There’s nothing quite like Darwin in the winter time. The city comes to prominence with the cooler months settling in, drawing many locals and southern tourists alike to the top end of Australia to reap the benefits. Winter is the city’s moment of glory, with the surrounds bustling with people enjoying the hot sun without the humidity, artisan pop-up markets traversing the red plain and iconic outback experiences awaiting to be explored. With the school holidays on the cusp, we spoke with the outdoor adventure experts at OZtrail to get their Top 20 must dos in the Northern Territory.
1. Hop aboard the Ghan Take in the breathtaking scenery from Australia’s northern hub on one of the country’s most iconic journeys aboard the great southern rail, The Ghan. The 2,979km experience culminates in adventure, taking you into the heart of the red centre and stopping along the way to explore rich wonders like Katherine, Alice Springs (where you can ride camel back!) and Coober Pedy.
2. Go bush at Wildman Wilderness Lodge As far as out-bush gets, the luxury only gets better here. Along with the fairy-tale African-style tents, prepare a day pack and enjoy a self-guided tour along the wetlands where you can take in all that nature has to offer, including local resident crocodiles, birds, buffaloes and dingos.
3. Get up close at Crocosaurus Cove Let the thrill take hold as you go face to face with five metre crocodiles. Bring your snorkels, dive in to the ‘Cage of Death’ and marvel at their size and prehistoric features.
4. Pull up a seat at The Deckchair Cinema The winter season is known as Darwin’s dry season, cooling down the plains for the perfect movie night. Running through to November, the Deckchair Cinema is set seaside by Darwin Harbour. Pull up a foldable arm chair and watch the sun set as your favourite flick begins.
5. George Brown Botanic Gardens Covering 42 hectares, the George Brown Botanic Gardens is one of the few in the world with naturally growing marine and estuarine plants. Along with exotic flora, the visit calls for a picnic beneath the canopy of trees.
6. Fish in Darwin’s Bluewater The peninsula offers a range of points to throw in a line for a quality fishing experience. Whether you access the blue waters of the Timor Sea, Darwin Harbour or Shoal Bay, ensure your fishing gear includes a canteen with enough drinking water while you’re on the hunt for fresh Spanish Mackerel and Longtail Tuna.
7. Explore the Holmes Jungle Nature Park This cool monsoon rainforest is nothing short of panoramic. With a diverse range of activities, from picnicking, walking, bird watching, to horseback riding and cycling, there’s no winding track you’ll leave untouched.
8. Chase waterfalls at Tolmer Falls Cascading over two escarpments, Tolmer Falls is definitely a must-see endeavour. Extend your trekking pole and follow the 1.6 kilometre return trail through sandstone country and pristine rock pools to the crystal clear plunge at the bottom of Tolmer.
9. Follow nature’s way to Mary River Wilderness Retreat Nestled 90 minutes south-east of Darwin, spend some quality time with the wilderness at Mary River. Pitch your tent atop the lush green grass overlooking natural Australian bushland and awake to the sounds of three kilometre stretch of river
10. Swim in the Buley Rockhole One of the many advantages of the Northern Territory is its ability to produce the perfect swimming weather all year-round. Slip on some neoprene shoes and wade through the pools at Buley Rockhole, a refreshing hidden gem surrounded by scenic bush.
11. Fly above Kakadu and Arnhem Land The best view is always from up top. Board a scenic flight to Kakadu and Arnhem Land and watch Darwin’s network of rivers unveil as you ascend into the air. Keep an eye out for the ancient formations revealed throughout the dry season over Arnhem Land.
12. Camp at Litchfield National Park Embark on a family favourite camping trip, only 1.5 hours from Darwin. Litchfield National Park boasts a theme park of adventure, waterfalls, natural swimming holes and walking trails. Pitch your tent at the base, build your campfire and take in the region.
13. Stroll through the Mindil Beach Sunset Market The tropical city comes to life at Darwin’s Mindil Beach Sunset Market. Guests can choose from over 60 internationally based food, artisanal and entertainment stalls. Soak up the atmosphere by setting up an arm chair by the live street theatre and below the fleeting sunset.
14. Fall in love with nature at Kakadu National Park Known as one of Australia’s most remarkable destinations, this uniquely designed landscape provides the perfect opportunity to experience an exclusive off-road adventure like no other. From 4WD, camping and cultural walks, to escarpments and salt water crocodiles, this is the perfect thrill seekers playground.
15. Body board the Wave Lagoon Known as the mecca of water fun, the Darwin Waterfront Wave Lagoon is where locals and tourists can embrace an endless summer. Whether you only want to absorb the sun on a foldable lounge or dive into the waves with a body board, the enjoyment is everlasting.
16. Climb up high at Kings Canyon Take part in an unforgettable outback adventure 440 million years in the making. Kings Canyon is 270 metres above sea level and is best explored on foot. Try your step at the spellbinding walk along the 6 kilometre rim. Make sure to take a day pack with you with all the essentials.
17. Camp by Uluru Visiting Uluru is a must do as a local and Northern Territory guest. Whether luxury eco-camping or solo camping by the red centre is your thing, there’s plenty of locations to gaze out onto the desert under the stars. Better yet, nestle a swag against the country backdrop and hunker down with incredible views of the iconic red heart of Australia and the cool night air.
18. Road trip to Cape York The best part of every journey is the road trip. Build your anticipation for one of Australia’s well known peninsulas, Cape York, by jumping into a four-wheel-drive and travelling through Darwin’s trodden territory paths. The leisurely drive provides a tour in itself. If your four-wheel-drive doesn’t have one already, adding a shade awning will allow you to lengthen your time without worrying about the sun.
19. Canoe down Katherine River If you wanted to canoe down a river, make your way down Katherine River. Follow the current through paperbark trees, secluded crevasses and native fauna before flowing into Nitmiluk Gorge.
20. Mountain Bike from Rapid Creek Bridge to Dripstone Park From flat landscapes to unsealed cycle paths, mountain biking gives locals the opportunity to explore many of nature’s reserves. One of the most well-known tracks begins at Rapid Creek Bridge and journeys by expansive beaches, sandstone cliffs and estuaries before arriving at Dripstone Park. Before departing fill up a hydration pack for easy water access along your trip.
For more information about exploring the outback and wilderness by camping, 4WD or by water, contact the outdoor adventure experts at OZtrail.com.au.