The Northern Territory has, so far, been one of the safest destinations in Australia in regard to COVID-19. It seems the Territory’s vast open spaces and remoteness work in its favour in restraining the virus.
Here’s our rundown of nine great NT attractions to see.
1. Litchfield National Park
This park of croc-free waterholes and waterfalls is only an hour’s drive from Darwin. It’s like a natural version of the Gold Coast’s Wet ’N Wild theme park.
Immerse yourself under a waterfall, swim in large waterholes surrounded by high cliffs, or splash at Buley Rockhole, which is a series of small rock holes separated by gentle cascades.
A day trip from Darwin is easy enough, but if you want to stay nearby consider the air-conditioned Hideaway Litchfield Cabins. There are just two cabins, and they are in secluded bushland. Cabins are about $215 per night through Airbnb.
2. Drive from Darwin to Alice Springs
Pick up a one-way car rental and drive along the sealed Stuart Highway between the NT’s biggest cities. The attractions book-ended between the two include Katherine Gorge, Daly Waters Pub, Mataranka and Wycliffe Well.
At Katherine Gorge, there’s a range of boat tours and you can take a dip from sandy freshwater beaches. Mataranka is where Jeannie Gunn wrote the Australian classic We of the Never Never and has a thermal clearwater pool surrounded with pandanus. There’s another lesser-known but equally enticing pool at nearby Bitter Springs.
Overnight possibilities include Daly Waters Pub – a quirky Aussie hotel with plenty of friendly bush characters hanging around the bar – or Wycliffe Well, the UFO capital of Australia. The total trip is 1500 kilometres. Allow three days or more. Daly Waters Pub, budget rooms from $80 per night.
3. Indigenous experience
Near Katherine, Top Didj provides an Indigenous cultural experience that includes fire lighting, painting and using a woomera to throw a spear.
Top End artist Manuel Pampkal speaks about growing up in the bush and tribal life, and plays the didgeridoo. There’s also a gallery selling the work of local artists. $80 per adult, $50 per child for a 2.5 hour session.
4. Wildman Wilderness Lodge
Wildman is two hours from Darwin on the fringe of Kakadu National Park. Come here for an airboat safari in the Mary River wetlands to see crocodiles and bird life such as jabiru, brolga and magpie geese. On our outing we saw wild horses knee-deep in the water.
There are also fishing and bush tucker outings, day trips to Kakadu and sunset drinks taken in the bush.
Stay in two-person air-conditioned cabins with premium furnishings, or luxe safari-style tents for up to five. Safari tent at Wildman from $690 per night for two people.
5. Davidson’s Arnhem Land Safari Lodge
British TV adventurer Bear Grylls once visited this remote lodge and the footage shows a crocodile taking a barramundi he had just caught in a billabong. Barra are fighting fish that make a big splash and catching them from a tinnie is just one of the experiences here.
Indigenous rock art is another reason to visit. Best of all, you can see it up close with a guide in a small group of fellow guests.
Wetland tours, walks and bird watching are also on the cards. There’s a comfortable central eco lodge for meals and mingling, and en suite cabins. From $800 per night per person, including all meals and activities.
6. The Lost City
Buckle up and take a seat on a helicopter for a ride into the Lost City in the remote Gulf country of the NT. The chopper from Cape Crawford is the only easy way to get there.
The Lost City is a series of sandstone domes and towers up to 60 metres high. They’re packed into 10 square kilometres, surrounded by never-ending savannah. To walk in the labyrinth of these formations is a haunting experience.
Cape Crawford’s Heartbreak Hotel is the only place to stay. Yes, this is remote. Helicopter flight $300 per person.
Ayers Rock Resort at Uluru has reopened after a $50 million refurbishment. The resort has several properties, including the five-star Sails in the Desert and the 3.5-star Lost Camel Hotel. The work has included upgrades to rooms, suites and restaurants.
Wherever you find your level of comfort, be sure to see the Field of Light, an amazing installation of coloured lights that stretches into the darkened desert at the base of Uluru.
Sails in the Desert, from $460 two-night special for accommodation and airport transfers. Lost Camel from $330.
8. The Ghan
This famous luxury train runs from Adelaide to Darwin.
The three-day and two-night journey includes stops in Alice Springs and Katherine with activities such as camel riding and a gorge cruise.
On board, upper-class passengers are surrounded in comfort as they speed across the continent. The compact and cosy suites have fold-down beds and en suites, there’s waiter service and white tablecloths in the dining car, and a lounge car with soft couches where gin and tonics flow. Gold class from $1079 per person, twin share, including food, drinks and excursions.
9. Sunset market
If there’s one reason to go to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market, it’s for the street food.
The market claims more than 1200 menu items from five continents. But there’s a lot of art and craft, too, and great sunsets across the Timor Sea.