7 unmissable Australian adventures in the Northern Territory

The plains, forests and mountains of the Northern Territory cover almost 1.5 million square kilometres, making the region a wonderland when it comes to outdoor adventure

Team Wanderlust
06 April 2023
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Discover Northern Territory

1. Helicopter over waterfalls in Kakadu National Park

Enjoy a flight over Kakadu’s waterfalls (Tourism NT/Tourism Australia)

However you chose to experience it, Kakadu National Park is a marvel of nature: a UNESCO-listed tranche of ancient wilderness in the tropics. Crocodiles wallow in the billabongs, millennia-old rock art decorates the caves, craggy escarpments line the horizon. But if you really want to get a sense of the park’s scale and see the extent of its rugged beauty with your own eyes, nothing beats seeing it from above.

By taking to the air in a chopper – or a fixed-wing plane – you’ll see Kakadu’s patchwork of thick woods, rolling wetlands and towering cliffs come to life. If you’re here in the tropical summer, you’ll witness the river systems at their fullest and the cascades in full flow, including the legendary Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. In the dry season, meanwhile, you’ll be treated to a staggering spread of grassy floodplains and sandstone plateaus. Scenic flights depart from within the park, as well as from Darwin.

2. Jetski around the mangroves in Darwin harbour at sunrise

Discover Darwin by jet ski (Tourism NT/jack.and.megan)

Darwin is always an enjoyable city, but it has a magic of its own at dawn. This is when a quiet warmth hangs over the place, the scenery glows, and the sea and land conjoin to create a stunning setting for adventure. The even better news is that conditions are often beautifully calm at this early hour, making it an unforgettable time to join a guided jetski tour along the coast.

Viewing the city from the water grants a new perspective – as does the feeling of driving a jetski. You’ll feel the breeze in your hair as you speed along the still-waking coastline, where mangroves throng parts of the shore, and for 90 minutes the thrill of the ride will be all-enfolding. You’ll even take a rest stop on the water and be treated to an iced latte – the perfect cooldown during an adrenaline-packed tropical sunrise.

3. Join a sunset camel ride at Uluru

Uluru Camel Tours (Tourism NT/Plenty of Dust)

The soaring sandstone bulk of Uluru is at its most beautiful at sunset, when the colours shift through different shades of red and ochre. There’s a truly special atmosphere as the day fades to a close, as though the Outback itself is drawing breath and marvelling at the mesmerising sight of the Rock. You can experience this majestic spectacle in any number of ways, but few are more fitting than being on the back of a camel.

Why? Although camels aren’t native to Australia, the animals played a huge role in the history of the Red Centre. Thousands were brought out here from 1870 onwards, to help settlers explore the country’s vast interior – and they’re now as familiar a sight here as kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles. And with the award-winning Uluru Camel Tours to guide you on your sunset adventure, you’ll see just why this region casts such a spell over travellers.

4. Try a sunrise hot-air balloon flight over Alice Springs

Enjoy a hot air balloon flight over Alice Springs (Tourism NT/Annie Nguyen)

Alice Springs is one of the most singular towns in Australia, if not the world. Set in the middle of an awe-inspiring desert landscape, and with 150 years of pioneering history shaping its character – not to mention tens of thousands of years of Indigenous heritage – it has an atmosphere that simply can’t be replicated elsewhere. When taken in tandem with the extraordinary scenery that furls out to the surrounding horizons, it provides a superlative setting for a hot air balloon ride at sunrise.

5. Make the day trip to Litchfield from Darwin

Buley Rockholes (Tourism NT/Jason Charles Hill)

The super-sized wilderness of Kakadu rightly draws attention, yet fewer travellers are familiar with the charms of the smaller but perfectly formed Litchfield National Park, which sits just an hour south of Darwin. It’s a laidback swathe of monsoonal vine forest, with easy-to-reach waterfalls gushing into natural swimming holes. For bushwalking, wild swimming and the chance to wallow in gorgeous Top End scenery, it makes for a brilliant day-trip from the city.

There are various options as to where to focus your attention, with Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls both popular for a dip, but the biggest draw is Wangi Falls, a large cascade-fed swimming hole. For a great view of the falls, follow the rainforest boardwalk that leads up to a lofty lookout. Keep an eye out too for the park’s incredible array of termite mounds, some of which reach up to four metres in height.

6. Take an airboat safari on the Mary River

Air boating on Mary River floodplains (Tourism NT/Steve Strike)

As the Arnhem Highway curves east towards Kakadu from Darwin, it passes through the remarkable Mary River wetland system. The floodplains here are crawling with wildlife, with large numbers of breeding waterbirds and toothy populations of both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles (Rod Ansell, the real-life inspiration for Crocodile Dundee, was formerly based here). The river and its wetlands are often overlooked but give a fascinating insight into the natural diversity of the Top End – not least when you join an airboat tour.

7. Hike the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Kings Canyon Rim Walk (Tourism NT)

For an incredible three- to four-hour experience that you won’t forget in a hurry, head to the immense sandstone surrounds of Kings Canyon, part of the majestic George Gill Range southwest of Alice Springs. Once you’re here, lace up your walking boots to take on the legendary 6km Rim Walk. The trail leads up and around the canyon itself, taking you through age-old rock formations and serving up deep views across the Outback.

This is a serious hike, with some 500 steps to negotiate at the start of the route, so is best undertaken in the early morning. The rewards, however, are glorious. You’ll wander through fields of rock domes, descend into the verdant greenery of the so-called Garden of Eden, and be treated to toppling scenery throughout. And as the sun rises over the desert, the sandstone walls around you shift through countless shades of orange and red.

Book now with Trailfinders: The No.1 tour operator to Australia

It pays to book with the experts. With extensive experience of the Northern Territory’s many highlights and with a knowledgeable and friendly team on-hand to find your perfect holiday, Trailfinders will help you to uncover the very best of this part of Australia. To book call 020 7795 4551 or visit trailfinders.com

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