The Northern Territory

Largely tropical, the Northern Territory covers about one sixth of the Australian continent with an area of 1.35 million km2 which is equal to the combined areas of France, Spain and Italy. It is an area of great diversity, from lush tropical rainforest in the north to the ancient semi-arid plains and deserts of the Red Centre.

Guide to Northern Territory

Capital City: Darwin
Australia’s northern-most capital has evolved out of the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 into an attractive vibrant and progressive city that serves the country well as its northern gateway. No longer a pioneer outpost and small port, it is now one of Australia’s most modern and multicultural cities with a unique tropical flavour.

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  • Alice Springs
    The quintessential Aussie outback town, The Alice, as she is affectionately known, is a busy regional centre and hub for mining and exploration, transport, public administration and tourism in Central Australia. The town is also strategically located amid the major natural attractions of the Territory’s Red Centre.
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    • Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park
      A World Heritage Site, Uluru is Australia’s most famous natural landmark and the country’s most visited site. The mysterious red monolith is the weathered peak of a buried mountain range and rises some 348 metres above the desert. It has many springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Nearby is Kata Tjuta, a group of large domed rock formations. Both are sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area.
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      • Kakadu National Park
        About the size of Israel, one-third the size of Tasmania, or nearly half the size of Switzerland, Kakadu National Park in the Arnhem Land region of the Northern Territory is a vast expanse of diverse and largely unspoilt natural beauty. The world heritage listed park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as its scenic beauty and variety of wildlife. Kakadu’s flora is among the richest in northern Australia with more than 1700 plant species recorded which is a result of the Park’s geological, landform and habitat diversity.
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        • Katherine Gorge
          Katherine Gorge, a deep gorge carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River, is made up of thirteen gorges, with rapids and falls, and follow the Katherine River, which begins in Kakadu. During the Dry, the Katherine Gorge waters are placid in most spots and ideal for swimming and canoeing. Saltwater crocodiles regularly enter the river during the Wet season, when the water levels are very high.
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          • Tiwi Islands
            Dubbed The Islands of Smiles, the Tiwi Islands are acclaimed for their Aboriginal culture and warm hospitality. Dense rainforest, sandy beaches and rock pools combine to create the Tiwi Islands’ coastal landscape. Comprising Melville and Bathurst Islands, the area is renowned for its unique Aboriginal arts and crafts, love of Australian Rules Football or AFL, and blue-water fishing. The islands are a short flight or cruise from Darwin.
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            • Kings Canyon
              Some 325 km. south-west of Alice Springs, Kings Canyon is one of The Red Centre’s most spectacular attractions. The huge, sheer walls of the canyon rise from the creek bed in which there are numerous rock pools and lush vegetation, including Cycad Palms, ancient in their origin. Kings Canyon is often included in a round trip to Ayers Rock, however the canyon area is amazing in its own right. It is easy to spend a day or more wandering around its vast area when exploring its unique beauty.tinct volcanic crater, which mysteriously changes colour for three months of the year.
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              • Arnhem Land
                Largely unknown by outsiders, hagving been declared an Aboriginal Reserve in 1931, Arnhem Land remains one of the largest Aboriginal Reserves in Australia and is perhaps best known for its isolation, the art of its people, and the strong continuing traditions of its Indigenous inhabitants. Northeast Arnhem Land is home to the indigenous Yolngu people, one of the largest Indigenous groups in Australia, and one who have succeeded in maintaining a vigorous traditional indigenous culture.
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                • Gulf Coast
                  Home to some of Australia’s largest cattle stations, some of them the size of a small European country, it is here where those in the know come to enjoy a little solitude and some of the best fishing in Australia. Over 20 rivers drain into the gulf, its mangrove lined shores are very sparsely populated due to its isolation. All of this makes the Gulf an incredibly productive destination for fly fishing and sports fishing alike. The Gove Peninsula was heavily involved in the defence of Australia during World War II.

Getting There and Getting Around

By Air:
Darwin is the Australia s major northern international gateway, being on the main air route into Australia from Asia, Europe and The Middle East. It has full customs and immigration processing facilities. It is also the gateway to The Territory’s Top End for domestic air travellers. Because it has no night landing curfews, Darwin s airport is operational (and busy) right around the clock. Alice Springs and Uluru both have airports that cater only for domestic air travel from the Australian states. Flight times are for direct flights, they are quoted as a guide only, and will vary from airline to airline.

Hobart – Darwin: from 6 hours 30 minutes
Hobart – Alice Springs: from 6 hours
Launceston – Darwin: 7 hours 55 minutes
Launceston – Alice Springs: 5 hours 30 minutes
Darwin – Sydney: 4 hours 35 minutes
Darwin – Melbourne: 4 hrs. 40 minutes
Darwin – Alice Springs: 2 hrs.
Darwin – Adelaide: 3 hrs. 35 minutes
Darwin – Perth: 3 hrs. 55 minutes
Darwin – Brisbane: 3 hrs. 45 minutes
Darwin – Cairns: 2 hrs. 35 minutes
Darwin – Gove (Nhulunbuy): 1 hr. 5 minutes
Alice Springs – Melbourne: 2 hrs. 55 minutes
Alice Springs – Perth: 2 hrs. 40 minutes
Alice Springs – Sydney: 3 hrs. 25 minutes
Uluru – Sydney: 3 hrs. 40 minutes
Gove (Nhulunbuy) – Cairns: 1 hr. 50 minutes

By rail
The privately operated Ghan provides a passenger rail service between Darwin and Adelaide via Alice Springs. The two legs of the journey (Darwin to Alice Springs and Alice Springs to Adelaide) each have a duration of approx. 24 hours, with a 4 hour stopover at Katherine on the northern leg. The Ghan travels twice a week in each direction during the peak season and once a week in each direction at other times. The journey can be broken at both Alice Springs and Katherine, allowing a stopover in both places to explore the towns and surrounding regions.

By coach (road)
Numerous operators provide coach services between Sydney and the Northern Territory.

Perth via Kununurra, Broome, Carnarvon (57 hrs.)
Adelaide via Alice Springs, Coober Pedy, Port Augusta (43hrs 55min)
Sydney via Alice Springs, Adelaide (43hrs 55min to Adelaide, then 25 hrs. 30 minutes on connecting route to Sydney)
Brisbane via Tennant Creek, Mt. Isa (69 hrs. 20 minutes)
Townsville via Tenant Creek, Mt. Isa (55 hrs.).

Self drive
The major highways in and out of Darwin to Perth (via Katherine and Great Northern Highway), Alice Springs and Adelaide (Stuart Highway) are all sealed. The Savannah Way, linking Darwin to Cairns via Katherine, Borroloola and Normanton includes both sealed and unsealed sections, the latter varying in their condition between the wet and dry seasons.

The Outback Way is unofficially Australia’s longest shortcut, linking WA and Qld from Laverton to Winton via Alice Springs. Unsealed most of the way, it is made up of seven inter-connecting roads including The Great Central Road (WA); Tjukaruru Road, Lasseter Highway, Stuart Highway and Plenty Highway (NT); and Donohue Highway and Min Min Byway (Queensland).

Lasseter Highway is a fully sealed 244 kilometre highway that connects Yulara, Kata Tjuta and Uluru east to the Stuart Highway.

Arnhem Highway is the major road accessway from the Stuart Highway (Darwin to Adelaide) to Kakadu National Park. It is sealed all the way.

The remainder of highways in the Northern Territory tend to the branch from the Stuart Highway, generally providing either an interstate connection (e.g. Plenty Highway), a connection between highways (e.g. Buchanan Highway), or a connection to a significant locality (e.g. Lasseter Highway). Roads such as Tanami Road or Tjukaruru (Docker River) Road provide important interstate connections yet do not get a Highway  name.

In the Northern Territory, the speed limit on the open road is generally 130 kilometres per hour. A driver’s licence from your home country or an Australian state will usually suffice for up to three months, as long as it has photo identification and it’s for the same class of vehicle you intend to drive. If you are staying more than three months, you’ll need to get a Northern Territory drivers licence.

Darwin – Katherine: 314 km (3 hrs. 30 mins.)
Darwin – Kakadu NP: 252 km (3 hrs. 30 mins.)
Darwin – Litchfield NP: 135 km (2 hrs.)
Darwin – Tennant Creek: 959 km (1 day)
Darwin – Alice Springs: 1,490 km (2 days)
Darwin – Uluru: 1,938 km (2 1/2 days)


Darwin – Perth: 4,163 km (6 days)
Darwin – Adelaide: 3,042 km (4 days)
Darwin – Melbourne: 3,749 km (5 days)
Darwin – Canberra: 4,170 km (5 days)
Darwin – Sydney: 3,991 km (5 days)
Darwin – Brisbane: 3,399 km (4 days)
Darwin – Cairns: 2,885 km (4 days)
Darwin – Broome: 1,841 km (3 days)
Darwin – Mt. Isa: 1,602 km (2 days)

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