waterhole is far easier than at Florence Falls and it’s clear and shallow in close.
23. Visit The Darwin Military Museum at East Point
As Australian’s we learned a lot at school about Gallipoli, but not as much about what happened on our home soil.
On 19 February 1942, Darwin was devastated by Japanese bombing, and despite 58 further raids, Darwin rose to the challenge, becoming a major forward base for the Pacific Campaign.
The Darwin Military Museum tells the story.
24. Take A Camel Sunset Ride at Uluru
Looking for someone else to carry your load whilst you sit back and marvel at the landscape, then one of the unique ways to take in Uluru is on the back of a trusty camel and you’ll have amazing views all the way over to Kata Tjuta.
Our kids loved this experience. You can view camel ride tours of Uluru here.
25. Enjoy Sunset Drinks at SkyCity Casino, Darwin
It may not be Vegas, but Darwin has the SkyCity Casino and the best part is you can take in the famous Darwin sunset with drinks by the pool.
And I highly recommend dinner at the il Piatto Italian restaurant – one of the best meals we had on our 18-month trip!
26. Catch the Sunrise at Mount Sonder
Five minutes down the road from Glen Helen Gorge is Mount Sonder Lookout, the highest point on the famous Larapinta Trail and the place to come for sunrise (and sunset).
With its changing colours, it’s a favourite for painters, including the famous Australian artist Albert Namatjira.
27. Check Out Standley Chasm
Close to Alice Springs, Standley Chasm cuts through tough quartzite to form a picturesque natural alleyway created by surging flood waters over thousands of years.
Noon is the best time to visit when the sun’s light shifts across the cleft, the walls of the chasm glows golden, orange and red.
28. See Aboriginal Rock Art in Kakadu
Kakadu is home to some of the best aboriginal rock out in the Northern Territory. Guided talks run through the Ubirr Rock Art Gallery.
An Aboriginal ranger will tell you many of the stories behind the paintings on the wall of the 1km circular walk. Also, head to the Nourlangie region for more incredible rock art.
29. Take the Kids to The School of the Air, Alice Springs
If you’re traveling around Australia like we did and teaching your child via Distance Education or Homeschooling, then a visit to the original School of the Air is interesting.
The visitors centre has films and guides sharing the stories of this uniquely Australian school and how it covers 1.3 million square kilometres.
30. See the Termite Mounds, Litchfield National Park
These giant magnetic termite mounds are built by thousands of termites with a north-south orientation to control the temperature inside the mounds and to minimize exposure to the sun.
You will pass these termite mounds first if you enter the park from Darwin.
31. Shop At Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, Darwin
Held Thursdays to Sundays from March to November, Mindil Beach Markets are the place to go for cheap and tasty eats from around the world.
The stalls offer a vibrant mix of cultures, live music, clothing and souvenirs, and of course, everyone heads down onto the beach for THAT sunset!
32. Check out Simpsons Gap, West MacDonnell Ranges
A short drive from Alice, Simpsons Gap is one of the most prominent gaps in the West MacDonnell Ranges.
It features the towering cliffs of Simpsons Range, a permanent waterhole, and at dawn or dusk is renowned as a place to see Black-Footed Rock-Wallabies along the gap’s short walking track.
33. Visit Arnham Land
Arnhem Land is a highly spiritual and sacred Aboriginal area just east of Kakadu.
The aboriginal people live in close connection with the land as they have always traditionally done.
To visit you need a permit or to go on a tour, and it is what would be considered one of the most off-the-beaten-path experiences in the Northern Territory, if not Australia.
34. Sunset Drinks at Uluru
A fitting farewell to our time at Uluru was sipping on a few glasses of champagne with the folks from AAT Kings. It’s always nice to mingle with others from around the world and share stories about Uluru.
And funnily enough. It looks and feels even better after a few glasses of the old bubbly!
35. Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles)
Karlu Karlu, otherwise known as the Devils Marbles, is near to Tennant Creek and is known for its unique landscape, covered in hundreds of giant granite boulders.
The boulders lie in a small valley and are significant to the Warramungu people.
I recommend visiting at sunset when the sunlight lights them up in a firey red color.
36. Visit the Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
The Northern territory is known for having a more laid-back, artsy vibe – especially in Darwin.
Head to the Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to see cultural and scientific collections of pieces from the Northern Territory, including fossils from Alice Springs and a huge collection of aboriginal art.
37. Ellery Creek Big Hole
Another amazing waterhole in the West MacDonnell Ranges is the Ellery Creek Big Hole, which is a great place to swim and cool off.
Note that the weather is extremely hot between October and April so even in those months, you’ll want to head there early in the day for a swim.
38. Check Out Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu NP
Jim Jim Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Kakadu National Park, or all of the Northern Territory for that matter.
It’s a huge 150 meter cliff with water plunging into a deep pool below.
I highly recommend you check the visitor centre before you go as the falls will probably have dried up by the end of the dry season.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in the Northern Territory
So there you have it, those are the best things to do in the Northern Territory of Australia, and as you can see, there is so much to see and do.
Whether you’re looking for outback adventures or you want to soak up some culture in Darwin, there is something for everyone on this list.
I hope this guide helped you plan your itinerary and gave you some ideas for what to do in the NT.
More Australia Tips
Are you planning on visiting other parts of Australia? Then you may find the following resources helpful…
- 25 Outstanding National Parks in Australia
- A Visit to Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia
- Things to do on the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
- 12 awesome things to do on Fraser Island
- Why Rottnest Island should be on your bucket list
- 14 Best Road Trips in Australia
- 50 Stunning and Adventures Things to do in Queensland
- 50 Amazing Things to do in Western Australia
- 28 Things to do in Broome, WA – our favorite place in Australia
- 20 Places to Put on your Australian Bucket List
- 45 Things to know before visiting Australia
- How to visit Australia in 3 weeks
- Visiting Australia on a two week vacation
This is just my list of experiences for the Northern Territory. Please share any of your suggestions in the comments below.