Barkly Tableland

The Barkly Tableland is a rolling plain of grassland which runs from the eastern part of the Northern Territory. It runs parallel to the southern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, from about Mount Isa, Queensland to near Daly Waters.

Barkly has a diverse economy including agriculture, fishing, and defence but the main source of income is cattle ranching as the area includes some of the best beef cattle grazing country in Australia.

Travellers are drawn to the Barkly for its rugged beauty and to experience the sense of freedom that comes from driving through its long stretches of uninhabited land. Watch as the colours of this immense landscape change with the sun, as rocky hillsides pick up the rays between daybreak and evening.

Drive through the Mitchell grassland, through which hardy stockmen drove their cattle along the tablelands' endless stock routes not so long ago. These plains are home to cattle stations the size of small European countries. Road trains have taken over the droving, but the same plucky characters still work the cattle today. You can meet a few of them at the iconic Barkly Homestead, the tablelands' only service centre.

The Barkly region, with a population of just over 5,900 people, has the lowest population of any region in the Northern Territory. Most live in the main towns of Tennant Creek and Renner Springs.

How To get There

By road: the main highway from north to south (Stuart Highway) is sealed bitumen all the way from Port Augusta to Darwin, but other roads in the region vary from sealed bitumen to sandy bush tracks that require a 4WD vehicle.

The Red Centre may also be approached by road from Mt Isa in far west Queensland via the Barkly Highway.

By rail: Alice Springs is linked to Darwin, Adelaide and the rest of Australia’s capital cities via The Ghan. Alice Springs to Darwin is a 24-hour journey; Alice Springs to Adelaide is a 24-hour journey. Two services per week operate in each direction from May to November. Outside of these months, there is one service per week in each direction.

By air: Daily flights operate from all Australian capital cities to Alice Springs. The town is a good base to tour the other famous attractions of Central Australia and most visitors to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Kings Canyon go via Alice Springs airport.

Best Time To Go

Autumn (March to May) is possibly the best time of year with warm days and cool nights and not much variation. In Summer (Dec-Feb), daytime maximums are generally in the high 30’s but never above 45°C, but dry air and cool nights help to make these temperatures very tolerable.

In winter (June-Aug), night time temperatures can fall below zero degrees Celsius and sometimes thick frost in the morning can look like a carpet of snow. These mornings are usually followed by very pleasant afternoon temperatures in the low twenties. Spring (Sept-Nov) is the most exiting season of the year with big changes in temperature from day to day, thunderstorms, hail and dust storms. It is also the wildflower season, usually peaking in September and early October.

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