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Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: AU Blog

Top 15 Things to do in the Northern Territory.

If you've ever dreamt of setting out on an Australia road trip through the Aussie Outback – where the stories of ancient indigenous cultures blend with hidden swimming holes and vibrant red ochre landscapes – then it’s time to add the Northern Territory to your travel itinerary. Whether you're gearing up for an Outback odyssey in a 4WD campervan hire or mapping out a 2WD friendly Stuart Highway travel itinerary, we have put together a list of the essential things to do in the Northern Territory to add to your Australia road trip. From the mesmerizing rock formations in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the buzzing markets of Darwin, we've got you covered with 15 must-do activities. For good measure, we have also thrown in answers to some of the most asked questions about exploring the Northern Territory in a campervan. 

 

Where is the Northern Territory?

Nestled in the beating heart of Australia, the Northern Territory, often lovingly abbreviated as NT, stretches across the central and northern portions of the continent. Bordered by Western Australia to the west, the picturesque expanse of South Australia down south, and the lush landscapes of Queensland to the east, the NT boasts many of Australia’s most precious inland gems, Aboriginal heritage and tropical escapes. 

Image: Lachlan Gardiner

 

What’s the Northern Territory known for?

At its core, the NT stands out as a beacon for its combination of tropical wonders, a deep-rooted Aboriginal heritage, and the untamed landscapes of the Outback. Here you will find whispers of the world's oldest living culture, with the Aboriginal people having lived and flourished in these lands for over 65,000 years. And it shows — from the enigmatic rock art in Kakadu National Park to the dreamtime stories surrounding the majestic Uluru. 

Yet, the natural marvels of the Northern Territory aren't just confined to its cultural landmarks. Think of cascading waterfalls in Litchfield National Park, the vibrant sunsets over Katherine Gorge, or the hauntingly beautiful ghost gums and desert oaks that punctuate the Outback. Add to this the exotic wildlife, where saltwater crocodiles rule the waterways and flocks of colourful migratory birds paint the sky. 

But what truly makes the Northern Territory a camper's paradise is its endless horizon. Whether you are looking for family-friendly Darwin tourist attractions or prefer to explore the ‘off the beaten track’ things to do in the Northern Territory, every corner in your camper introduces you to a new adventure, a different vista.

 

The best way to explore the Northern Territory

If you're on the hunt for an unparalleled adventure, there's no better way to experience the best things to do in the Northern Territory than with a campervan hire or a rugged 4WD camper hire. The Northern Territory is vast, with pockets of untouched wilderness and some of the most remote areas in Australia. Having your own campervan hire or 4WD is the perfect mix of adventure, all while carrying a piece of home with you. 

With the unpredictable nature of the Outback, it's reassuring to have your own provisions — be it water, food, or shelter — right at your fingertips. Plus, the flexibility it offers is unparalleled; spontaneously decide to camp under the starlit skies of Alice Springs, get up close with the wondrous rock formations in the MacDonnell Ranges, or lose yourself in the scenic things to do in Katherine. 

And let's not forget the off-the-beaten-path locations that become accessible with a 4WD. These vehicles are built to tackle the rugged terrains of the Aussie Outback, be it sandy dunes or rocky trails. Whether it's reaching the secluded waterholes in Finke Gorge National Park or navigating the challenging tracks of the Simpson Desert, a 4WD ensures you don't miss out on any hidden gems or hard-to-reach things to do in the Northern Territory. 

 

How many days do you need in the Northern Territory?

Overall, seven days to two weeks is a good starting point when planning an Australia itinerary through the Northern Territory. That being said, in reality, you could spend a lifetime exploring. Need more help? Here are a few of the top Apollo Northern Territory itineraries:

Image: Tourism Australia

 

Top 15 Things to do in the Northern Territory

Alright, thrill-seekers and culture vultures! Now that we have agreed that there are plenty of reasons to take a road trip to explore Australia let’s explore the 15 best things to do in the Northern Territory on your upcoming campervan travel itinerary: 

 

1. Fish for Silver Barramundi

Casting a line in Darwin's pristine waters is a fisherman’s rite of passage. The star of the show here is the gleaming silver barramundi. This fish has reached legendary status amongst locals and tourists alike. Not just for its vigorous fight when hooked or its delectable taste but for the sheer joy of the chase. 

The prime locations to hunt for this prized catch include the Daly River, Mary River, and the Tiwi Islands. These waterways come alive, especially during the Runoff season between March and May, when the barramundi move from the floodplains back to the main rivers. And if you're looking to elevate the experience, why not give Heli fishing a whirl? Oh, and if you’re feeling extra lucky, don’t miss your chance to register for the NT’s Million Dollar Fish competition. You might just reel in a fish worth a million bucks! 

Where to stay: Daly River Barra Resort.

 

2. Watch Aboriginal Artist's Work

Apart from exploring its stunning landscapes, another one of the best things to do in the Northern Territory is to explore the rich tapestry of Aboriginal culture. And what better way to immerse yourself than by watching these talented artists craft masterpieces? – every pattern recounts tales of dreamtime, of lands and spirits, and of age-old traditions passed down generations. Luckily, the NT is dotted with art centres where you can not only witness this magic but also interact with the artists. From the Tiwi Islands, renowned for their unique painting style and fabric prints, to the Papunya Tula Artists in Alice Springs, known for their intricate dot paintings, the choices are boundless. 

Where to stay: Ayers Rock Campground.

 

3. Cruise Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge at Dawn

There's something deeply spiritual about greeting the sun as it casts its first golden rays, especially when you're in the middle of Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. With an early morning cruise, you have the perfect chance to experience this beauty. As the boat slices through the calm waters, dramatic cliffs carved from ancient sandstone envelop you, their orange-red facades intensified by the rising sun. While cruising, you're treated not just to the sublime landscapes but also to the sounds of birds waking up, the splash of freshwater crocs seizing a morning dip, and the ripples of water echoing in the vastness of the gorge. Beyond a cruise, one of the most intimate ways to experience this grandeur is by navigating the tranquil waters of Nitmiluk Gorge in a canoe. Whether you opt to rent a canoe or join a guided tour to explore deeper sections of the gorge, this is hands down one of the best things to do in Katherine’s surroundings.  

Where to stay: Nitmiluk Caravan Park.

 

4. Explore Rock Art in Kakadu National Park

A few hours east of the excitement of many iconic Darwin tourist attractions is the eerie, silent beauty of Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is a living Outback time capsule and walking museum of its rich Aboriginal heritage. The Aboriginal rock art in Kakadu National Park is nothing short of impressive. Not only is it beautiful, but it has survived for over 65,000 years! These artworks, rich in ochre and charisma, are the perfect glimpse into the daily lives, traditions, and beliefs of the Bininj and Mungguy people. Sites like Ubirr and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) are treasures where time seems to have stood still. As you gaze upon depictions of animals, spirits, and even contact with early European settlers, it's hard not to feel a profound connection to those who walked these lands thousands of years before you. If you love history and are curious to learn more, this is a must-see on your Northern Territory travel itinerary!

Where to stay: Aurora Kakadu Lodge.

 

5. Marvel at Uluru’s Sunset

There are sunsets, and then there's an Uluru sunset. If you ever wondered what magic looked like, make your way to the heart of Australia's Red Centre and stand before Uluru as the sun takes its bow. As the sun dips below the horizon, this iconic monolith undergoes a breathtaking transformation, with its fiery reds shifting to deep purples and then mellowing out to soft, glowing oranges and pinks. While you may not be able to explain it, you will likely feel the echos of dreamtime and stand in reverence of the Anangu culture, the culture of the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people, the traditional owners of the land. 

Where to stay: Ayers Rock Campground.

Image: Tourism Northern Territory

 

6. Hike through Kata Tjuta

Just a short drive from Uluru lies another geological marvel, equally commanding and deeply spiritual. Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas, is located within the same national park as Uluru and equally deserving of a spot on a list of the best things to do in the Northern Territory. Unlike the singular grandeur of Uluru, Kata Tjuta enchants with its series of 36 domes spread across an area of more than 20 kilometres. Trails like the Walpa Gorge Walk and the Valley of the Winds Walk weave through these giant boulders, offering panoramas that shift with every turn. Within the narrow crevices, you will also have the chance to see the richness of wildlife that call this Outback Oasis home. 

Where to stay: Ayers Rock Campground.

 

7. Explore the Escarpments and Swimming Holes of the West Macs

Hidden just a stone's throw away from Alice Springs, is Tjoritja or the West MacDonnell Ranges (‘West Macs’, according to the locals), are a 161km stretch of sheer rugged and beautiful mountains in the heart of the red centre. Boasting a series of mountains, gorges, chasms, and some of the most inviting natural swimming holes, the West Macs are a true oasis in Australia's Red Centre. Go for a walk along the Ormiston Gorge, enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool waters of Ellery Creek Big Hole or explore the cycad-filled Standley Chasm. This is easily one of the best Alice Springs tourist attractions! For more ideas of things to do in the area, check out the full guide to family-friendly things to do in Alice Springs.

Where to stay: Glen Helen Holiday Park.

 

8. Taste the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets

Looking for the best things to do in Darwin? The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets are one of those Darwin tourist attractions that is worth the hype! This bustling market is the perfect place to experience the vibrant culture of the Top End. Wander through the myriad of stalls, with aromas of international cuisines wafting through the air — from Thai to Brazilian, Greek to Indian, there’s a stall to meet your cravings! Apart from food, the markets offer local artisans the chance to showcase their handcrafted jewellery, paintings, and Aboriginal crafts. If you are looking for Darwin, Australia, things to do to capture the essence of Darwin's multicultural tapestry – this is it!

Where to stay: Big4 Hidden Valley Holiday Park

 

9. Swim Under Waterfalls in Litchfield National Park

Nestled a short 60-minute drive from Darwin, Litchfield National Park captivates travellers with its cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear pools, and lush monsoonal rainforests. Dive into the pristine waters of Wangi Falls or Florence Falls, with their towering waterfalls in the distance. Then take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalks of Buley Rockhole, hopping from one pool to another, or marvel at the naturally formed magnetic termite mounds.

Where to stay: Litchfield Tourist Park.

 

10. Watch the Sunset at Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles)

Situated in the core of the Australian Outback is the captivating landscape of Karlu Karlu (the Devil's Marbles). These enormous granite boulders, stacked one on top of another, are not only a testament to nature's gravity-defying wonders but are deeply significant to the Aboriginal people. Whether you're capturing moments through a lens or simply soaking in the views, this spectacle is a must-see on a travel itinerary to explore the best things to do in the Northern Territory. 

Where to stay: Karlu Karlu Campground.

 

11. Experience the Northern Territory from a Hot Air Balloon

Hovering over Alice Springs in a hot air balloon with Outback Ballooning presents an unrivalled view of the iconic Red Centre – easily one of the best Alice Springs tourist attractions. The serene early morning skies offer a perfect vantage point to observe the vast desert plains, formidable mountain ranges, and meandering riverbeds below. Then, once you touch back down, you get to celebrate the journey with a glass of sparkling wine – a tradition after every flight. 

Where to stay: Discovery Parks Alice Springs.

Image: Tourism northern Territory

 

12. Quad Bike Around Kings Canyon

For those looking to inject a dose of adventure into their travels, a quad biking expedition in Kings Canyon offers just that. Feel the rush of wind against your face as you maneuver through the rugged terrains, weaving through the ancient sand dunes and cruising alongside the iconic red rock walls of the canyon. Accompanied by guides, these guided tours not only offer a dose of adrenaline but also provide insightful narratives about the region's flora, fauna, and Indigenous history. 

Where to stay: Kings Canyon Resort.

 

13. Birdwatch in Mary River Wetlands

Renowned for its astounding biodiversity, the Mary River Wetlands are a haven for bird enthusiasts. These wetlands play host to over 250 bird species, representing over one-third of Australia's bird species. As you traverse the marshes and billabongs, expect to catch glimpses of magpie geese, whistling ducks, sea eagles, and the elusive jabiru. For those who wish to delve deeper into the avian world, guided bird-watching tours are available. Regardless of which you choose, the Mary River Wetlands is bound to be a highlight on your Australia travel itinerary. 

Where to stay: Breeze Holiday Parks - Mary River.

 

14. Stargaze in the Outback

The Northern Territory's Outback offers some of Australia’s clearest night skies, making it a prime spot for some of Australia’s best stargazing. This activity should undoubtedly be on your Australia road trip list. The best part? As you set out on your motorhome adventure, you can find a spot pretty much anywhere in the NT as long as you've gone as far away from town and city light pollution. Staring up into the vast expanse of the sky, undisturbed by city lights, is easily one of the most mesmerizing things to do in the Northern Territory!

Where to stay: Spots including Karlu Karlu Campground, Ayers Rock Campground and Kings Canyon Resort are great places to start.

 

15. See the Local Wildlife at Desert Park Alice Springs

When crafting your Australia itinerary, a stop at the Desert Park in Alice Springs is a must. This attraction is a highlight among Alice Springs tourist attractions. A fusion of a botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary, here you can immerse yourself in an authentic Australian desert experience. As you journey through the park, keep an eye out for the red kangaroo, endangered bilbies, and spirited birds of prey.  

Where to stay: Discovery Parks Alice Springs is a great base when checking out the local Alice Springs tourist attractions.

 

Ready to Explore the Northern Territory?

Whether you are exploring the top things to do in Katherine, the best things to do in Darwin, or the iconic Alice Springs tourist attractions, every kilometre in your Apollo campervan is an adventure waiting to unfold. Ready to set out with a convenient campervan hire for your Australia itinerary? Travel Australia in style and comfort and book your Apollo camper today


Want to learn more about the best Northern Territory family experiences? Top campervan spots in Australia, and tips for planning a family-friendly road trip in Australia? We have plenty more resources to check out on the Apollo blog.

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