northern territory holidays

The Northern Territory is one of Australia’s least populated regions but it’s also one of the most incredible. Darwin itself is a lot of fun but there are plenty of other places to have amazing Northern Territory holidays.

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory. It’s wet, it’s small, and it’s named after Charles Darwin. This northernmost city, the regional centre of the Top End, benefits from its location.

From there its only a matter of catching a flight way down to Uluru and soaking up this special place to jumping on a plane just an hour or so northwest to the Indonesian island of Bali and much more.

There’s a lot of nature to discover here. Kakadu, an impressively sized national park thought to have been inhabited for over 40,000 years, will wow with Aboriginal rock art and its sheer size.

Litchfield National Park, on the other hand, is more compact, but teeming with life – from clever termites to rainbow-coloured birds.

No matter what you feel like doing, the weekend getaways from Darwin definitely won’t disappoint – especially if communing with mother nature is your thing!

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northern territory holidays

Visit Kakadu

How to get to Kakadu from Darwin

Kakadu is a 3 hour drive from Darwin. Head west on Stuart Highway and turn onto Arnhem Highway, which is well signed. Be sure to have water and direction with you and be well prepared as mobile reception is rare.

Set 150 kilometres to the east of Darwin is the epic Kakadu National Park. Covering an impressive 20,000 square kilometres, it’s the largest national park in Australia. It’s actually around half the size of Switzerland – or one third that of Tasmania. As you might expect, it’s a wonder of biodiversity, with 17,000 plant species alone – making it the richest region for flora in the north of Australia. It’s made up of sweeping wetlands, winding rivers – four in total – and sandstone formations. Amongst it all are 280 bird species, 10,000 types of insects and 117 species of reptiles. It’s fair to say that Kakadu National Park is an absolute hotspot when it comes to wildlife.

Dozens of other animals call Kakadu home as well, some of which are rare and vulnerable, including black wallaroos, saltwater crocs, and the very cute northern quolls, to name just a few.

The region is rich in Aboriginal culture. The name “Kakadu” is itself a mispronunciation of the Aboriginal language, Gaagudju; a language that is now extinct but was once spoken in this area. Evidence of this history can be found throughout the park. There are more than 5,000 art sites, all of which illustrate Aboriginal culture across an unfathomable span of thousands of years. Some of these internationally recognised examples of Aboriginal rock art date back to more than 20,000 years old. This makes them the earliest physical record of any group of human beings to have walked planet Earth! Some of the most prominent include Ubirr, in the Eastern Alligator region, Burrunggui on the vast Nourlangie Rock, and nearby Nanguluwur. These awesome pieces of art – called Gunbim in the local language – depict all manner of happenings, from the creator god Rainbow Serpent and Alkjko – a horned, four-armed female spirit – as well as people wearing headdresses, wielding boomerangs and spears. There’s even contact art – masted ships with dinghies floating behind them. Basically, the land here has a story to tell, which makes Kakadu one of the number one places to listen to the tales and learn all about the area. Being a natural haven, Kakadu has a number of hikes and ways to reach the world-renowned rock art sites. It’s a place for adventure, from its wetlands to waterways. The Bubba Wetlands walk, for example, is the perfect spot for birdwatchers: the place to come to see wildlife living among this unique habitat. It’s a straightforward four-kilometre loop, so it won’t take anybody too long to complete. The more intrepid can try out the Twin Falls plateau walk. This challenging hike is a marked bushwalk that runs through outcrops and shaded rainforests, complete with views into the 150-metre deep gorge below. It is nothing short of incredible.   Highlights of Kakadu
  • Swimming in a plunge pool such as Gunlom, complete with magical vista.
  • Hiking the Jim Jim Plunge Pool walk to the thundering falls themselves.
  • Making a beeline for Nourlangie Rock and its incredible art.
  • Glimpsing some of Kakadu’s amazing birdlife.
  • Touring around with a guide to learn more about nature and history.
northern territory holidays
northern territory holidays

Where to stay in Kakadu

Being a National Park there is limited accommodation in Kakadu with the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile and Cooinda Lodge in Jabiru being the main choices, the later with excellent Glamping tents and comfortable air-conditioned rooms.

On the western side of the park next to the Mary River floodplains is Bamurru Plains, a stunning luxury lodge with individual bungalows looking out over the plains teeming with bird and animal life. Meals are included and are a gourmet experience in themselves with many ingredients sourced locally. Activities include Airboat safaris and Barramundi Fishing. This is a high-end experience that rivals the best safari’s in the world!

 

northern territory holidays

Bamarru Plains image credit @emma Pritchett

Uluru/Kata Tjuta

Possibly one the most famous natural landmarks in the world, Uluru – formerly known as Ayers Rock – is an enormous sandstone rock formation, almost exactly in the centre of the continent.

Another of Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the giant rock makes up part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It is certainly one of the most famous Northern Territory holidays you can do and you really only need a couple of days to do it!

How to get to Uluru from Darwin

It’s located over 2,000 kilometres from Darwin, so the quickest way to get there is to catch a flight; otherwise, if you have longer than a weekend, you could make a road trip of it.

Driving will take you over 20 hours so its a longer Northern Territory holidays rather than a short break but it is possible to drive in one direction and fly back to save time.

The road to take is the National Highway ( Highway 1) and you turn onto Highway 87 about 90 minutes south of Alice Springs. Tennant Creek is a good place to stop as it’s about halfway and with some good planning you can see Kings Canyon on the way too.

What is Uluru?

Standing 348 metres high and rising 863 metres above sea level, most of Uluru is actually underground. The rock itself, along with the nearby and uniquely shaped Kata Tjuta, both have an enormous cultural significance to the Anangu people.

The best way to understand more about Uluru, the surrounding area, and why it’s so important for the local Aboriginal people, is to join a tour led by one of the traditional inhabitants of the area. On one of these fascinating tours, visitors will learn about Dreamtime, bushfood, and the flora and fauna relating to the local area.

Uluru has to be seen either at dawn or sunset, seemingly changing colour from bright red to dusky pinks and lavenders as the sun sinks or rises; it’s even different at certain times of year.

Nearby, the township of Yulara – around a ten-minute drive away – is the perfect place to base yourself on a weekend getaway to Uluru.

It’s mostly made up of Ayers Rock Resort, an Aboriginal-owned enterprise offering employment and training to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Here you’ll find a spa, a swimming pool, restaurants, shops, and art galleries to keep you busy.

Uluru is more than just a photo opportunity. It’s a place to come to learn about the Red Centre, the Aboriginal people, and to connect with nature, culture and history that is still very tangible here. It’s all about soaking up the beauty of the place.

 

 Highlights of Uluru

  • Deepening your understanding of the Anangu people at the Culture Centre.
  • Going on a guided tour and hearing all about how life has been and still is lived here.
  • Seeing the incredible Field of Light installation which lights up the desert in a carpet of colour at night
  • Experiencing Uluru changing colour as the sun moves across the sky.
  • Seeing the amazing rock art in the national park.
  • Swinging by the domes of Kata Tjuta for yet more astounding beauty.

 

northern territory holidays
northern territory holidays

Where to stay in Uluru

Uluru is one of the most popular Northern Territory Holidays but there is a limited number of accommodation options there. The local town is called Yulara and it is home to the Ayers Rock Resort. In many respects it is a like a theme park with most of the hotels, van park, pub, shops and amenities all set out along the one ring road. This does make it quite convenient and efficiently run with buses and tours departing for Uluru and surrounds from central pick-up points.

Yulara is only a 10-minute drive from the airport where you can either pick up a hire car or organise a bus transfer to your hotel.

The four main hotels are Sails in the Desert, Emu Walk Apartments, Desert Gardens Hotel and The Lost Camel, with the latter being the smallest but also with the nicest pool area.

For camping and caravans the resort has very good facilities and is one of the busiest sites in Australia. Further afield you can also stay at Curtin Springs which is a working cattle station.

There is also the rather remarkable Longitude 131 Luxury lodge, considered one of the best in Australia but also one of the most expensive. This is located around 10 minutes from Yulara and 20 from Uluru.

northern territory holidays

Litchfield National Park

How to get from Darwin to Litchfield National Park

Kakadu is a 3 hour drive from Darwin. Head west on Stuart Highway and turn onto Arnhem Highway, which is well signed. Be sure to have water and direction with you and be well prepared as mobile reception is rare.

Drive around 100 kilometres southwest of Darwin, and you’ll eventually come across Litchfield National Park. You may not have heard of this place, but it’s a hidden gem of the Northern Territory.

It’s the place to go for gushing waterfalls, deep waterholes, and soaring forests strung with vines – a top choice for those wanting to escape sweltering summers in Darwin.

There are some real adventures to be had here. Spanning around 1,000 square kilometres, Litchfield National Park is strewn with diverse woodland flora and monsoon rainforest with deep narrow gorges cut by waterfalls.

It has that undiscovered paradise vibe – the kind of place where orchids and lilies grow freely in the wilds of undisturbed nature.

Here you’ll find a whole heap of cool animal species, too. There’s the little red flying-fox, for example, the Jurassic Park-esque frilled lizard, and colourful birds like the rainbow bee-eater. But perhaps coolest of all are the termites.

Termites may not sound cool, but the castles they build draw people to the national park. Specifically, it’s the Magnetic Termite Mounds that are amazing here – neat rows of mini earthen skyscrapers in a sensitive response to north and south.

One of the most epic nature spots in the national park has got to be what is known as the Lost City. Named for looking like the remains of an ancient civilisation, these sandstone pillars interspersed with trees really give a Tomb Raider feel to the park.

There are yet more incredible spots around the park to soak up nature. Florence Falls, for example, cascades into a plunge pool blissfully set in monsoon forests. The Florence Creek walk – between the falls and Buley Rockhole – is a great way to experience this part of the park.

 

 Highlights of Litchfield National Park

  • Camping nearby Florence Falls for a wild experience.
  • Swimming in one of the national park’s many plunge pools.
  • Spotting a whole load of local wildlife.
  • Taking a 4WD and heading on an adventure to the Lost City.
  • Marvelling at the Magnetic Termite Mounds.
northern territory holidays
northern territory holidays

Where to stay at Litchfield National Park

Banyan Tree is a lovely van park which also offers small cabins and family rooms with private bathrooms. There is also a pool, restaurant and a bar.

Nearby is Litchfield Tourist Park with similar facilities as well as 2 and 3 bedroom bungalows.

A little further away check out Mt.Bundy Station, a working cattle property that has a range of excellent accommodation including a five-bedroom house, making it great for groups and extra points if travelling with kids as they see the animals, including a miniature horse. Mt Bundy is often used for weddings and events and is really quite a remarkable place! 

Northern Territory holidays – to Bali!

It’s not exactly Australia, but one of the best Northern Territory holidays is Bali – the ultimate weekend getaway from Darwin.

With just a quick 80 minute hop across the ocean by plane, you’ll be enjoying one of the most beautiful islands in Southeast Asia in no time.

Bali is a special place. The only Hindu majority island in Indonesia, its temples, architecture and culture reflect this unique position in the island chain. In the past, Bali was its own kingdom but is now ruled by a federation of different kings ruling different areas.

Bali is a volcanic island in Indonesia, known for its beautiful beaches, bright and verdant rice terraces, the amazing architecture of its temples, and its cool surfing scene.

 Then there are the luxury places to eat and drink, the hip boutiques and cafes, the massages, wellness centres and spa treatments, as well as the yoga retreats and treehouse lodgings. Bali’s got just about everything you could ever expect from a weekend destination.

Depending on what you want out of your break, you can base yourself at various locations around the island. For a true Eat, Pray, Love-esque experience, head to the hill town of Ubud, complete with rice terraces and a temple overrun by monkeys.

Kuta is where you’ll want to be if you want vibrancy: there’s great nightlife here, a busy beach, and epic surfing opportunities. Seminyak is more trendy, with cool bars and restaurants to try out (and spas, too).

There’s Sanur, in southeast Bali, which is quiet and family-friendly, while the Bukit Peninsula is better known for its beachfront resorts. Nearby Uluwatu – also boasting an incredibly picturesque clifftop temple dedicated to the sea – is a haven for surfers.

Bali follows three calendars: the Gregorian calendar, the pawukon calendar (210 days to a year) and the saka lunisolar calendar. The latter resets with Nyepi – a quiet day when no aeroplanes, cars, lights or activity are allowed.

Mount Agung is the spiritual heart of Bali. This active volcano is known as “Mother Mountain” and is the highest point on the island. It’s part of the reason why Bali is so fertile and lush.

Away from the heights of the island, coral reefs can be found in the surrounding waters of Bali. You can even make a trip to Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan, two paradise islands in the Badung Strait, to see more of the marine side of the area.

Tons of things to do, a unique culture, craft markets, great food – from local to high-end – and accommodation to suit every type of budget; Bali is worlds away from Australia, but it’s practically on the doorstep.

 

Highlights of Bali

  • Seeing the incredible Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple.
  • Snapping a photo at the breathtaking Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang.
  • Admiring the bright greens of the Tegallalang Rice Terraces.
  • Trying out some delicious Balinese cuisine at Warung Nia.
  • Visiting the many world-class restaurants, bars and Beach Clubs
  • A day trip to the beautiful Nusa Islands
  • Sampling coffee at Segara Windhu Coffee Plantation.

 

northern territory holidays
northern territory holidays

Sunsets in Canggu

Where to stay in Bali

There is a HUGE array of places to stay in Bali from budget backpackers and homestays for less than $20 a night to 6-star resorts and Villas in the thousands. The main island and its neighbouring islands is very big and traffic can be an issue with no public transport. It’s important to do your research carefully and stay near the attractions or activities you hope to see or risk spending many hours in taxis and vans. First-timers usually don’t venture too far and often choose busy Kuta or vibrant Seminyak to stay in. Both are well-positioned to do day trips to other areas and offer a lot to see and do. Canggu is further north from Seminyak and is not as developed. Popular with all the Byron/Bondi types it ticks a lot of boxes as does Sanur on the eastern side of the island with a very laid back and relaxed vibe. Sanur is also a great place to access the Nusa islands. One of our favourite places to stay in Bali is Mick’s Place in Bingin on the Uluwatu Peninsula. The ‘honeymoon suite’, pictured below has a private pool with views over the famous surf-break and it’s a very affordable proposition.
northern territory holidays
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WEEKEND ESCAPES FROM DARWIN
northern territory holidays