5 Ways to Experience Australia's Top End
PHOTO: Kakadu National Park. Courtesy Tourism Northern Territory.
It’s wild. It’s wet. It’s teeming with interesting creatures. Australia’s Top End should be a must for travelers on a visit to the Northern Territory. From stunning harbors to remote landscapes and romantic escapes, there aren’t a lot of reasons to stay away – even if you are scared of crocodiles. Here are five unique ways to experience the beauty of Australia’s Top End.
Wildman Wilderness Lodge
Let’s start with one of the best places to stay – Wildman Wilderness Lodge. Staying here definitely gives you a perspective on this region’s rugged landscape and its intricate wetlands. From the lodge, you can also tackle many of the touristic opportunities this region makes available to its visitors.
The lodge is made up of two different types of accommodations.The Habitats are freestanding structures that bring the outside in with floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious living areas and luxurious bathrooms. It’s very romantic and ideally suited to couples. You can literally watch the wildlife pass you by throughout the night from these kitted out bungalows.
If you are looking for a more rugged escape, the safari tents are a more rustic option, but still more akin to glamping than they are roughing it – they offer premium bedding as well as an en-suite bathroom. The tents are also a great option for families with several set up to house larger groups.
The lodge can be used as your home base when it comes to getting a glimpse of what the Top End is all about. It is located on its very own billabong, so visitors may want to start with a one-hour Home Billabong tour that leaves the lodge in the morning, just as the wildlife is awakening for the day.
Wildman Wilderness Lodge also runs full-day tours to Kakadu National Park, Mary River Rockhole cruises, Mary River Wetlands airboat safaris and more to help visitors get an in-depth view of the wild beauty of the region during their stay.
A Day in Darwin
You may be able to discover the ins and outs of the wetlands with a stay in the bush, but Darwin should not be missed in the process. The city is the Top End’s busiest metropolis and, here, visitors will find bustling markets, high-end accommodation, Aboriginal arts and culture, festivals and more. It’s another great place to stay and use as a jumping-off point for further exploration of the region.
If you are visiting between May and October, don’t miss the vibrant and unique Mindil Beach Sunset Markets which take place as the sun sets over the sea offering a vibrant, tropical setting complete with food stalls from around the world and world-class art and craftwork.
Another way to get to know Darwin is through its harbor. Harbor cruises abound from the ever-popular Duck boat tours (Duckabout in Darwin) to the champagne cruises onboard the Spirit of Darwin and Sail Darwin cruises for three-hour daytime, sunset or overnight cruises in the harbor.
Your visit to Darwin would also not be complete without a visit to one of the region’s most notorious residents – the crocodile. Head over to Crocodylus Park and get up close and personal with these prehistoric creatures. The park offers educational guided tours, a world-class museum, a photo op with a baby croc and the chance to see a variety of big cats. It’s home to more than 1,000 crocodiles so your chances of getting a good look is pretty much a guarantee – just in case you missed them on your billabong tour.
There are many options for travelers when it comes to accommodations. Visitors can choose from top hotel brands such as Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton or Novotel as well as select from a variety of independent properties to fit every budget.
Explore Arnhem Land
If you want to truly travel off the beaten path in the Top End, Arnhem Land is one place that won’t disappoint. The region is a remote location with unspoiled shores and a timeless culture. It offers diverse scenery, rugged coastlines and remote islands. It has a wildlife habitat teeming with fish, saltwater crocodiles, buffalo, dugong, nesting turtles and a variety of migratory birds. There is a small population of Aboriginal people whose traditions remain mostly untouched by an encroaching civilization.
Here, visitors will experience world-class fishing, explore the region on any number of guided tours that take people to nearly unreachable and untouched locales throughout the region and see indigenous arts and crafts.
Arnhem Land is reachable by regular air service from Darwin. Another option is to travel overland by four-wheel-drive vehicle along the Central Arnhem Road, but permits and specific permissions must be acquired in advance.
Cultural Safari Cruises
The Nitmiluk Cultural Safari series combines the exclusivity of small-group touring with the authentic cultural interpretations of the Jawoyn people to create a new safari style cruise on Nitmiluk Gorge that gives visitors a personalized and intimate view into the history and culture of the traditional custodians and of the ancient landscapes of the Gorge.
The Nitmiluk Cultural Safaris series offers visitors three options for a maximum of eight guests in a covered flat-bottomed safari boat, visiting exclusive and spectacular scenic sights along the gorge system with commentary at each location from a local guide’s perspective. These safaris are not only educational but also interactive and can include basket-weaving, Didgeridoo playing, spear-throwing and storytelling.
Visiting Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park is truly a global treasure and as such, is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The park offers insight into one of the oldest living cultures on the planet. It is the largest national park in Australia (nearly half the size of Switzerland) and its Aboriginal inhabitants have occupied the land for nearly 50,000 years.
Its rock art, one of the most prominent features of the park, is up to 20,000 years old. In addition to the rock art, be sure to keep your eyes open for the park’s more than 280 species of birds, its more than 2,000 plant species and its giant termite mounds. Kakadu is the perfect place for hiking, birdwatching and just exploring in general and is a must-see for visitors to the Top End.
Within the park, there are free walks and talks from May to October. Be sure to make the most of your visit by stopping in at the Visitor Centre in Bowali to get the latest park information.
These are just a few suggestions of ways to explore Australia’s wild wetland region. For more ideas, visit Tourism Northern Territory.
More by Janeen Christoff
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Airlines & Airports
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship