The Northern Territory:
The Top End and the Red Centre
The Northern Territory is an immense slice of the middle of Australia, from the north to the central deserts. Only 140,000 people live here due to its remote location, lack of water, and the poor conditions for growing crops. Summer brings deadly heat, plus massive flooding across the north. Cyclones blow in from the Timor sea. The time to visit is late April through late October.
The Top End
This area has an almost magical reputation for Aussies – from the ancient Aboriginal rock paintings and croc-filled billabongs, to the vast cattle stations made legendary by Jeanne Gunn’s popular book, We of the Never-Never.
Darwin has the only remaining big commercial harbor in the whole north of Australia. The first explorers came here in the 600s, although the Aboriginal people had traded with the Macassan people of Southeast Asia for thousands of years. The first aviators to reach Australia by air landed here – famous flyers like Ross and Kingford Smith. Amelia Earhart departed from here on her last flight. Darwin was heavily bombed by the Japanese in World War Two and was soon occupied by US troops. The city was re-built after the war, then wiped out by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
Do take time to explore its amazing history! Visit a world class museum, stroll the ethnic food stalls at the Mindil Beach market, and at dusk watch its stunning sunsets.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park, just two hours from Darwin, draws 10,000 visitors each year. Top spots are the significant Aboriginal rock art sites, Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr Rock. Enjoy a billabong cruise to see tropical birds and salt water crocodiles. Take a scenic flight or 4WD tour to see Jim Jim Falls. With luck you’ll also see wild water buffalo, Timor ponies, and dingoes.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park, popular for its cool waterfalls, is only an hour’s drive south of Darwin.
The Nitmuluk National Park
The Nitmuluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) is popular for canoeing, kayaking, or boating through the towering sandstone gorge.
If you want to see all that the Top End offers – minus the crowds, go to Arnhem Land. It is four times the size of the Kakadu, but it is strictly restricted to its 20,000 Aboriginal residents and you must get their permission to enter. They are guardians to what is considered to be the largest collection of the oldest rock art in the world.
We have a bush guide who takes you where the crowds cannot go. You’ll see as much (or as little) rock art as you wish. See all the wildlife – and go fishing for barramundi if you want to! Camp and enjoy his damper for breakfast – or stay in accommodations. He tailors each tour to your wishes. You can see crocs and snakes – or stay away from them if you prefer! His relationship with the Aboriginal people means you can have personal contact with them.
We can book tours to Corroboree -Aboriginal dancing ceremonial celebrations. For art collectors, we offer small plane tours to the remote villages where the top artists paint. We have the best birding guides in the Top End. Want to stay in a real, working cattle station, we have one with billabongs, rivers, Aboriginal rock art, and seasonal cattle mustering. When your inner “Robinson Crusoe” calls, their helicopter can drop you on a beach in a gorge by a series of waterfalls. You’ll have food, wine, swags… and a two-way radio. It just doesn’t get better than that!
The Red Center
Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Uluru/Kata Tjuta
Some travelers think they have to go here to see the outback. Not true! Nor is Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) the “most sacred site” in Australia. So let’s clear this up: the outback is anywhere “out the back” of any city. Uluru is sacred to the local Anangu Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people. But there are several hundred Aboriginal clans, and each has sacred sites – places that are part of their storyline. These sacred sites are part of their heritage – sometimes called the Dreamtime.
Uluru is stunning at sunrise and sunset. Interestingly, it is actually growing! It is lying on its side, perpendicular to the land and as the land erodes away from it, it “grows.” If you can only go in the Aussie summer, we plan very short stays. In the winter you can easily spend over a week exploring the Red Centre.
Alice Springs offers visitors a glimpse of the history of exploration of central Australia. Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which provides medical care to isolated places. Tour the School of the Air and learn how children on remote cattle stations study with teachers who are hundreds of miles away. Visit top Aboriginal art shops in Australia, the Old Telegraph Station. Just outside Alice, visit the Western MacDonnell Ranges and the Alice Springs Desert Park.
Ayer’s Rock Resort
Uluru is a five-hour drive or short flight from Alice Springs. It is owned by the Aboriginal people. Ayer’s Rock Resort has accommodation ranging from five star hotels to back packers and a campground, as well as restaurants and cafes. The Resort is located a few miles from Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The Resort offers a variety of tours. We prefer the small group tours for our clients.
During the winter you can self-drive between Alice Springs and Ayer’s Rock Resort via Kings Canyon. There’s lots to see along the way, but you will need a 4WD to drive this route. Overnight at Kings Canyon Resort, and the next morning enjoy one of the hikes, including the spectacular Rim Walk. Then continue your drive to Ayer’s Rock Resort. For travelers who don’t want to drive, we offer scenic coaches.