Embark on a journey to the heart of Australia’s outback, where the Northern Territory awaits with its awe-inspiring landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and untamed wilderness. This vast and varied region offers a tapestry of experiences that blend adventure with a deep connection to the ancient land and its people. From the iconic red sands of Uluru to the lush waterfalls of Litchfield National Park, and the vibrant cultural scene of Darwin, the Northern Territory is a treasure trove of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

In this comprehensive guide, we will uncover the top things to do in the Northern Territory, Australia. Each destination we explore is a chapter in the region’s story, inviting you to immerse yourself in the beauty, mystery, and spirit of this extraordinary part of the world.

Whether you’re an adrenaline-seeker, a culture enthusiast, or simply in search of breathtaking natural beauty, the Northern Territory promises an adventure that will captivate your heart and enrich your soul. So, pack your bags, set your spirit of adventure free, and get ready to discover the wonders of the Northern Territory.

The 20 Best Things To Do In The Northern Territory

1. Kakadu National Park Tours: A Journey Through Ancient Landscapes

Nestled to the east of Darwin, Kakadu National Park stands as a testament to Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a mosaic of ecosystems, ranging from mangroves to floodplains, making it a dream destination for any adventure-driven soul. Kakadu is not just a park; it’s an open-air gallery showcasing some of the world’s oldest and most significant Aboriginal rock art. These ancient artworks tell stories of the land’s original inhabitants, offering a window into a culture that has thrived for thousands of years.

Visitors can embark on various guided tours, each promising an authentic experience. Whether it’s a wildlife safari to spot the elusive saltwater crocodile or a trek to the awe-inspiring Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu delivers. Costs vary, with options for every budget, from basic day trips to luxurious multi-day excursions. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from May to October, when the weather is more forgiving, and the full splendor of the park is accessible.

Kakadu National Park - The 20 Best Things To Do In The Northern Territory
Kakadu National Park | @haylsa

2. Uluru Sunset Experience: Witness the Heart of Australia

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is more than just a colossal sandstone monolith; it’s a spiritual and cultural symbol deeply rooted in the heart of the Northern Territory. Located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, this iconic Australian landmark transforms at sunset, displaying a mesmerizing play of colors that is a photographer’s and nature lover’s delight.

The Uluru sunset experience is a must-do. As the sun dips below the horizon, the rock changes hues from fiery red to deep purples, a magical spectacle that attracts visitors worldwide. Beyond just watching, you can immerse yourself in the local Anangu culture through guided walks around the base of Uluru, where you’ll learn about the indigenous flora, fauna, and ancient stories.

Entry to the park is subject to fees, and there are various tours available, catering to different interests and budgets. While Uluru is a year-round destination, the mild weather between May and September offers the most comfortable experience.

Uluru - The 20 Best Things To Do In The Northern Territory
Uluru | @saltyvanlife

3. Katherine Gorge Cruise: Discover the Jewel of Nitmiluk National Park

A cruise through the Katherine Gorge is an unforgettable way to explore the spectacular Nitmiluk National Park. Carved by the Katherine River, the gorge is a series of deep sandstone chasms stretching as far as the eye can see. Each turn in the river reveals a new vista of towering cliffs and lush vegetation, a paradise for nature enthusiasts.

The experience ranges from serene boat cruises that glide through the tranquil waters to adventurous canoeing trips for those who wish to navigate the gorge at their own pace. For the truly adventurous, hiking along the rim provides breathtaking panoramic views. The cost of these experiences varies, with options suitable for both budget travelers and those looking for a touch of luxury.

Timing your visit is crucial; the dry season, typically from May to October, is the ideal time for cruising as the water levels are lower and the weather is more amenable. This is when the gorge reveals its full majesty, making it a highlight of any trip to the Northern Territory.

Katherine Gorge Cruise - The 20 Best Things To Do In The Northern Territory
Katherine Gorge Cruise | @jasoncharleshill

4. Litchfield National Park Waterfalls: A Tropical Oasis

Just a stone’s throw away from Darwin lies Litchfield National Park, a true jewel of the Northern Territory. Renowned for its stunning waterfalls and crystal-clear swimming holes, Litchfield is the perfect escape for those seeking both adventure and relaxation. Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls are among the most popular spots, offering visitors the chance to swim in their serene waters, surrounded by lush tropical forests.

The park’s accessibility and free entry make it an attractive option for all types of travelers. Whether you’re picnicking near the water’s edge or embarking on a short walk to discover hidden cascades, Litchfield’s natural beauty is sure to enchant. The best time to visit is during the dry season when the roads are accessible and the waterfalls are at their most inviting.

Litchfield National Park Waterfalls - The 20 Best Things To Do In The Northern Territory
Litchfield National Park Waterfalls | @jasminehardie94

5. Darwin Waterfront Precinct: Vibrant Urban Fun

The Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a bustling hub of activity, blending the laid-back charm of a beach town with the vibrant energy of a city center. This lively area is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, offering a myriad of activities from leisurely swims at the beach to dining in stylish eateries. The Wave Lagoon is a standout attraction, providing a safe and fun environment for swimming and water sports.

Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun, enjoy a meal with a view, or partake in some retail therapy, the Waterfront Precinct has something for everyone. With free access and a variety of experiences catering to different budgets, it’s a must-visit spot in Darwin. Its year-round appeal makes it a versatile destination, perfect for any itinerary.

6. Darwin Festival: A Celebration of Arts and Culture

Every August, the city of Darwin comes alive with the Darwin Festival, an annual celebration of art, music, and culture. This vibrant event showcases the best of local and international talent, offering an eclectic mix of live music, theatre, and art exhibitions. The festival atmosphere is electric, with a program that promises something for every taste and age group.

The Darwin Festival is a fantastic way to experience the city’s cultural diversity. With a range of free and ticketed events, it caters to various audiences. Whether you’re a hardcore art enthusiast or simply looking for a fun night out, the festival’s colorful blend of entertainment and creativity is not to be missed.

7. Hot Air Balloon Ride in Alice Springs: The Outback From Above

For a truly unique perspective on the Northern Territory’s rugged landscape, a hot air balloon ride over Alice Springs is a must. As the sun rises, the balloon soars into the sky, offering breathtaking views of the vast outback below. The serene and gentle journey is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, showcasing the natural beauty of the region in a truly magical way.

Balloon rides are available year-round, with each season offering its own unique charm. The cooler mornings from April to September provide the most comfortable conditions. While the cost varies by operator, this activity offers exceptional value, giving you a bird’s-eye view of some of Australia’s most iconic landscapes.

8. Tiwi Islands Cultural Visit: An Artistic and Cultural Retreat

Located just off the northern coast of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands are a hidden gem, offering a unique blend of culture and art. Known as the ‘Island of Smiles’, this destination provides an intimate glimpse into the lives and traditions of the Tiwi people. Visitors can participate in art workshops, where local artists share their techniques in painting and printmaking, or engage in interactive cultural tours that delve into the rich Tiwi heritage.

The islands are also a paradise for anglers, with opportunities to catch the renowned barramundi. Access to the Tiwi Islands is typically through organized tours, which often include round-trip transportation from Darwin. The best time to visit is during the dry season when the weather is more favorable for travel and outdoor activities.

Tiwi Islands - The 20 Best Things To Do In The Northern Territory
Tiwi Islands | @exploreshaw

9. Arnhem Land Aboriginal Art Exploration: A Cultural Journey

Arnhem Land, located in the northeast of the Northern Territory, is a vast and culturally rich area. It is home to the Yolngu people, who have maintained their traditions and art for millennia. Visitors have the unique opportunity to explore this heritage through visits to local art centers and galleries, where they can view and purchase authentic Aboriginal artwork.

The region offers more than just art; it’s an immersive cultural experience where visitors can learn about traditional hunting techniques, bush tucker, and the spiritual significance of the land. Access to Arnhem Land requires a permit, and guided tours are recommended to fully appreciate the cultural and historical significance of the area. The dry season is the ideal time to visit, with more tours available and easier access to remote areas.

10. Larapinta Trail Hiking Adventure: Trekking the West MacDonnell Ranges

The Larapinta Trail is one of Australia’s most famous treks, winding through the stunning landscape of the West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs. This trail offers a range of experiences, from short, scenic day walks to challenging multi-day hikes. Along the way, trekkers are treated to breathtaking views of rugged gorges, serene waterholes, and ancient geological formations.

Hiking the Larapinta Trail is a free self-guided adventure, but guided tours are available for those seeking a more structured experience with insights into the area’s flora, fauna, and geology. The winter months, from June to August, provide the most comfortable conditions for hiking, with cooler temperatures and minimal rainfall.

Larapinta Trail Hiking
Larapinta Trail Hiking | @all.about.adventures

11. Fishing in Daly River: An Angler’s Paradise

The Daly River, southwest of Darwin, is renowned as one of the best fishing spots in Australia, especially famous for its barramundi. Anglers from all over the world come to try their luck in these fertile waters. The river is not just about fishing; it’s a serene escape where nature abounds, with opportunities to spot unique birdlife and even crocodiles in their natural habitat.

Fishing in the Daly River can be experienced through guided tours or by setting out on your own. While a fishing license is required, the investment is worth it for the chance to catch the prized barramundi. The best time to visit is during the late dry season, from August to October, when water levels are lower, and fish are more concentrated.

12. Mary River Wetlands Bird Watching: A Birder’s Haven

The Mary River Wetlands, located east of Darwin, are a bird watcher’s paradise. This ecological haven is home to a diverse array of birdlife, making it one of the most important and spectacular birding destinations in Australia. The wetlands come alive with the sounds and sights of various bird species, including jabirus, sea eagles, and kingfishers.

Visitors can explore the wetlands through river cruises, which offer an up-close view of the birds in their natural environment. These tours vary in cost, providing options for every budget. The dry season is the best time to visit, as the lower water levels create ideal conditions for bird watching and photography.

13. Kings Canyon Rim Walk: A Spectacular Desert Odyssey

The Kings Canyon Rim Walk in Watarrka National Park is a highlight for any adventurer. This majestic canyon, with its ancient sandstone walls rising dramatically from the desert floor, offers a hike that is as challenging as it is rewarding. The six-kilometer loop takes you to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the canyon and the surrounding desert landscape.

The Rim Walk is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural grandeur of the Northern Territory. The best time to embark on this trek is during the cooler months, from April to September, when the temperatures are more forgiving. While the walk is free, guided tours are available for those seeking deeper insights into the canyon’s geology and history.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Kings Canyon Rim Walk | @hike_australia

14. Alice Springs Telegraph Station: A Glimpse into the Past

The Alice Springs Telegraph Station is a historical gem, marking the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. This historic station played a crucial role in connecting Australia with the rest of the world in the 19th century. Today, it stands as a well-preserved museum where visitors can step back in time to explore the early days of communication.

The Telegraph Station is not just a historical site; it’s surrounded by scenic landscapes, making it an ideal spot for picnics and leisurely walks. The station is open year-round, with a small entry fee, providing an affordable and educational outing suitable for all ages.

15. Devils Marbles Exploration: Marvel at Nature’s Sculptures

The Devils Marbles, or Karlu Karlu, are an extraordinary collection of huge granite boulders, precariously balanced and scattered across a wide, shallow valley. Located near Tennant Creek, these geological formations are one of the Northern Territory’s most iconic and photographed landmarks.

Visitors to the Devils Marbles can wander amongst these natural sculptures, marveling at their size and pondering the natural forces that shaped them. This site is a photographer’s dream, especially at sunrise or sunset when the warm light accentuates their red and orange hues. The site is open year-round and is free to visit, making it an accessible attraction for everyone.

Devils Marbles
Devils Marbles | @saltytravellers

16. Mindil Beach Sunset Market: A Feast for the Senses

The Mindil Beach Sunset Market, located in Darwin, is a vibrant and bustling hub of activity and one of the city’s most beloved attractions. The market, operating during the dry season from April to October, is famous for its stunning sunset views over the Timor Sea. It’s a place where food, crafts, and cultures from around the world come together.

At the Mindil Beach Market, you can savor a wide array of international cuisines, shop for unique crafts and artworks, and enjoy live music and street performances. The atmosphere here is electric, with a mix of locals and tourists mingling and enjoying the balmy evenings. Entry to the market is free, offering a delightful experience that’s easy on the wallet.

Mindil Beach Sunset Market
Mindil Beach Sunset Market | @rachelistraveling

17. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory: A Cultural Hub

Located in Darwin, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) is a window into the region’s artistic, cultural, and natural history. The museum boasts a diverse collection, including Indigenous art, Southeast Asian and Oceanic art, and displays of the region’s marine biodiversity. Not to be missed is the Cyclone Tracy exhibit, which offers a poignant insight into the devastating impact of the 1974 cyclone on Darwin.

The MAGNT is more than just a museum; it’s a cultural hub where history, art, and science converge. With free entry, it’s an accessible attraction for everyone, open year-round. Whether you’re an art lover, a history enthusiast, or simply curious, the museum provides an enriching experience for all visitors.

18. Aboriginal Cultural Tours: Connecting with Ancient Traditions

The Northern Territory offers a unique opportunity to connect with the ancient traditions of its Indigenous inhabitants through Aboriginal cultural tours. These tours, available in various locations, allow visitors to engage with Aboriginal guides who share their knowledge of the land, art, and traditional practices.

These immersive experiences can include learning about bush tucker, participating in traditional ceremonies, or exploring sacred sites. The tours not only provide a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture but also support local communities. While the cost and availability of tours vary, they’re invaluable for those seeking an authentic and respectful insight into Australia’s Indigenous heritage.

19. Crocosaurus Cove Darwin: An Encounter with Prehistoric Giants

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin offers the chance to come face-to-face with some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in captivity. One of the most thrilling experiences is the ‘Cage of Death’, where you can dive in a transparent enclosure surrounded by these prehistoric giants.

But it’s not all about thrills; the cove also provides educational experiences about crocodile conservation and biology. With an entry fee and additional costs for experiences like the cage dive, Crocosaurus Cove offers a range of options for visitors. Open year-round, it’s a must-visit for anyone interested in these fascinating creatures.

Crocosaurus Cove
Crocosaurus Cove

20. Uluru Astronomy Tours: A Celestial Adventure

Under the clear desert skies, Uluru offers a spectacular setting for stargazing. The Uluru Astronomy Tours give you the chance to explore the southern night sky, learning about constellations, stars, and planets. The tours, led by knowledgeable guides, provide insights into how the local Anangu people interpret the sky.

These tours are not just about astronomy; they’re a blend of science, culture, and storytelling, making for an unforgettable evening. While there are costs associated with the tours, the experience of stargazing in such an iconic location is priceless. The best time to join these tours is during the clear winter nights from May to September.