There are many reasons why thousands of visitors flock to Australia’s Northern Territory each year. Yes, its capital city may be gorgeous and enticing, yet discerning adventurers know that flying into Darwin International Airport means reaching the springboard to some of the most stunning natural reserves in the whole country. By all means take the first few days to explore the city, its wildlife parks and gorgeous outdoor dining and drinking scenes, yet make sure you have a few days left in the end to enjoy some unforgettable day trips.
Rent you Campervan from the airport for added convenience, and take yourself on a journey to discover the most revered nooks of Australia’s Top End.
A day trip to striking Katherine Gorge may make for an intense and rather long day trip from Darwin, yet considering it still rates as the best and most popular day trip destination, we’d say it is well worth the long drive. The gorge is in the heart of the Nitmiluk National Park and is one of the Northern Territory’s most prized attractions. Deep, dramatic and superbly photogenic, it draws crowds from all corners of the globe.
Katherine is both the name of a town, a river and the world-famous gorge (which is about 30kms from the homonymous town), the latter being a collection of over a dozen gorges stretching an impressive distance of more than 12 kms. Once you reach the entrance of the gorge, you’ll have the option of taking an unforgettable two hour boat cruise through a long stretch of it, gifting you splendid views of the vertiginous mountain sides, lush vegetation and deep blue waters. The rich eco-system is home to a myriad of endemic wildlife, and discovering all the large and small creatures who call this home is one of the many rewards of hiking in this absolutely superb nature reserve. Katherine Gorge may be 300kms away from the Top End capital, yet its remote location means that driving here with a rental car from Darwin is still the best and most popular way to visit. You could either aim for a mammoth 14 hour day (6 hours driving and 8 hours sightseeing) or take overnight accommodation in Katherine and return the next morning. Options abound.
Australia’s largest and most renowned nature reserve is found only about 170km east of Darwin. It is home to almost 70 species of mammals, over 100 reptiles, dozens of different frog species as well as almost 300 different types of birds. To say that this is a wildlife lover’s paradise would be a gross understatement. The biodiversity of flora and fauna here is second to none. The sheer beauty of this place is spell-bounding, with overwhelming sandstone cliffs, maze of waterfalls brimming with lilies and a whole ecosystem of wetlands to explore. Before entering, do stop at the Bowali Visitor Centre and plan your trip with the help of the local forest guides. This place is so dauntingly huge that it is safest to get advice from local experts before diving right in. Best time to visit the park is during the dry winter season, when greater parts are accessible on foot and car, as well as larger concentration of wildlife at drinking holes be made visible.
Bathurst Island is part of a stunning cluster of tropical islands about 80kms off the shores of Darwin. The Tiwi Islands, as they are collectively known, are home to indigenous Aboriginal settlements that live, hunt and thrive much as they have been doing since time immemorial. Infrastructure and even supplies are very limited in Bathurst and the communities are so protected that tourist numbers are tightly monitored and restricted. You can only visit with permission and on an organized tour.
On a tour, you will enjoy a leisurely two hour ferry ride to Bathurst, from where you’ll be accompanied by an indigenous guide on a journey of discovery. Learn all about this fascinating culture and the habits, traditions and beliefs which make these some of the most secretive societies in Australia. You’ll have the chance to attend an arts’ workshop or share an enticing morning tea with local tribesmen. The breathtaking scenery, both on and off the boat, will complement the cultural enlightenment to absolute perfection.