Best Places to visit in Northern Australia – The Outback

Best Places to visit in Northern Australia – The Outback

Northern Territory Australia

Northern Territory

Sure there’s a whole lot of nothingness, but there is also plenty to see. Situated smack bang in the middle of Australia, this territory is the third largest Australian devision and 11th largest country sub-devision in the world. With fewer than half of the population of Tasmania, this territory is very sparsely populated and most people reside in Darwin, its capital. Darwin is also the most northern, wettest and smallest of all Australian capital cities. The Darwin dry season has clear skies and lovely sea breezes blowing in from the ocean, while the rainy season can hit you with bright lightning displays, heavy downpours and even a cyclone or two. If you venture further down south into the Outback, dingoes, snakes, spiders and crocodiles will get you if the heat doesn’t get you. But that’s only if you dare go there by foot. In an air-conditioned car, you will be perfectly safe; just make sure that the gas tank is full before you go anywhere, otherwise… Getting to the good stuff now and I’m here to tell you about the best places to visit in Northern Australia.

Darwin

Darwin

To get to Darwin, you would need to jump on a plane again. And as I mentioned before, it’s a long flight from anywhere else in the world, but Australia. It’s because Australia chose to settle themselves at the very far, bottom end of the world. With a population of around 150,000 out of the 246,000 that reside in the Northern Territory, Darwin is by far the most populated area in the territory. The rest of the people are scattered throughout, mostly in Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Palmerston and Katherine and some in places so remote, even Google didn’t go there when they mapped out the entire planet.

Darwin has only 2 seasons to take note of, the wet and the dry season. The dry season starts in May and ends around October. Temperatures then range from 21°C – 32°C and the humidity is quite low and acceptable. During the wet season, which runs from November to April, Darwin can easily play host to high humidity, monsoon rains and storms. In fact, the city had almost been completely rebuilt, four times in the past; three times due to cyclones and once because of the Japanese air raids in World War II. Many Top Enders believe that January and February are the most beautiful times to visit, but May to October are the dry months, so you better get out there, because you never know when the next cyclone will hit. In 2005/2006, over 1.5 Billion people visited the Northern Territory, so it’s hard to argue that so many people could be wrong. Judging by what there is to do, you can see why so many went there.

Put your feet up

Vibe Hotel Darwin

First things first is to sort out your accommodation, because you will be there for a period of time if you want to enjoy all or most that Darwin has to offer. I would suggest the Vibe Hotel. It’s modern, clean and right by the Darwin Waterfront and next to the Wave Pool, which is a must see.

Vibe Hotel in Darwin

With stunning ocean views and at a very affordable price, starting from around £70 or $82 per night, not even bringing your better half on this trip, could ruin it for you. Darwin also has plenty of other hotels for you to pick and choose from, so please click here for all it has to offer.

You can eat and drink in the hotel or nip down to the Waterfront with plenty of food and drink to choose from. Just make sure that you stay away from Fosters. I know it’s a very popular Australian beer, but to me it tastes like the stuff that comes out after I drank Heineken. If you are lazy like me, you don’t even have to walk too far to get to your first activity. So not walking too far and ticking off something from your to-do list, two birds.

Wave Pool Darwin

The Wave Pool

The Wave pool is oodles of fun. You can bask in the sun and enjoy a few cocktails while the kids are playing in the water. If you are scared of the sun like me, there are plenty of palm trees to shield you from a nasty burn and turning the same colour as Rudolph’s nose. Waves come every 20 min and around two metres at its deepest, you still would need to keep an eye out for the little ones, but you don’t have to worry too much as it is a fully patrolled pool. I don’t think that you will see David Hasselhoff, but plenty of other lifeguards.

Wave Pool in Darwin

Opening daily from 10:00 – 18:00 and costing around £6 or $7 for adults, just a fiver for children ages 3-15 years and free for the youngest ones, you will play until your tongue touches the ground. During the day you can slip out and go for a swim in the lagoon, which is situated just next to the pool. It’s netted off all around to keep out crocodiles and other creatures that might nibble your bits.

Crocosaurus Cove

Crocosaurus Cove Darwin

Now this one is a doozie. Known as Planet Earth’s largest display of Australian reptiles, you will be able to see a world’s best… in a very scary way. Located in the heart of Darwin, you still don’t have to travel too far to experience a once in a lifetime moment for most people. Entry fees start at around £30 or $36 for an adult and £19 or $23 for a child. Unfortunately, no free entry for the littlest ones at this attraction, but I did read somewhere that everyone in the group will get a free pass for life if you offer up your mother-in-law. Food seems to be scarce in their neck of the woods.

You can start your day in the Reptile house. With over 70 species on display in their enclosures, most of the reptiles you will see are from the region itself. From geckos to turtles, snakes and dragons, you will have the opportunity to see them all. There are three show times a day, 12:00, 14:30 and 16:00, so be sure to catch one when you visit.

Catch a crock show

Crocodile Feeding

Next we move on to the Big Croc Feed Show with showing times at 11:30 and 14:30, daily. They start off with a Bite Force demonstration to show you how strong their jaws are. They house some of the world’s largest Saltwater Crocodiles and these babies can make minced meat out of a block of ice! Imagine one of them getting hold of you. They also have a couple of local celebrities called William and Kate and then one international celebrity called Burt, who played in the movie, Crocodile Dundee. Not sure if he was the one that ole Mick wore as a hat.

Fishing for Crocodiles

On to do some fishing. Shows are 11:30, 14:30 and 16:30, daily and you can show off your fishing skills by lowering bats or birds down into an enclosure to see how crocs hunt in the wild. They can lift themselves up almost completely out of the water to catch their prey. If you hook one, get your better half to unhook the line and don’t forget to take a photo. You know, for happy memories.

After you cost your better half a few fingers or a hand, you can head down to the baby croc enclosure where you can hold cute baby crocs and the on-site photographers will provide you with a memory that will last a life-time. Or you can go to the pool and swim with the baby crocs. It’s perfectly safe and you can take away your photos to show off to your friends. You will be the envy of them all.

Swim with the man-eaters

Swim with Crocodiles

Saving the best for last or extending your life by a few hours first; depending on how you look at it, it’s time to swim with these cuddly creatures. They love being stroked and will turn their heads so that you can scratch them behind the ears. Open all day long, you will be lowered into a see-through diving cage, but that’s for their protection as they are very shy and once they come into contact with humans, it can frighten them. And we wouldn’t want that to happen. But you don’t have to worry at all; that cage is very strong and has 4cm thick acrylic walls, which will stop you from harming these cuties.

Before entering The Cage of Death, yes, that’s right, “THE CAGE OF DEATH!”, you need to sign an indemnity release in case something happens, like cardiac arrest, severe shock or in case the five metre long monster finds his way into the cage. Luckily that has never happened before, but having to sign a waiver with that on it, can be pretty nerve-racking. Costing £150 or $175 for a single person, or £230 or $270 for two people in the cage, your 15min experience will seem like a lifetime. At least these prices include entry to the entire park. You would need to be at least 15 years of age to enter and be accompanied by an adult if you are 17 years or younger. In other words, your mommy would need to hold your hand.

It’s perfectly…… not safe

You would need to turn up at least 30min before and with your ID as proof of age if you look too young; sign the indemnity release and for children between the ages of 15-17, your mommy would need to sign a permission slip. And lastly, if you can’t climb the ladder in and out, you can’t go unfortunately, so make sure that you eat your oatmeal before you go that day.

They feed the crocodiles while you are being lowered into the water to get them moving around and enhance your experience. The bad news is that Burt has been teaching the other crocks in his gang, the art of breaking into cages at night when the park is closed. They call themselves The Crocosaurus Long Snouts and you should definitely dive with someone to use them as a shield, should ole Petunia make her way into the cage.

For a day full of adventure, get your tickets here.

Litchfield Park tour cruise with jumping crocodiles

Litchfield Park

Sticking with crocodiles for another adventure, because let’s face it, they are awesome and scary and what you came here for. But I won’t keep you for too long and will just quickly run through this activity with the gist. Costing £77 or $90, this 12-hour tour and cruise will take you along the Adelaide river to spot wildlife and swim in the Wangi and Florence falls and even see crocodiles launching themselves out of water again. That definitely can’t get old.

Jumping Crocodiles Darwin

A tour guide will pick you up from any central Darwin Hotel around 6am and take you to the river where you will board a private boat. On your way to the three waterfalls, you will get the chance to feed the crocs while the tour guide delivers commentary about your surroundings. After a swim under the waterfalls, you’ll get to enjoy a bush picnic with an assortment of wraps and meats, fruit and salad and at the end of the day they will drop you off again at your accommodation.

They advise that you take with the following:
  1. Comfortable shoes. I guess that means that there will be some walking.
  2. Sunglasses. I guess there will be some sun.
  3. Sun cream and hat. Your turn to guess.
  4. Swim wear and towel.

They then advise you that the following are not allowed:

  1. Pets. Not that you would feed poor Titbit to a jumping croc, but they might run off or jump into the water.
  2. Big bags or luggage. I suppose that they want to get rid of you at the end of the day and a big bag means that you’re ready for a sleepover.
  3. Your mother-in-law. The temptation might just be too big. You know, with the hungry, jumping crocs and all.
  4. Trying to stroke these cuties, because you remember what I said about their jaws and the block of ice. Imagine what they would do with your juicy arm.

Darwin has plenty more to offer, so please check out the Australian Tourism website here.

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

The Northern Territory is mostly famous for its crocs, wildlife and parks. It’s why we came here in the first place. There are so many to choose from, but I’m only one person and unfortunately can’t write about them all. So I had to choose the best ones and this one came at the top of my list, because it is beautiful, full of wildlife and it’s another best in the country. Kakadu National Park is Australia’s biggest national park and covers 7,646 sq. mi. 120 mi from north to south and 62 mi from west to east. It’s half the size of Switzerland and around a third the size of Tasmania, so as I mentioned before; make sure that the gas tank is full before you visit. If you break down in the middle of nowhere, the following will get you:

  1. The sun.
  2. Crocodiles, of course.
  3. Snakes.
  4. Spiders.
  5. Dingoes.
  6. One of those big, boxing kangaroos.
  7. Whoever was with you in the car, because you forgot to fill it up.
  8. Vultures, but you won’t know it.

Worth the drive

Kakadu Waterfall

The world’s most productive uranium mine is located in this park, but I would stay away. While it’s not that much radioactive, it still is to some degree and I would like for my future children not to look like a crocodile, mixed with a kangaroo. A crocoroo. With over 5,000, Aboriginal recorded art sites, you really don’t need to go looking for a couple of nuggets anyway, because you’ll have more than enough to keep busy with. If you are staying in Darwin, you would need to travel around 105 mi to get to the park and if you feel like staying over, there are over 10 hotels to pick and choose from. I’ll pick one and tell you about it and all the rest can be found here at Booking.com. Only the best deals for you.

Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge

Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge

This is about as close to nature as you can get without having to sacrifice too much comfort. If you are anything like me, you will like your comfort and would prefer a hotel room, but these tents are luxury of a 4-star order. I would still check the bed though, just before you go to sleep to make sure that nothing slimy, or worse, poisonous, had found its way inside for a cuddle.

Accommodation in Kakadu

Unfortunately, I can’t get you a price right now as we are in the middle of the Corona Virus pandemic and all bookings have been suspended, but once everything is back up and running, you can click here for prices.

Dining in Kakadu

With just 12 of these tents available, all including en-suite facilities with hot showers, you would need to book in advance to make sure you get one should you visit the park. Three-course meals are being served at night in the dining room with an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but please note that you cannot bring your own alcohol into the park. They don’t want you getting too drunk and then picking fights with the kangaroos.

Get in touch with nature

After dinner, you can relax by the fire and enjoy the nighttime sounds and a clear sky full of stars that the great outdoors has to offer. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a nocturnal animal, just waiting for you to fall asleep and carry you away to its den.

Kakadu Nature

The scenery of this park is truly amazing and the whole reason that we came here for. A vast array of rock art sights will give you an awe-inspiring insight into the Aboriginal culture and heritage and the best part is, these are all in the vicinity of the park. Two birds… again. Kakadu Cultural Tours will look after you and the following packages are available here.

Choose between one, two or three day packages, starting at £240 or $294 per adult, per room and £190 or $234 per child bunking in the same room for one night and all the way up to £780 or $936 per adult and £600 or $739 per child for three nights. Two nights are somewhere in between and all prices include your accommodation, transfers and food and also rock art sunset tours with guides chatting your ears off all the way. On the three-day tour you will also experience a two-hour Cultural tour on the East Alligator river and I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you what you’ll be seeing. The name says it all.

Beautiful fauna and flora

Flora in Kakadu

Home to more than 1,700 recorded plant species, Kakadu’s flora is among the richest in Northern Australia and also one of the most weed free national parks in the world. Floodplains, varieties of water lilies, freshwater mangroves, paper bark and pandanus trees, various grasses, aerial roots and a wide range of flowers, are likely to entertain you while driving through the park. It will be a very good idea to make sure that you have a good pair of binoculars with you. You know, to look at the flowers and animals, not to try and see if you can spot someone through the bathroom window having a shower.

Kangaroos in Kakadu

Because this park has such a diverse environment, many of the animal species have had to adapt to different habitats in order to survive. Some animals are of endangered or rare species, some are vulnerable to extinction and some are endemic, but the good news is that you will be able to see a wide variety of them in different locations as you drive through the park; something that might not have been possible a hundred years ago. Back then you would have had to drive to specific locations in order to see a specific animal. Two birds once more.

Don’t stroke the dingoes

Fruit Bat

From dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies and northern quolls, to black flying foxes, brown bandicoots, tree rats and even dugongs found in the coastal waters, have all made this park their home and all together make up around 74 mammals and marsupials that you could feast your eyes on. But unfortunately, recent studies have shown that there is a steep decline in almost all mammal species, which means that you would need to get over there ASAP if you don’t want to miss any.

Red Goshawk

A third of all the Australian bird species call this park their home; around 280 species of different sizes and colours and as the mammals, some residing in different habitats and some just in one. Over half of the park has been identified as an Important Bird Area, so Australia is really doing their best to keep this park in pristine condition and look after their animals. When you visit, please be sure to do your part as well. People tend to forget that we only have this one planet and our children’s children might not have anywhere to live if things continue to deteriorate at this speed. The red goshawk (picture) is already vulnerable and so are other species in the park as well, like the endangered Gouldian finch, partridge pigeon, chestnut-backed button quail and the less endangered, but still restricted rainbow pitta and hooded parrot. Who knows how long they have left?

Some of the most beautiful birds in the world
Rainbow Lorikeet

But before you reach for the tissues, it’s not all doom and gloom. We came to Australia to experience the wildlife and just look at the picture above how pretty they are. They will look even better in real life. These rainbow lorikeets are just one of several lorikeet species, as well as silver-crowned friarbirds, yellow-tinted, white-gaped, banded honeyeaters, sandstone shrike-thrushes and many, many more. For the die-hard bird watchers, please get a book on all the birds in the park and that’s your Christmas sorted.

Pelicans in Kakadu

Another world’s best if you manage to see the pictured Australian pelican. It has the longest recorded bill of any living bird, and not just in Australia, but the entire world. Just imagine the sound coming out of its mouth. If it’s just 1/10 the volume of the sound that my two boys make at 06:00 on a Saturday morning, it will hurt your ears. They mainly eat fish and even the occasional smaller bird and their favourite movie is ‘Roxanne’, starring Steve Martin.

Much more to see

Other water birds in the park will include the following: Wandering whistling ducks, green pygmy geese, Australian darter, comb-crested jacana and the black-necked stork. And these are just to name a few that sound as if they belong in a Harry Potter novel. More types of geese, cranes and herons also live there, so be sure to keep your eyes open at all times.

117 reptile species, 25 frog species, 53 species of freshwater fish and over 10,000 different insects make up the rest of the living creatures you can encounter on your trip. Just remember the golden rule; the brighter and more colourful the snake, frog, spider or other creepy crawly is, the more poisonous it is.

Gunlom Waterfall Creek

Gunlom Falls
Gunlom Falls Kakadu

Still staying in Kakadu, we’re heading to what many people call, ‘the most beautiful place in Kakadu’. Within walking distance, the road takes you to Gunlom Waterfall Creek and then it’s just a short hike to the top or if you prefer, you can stay in the camp and hike from there. You’ll be hot and sweaty when you reach the falls, but that’s where you can swim and cool down. But please note that this is not a place to skinny dip and I would make sure that no unsavoury creepy crawlies or crocs are hiding in the pool before I jump in.

Situated just 450m from the pools, the campground will cost around £12 or $15 per adult per night and around £5 or $7.50 for the little ones per night. There is drinking water, flushing toilets and hot water showers to make your stay enjoyable. Pitch your tents and enjoy what the campsite has to offer. You can enjoy a picnic in the designated area, bring your own alcohol and enjoy a bonfire in the pit. Once you go to sleep, be sure to check your bed for anything other than your better half’s sharp toenails. It happened to me once in South Africa’s Kruger National Park where a massive millipede had made its way into my sleeping bag and curled itself around my big toe. My screams still echoe through the park till this very day.

Keep your eyes and ears open

Please be aware that you are still in Australia. There might not be signs everywhere and the campground people have tried their best to protect you, but you need to be on the lookout for crocs at all times.

Gunlom Plunge Pool
Gunlom Plunge Pool Kakadu

Before you head off to the plunge pool, pack a picnic for the family and take it with. The plunge pool has a shady picnic area, covered in grass where you can enjoy a lunch after your swim…. not before. The idyllic surroundings will make it a swim to remember and memories that will last a lifetime and the waterfall is the perfect place to take a selfie with the love of your life. Just don’t let your wife find that picture when you get home. This secluded spot made its way as a finalist into ‘Australia’s secret spots’ and also one of the top 100 best views on the continent. You really can’t go wrong here.

Mataranka Hot Springs

Mataranka Hot Springs

Our final destination in Northern Territory is the Mataranka Hot Springs, unless you want to venture further into The Outback. I might do another post on The Outback at a later stage, but for now, we stick to these beauties. Situated a little over four hours or 430km from Darwin, it means that you would need to drive for a bit, but what you will experience, is totally worth it.

This is the perfect setup. Once you have driven or hiked all day and finally made your way here, you can soak in the gorgeous blue crystal-clear water, which is a constant 34 degrees Celsius. This spring has healing powers and will relief you of your aches and pains… you know from the walking or driving, but not from a broken neck. It has healing powers, but it’s not a miracle pool.

Gorgeous surroundings

Mataranka Kakadu

Surrounded by a palm forest and the gentle rush of a nearby waterfall, you getting a neck massage while drinking an ice cold beer from the cooler bag, it will feel like heaven. Be sure to bring a noodle to float on. The pool has a slight current, so you can start in the beginning, float to the end, get out and do it all again. The children will love it.

Mataranka Hot Springs Kakadu

Whilst relaxing, keep an eye out for red flying foxes, which have their natural breeding grounds at the springs, but also other wildlife. I don’t know much about crocs, spiders or dingoes in the area, but at least you’ll be in the water where it is already wet when a dingo licks its lips in your direction.

Mataranka Accommodation
Accommodation in Mataranka

If you don’t feel like driving all the way back and want to spend a night or two or even more, check out these accommodations here.

And that is it for the Northern Territory. There are still loads to see, it just depends on your preference. Google is also a good place to search, but once you are ready to travel, please remember that we have the best deals, flights and accommodations available for you.

As always, safe travels and feel free to share this page with everyone that you know. If they come back alive, it means that you care and if they don’t……

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