Astonishingly varied, wild and untamed, the landscapes here ooze ancientness. But the Top End is also home to one of Australia’s most likeable cities. Darwin might be small but it is big on personality. With its fascinating geography, history and mix of cultural influences, it’s a top spot to start your Northern Territory travels. Nowhere is that multiculturalism more apparent than at Mindil Beach Sunset Market. Here, more than 200 food, arts and crafts stalls gather to sell everything from local crocodile meat and Aboriginal art to up-cycled goods and exquisite handmade jewellery from around the world. Learn about the city’s past and resilience at the excellent Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, and delve into its dynamic dining scene. This is the place to tuck into the territory’s tasty specialities – mud crab, barramundi, crocodile and the juiciest mangoes imaginable – and to be wowed by its chefs’ Asian-influenced flavours.
After indulging in the easygoing charms of the tropical city, it’s time to unearth the Northern Territory’s ancient and spectacular landscapes. One of the best routes to take is from Darwin to Kakadu and on to Katherine before looping back up. You’ll be on sealed roads and covering manageable distances.
Kakadu, Australia's largest designated wilderness, is three hours east of the capital. Owned by the Bininj Mungguy people, the park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres of diverse habitats – there are floodplains, savanna woodlands, winding rivers, plummeting waterfalls and immense escarpments. It’s also home to masses of wildlife and an area of huge cultural significance, with some of the most ancient rock art in existence.
Go on a wetland cruise as the sun slinks up and watch as the most incredible nature show unfolds. The park is a haven for birds: it is home to one third of Australia’s species. As you float across billabongs covered in water lilies and fringed by tall paperbark trees, you’ll hear honking magpie geese, glimpse white-bellied sea eagles and spot whistling kites. Tiny azure kingfishers will dart into the water and flocks of sharp-beaked jabirus fly overhead. And, of course, it's teeming with crocodiles: look down to see fearsome salties glide past or lurk like malevolent logs.
There are thundering falls, too – Jim Jim and Twin Falls are the tallest, while the Gunlom Falls Plunge Pool is great for a challenging hike followed by a plunge. You can lap up wonderful views from the “infinity pool” at the top. Take a ranger-guided tour to learn about the park’s different habitats, wildlife and indigenous heritage: you’ll hear the stories behind the millennia-old rock art.
On the next leg, follow the Stuart Highway south of Darwin for around three-and-a-half hours to Katherine, gateway to the spellbinding Nitmiluk National Park. Meaning "place of the cicada dreaming", the park’s centrepiece is its eponymous gaping gorge. A series of waterways, it is best seen from water level. Take a cultural cruise along the river to learn about Nitmiluk Gorge’s significance to the Jawoyn people, and hear stories of its creation from local guides as you stare up at age-old sandstone cliffs. You’ll pass waterfalls, caves and ancient rock art sites. It’s also a fantastic place to canoe and hike, peppered with swims from sandy coves. Or take to the air on a helicopter tour for another perspective on this geological wonder.
As you make your journey back to Darwin, stop off at Leliyn, or Edith Falls, on the western edge of park for a final dip in the wild. Edged by ghostly paperbark trees and pandanus, the natural plunge pool is a pretty spot to contemplate your Top End travels.
The Northern Territory – gateway to incredible nature and ancient culture
It’s quick and easy to get to Darwin, the tropical capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, where fascinating history, amazing weather and welcoming locals await you. Singapore Airlines offer daily flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to Singapore with onward connections to Darwin, in a total travel time of just under 19 hours.
And when travelling with Flight Centre, an Australian company as passionate about its home destination as it is about its personalised service, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable, hassle-free Australian getaway.
Let their Travel Consultants tailor-make a trip to suit you, and guide you through the amazing travel experiences that await in The Northern Territory by visiting flightcentre.co.uk/holidays/australia/northern-territory