The impressive sandstone formation of Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, sits on flat terrain of the Northern Territory, drawing visitors from across the globe to marvel at its natural beauty. Spend the day here and you’ll watch the surface transform through the phases of the day, morphing from dusty orange to vibrant red with the movement of the sun. Whether you take in this Australian icon over a champagne sunrise, camel tour or helicopter ride, you’ll be sure to feel a tingle of awe that will stay with you a lifetime.
Take a Ghan rail journey
Traversing from Adelaide to Darwin with just a few stops in between, The Ghan Australian passenger train offers arguably the greatest train journey in the country. Those not fussed on taking the full 54-hour, near 3,000 kilometre journey can take a partial leg of the trip, covering the ground of the Northern Territory between Kulgera and Darwin. Onboard you can do more than just admire the incredible scenery, enjoying a 3-course meal and fine wine at the train’s very own Queen Adelaide Restaurant.
Take a refreshing dip in the waterhole
Shake off the region’s reputation as a dry and barren desert, descending into the cool fresh ponds of the state’s many waterholes. From the small cascades of Buley Rockhole in Litchfield National Park, to the towering gorge of Jim Jim Falls in Kakadu National Park, there is no better way to escape the sweltering outback sun. Read signs carefully and ask for advice, crocodiles and intense weather can make this something of an extreme sport.
Spend the night under a million stars in the Outback
Channel your inner bushman and spend a night under the stars in the Australian outback. With special ‘swag’ sleeping bags designed to protect outdoor sleepers from the elements and critters of the desert, this quintessential desert experiences isn’t nearly as rugged as it sounds. Thanks to the low light pollution offered in the state, the Northern Territory is recognised as incredible place to see a blanket of bright stars.
Take a selfie with a kangaroo
Your stint in the outback is scarcely complete without getting up close and personal with a kangaroo. These friendly marsupials can be found hopping all over the Northern Territory, but with a speed of up to 70 kilometres per hour, catching a selfie can be difficult. An easier option can be found at the Kangaroo Sanctuary of Alice Springs, where Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns rescues and raises orphaned baby kangaroos, caring for almost 30 of them like his own blood children on a 188-acre wildlife reserve. The space also operates as a kangaroo hospital, meaning your visit supports very special work done by Brolga and his caring tribe.
Visit one of the World Heritage-listed national parks
The great expanses of the Northern Territory boast two World Heritage-listed national parks, the only Australian state to wear this badge of honour. Explore the biodiverse terrain and aboriginal rock art of Kakadu National Park, or venture to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park home of the stunning Ayers Rock. Other notable parks are found scattered through the state, abounding in eucalypt woodlands, impressive gorges, waterfalls, springs and more. Pack your binoculars, your swimsuit and some ‘Aussie tucker,’ and prepare to get well-acquainted with the dynamic outback; this is one of the most essential things to do in the Northern Territory.
Things to do in Northern Territory
A celebration of independence from the Commonwealth Government, Territory Day of the 1st of July now has four decades of history. It is the one day of the year in which personal fireworks can be used in the state, meaning the night sky erupts into a display of light and colour.
Desert Festival (or ‘des fest’ as the locals often call it) is a Spring celebration of all things Central Australia. Packed with music, arts, and plenty of unique outback traditions, this event has been inspiring the local community and engaging visitors for over 15 years.
Darwin Cup Carnival
Darwin's Fannie Bay Racecourse comes to life for the Darwin Cup Carnival, turning to a sea of fancy dresses, flamboyant headpieces and men in dapper suits. The main event is a meagre two minute horse race, but nevertheless it attracts a crowd of over 20,000 and gets broadcast to some 40 countries across the globe.
Hear the mesmerising call of the didjeridu and be drawn to Garma Festival, an annual celebration of Yolngu culture held in Arnhem Land every August. An intimate gathering of just over 2,000, you’ll share in an inspiring two-way learning event and learn the secrets and stories of one of the oldest cultures living on earth.
Alice Springs Beanie Festival
Live music, a parade, performances and food are just some of the great things that bring the Araluen Cultural Precinct to life during the annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival. Weaving the community together, the event has been held for over 2 decades, supporting Aboriginal women's textiles and culture through the knitting of beanies.
Top 5 Festivals in Northern Territory
Take your time in the Territory from incredible to unforgettable with the inclusion of an outback festival. From a crowd of thousands in fancy dress for a two minute horse race, to a beanie festival that weaves the community together one winter hat at a time. It’s worth checking this calendar before you book your trip.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Open since 1981, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is the state's most respected gallery space. Home to both contemporary and indigenous artworks, as well as many pieces that tell the stories of Australia's changing landscape and culture, this gallery is a must visit in Darwin.
Darwin Military Museum
Stepping back to the year of 1942, the Darwin Military Museum explores the bombing of Darwin by 242 Japanese aircraft, still referred to as the most significant attack on Australian soil. Visitors are taken on an intense audio-visual journey that shares accounts of the day from men and women who survived.
Australian Aviation Heritage Centre
Admire over 15 aircrafts on display at the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre, an aerospace museum that will see you up close and personal with engines, warplanes and special artefacts. This important Australian museum has been opened since 1990, and is an integral part of visiting this region.
National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame
Since 2001, the former jail of Alice Springs has been transformed into The National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame, a noble museum aiming to recognise women in history; most importantly their role in Australia’s history. Here you will find exhibitions and relics that speak for the feminine, from ordinary women with extraordinary lives, to the famous figures and political leaders who have marked their names in the history books.
Housed in what was once a regional air terminal during World War II, the Katherine Museum holds a fascinating collection of artefacts ranging from the plane of the first flying doctor to telecommunication of the 1800s, and even some objects from a planetarium built by a peanut farmer. A must visit gallery when in the Northern Territory, Australia, it is open daily from 9am to 4pm.
Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Northern Territory
Art, aviation, awe-inspiring women: there’s no set theme when it comes to the museums on offer in the Northern Territory. But whichever you find time for you are in for a treat, with plenty of culture and wisdom to be gained from these visits.
Northern Territory-inspired share plates
Smoked cod croquettes, barbeque pulled pork sliders and potato skins with bacon, cheese and sour cream are just some of the share plates on offer at Deck Eatery. Blending the adored concept of Spanish tapas with local NT produce is a culinary hit sure to leave you craving more.
Best eaten at Deck Eatery and Bar, 82 Barrett Drive, Desert Springs NT, Alice Springs, 0870
When a naughty treat and fresh Australian fruits collide, you know you are onto a good thing. Layers of meringue and whipped cream make for a textured dessert delight, topped with numerous berries, passionfruit and occasionally kiwifruit. Not surprisingly the best pav in the area is served at the Darwin Surf Life Saving Club.
Best eaten at De La Plage, Darribah Road, Darwin Surf Life Saving Club, Darwin, Northern Territory 0801
Australian all-day breakfast
There's nothing Australians love more than kicking off a day of outdoor adventures with a hearty breakfast. Join the crowd of locals at Page 27 at Todd Mall for a tempting menu featuring the likes of french toast with mascarpone and pistachios, and smashed avocado with minted yoghurt on rye.
Best eaten at Page 27, Fan Arcade, Todd Mall, NT, Alice Springs, 0870
Traditionally this may be an Italian dish, but parmigiana has well and truly established itself as an Australian favourite. Settle yourself in at Tim’s Surf & Turf Restaurant for a slab of chicken lathered in a tomato sauce and topped with grilled cheese. Hot tip: The Aussies have abbreviated its name, look out for the word "parma" or "parmy" on pub menus.
Best eaten at Tim’s Surf & Turf Restaurant, 10 Litchfield St, Darwin, Northern Territory 0800
One of very few food items that Australians can call their very own, the yeast extract food spread of Vegemite is an acquired taste that makes many foreigners squirm. Found in just about every supermarket across the country, it should be spread lightly over buttered toast for the perfect Vegemite introduction.
Best eaten at DIY at a local supermarket
Food in Northern Territory
Meat pies and Vegemite sandwiches might be the expected dishes on a trip to the Northern Territory. But most travellers are delighted to find a whole lot more in store. Think Aussie inspired tapas, fresh fruit desserts and French toast with pistachios. Not to mention a cheeky chicken parma over a few beers at a local pub.