Travel Daydream: Northern Territory, Australia

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Daydreaming About Australia

In our hurry to see and experience as much of the world as possible, it’s not uncommon for globetrotters to overlook the many places in their own country that warrant a visit.

Maybe it’s a case of knowing that it will be there when we decide to settle down, or maybe it’s just that the things in our backyard don’t feel quite as exciting as far off vistas and exotic night markets.

Whatever the reason, I find myself today daydreaming not about somewhere far away – but somewhere within my own country that I’ve somehow failed to make it to so far: the Northern Territory.

Why the Northern Territory?

It’s not as if the Northern Territory is a well kept secret. One of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock, to some) rests in the territory’s south and is an immensely popular spot on any Australian itinerary.

The fiery red monolith is a powerful symbol of both Australia’s Aboriginal history and its ancient geology, with photos from both sunrise and sunset among the most enduring images to come out of Australia.

But the large territory offers far more than just the opportunity to see the instantly recognisable Uluru up close and personal. There are a number of other reasons why I’d love to someday take a long, lazy tour of the Northern Territory.

More than anything else, the Northern Territory offers locals and visitors alike to experience the wilder side of the great southern land – getting up close and personal with some of the most stunning landscapes in the world.

Uluru

A visit to Uluru is right up there with seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House, going cafe hopping in Melbourne, hitting one of the beaches in Queensland, and seeing the Great Barrier Reef when it comes to “must do” things while in Australia.

The 348m high and boasting a massive 9.4km circumference, this massive sandstone formation is perhaps most famous for the way it seems to change colour at different times of day.

A three day pass to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park comes in at a very affordable $25, and offers the opportunity to not only see Uluru – but also to take in the nearby Olgas,

The Olgas are almost as stunning as their more famous neighbour, Uluru. Photo by Reto Fez.
The Olgas are almost as stunning as their more famous neighbour, Uluru. Photo by Reto Fez.

You stand at the very heart of the great southern continent, and when you get away from the tourists – it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person in the world as you stand underneath the big sky and hear only the wind and the rustle of low shrubs.

(While I’ve not been to Uluru, I grew up in the Outback and remember well that immense feeling of solitude)

Nearby Alice Springs has outgrown its rural roots and has become a real tourist haven these days, with everything from hostels to five star resorts placed to cater to those trekking inland to see this ancient and sacred site.

Kakadu

Located just a few hours from Darwin, the largest city in the Northern Territory; Kakadu National Park is a verdant world largely untouched by humankind. Here some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife and flora can be seen on foot, by car, or even by boat.

The infamous saltwater crocodile can be encountered in its natural habitat, and bird-watchers will be treated to what Australian Geographic describes as the best bird watching environment in the country.

The saltwater crocodile is one of Australia's most feared and misunderstood creatures. Photo by Charles Strebor.
The saltwater crocodile is one of Australia’s most feared and misunderstood creatures. Photo by Charles Strebor.

Tour companies such as Gagudju Dreaming take a lot of the planning work out of your hands, and instead leave you free to sit back and soak in one of the most ancient and breathtaking landscapes Australia has to offer.

Whether you take a 4WD out to explore the canyons and waterfalls, or go out on a Yellow Water Tour to see crocodiles in Australia’s most famous wetlands – Kakadu offers an unmatched opportunity to see Australian flora and fauna without cages or crowds of tourists to contend with.

Darwin

Once seen as something of a backwoods by fellow Australians, Darwin’s proximity to Asia and the continuing growth in tourism has seen the city really come into its own as a dynamic and fascinating place to visit.

Its proximity to Kakadu, the beautiful Litchfield National Park, and the nearby Tiwi Islands makes it a great base of operations from which to explore the best the Top End has to offer. The Tiwi Islands, where you can get a more complete understanding of traditional Aboriginal Australian life and culture, is a particularly intriguing prospect for those who want to learn about Australia as it was before European colonisation.

While it makes a great base, there’s also plenty of reasons to spend some time exploring Darwin itself. An emerging cafe scene aims to rival the likes of Sydney and Melbourne, while the city’s market culture gives it a decidedly international feel as you wander through international food stalls and local arts & crafts.

It’s a laid back kind of city – a place where things such as the Deckchair Cinema and the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets put visitors in mind of a simpler, more relaxed time.

The Mindil Sunset Markets is just one of many markets in Darwin. Photo by MrDays.
The Mindil Sunset Markets is just one of many markets in Darwin. Photo by MrDays.

Arnhem Land

About as far removed from civilization as you can get without giving up all of your conveniences, Arnhem Land is described as one of Australia’s last true wildernesses.

Arnhem Land – both east and west – is one of the best places to familiarize yourself with Australian Aboriginal culture and history. Here you can see ancient rock art that predates some of the oldest cultures in the world, as well as having the opportunity to have a more hands on experience with Aboriginal culture with cultural tours, demonstrations, and an opportunity to witness traditional Aboriginal festivals and celebrations.

Arnhem Land offers visitors a chance to see a side of Australian life often unseen by tourists and locals alike. Photo by Ewen Bell.
Arnhem Land offers visitors a chance to see a side of Australian life often unseen by tourists and locals alike. Photo by Ewen Bell.

Entry in Arnhem Land requires a permit from the Northern Territory government, so be prepared to plan ahead if you want to visit this rugged and truly wild region.

Katherine Region

Beloved by fishing enthusiasts, kayakers, swimmers, and nature appreciators around the world – the Katherine Gorge region is just one more example of the Northern Territory’s immense natural beauty.

Dark water beneath and sandstone cliffs above, the Katherine Gorge is a study in serenity. Photo by shellac.
Dark water beneath and sandstone cliffs above, the Katherine Gorge is a study in serenity. Photo by shellac.

The Nitmiluk National Park boasts thirteen sandstone gorges full of waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and isolated swimming holes just begging to be explored. Whether you tackle it on foot or by kayak, it’s likely to be one of the most serene experiences of your life.

Farther afield you find national parks such as Judbarra and desert settlements such as Borroloola, where you can find some of Australia’s best fishing or familiarize yourself with Australia’s colonial history.

An Attainable Dream

Where in the past I’ve daydreamed about such far flung destinations as Tenerife, Egypt, and the United Kingdom – a trek to the Northern Territory is one that is very much within the realms of possibility in the near future.

Researching for this post I stumbled across places I had no idea even existed, and my thirst to visit the rugged north of Australia is all the greater for it.

Your Say

Have you ever visited Australia’s Northern Territory? What were your enduring memories of your time in the Top End?

Need More Inspiration?

Check out these other travel daydreams and get inspired!

Uluru photo by dincsi

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6 comments

  1. I loved Edith Falls north of Katherine and Litchfield National Park. Both great parks for hiking and a nice refreshing swim afterwards.

  2. In 5 months I will stand by Uluru and the greatest dream of mine will come true :-D.!!! I find this place to be one of the most mysterious and magic places in the world. I think my life won’t be the same as before after seeing Uluru.

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