Visiting the Australian Outback is on most traveller’s bucket lists and I’ll be the first to admit that I have been stalling for no good reason to get there, but now that I have been and experienced the beauty of Australia beyond the coastlines and big cities, I feel like I can finally say I’ve seen my home country. Being from Tasmania (the small island just South of Melbourne), I’ve never really experienced what it is like to be in “The Australian Outback” and I was about to see just how diverse Australia is from one state to the next on my explorations in the Northern Territory! In this blog I will cover Kakadu National Park and Katherine, both in the “top end” of the Northern Territory, offering a more tropical outback experience than the dry, red centre (covered in the next blog!)
Kakadu National Park
There are so many activities to keep you busy in Kakadu National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage listed site), that it is hard to know where to begin! Be sure to include cultural highlights like rock art and a visit to the Warradjan Cultural Centre to your itinerary, as well as natural highlights like sunset at Ubirr rock and swimming time Maguk Gorge.
Yellow Water Cruise
This cruise departs at sunrise and sunset, lasting a couple of hours and even includes breakfast in the morning! The cruise really highlights the local flora and fauna, with a special focus on birds in the morning and there’s plenty of croc spotting!
Having always wanted to experience a doors off helicopter ride, I was beyond excited to jump on board a one-hour flight over Kakadu National Park (and even lucked out getting the front seat!)
Outback Float Planes
Sadly I didn’t get to enjoy this tour as I was visiting in the low season and there weren’t numbers to operate, but I’ve heard great things about this “all encompassing” tour that includes airboats, helicopters, floatplanes and a cruise! For $695 per adult it is quite an investment, but you’re getting so much bang for your buck that I’d definitely give it a go in the dry season.
Particularly beautiful at sunset, Ubirr Rock is a short hike to the top and gives one of the best views over Kakadu. There are also numerous chances to see and appreciate aboriginal rock art with information stands along the way.
If you are interested in viewing more aboriginal rock art or just in need of a short stop to break up the driving, Nourlangie is quite a popular stop to make.
Jim Jim Falls
If you’re looking for a chance to view some waterfalls, this is a local favourite! Be sure to check closure dates before you arrive if coming in the wet (low season).
If you’re visiting in the dry season you’ll likely be looking for a swimming hole to take refuge in and with Maguk Gorge, you’re in luck! Be sure to check closure dates if visiting in the wet (low) season.
Driving onwards to the Katherine region, I was looking forward to a change of scenery after looking at so (so, so, so) many of the same trees on the drive through Kakadu! While it was incredibly relaxing and nice to hit the open road, I was keen to get outdoors and see more of what the top end had to offer, before making my way down to Alice Springs to visit the red centre.
Nitmiluk National Park
This National Park was noticeably different to Kakadu, so it was nice to have a change of scene and look for new adventures! Most of the activities were closed when I visited given it was now the beginning of the wet season, however if you’re visiting in the dry season there are a great range of activities such as canoeing, helicopter flights, fixed wing flights, cultural safaris and a sunset cruise. The cruises still run in the wet season and are a great way to relax and take in the gorge if you don’t feel like hiking in the heat (which I can still recommend, but be sure to take plenty of water and don’t forget your sunscreen like I did – oops!)
For my visit to Katherine I lodged at Cicada, the premier accommodation on offer just outside of Katherine. It is a really lovely setting and there are also camping facilities nearby for those travelling on a budget. The restaurant here was incredible and by far the best meal I had throughout my time in the top end, so be sure to make a booking if you want to spoil yourself to a fine dining affair after all that exploring!
World of Wanderlust was welcomed to the “Top End” with Tourism NT – Visit their site for more ideas on visiting Outback Australia!