Top End Top Ten
Australia’s Top End in the Northern Territory is a land of rich red earth, canyons, endless floodplains, fascinating culture and compelling wildlife – where the traditional owners of this area have survived for over 50,000 years.
The indigenous people know every nuance of their land, its changing seasons, its hazards and its many rewards and provisions. Skills have been passed down from generation to generation in a region where traditions remain strong today. Meanwhile, wildlife lovers can marvel at the wealth of birdlife, cruise in search of crocodiles and enjoy the quintessentially Australian sight of wallabies bounding across the landscape. As the sun sets, the red rock escarpments and gorges glow a warm and vivid red, perhaps revealing the true heart of Australia.
Here are our top 10 highlights of this fascinating region:
1. Yellow Water Billabong
Kakadu National Park is home to around a third of Australia’s bird species and Yellow Water, in the heart of the park, is one of the best places to see them – along with estuarine crocodiles and water buffalo.
2. Arnhem Land
This vast wilderness area is home to the Yolngu people, traditional owners of this land for over 60,000 years. Permits are required to enter Arnhem Land and explore its wealth of ancient rock art and spectacular landscapes, in the company of indigenous guides.
3. Katherine Gorge
The star attraction of Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine Gorge actually comprises 13 gorges carved through ancient sandstone. Crocodiles (the friendly freshwater variety), fruitbats and a variety of bird species can be spotted as you cruise or kayak through the gorges.
Darwin is the gateway to the Top End and boasts a fascinating history reflected in its museums and art galleries. Relax at the vibrant Waterfront Precinct’s wave lagoon or bars and don’t miss the Mindil Beach Sunset Market which takes place every Thursday and Sunday.
5. Indigenous Rock Art
The rock escarpments, caves and gorges that make up the tortured landscapes of the Top End bear witness to life here dating back many thousands of years. Ubirr Rock and Nourlangie are among the best known Indigenous rock art sites, depicting fascinating Dreaming stories.
6. Crocodile Country
Freshwater and estuarine (saltwater) crocs can be found in rivers and wetlands throughout the Top End; Mary River hosts the highest population of crocodiles in Australia. These prehistoric looking creatures are best seen from the safety of a cruise boat.
7. Aerial Views of Kakadu
From lush wetlands to savannah woodlands, via craggy stone escarpments, thunderous waterfalls and extensive cave systems, Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park at nearly 20,000 square kilometres. Take to the skies by helicopter to fully appreciate the scale of this vast wilderness.
8. The Ghan
All aboard the legendary Ghan for an unforgettable rail journey across Australia. From Darwin journey through spectacular Top End landscapes, with time available to cruise Katherine Gorge or fly over Kakadu, before continuing south to the Red Centre and beyond.
Take the journey: The Ghan Expedition
9. Mary River
Renowned for its high population of estuarine crocodiles and excellent barramundi fishing, the Mary River and surrounding wetlands also attract around 250 species of birds during the dry season. Jabiru, jacana, magpie geese and brolga are regularly spotted feeding among pink Lotus lilies.
10. Termite Mounds
It may not seem like an obvious candidate for a Top 10, but termite mounds are surprisingly fascinating and are an ubiquitous part of the landscape here. Visit Litchfield National Park to see both magnetic mounds, which point north-south, and cathedral mounds, which stand up to 4 metres high.