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Northern Territory - self drive ideas

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Self drive adventure in the NT​

The burnt red earth of the Outback, the magnetic attraction of Kakadu and Uluru National Parks and the mystical Aboriginal culture makes the Northern Territory a most unique destination. This is the real Australia in all its raw, unspoilt majesty.

The Territory story unfolds through six main destinations, from the tropics of Darwin, Kakadu and Katherine, through to the yellow plains of Tennant Creek and the desert landscapes of Alice Springs and Uluru/Ayers Rock. Each destination has its own appeal and offers an incredible range of experiences, people, places and history to uncover. Occupying an area of about one-sixth of Australia's total land mass, it has a population of little more than 200,000 people.

There are two very distinct climate zones. The northern region starts the year with warm, tropical rain then moves to warm and sunny days and cool nights. The central region is semi-arid and experiences Australia's four typical seasons.​

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 Suggested Self-Drive Experiences

Darwin - a melting pot of cultures

Darwin, the Northern Territory’s capital city, is the gateway to world class nature and culture activities and experiences. It’s surrounded by the wonders ...

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The Red Centre

​​Days: 11 

P​lan your NT campervan holiday with this itinerary loop from Alice Springs through Uluru. Find local activities and accommodation in this Red Centre road trip.

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Natures Way

​​Days:7
Wind your way through World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, south through the gold rush town of Pine Creek and...

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Binns Track

​​Days: 8
Plan your NT campervan holiday with this itinerary from Mount Dare to Timber Creek. Find local activities and accommodation in this Binns Track road trip.

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Northern Territory Explorer's Way

Days: 7 
Named after John McDouall Stuart, the first explorer to successfully cross the continent from north to south and return in 1862, this route passes through the outback and red desert country to the Territory’s lush tropical Top End.

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The Outback Way

Days: 11
Plan your NT campervan holiday with this itinerary from Winton to Laverton. Find Local activities and accommodation in this Outback Way road trip.

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Savannah Way

Days: 14
The Northern Territory road trip along Savannah Way is a great self-drive holiday and the best way to experience the outback.

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South Australia Explorer's Way 7 Day Itinerary

​​Adelaide - Darwin (7 Days)
Travel north from Adelaide to the Clare Valley which continues to be known for its crisp and fruity Australian Riesling but the region also lays claim to especially fine Shiraz.

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Northern Territory Explorer's Way 14 day adventure

​​Northern Territory A Taste of Explorer's Way (14 Days)
Your journey along Explorer’s way starts as you travel north from Adelaide via Main North Road for two hours before reaching Clare Valley.

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Wine & Food

  • Nature's Way (links Darwin with Kakadu National Park),
  • Explorer's Way (Adelaide to Darwin),
  • Red Centre Way (links Alice Springs with the Red Centre landmarks, including Uluru and Kings Canyon),
  • Savannah Way crosses the Territory in Katherine on its way from Cairns to Broome.

Major Driving Routes

No trip to the NT is complete without a traditional bush tucker gathering tour with an Aboriginal guide. The Sounds of Silence – a five-star dinner under the stars on a sand dune at Uluru or Sounds of Firelight – provides an exclusive dining experience at Kings Canyon. It's designed for intimacy and romance with no more than ten couples dining on any one night.

Nature & Scenic

Exploring the Territory's iconic national parks, including Kakadu, Uluru, Nitmiluk, Litchfield and Watarrka, with their diverse landscapes, are 'must do's on any visit to the NT.

Art & Culture

To experience the NT's art and culture offering, browse the renowned Aboriginal art galleries in Alice Springs, join a dot painting workshop at Uluru or visit the Tiwi Islands on an art tour and see screenprinters, potters, painters and sculptors at work.

Beach & Coastal Encounters

For a beach adventure, enjoy a thrilling sport fishing expedition off the coast of remote Arnhem Land or indulge in an eco wilderness resort on the Cobourg Peninsula. Watch the sun set over the water at the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets or take a cruise around Darwin Harbour.

Wildlife Experiences

If you choose to take part in one of the many wildlife experiences available in NT, you might find yourself enjoying a crocodile cruise, hand-feeding hundreds of fish in Darwin, or meeting desert creatures at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre. Alternatively, you might find yourself on a relaxing sunrise cruise on Yellow Waters amid thousands of birds, or spotting freshwater crocodiles in Katherine Gorge.

Quick Facts

Category

Details

Population: 

The population of the Northern Territory is around 200,000. Darwin: 100,000, Alice Springs, 27,000.

Climate:
  • The Northern Territory has two very distinctive climate zones. The northern region starts the year with warm, tropical rain then moves to warm and sunny days and cool nights mid-year. The end of the year is pre-monsoonal season, which produces amazing lightning storms.
  • Central Australia is semi-arid and experiences Australia’s four typical seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring. The monsoon rains do not extend this far south so the weather is quite different to the Top End in that there is no tropical rainy season.
Cultural Mix:About one quarter of the Territory's multicultural population is Aboriginal. Darwin is considered Australia’s most culturally diverse city with more than 50 nationalities making up its population.
Famous For:

World Heritage listed national parks Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, an Aboriginal culture that’s thought to be 50,000 years old, diverse flora and fauna - from the lotus lily to the saltwater crocodile, barramundi fishing, amazing sunsets and tropical lightning displays in the northern region, outback beauty and adventure in Central Australia.

Transport:Darwin has an international airport and there are domestic airports at Alice Springs, Uluru/Ayers Rock, Katherine and Tennant Creek. The Ghan train links Darwin with Adelaide and stops at Alice Springs and Katherine en route. Darwin is a major cruise port destination. The main towns also offer most transport options: taxis, buses, private hire cars, limousines, light plane charters and coaches and visitors can hire a car in the main towns.
Travel Tips:
  • Road trains are prevalent on Territory roads - huge trucks that can be the length of 10 cars. Allow at least one kilometre of clear road ahead before overtaking, taking care not to veer off the road.
  • Stock and wildlife - Many sealed and unsealed roads in the Northern Territory are unfenced, so beware of stock and wildlife. These can include birds, cattle, kangaroos and camels. Wildlife is most active early in the morning and late at night, so driving during these times should be avoided.
  • Floods – in the Territory’s northern regions, flooding is common at certain times of year. Do not attempt to cross flooded bridges or causeways unless absolutely sure of the depth and any road damage.
  • Safe Swimming - Swimming in Territory beaches, billabongs and rivers is not recommended due to the presence of crocodiles and Box Jellyfish. This is generally sign-posted, but if you’re not sure, don’t swim.
  • Fatigue – The Territory is a big place, and driving long distances can cause fatigue - one of the most common causes of serious accidents. Stop and rest for 15 minutes at least every two hours when driving.
  • Weather – it can be very warm in the Territory and it’s important to drink plenty of water (at least eight glasses a day, more if active), wear a hat and sunscreen.
  • Speed limits – In the Northern Territory there is no speed limit on most open roads, however travellers should drive at a speed that suits the road, vehicle, weather condition and their driving experience.
The people:

Artists
The NT boasts many, many famous Aboriginal artists who sell their work to collectors all over the world, including Albert Namatjira (deceased), Robert Puruntatameri (pottery), John Martin Tipungwuti (scultpure), Jean Babtiste Apuatimi (painting/ screenprinting) and  Nina Puruntatameri (painting).

Musicians
The NT has produced some exceptional musicians,  including Sophie Koh, Jessica Mauboy, Shellie Morris, Yothu Yindi, Djalu Gurruwiwi (didgeridoo) and Sara Storer.

Actors
Well known actors coming out of the NT include Tom E Lewis, David Gulpilil and Fiona O’Loughlin (comedian).

Writers
Well recognized writers from the NT include, Sara Henderson (deceased), Marlee Ranacher, and Tom Cole.

Chefs
Jimmy Shu is a renowned chef and owner of the Hanuman restaurants in both Darwin and Alice Springs.

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Related information

Itineraries – Britz The Red Centre See the Outback's rich history for yourself over a 7-day trip that takes in historic Alice Springs, spectacular Katherine Gorge, Litchfield National Park and the Northern Territory's coastal capital of Darwin. ​

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