The Northern Territory is situated in the central and top regions of Australia and it shares borders with Western Australia to the west, South Australia to the south and Queensland to the east.
It is surrounded by the Timor Sea, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Arafura Sea. It has half the population of Tasmania with a dispersed population, the majority of whom live in the capital city of Darwin.
It’s thought that it was first settled over 60,000 years ago so it has a strong Indigenous culture and there are plenty of ways to connect with the culture when you visit the Northern Territory.
Start your journey into Indigenous culture with a visit to the Museum and Art Gallery, Northern Territory (MAGNT). Built on Larrakia Land at Bullocky Point in Darwin in 1981, the MAGNT houses many internationally recognised cultural and scientific collections and research and exhibition programs.
Each year more than 300,000 visitors take the time to explore the MAGNT. You can also learn about the operation of the historic Fannie Bay Gaol in Darwin, which operated from the 20th of September 1883 until the 1st of September 1979.
Thousands of people each year visit the historic gaol where they can see the watch tower, the kitchen mess building, the gallows, the remand section and the male and female buildings. What’s even more incredible is that if you have a special occasion coming up, you can hire the former gaol.
The Northern Territory is home to many owner-operated Aboriginal art galleries. Should you venture out and visit one of these galleries you will have the opportunity to meet with their artists themselves and learn about what inspires them and the meaning behind each piece of art. It will give you a greater appreciation for the art making process.
Another place that deserves a mention is the Tiwi Islands, which are around 80 kilometres north of Darwin. The Tiwi Islands has many art centres and galleries – Tiwi Designs, Jilamara and Munapi Arts and Crafts, where you can admire the paintings, carvings and ceramics that the islands are famous for.
If you want to leave with a memory, you can also purchase artworks from the artists directly. There is a piece of Aboriginal artwork to suit every budget.
As well as expressing themselves through art, Aboriginals have a strong connection to the land. Aside from sustaining themselves and providing them with everything they need to survive, land gives Aboriginal people their sense of identity and belonging.
For over 50,000 years they have cared for their country because without it, future generations could not be supported. There are many tours you can join in Darwin where you will learn about the spiritual importance of land, with a special focus on the landscapes and wildlife. Traditional owners will tell the stories and you will learn all about the Larrakia People’s Dreamtime story of the frog and the significance of various sites alongside the waterfront.
The Traditional Owners will also share their experiences of Litchfield National Park, which is around 1500 square kilometres near the small township of Batchelor, 100kms south West of Darwin. The park is extremely popular, attracting over 260,000 visitors each year.
It was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, a British Island who explored South Australia before venturing upwards to the Northern Territory. He became famous and well respected after discovering gold in the Northern Territory.
Today, Litchfield National Park is a must-see destination if you’re in the NT. You’ll gaze at beautiful waterfalls that flow into crystal clear pools and groups of weathered sandstone pillars at the Lost City, which is thought to be the remains of an ancient civilisation.
The only way to get to the Lost City is by four wheel drive, but when you do you’ll be one of the few lucky souls who has experienced it.
You can swim under the waterfalls or relax in the many waterholes in the area.
Litchfield National Park is a great option as a day trip from Katherine or Darwin. There’s also a camping ground nearby if you’d prefer to overnight.
There is plenty to do in Katherine, starting with the Nitmiluk Gorge in the Mitmiluk National Park. Put on the lifejacket and explore the hidden waterfalls in the gorge or search for Aboriginal rock art, or simply enjoy a peaceful cruise.
You can swim between cliff faces and camp on sandy freshwater beaches. Adventure seekers can take a helicopter trip for the ultimate view of the gorge. You can further immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture with another history lesson.
After that, put on your comfortable shoes because you’re about to experience one of the world’s best bush-walks.
The Jatbula Trail is a five-day, 58km experience that will see you amazed with waterfalls, monsoon rainforest, stone country and more Aboriginal rock art.
You’ll start the trail at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre and conclude at the Edith Falls where the palm-enveloped plunge pool is a glorious reward for the trek.
For a real outback experience head to a country music show. Tom Curtain, a country music singer will entertain you in the show of a lifetime. He’ll arrive on stage on a wild horse and will play his country music while telling interesting stories about bush life.
When you’re in the Northern Territory, you must visit Alice Springs. Of course there’s a lot to do, but one notable activity is to go hot air ballooning in the morning. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the rugged terrain, which makes for great photo opportunities.
On your balloon ride you’ll hear educational and entertaining commentary from the host. When you arrive back on land, you’ll enjoy light refreshments including sparkling wine before going on your next adventure.
Alice Springs is just a few hours from Ayers Rock/Uluru. Many tour companies run a day trip from Alice Springs to Uluru. Your journey will begin early in the morning and you’ll then stop for a buffet breakfast before passing the MacDonnel Ranges mountains and enjoying lunch at Tijuta National Park, which is a protected national park in the Northern Territory.
When you arrive in Ayers Rock/Uluru, you’ll have plenty of time to admire the Walpa Gorge to learn about the cultural significance of Ayers Rock/Uluru for Aboriginal Australians.
Your tour guide will take you to the base of the rock where you’ll marvel at the beautiful red hues before watching the sunset at a lookout point. Before the sun goes down you’ll have a traditional Australian barbecue dinner before you travel back to Alice Springs by coach.
It’s the perfect way to end your visit to the Northern Territory.