Hike through Kakadu National Park to see the Aboriginal rock art at Nourlangie Rock
If biodiversity is what you crave, look no further than Kakadu National Park. Here, we’ll browse the enthralling Aboriginal rock art that covers Nourlangie Rock, a stunning sandstone rock formation that frames the vast expanse of the surrounding savanna woodlands. This fascinating art will give us an insight into the lives of Aboriginal locals 20,000 years ago, and we’ll learn all about the history and culture that permeates through the land. This rock art is some of the world’s oldest, so you’ll want to take a moment to absorb its cultural significance. Alongside the spectacular views of the National Park, this is a monument worth hiking for.
See if the truth really is out there at Australia’s UFO capital, Wycliffe Well
If you’ve been known to lock yourself in your room to binge on conspiracy documentaries, spend your free time pondering life’s mysteries and have a soft spot for the X files, have we got an activity in store for you. Wycliffe Well is a tiny Outback settlement, mostly visited as a road stop en route to or from Alice Springs. But it’s also known as Australia’s UFO capital, where even the most sceptic travellers will be dumbfounded by the unexplainable number of bizarre objects that fly through the skies. Here, it would be considered unlucky not to witness something odd, so keep your eyes peeled…
Experience the sheer rock walls of Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge on a river cruise
A stark contrast from the sun-baked sands of the outback, Nitmiluk Gorge aka Katherine Gorge, features 13 gorges carved from sandstone, and is peppered throughout with rivers and waterfalls. With 180,353 hectares of stunning, lush wildlife to discover, there’s only one way to truly explore the region: hopping on a river cruise. We’ll get up close and personal with the unique flora and fauna that lines the riverbed, as well as spotting fish and other animals as we bob along the river that winds through the red sandstone cliffs. Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, this is the Outback's softer side.
Heal tired travelling bodies in the 34-degree thermal pools at Mataranka
The Outback may be arid and unforgiving, but that doesn’t mean we can’t emulate a little prestige in the form of a dip in Mataranka’s thermal pools. Slap bang in the middle of the Northern Territory are the magical sandy-bottom thermal pools of Mataranka, a cove of crystal clear waters framed by lush greenery, providing us shade for an hour or two of tranquil book reading. We’ll treat our tired bodies to the ultimate pampering sesh, soothing our skin in the warm water and having a good old-fashioned splash about with our travel buds. Don’t say we didn’t tell you the Outback wasn’t full of surprises…
Visit the unique rock formation Karlu Karlu (The Devil’s Marbles)
The Devil’s Marbles are up there with Uluru when it comes to famous Aussie rock formations. Known to the local Warumungu Aboriginals as Karlu Karlu, these gorgeous red-rock granite boulders are up to six metres across in size (way bigger than actual marbles) and are about a million years old. You’ll channel pure Mad Max vibes with the contrast of vibrant red rock and bright blue sky as you marvel at the Devil’s Marbles, no two of which are the same. We’ll also delve deep into the spiritual significance of these rocks for the local Warumungu Aboriginals, who believed that the rocks held extraordinary powers.
Explore the Outback with an Aboriginal Dreamtime ‘Bushtucker’ tour (Alice Springs)
You’ve probably heard the word ‘Bushtucker’ thrown around, but haven’t piped up to actually ask what it means. Don’t worry, we got you. Bushtucker is the name given to traditional Outback cuisine, and we’ll learn exactly what it’s made up of with a Bushtucker tour in Alice Springs. We’ll get clued up on Aboriginal culture and traditions, as well as the significance of dreams and even try our hand at throwing a boomerang. All that info will have our stomachs rumbling, and we’ll learn all about (and sample) the food native to the bush including kangaroo, emu, witchetty grubs and bush tomato. Yum…
Sleep under the stars in a ’swag’ at a cattle and camel station (Kings Creek Station)
Here at Contiki, we like to keep it authentic - and nothing screams ‘Outback odyssey’ like a night spent under the stars at a local cattle and camel (yep, camel) station. Rolling up at Kings Creek Station, a hotspot for Outback activities nestled amid an assortment of desert oaks, our adventure will begin. Once we’re done making friends and taking selfies with the cattle and camels, we’ll slip on our jimmy jams and settle into our ‘swags (basically padded sleeping bags) for a night swapping stories as we gaze at the twinkling night sky. There’s no better way to get closer to nature than literally sleeping within it…
Hike to the ‘Garden of Eden’ waterhole and the ‘Lost City’ at Kings Canyon (Kings Creek Station)
If the phrases ‘Garden of Eden’ and ‘Lost City’ conjure up Indiana Jones style images of magical, otherworldly settings filled with natural wonders, these two outback gems will not disappoint. King’s Canyon is home to the ‘Garden of Eden’ pool of water, surrounded by ancient red rock formations and rugged scenery. Once we've marvelled at the plant life that survives despite the arid landscape, we’ll continue onto the incredible and unusual rock formations that form the ‘Lost City’. This area is so otherworldly, it’s the closest you’ll come to being on another planet while remaining on earth. One thing’s for sure, the Outback certainly keeps us on our toes…
Spend an afternoon walking through Kata Tjuṯa, the domed rock formations close to Uluru
Uluru isn’t the only huge red rock formation worthy of an afternoon of your time. Sharing a National Park with Uluru are the breathtaking domed rock formations of Kata Tjuṯa, where the local Aboriginal Aṉangu community have resided for over 22,000 years. We’ll take in the impressive panoramas of the landscape and get up close and personal with the rock itself, wandering between the rocks two tallest domes in the rocky creek bed of Walpa Gorge. We’ll get to know the plants and wildlife that thrive in this arid landscape and, if we’re lucky, catch the rock at sunset - the time when the area is basked in a stunning glow and the domes practically sing.
Experience sunrise and sunset at Uluru
Chances are you came to the Outback to do one thing - to see the stunning, one of a kind natural wonder of Uluru, Australia’s most well-known landmark. The eternal beauty and sheer scale of this huge red rock will have your jaw well and truly on the floor for hours as you attempt to fathom its form. And if you thought Uluru in the day time was impressive, just wait till you catch it at sunrise or sunset, when the entire region comes alive in the bask of a dazzlingly glorious red glow. Once we’ve filled up our camera (and head) with timeless memories, we’ll explore the Rock’s base and take in the atmosphere, overwhelmed with emotion. Trust us, you won’t leave Uluru the same person.
Things to do in The Outback
Heading to the Outback in May will see you catch Darwin's iconic Bassinthegrass music festival, hosted in the tropical paradise of George Brown Botanic Gardens. A killer line up (Flight Facilities and Flume have both been known to grace the Bassinthegrass stage) and all-round chilled vibes make for an epic festival experience.
Wide Open Space Festival
Wide Open Space in Alice Springs features an eclectic mix of music, art and performance. With everything from desert reggae acts, burlesque, yodelling quartets, circus acts, EDM DJ’s, rappers and just about everything else in-between, Wide Open Space is the festival to keep you on your toes from start to finish.
BLACKEN is an open-air heavy metal festival in the middle of the desert (now there’s a sentence I bet you never expected to read.) This 2-day heavy metal extravaganza has 30 bands from all over the country descend on Alice Springs, accompanied by the nation’s thriving community of heavy metal lovers.
Every springtime, party goers gather in the red centre to celebrate the region’s rich cultural history and jam along to the sounds of the desert. Featuring collaborations between Aboriginal performers and contemporary artists, the festival seeks to engage the wider community in the cultural exchange between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal art and music.
Tatts Finke Desert Race
Charged with energy, this is the Outback’s answer to The Fast and the Furious. Bikes, cars, quads and buggies race through the red desert of the Northern Territory from Alice Springs to Finke, taking place annually on the Queen’s Birthday. Channelling pure Mad Max vibes, you’ll never witness a race quite like it.
Top 5 Festivals in The Outback
Sydney may have the glamour and Melbourne may have the edge, but the rustic, red backdrop of the Outback desert makes for a decidedly more spiritual festival experience. With these 5 festivals on the cards to give you the very best of the Northern Territory’s entertainment, your Outback adventure will be anything but dry…
Uluru Cultural Centre
There’s so much beauty, history and spirituality to take in at the life-changing site of Uluru, you’ll need a little guidance. Enter: the Uluru Cultural Centre. With aboriginal performances, tours of the site and talks on how this monumental rock was formed, you’ll walk away from Uluru feeling like a certified expert.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Famed for being emotive, colourful and abstract, it wouldn’t be a trip to the Outback without delving deep into the world of Aboriginal art. Catch it all at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, as well as fascinating fossils, butterfly displays and photography to capture the essence of the region.
Warraadjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Kakadu National Park
Being in the Outback means connecting with Aboriginal culture, and where better to do so than at the Warraadjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre. This Centre is a must-see, as it displays the cultural artefacts of Indigenous Australians and tells the stories that explain the spiritual significance of the land.
Museum of Central Australia
In the heart of Alice Springs, the beautiful natural history of Central Australia is showcased at the Museum of Central Australia, which traces the evolution of the region and its inhabiting wildlife. Animals you never knew existed and Indigenous ceremonial artefacts will facilitate a deeper understanding of your breath-taking surroundings.
Defence of Darwin Experience
Fancy a blast from the past? The Outback’s got that too. This interactive, multimedia experience will get you fully immersed in Darwin’s war efforts from 1932 to 1945, and bring you face to face with Australia’s World War II heritage. The sobering highlight? The experience theatre that re-enacts the horror of the bombing of Darwin.
Top 5 Museums in The Outback
Between the rich cultural Aboriginal spirituality that permeates through the air, the fascinating natural history of the region and the unique (and at times perplexing) wildlife you didn’t even know existed, the Outback can be an overwhelming environment. These 5 museums will ensure you’re clued up as navigate your Outback experience.
Bush Tucker Bloody Mary
The spiritual site of Uluru isn’t just home to the rock itself; the Outback gem ‘Walpa Bar’ will ensure you never go thirsty on your Outback odyssey - especially if you opt for a Bush Tucker Bloody Mary. This indigenous twist on a brunch classic includes finger limes, juniper berries, pepperberry, spicy kangaroo and Davidson plum.
Best eaten at Walpa Bar, Uluṟu
The Parap Village Market in Darwin is where you can find fresh food produce, local eats and a range of eclectic international dishes, namely laksa - a delicious fragrant Malaysian meat and noodle dish. Enjoyed for any meal of the day, this yummy dish will keep you fuelled for a day filled with Outback antics.
Best eaten at Parap Village Markets (try Mary’s Laksa), Saturdays 8am-2pm, Parap Place
The outdoor picnic tables at the Indigenous-owned Barra Bar and Bistro will provide the perfect atmospheric backdrop to your first barramundi experience. This fresh fish is a Northern Australian speciality, best enjoyed under the skies while watching the breathtaking Outback sunset. It simply doesn’t get more Australian than this.
Best eaten at Barra Bar and Bistro, Cooinda Lodge, Cooinda Road, Kakadu National Park, Kakadu
BBQ ‘Big Brekkie’
BBQ for breakfast? Trust us; for a full day of traversing the unkempt bush of the Australian outback, you’ll need the fuel. Smokey local meat (whatever’s freshly available) and eggs, of course - it is breakfast after all. As the sun rises on this stunning landscape, BBQ for breakfast will never taste so good.
Best eaten at Uluṟu
Smoked Kangaroo salad
In Alice Springs, a restaurant saying they have ‘local produce’ means something very different to what you’re used to. Kangaroo is a common fixture in most Outback restaurants, but the smoked kangaroo salad served up at Red Ochre Grill Restaurant is perhaps a lighter way to get into this unique delicacy.
Best eaten at Red Ochre Grill Restaurant, Aurora Hotels Resorts Attractions, 11 Leichhardt Terrace, Alice Springs
Food in The Outback
Food in the Australian Outback is three things: meat-heavy, full of heart, and frill-free. One thing it’s not, however, is boring. You’ll be wowed by the culinary surprises of tropical Darwin, sample the Aboriginal delicacies of Alice Springs, and have your taste buds tantalised by the smokey flavours of Uluru’s BBQ.