When people think of Australia, many think of the Sydney Opera House and the urban activities in Melbourne, however the term “outback” refers to the other side of Australia: the Northern Territory. Nellie Huang of WildJunket gave us the scoop on all the can’t-miss sights of this continent’s northern hemisphere! Get a jump start on planning your experience and see what events are coming up.
Sprawling across the northern regions of Australia is the Northern Territory, two and a half times the size of Texas and far more remote and untouched. It’s my favorite part of the country, with so much endemic wildlife and out-of-this-world landscapes that other regions just can’t rival. The region is made up of two distinctive areas: the Red Center and the Top End.
They are almost at extreme ends — the Red Center is hot, dry and harsh, dotted with patches of spinifex and unique rock formations, many of which are sacred spots for the region’s Aboriginal people; while the Top End is a lush tropical oasis sprinkled with waterfalls, billabongs and verdant green forests.
This is the Outback at its best and Australia at its most natural. Last year I took a road trip through the Northern Territories, here’s a look at some of the best places and experiences I encountered along the way.
Watch the Sunrise at Uluru and Kata Tjuta
On a three-day camping safari, we hiked through the deserts and impressive rock formations of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, camped out under the stars and even caught sunrise one early morning over Uluru. Blinding rays of orange flashed across the vast desert like a laser light show and lit up the whole area in a kaleidoscope of colors. Sunrise at Uluru and Kata Tjuta was a stunning sight to behold, and there was no better moment to experience these two impressive sights than at the crack of dawn.
During the safari, we explored three main sites: Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon – all of which are considered sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the Red Center. Having lived here for approximately 20,000 years, the Anangu have a particularly close relationship with their land. The trail that led us up, through, and into King’s Canyon was my favorite of all as I felt like we were truly immersed in the Outback. Anangu stories and myths just seemed to come alive here.
Wandering through the West MacDonnell Ranges
Stretching across the center of Australia, the 644 kilometer long mountain range runs to the east and west of Alice Springs. With our feisty Britz Bushcamper 4WD, we headed to explore the spectacular gaps and gorges that run through the ranges. During our daytrip, we wandered through Simpsons Gap, swam in the fresh waters of Ellery Creek, went on a short hike through Glen Helen Gorge and even climbed up the red quartzite cliffs of Stanley Chasm — it’s a stunning area that has surprisingly remained a secret among foreign visitors.
Encounter Wildlife at Alice Springs Desert Park
Located seven kilometers outside the city of Alice Springs is the Alice Springs Desert Park, a conservation park that showcases the Australian desert environment as its natural state. It is a beautifully sculpted area where kangaroos roam, birds fly overhead, and endangered bilby burrow underground. There’s hardly any fence around – it’s almost like an open-air playground where all of the area’s wildlife live freely.
Enjoy the Lush Greenery of Kakadu National Park
Gorgeous secluded waterfalls, rough rocky landscape and unspoiled greenery are peppered throughout the huge Kakadu National Park. This area is found in the Top End, where the proximity to the Equator gives it a humid tropical climate. Our tour through Kakadu was thrilling and exciting as we clambered over boulders to get to the stunning lookout point where we grazed upon Arnhem Land, hiked up steep slopes to find Aboriginal rock art and took respite in the waterfalls.
Try a New Kind of “Wild Game” in Darwin
In the capital city of the Northern Territory, there are plenty of choices when it comes to food. I’m a wildlife buff; unfortunately I also have a big appetite. Thankfully the animal population in Australia remains healthy and eating them isn’t going to dwindle their population. My most memorable meal in Australia remains this one in Darwin where I feasted on skewers of kangaroo, alligator and emu meat.
A journey to the Northern Territories redefines ‘the great outdoors,’ with landscapes and experiences that I never even imagined before my road trip. It is so vast, isolated and remote that mere words cannot do it justice. The only way to comprehend the Northern Territories is to travel through them.
With an eye for adventure and a thirst for the unknown, Nellie is a travel writer and blogger who loves to veer way beyond the conventional trail. Her blog, WildJunket is the child of all her adventures (and misadventures) around the world. Since the success of her blog, along with her photographer/designer husband, she has also launched a digital flipbook magazine, WildJunket Magazine.