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Why The Northern Territory Is Australia’s Most Underrated Adventure

Why The Northern Territory Is Australia’s Most Underrated Adventure

As a generation with more freedom, flexibility and finances than ever before, no one can really blame us for reaching for our passports the moment we want to go exploring. We tell ourselves that certain experiences can only be gained from travelling overseas, plus international travel is always an eye opener. But just because the world is our oyster doesn’t mean we should hold off on exploring our own country until later in life.

The Northern Territory is an Australian destination usually left off the bucket list until the rest of the world is conquered. But things are changing. No longer perceived as grey-haired nomad territory, the NT welcomes thousands of young international backpackers each year looking for those unique travel experiences – the exact experiences young Australians leave the country to find.

Here’s why the underrated territory should be added to your list.

It does nature and adventure like no other

Kings Canyon is a tropical oasis surrounded by towering ancient red rocks and surrounded by red desert. This beautiful “Garden of Eden” has enchanted people for years. While it is more comfortable to hike the 6km long Kings Canyon rim walk in the cooler months, you can also survive this hike in the summer with a bit of fitness and a lot (I mean a LOT) of water.

(Photo: RJ Cox/Flickr)

Either venture out into the Red Centre in a hired 4WD with a group of friends and a trusty GPS or book yourself on one of the many tour groups departing Alice Springs. Whichever way you choose to experience the outback, make sure there’s marshmallows, a swag and someone who knows how to make a campfire.

The Northern Territory isn’t only about the Red Centre. The NT’s Top End is a natural wonder in its own right. Buley Rock Hole in Litchfield National Park is a hangout favourite for the locals, with many of them enjoying a drink or two in and around the waterholes during the dry season, so don’t forget the ciders. Wangi Falls is another Litchfield must-do and if you have a 4WD, the stunning and secluded Tjaynera (Sandy Creek) Falls is the perfect spot to swim your day away in peace and quiet.

(Photo: Taryn Stenvei)

Kakadu National Park is the main draw card for many people visiting the Top End. Its extraordinary natural beauty has landed the park on the World Heritage List. With rocky landscapes, floodplains and billabongs covering over 20,000 square kilometres, it’s not hard to see why.

Tour operators run out of Darwin to both Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks.

It has ancient history

Australia’s Aboriginals have the oldest surviving culture in the world and a visit to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, also known as Anangu land, will remind any Australian that our country is not young, despite the national anthem’s claim.

Get a quick history lesson by taking a self-guided walk around the base of Uluru, or join one of the free walking tours available. Here, you can look upon stories of the past narrated via 5,000-year-old rock art. Tjukurpa (the body of law, history, knowledge, religion and morality that binds people, landscape, plants and animals) is still practiced by the Anangu people, who have been living on the land for around 30,000 years. Uluru is a sacred site and the Aboriginal owners ask you to respect their law and not to climb the rock. There are also sacred areas where photos are discouraged.

(Photo: Katie Goss)

Like any ancient culture, there is mystery surrounding the region and what happens to visitors who take a piece of it with them or disrespect the governing Indigenous laws. Found in the Aboriginal Cultural Centre within the park, the Sorry Book is a compilation of letters from visitors who have written about their negative life experiences after purposely removing red soil or rocks from the park. Many of them mention they never believed in superstition or karma before, but their opinions changed dramatically following tragic accidents and bouts of bad luck.

It puts the wild into wildlife

Think staring down a lion on a safari is an adrenaline rush? Try being surrounded by 13 crocodiles in the middle of an isolated river. Perhaps it’s more nerve-wracking  because there is no warmth to crocodiles (Disney definitely didn’t make a movie about these guys), but seeing saltwater (or estuarine) crocodiles in the wild is on a whole other level to anything you can see at the zoo.

If you’re game enough then head to the Adelaide River located 64km from Darwin and take a jumping crocodile cruise. Yep, that’s right – jumping crocodiles. Only four boats have permits to interact with these creatures in their natural habitat and it’s the only place in the world you can see this happen. Chicken on a stick is bounced up and down on the water’s surface. The sound and smell draws the crocodiles in almost instantly.

(Photo: Katie Goss)

The scariest thought? For every crocodile you spot there is another ten out of sight, either cooling in the mud or resting at the bottom of the riverbed. Just a mere three to five seconds is the reported survival time if you fall in. The good news is there is no chance of you falling in – the boats have caging around the perimeter to keep you in, rather than keep the crocodiles out.

Despite having a bit of a bad reputation, and pretty much being an ancient dinosaur predator that has lasted the test of time, crocodiles are very lethargic creatures. They spend most of their time lying in the sun, surviving off just small amounts of food (half a chicken would feed a grown crocodile for two weeks). The idea of jumping into a boat to devour a human would not even cross their mind.

However, if you happen to stumble into their territory or approach the river on foot, it would almost certainly be another story.

It has the people of the world in one place

If the TV show Territory Cops is anything to go by, Darwin is a wild and social place. As Australia’s gateway to Asia (it’s closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney) so it’s no surprise there is a wonderful mix of cultures in this city. Darwin’s population is also the youngest in the country, so be prepared for a party atmosphere thanks to the countless backpackers and military hubs.

During the dry season (April to October) head to Mitchell Street in the CBD for most of the nightlife action. Start your world journey at one of the many pubs, like Monsoons or Ducks Nut’s, then bar hop your way down to the local favourite Shenannigans (because no backpacker town is complete without a trusty Irish bar). After making some new Irish friends finish your night off at Darwin’s top nightclub, Discovery.

Other great places to meet people include the Waterfront (with its own wave pool), the outdoor Deckchair Cinema, and Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. As it is Darwin, the evenings are balmy so expect everyone to come alive as the sun lowers itself to the horizon.

(Lead image: Daniel Peckham/Flickr)

Check out sale flights to the Top End with Qantas.

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