The Northern Territory is home to more than 80 national parks and nature reserves – a world of adventure, just waiting to be explored, from the lush monsoon rainforests and cascading waterfalls of the Top End down to the sunburnt lands of Australia’s Red Centre. Mind-blowing natural wonders dominate, with something remarkable on offer at every turn. Explore the great outdoors the way it was supposed to be with this guide on the best national parks in the Northern Territory.
Home to some of the world’s most spectacular red rock formations and ancient monoliths, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, residing in Central Australia, derives its name from two of the most famous of them all - Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Uluru extends a whopping 348 metres tall, with a circumference of 9.4 kilometres, holding the title as the world’s largest sandstone monolith. Meanwhile, Kata Tjuta, 40 kilometres west of Uluru, is a collection of towering prehistoric red domes jutting out from the arid exterior next to the Walpa Gorges. Sacred sites to the traditional landowners, the Anangu people, the park continues to hold significant cultural and historical value, forever immortalised in art and literature, passed down through generations for well over 30,000 years. Various walk trails will bring you face to face with these breath-taking landmarks, including the popular Uluru base walk (Uluru) and the Valley of the Winds walk (Kata Tjuta). Spy the incredible Aboriginal rock art paintings, rare flora & fauna, and endless vistas on display as you soak up the stories from a time before.
When most of us envision the Northern Territory, we picture soaring red rocks, scorching heat and barren wastelands, yet Litchfield National Park, 100 kilometres south of Darwin tends to share a completely different story. A world unlike those around it, the park is teeming with lush monsoonal rainforests, cascading waterfalls, striking sandstone cliffs, idyllic waterholes, and a plethora of local wildlife. A great place for a day trip, bathe in the pellucid waters of the Buley Rockhole, the tranquil surrounds of the Wangi Falls or stop by the ever-popular Florence Falls. Various short walking trails link up many of the park’s major attractions with a 4WD required to explore the more remote sections. Gigantic magnetic termite mounds up to 2 metres tall are one of the park’s more impressive features, with a lookout in place to safely view this fascinating phenomenon. Best visited during the drier months (May to October), roads may be closed during the wet season due to flooding with camping the only accommodation available within the park.
Another Top End marvel, Kakadu National Park – 170 kilometres southeast of Darwin, is one of Australia’s largest national park systems rich in outdoor adventure, aboriginal culture, breath-taking scenery, and sweet sweet mother nature. Explore the enchanting Aboriginal rock art sites dotted throughout the park as you soak up the views of the pristine countryside and surrounding floodplains. Uncover the tales from a time before with a wonderful interpretive experience provided by local park rangers educating visitors about the land and its strong connection with the traditional landowners. Enjoy some fun in the sun with an award-winning cruise along the Yellow Water Billabong spotting wild buffalo, wallabies, crocodiles and over 250 species of native birds. Or venture along the designated walk trail (2.6 kilometres return) when the water recedes during the drier months for incredible views of the wetlands and the Yellow Water wildlife. Whether it’s a stroll through a lush monsoon rainforest, a refreshing swim in the idyllic rock pools at Barramundi Gorge, a scenic flight over the sparkling Jim Jim Falls or chasing the sunset on an intimate cruise through the wetlands, there is a little something special for everybody in this truly magical place.
Lying in the heart of Central Australia, 135 kilometres west of Alice Springs, are the blazing red gorges of the Tjoritja West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Naturally sculpted for over 300 million years, the park is home to a treasure trove of natural wonders, sacred landmarks, and rare species of flora & fauna. From towering red gorges to sparkling water holes, the park features a whole host of outdoor activities sure to excite. Scale the rocky fringes of the Ormiston Gorge, the sacred lands of Standley Chasm or the tranquil waters of Ellery Creek Big Hole, with the latter being a popular swimming hole and important meeting place for the traditional landowners. A great place for avid hikers, the park comprises over 30 marked trails, including the physically demanding 223-kilometre Larapinta Trail that weaves through challenging sections of the West MacDonnell Ranges to Mt Sonder. With temperatures soaring during the dry season, most visitors attend during the ‘cooler’ months (April and September) when the days are bearable and perfect for exploring. Most of the park is accessible via 2WD with sealed roads along Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive linking visitors to all the major attractions.