Scenic Roadtrip in Australia's Northern Territory
Thinking of taking a break away from that hectic city life? How about taking a scenic road trip down under? You deserve it! Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) has many stunning spots that are guaranteed to be healing for the weary soul! Here’re some of our top picks that are just a few hour’s drive from Darwin.
You can follow these destinations in sequence to make an epic Scenic Road Trip itinerary, or plan day trips out to each from Darwin.
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1. Deep Dive into Litchfield National Park
Take a plunge straight into nature at Litchfield National Park, one of the Top End’s most popular destinations among locals and tourists. Have a relaxing swim under the beautiful Wangi Falls or the Florence Falls, wade through the cascading Buley Rockhole, explore sandstone relics in a four-wheel drive, or enjoy a nice stroll while surrounded by birds and wildlife. If you get hungry in between activities, grab a light bite at the open-deck Wangi Falls Cafe. It is just a little over an hour’s drive from Darwin, so it makes for a good start to a road trip.
Camping facilities and hotels are available near the area, so it’s best to stay the night here before moving on to the next location
Address: Litchfield Park Rd, Rakula NT 0822, Australia
Opening Hours: 10AM-3PM
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2. Recuperate in Mataranka’s Hot Springs
Next, take a 4-hour drive from Litchfield National Park to Mataranka, a small-town famous for its hot springs—Mataranka Thermal Pool and Bitter Springs. Mataranka Thermal Pool is nestled among luscious palm trees in Elsey National Park. Soak in its crystal clear waters and let its lovely warm temperature (constant 34°C) soothe those aches and pains. A short distance away, Bitter Springs is much less crowded but is also deeper than the thermal pool, so it is not very suitable for young children. After feeling refreshed, head down to the Mataranka town where you can have a nice meal, explore the local museums and spend the night.
Address: Mataranka NT 0852, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily, 24-hours
3. Paddle or Cruise Down Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge
Set off bright and early to Nitmiluk National Park, just about 2 hours from Mataranka by car. Start at the Nitmiluk Visitors Centre, where you can explore the display centre and museum. From there, you can either hire a canoe or take a boat cruise down the magnificent Katherine Gorge. Admire the Aboriginal wall art, waterfalls (Edith Falls) and wildlife unique to the 13 gorges. There are sunrise and sunset cruises, where you can catch the gorges reflecting a crimson glow. However, we recommend the full-day cruise, which includes morning and afternoon tea and a great Australian barbecue! You can camp here overnight, but must book in advance.
Address: Gorge Rd, Nitmiluk NT 0852, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily, 24-hours
4. Trek Up to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls
The Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are world-famous waterfalls in Kakadu National Park, and is about a 5.5 hour’s drive from Nitmiluk National Park. To get to the falls themselves, a four-wheel-drive is a must to navigate the rocky paths and creeks. Before setting off, it is best to check the road conditions with the Bowali Visitor Centre. Once there, you can trek up to the plateaus above each of the falls—Barrk Malam Walk at Jim Jim Falls and Plateau Walk at Twin Falls Gorge. Both walks are quite steep and take about 4 to 6 hours, so you should be fit, have good walking shoes and suitable attire. However, the splendid views of the creeks and 150-metre cliffs along the way make the trek totally worth it! Swimming at either of the falls will be at your own risk. Although, it is not advised, as crocodiles have been known to be present in the area. Camping is available at Jim Jim Falls.
Address: Kakadu NT 0822, Australia
Opening Hours: 6.30AM-8.30PM, The waterfalls open at the beginning of the dry season (end June) and close towards the wet season (end Oct) due to flooding.
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5. Take in the Sights at Window on the Wetlands
After a nice breakfast at Jim Jim Falls, take a 5-hour drive to Windows on the Wetlands Visitor Centre. Perched on top of Beatrice Hill, the centre overlooks the Adelaide River floodplains. Kids can learn about the Wetlands’ complex ecosystem and aboriginal history through interactive displays, as well as the video screening about its unique mix of flora and fauna. The adults can sit down for a cup of coffee while feasting their eyes on the panoramic views of the Wetlands from the observation deck.
Address: Middle Point NT 0822, Australia
Opening Hours: 8AM-5.30PM, Free nature walks are available on Sat and Sun from May to Oct, 9.30AM and 2.30PM.
6. Birdwatch at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve
Welcome to birdwatcher’s heaven! Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is just a 10-minute drive from Window on the Wetlands, and is the only wetland in the Top End that you can get to all year round without a four-wheel drive. It is home to nearly 200 species of birds—many of which are a rare find outside of the area, and are considered attractive. Do bring a binoculars and a bird field guide with you when you visit, so that you can spot them. A tip to get the best experience is to walk quietly and slowly along the trails, as well as wear dark clothing, so as not to startle the birds. After a beautiful afternoon with the birds, head back to Darwin that is just a 45-minute drive away!
Address: Anzac Parade, Middle Point NT 0822, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily, 24-hours, Avoid midday as the birds may be resting due to the heat.
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7. By Sea… Catamaran Cruise to the Tiwi Islands
After a good few days on the road, it is time to ditch the car for a boat! Visit the Tiwi Islands just 80 kilometres North of Darwin accessible by a 2.5-hour SeaLink ferry service. With a population of 2,500, the Tiwi people are known for their unique style of art carvings and bright textile designs. Take a day exploring its art centres, cultural museums, the old Catholic precinct as well as the Pukamani Poles.
This post is brought to you by CheapTickets.sg and the Tourism Northern Territory.