It doesn’t get much more Australian than getting up close to Australia’s most iconic animal in the heart of the outback. Alice Springs’ famous Kangaroo Sanctuary started out as a baby kangaroo rescue centre, but now operates as a 188 acre wildlife sanctuary for rescued kangaroos of all ages. Their mission is to educate and encourage people to rescue and care for kangaroos, as well as other wildlife.
Because kangaroos like to sleep during the day, the best way to visit the kangaroos is to take a guided sunset tour, where you can learn everything you need to know about these special guys, and cuddle and feed a baby! Donations are welcomed to help ensure the excellent work of the Kangaroo Sanctuary can continue, as well as supporting Central Australia’s first wildlife hospital - providing specialised care for kangaroos. There is still a long way to go to develop the hospital – so visit the kangaroos in the outback like a true Aussie and see why they're worth helping.
Drive two hours south of Darwin via the Stuart Highway, and you'll reach the wondrous Litchfield National Park. Covering approximately 1500 square kilometres, Litchfield is part of Wagait traditional Indigenous lands. You will be surrounded by unique flora and fauna - spot kangaroos, wallabies and maybe even dingoes, as well as gorgeous birds including black kites, the yellow oriole, figbird and rainbow bee-eater. But the highlight of this area is definitely the crashing waterfalls: Wangi Falls, Tolmer Falls, Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole, just to name a few.
Depending on the time of year, these spots also make tranquil swimming holes, where you can float miles away from the rest of the world surrounding by monsoon forest. Surprisingly, magnetic termite mounds are a popular attraction. Standing up to two metres high and up to 100 years old, these odd formations were built by thousands of termites, with a north-south orientation that controls the temperature inside the mounds, and minimises exposure to the sun.
You can also view historic ruins at Blyth Homestead, a great example of tough pioneer life in outback Australia. Have some cash to splash? Seeing Litchfield by helicopter tour is an experience like no other. Each year the park attracts over 260,000 visitors, and you should definitely be one of them.
A three-hour drive east of Darwin, you’ll find the World-Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park, all 19,804 square kilometres of it! Before 1986, hardly any Australians had ever been to Kakadu, let alone internationals. Then came Crocodile Dundee, which catapulted this spot into stardom. The Park is about to undergo a $200 million makeover, so now is the time to visit.
In Australia’s largest national park, you’ll find lush rainforest, rock art galleries up to 20,000 years old, cascading waterfalls and stunning wildlife. Of Kakadu’s many waterfalls, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are the most famous – accessible only by 4WD, it’ll be worth it when you reach the white sandy beach and cool water. If you’re a Crocodile Dundee fan, you can follow in the steps of Mick Dundee himself. Start in Ubirr in Northern Kakadu – where Mick climbed to the top of a rocky outcrop, then declared it’s "never-never country." Here, you can see the most spectacular rock art in Kakadu. Then cross the East Alligator River and travel into Arnhem Land, where Mick hypnotises a water buffalo (do not try this. Please).
Sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu people and over 600 million years old - Uluru isn’t just a rock. The area is home to an abundance of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings, and the rich history and cultural significance of this area is tangible. The sandstone formation stands 348 metres high (with almost 600 more metres of it hidden below ground). Uluru is notable for appearing to change colour at different times of the day and year, most notably when it glows red at dawn and sunset. The best way to say Uluru is by circumnavigating the 10 kilometre base of Uluru - where you can take breaks to relax near waterholes, find the shade of a tree or a hidden cave.
As an area of deep signficance to Indigenous Australians, climbing Uluru is prohibited, and certain sections cannot be photographed. An excellent way to see Uluru would be to take a walking tour led by traditional owners of the area, where you'll learn about local flora and fauna, bush tucker and Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area. More than 415 species of native plants, 21 species of mammals, 178 species of birds and 73 species of reptiles call this area home. Visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre as a starting point - then explore from there.
This famous long-haul road trip is all about the journey, baby! The Explorer’s Way route between the bottom of Australia to the top is the definition of The Great Australian Road Trip. Long stretches of road, red sand and tough conditions await you, but as long as you come prepared, you're guaranteed to have a life-changing experience.
There’s over 1500 kilometres between Adelaide and Darwin and so much to see and do on the way - it's recommended you spend at least two weeks travelling this road. From Adelaide, your first stop should be Coober Pedy – an underground town known as Australia’s opal capital. Continue on to Uluru. From there, it's a shorter drive to the famous outback town of Alice Springs. You wanted to experience the true Aussie outback you saw in the movies - taking the Explorers Way is how you'll find it.
You've probably been advised not to visit up north during the "wet" season of November to April, but everything is cheaper, less crowded and you're in for some truly unique experiences. One of the main reasons the wet season is so amazing is all down to Mother Nature - the sunsets and frequent thunderstorms that occur during this period are truly spectacular. The constant rain acts as a cleanser to help clear out pollutants out of the lower parts of the atmosphere, meaning the colours are more vibrant in the wet season.
These thunderstorms are also a relief after a humid day, and you’ll come to look forward to the breathtaking lightning displays that accompany them. You may even be lucky enough to see rainbows start to pop up amongst the layers of stormy clouds! Visiting during the dry season? Not a problem!
Okay, you don’t have to wear drag – but it should be noted that Kings’ Canyon provided the dramatic setting for one of Australia’s most iconic movies The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert! Forget the Grand Canyon – Kings Canyon is guaranteed to knock your little socks off. With a home in Watarrka National Park only 3 hours from Uluru, this spot is just as majestic as the big red rock. Rise before the heat, and watch the sun come up from the top of the Canyon, whose walls are over 100 metres high.
The six kilometre Rim Walk traces the top of the Canyon and takes three to four hours to complete. Halfway during the walk, a detour descends to the Garden of Eden, a permanent waterhole surrounded by plant life. Birds that can be seen include the peregrine falcon, zebra finch and grey-headed honeyeater. Visit at night for some of the best views and enjoy another unique outback dining experience. Then, crash at Kings Canyon Holiday Park. Once you’ve experienced it by foot, explore it by air – and fully appreciate the incredible sight.
Bush tucker refers to a huge range of meat, plants and fruit that Aboriginal Australians lived off through their hunter-gatherer lifestyle for over 60,000 years. Through trial and error, they came to understand what they could and couldn’t eat, how to prepare the food and which items were toxic to consume as food, but had healing properties as medicine. Common bush tucker foods include witchetty grubs, honey, kangaroo meat, crocodile meat and yams.
In the area of medicine, squashed green ants remedied the flu, while sap from wattle trees could help cure a headache. Many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory still live off the land as they have for thousands of years, so there is a number of tours you can take to see how it's done.
Led by a local guide, you can learn how to gather bush foods and cook them by the campfire at sunset. If you don’t rate your gathering ability, there are plenty of restaurants that serve bush tucker favourites, such as the Aboriginal Bush Traders Café in Darwin and Red Ochre Grill Restaurant in Alice Springs. The best part? Bush tucker is not only delicious and fresh, it's super healthy!
The Aboriginal history of the Northern Territory is evident in almost every item on this list, but there are other ways you can get a more in-depth experience. Darwin’s art galleries are an excellent starting point – start with the Museum and Gallery of the Northern Territory before visiting locally owned indigenous art galleries, where you can meet the artists face-to-face.
Similarly, the Museum of Central Australia in Alice Springs is a must-do, featuring rare archival footage and collected objects from indigenous ceremonial life. Making an effort to take tours with an indigenous guide will give you the best possible insight into the rich history of the Northern Territory. Even just spending time in the Northern Territory will leave with a greater appreciation of Australia’s indigenous history and why we must do everything we can to preserve it.
IMAGE: Crocosaurus Cove
Spotting a crocodile in Darwin’s many national parks and waterways is not difficult. However, if you’d rather meet a croc in a more controlled setting, Crocosaurus Cove is perfect for you. Located in the heart of Darwin, Croc Cove boasts the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles and of course, some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia. The thrill of the Cage of Death is like no other - you will be sharing the environment of a five-meter long saltwater crocodile, so you can get a close look at their incredible features and even look them in the eye, all while being perfectly safe! If you’re interested in a VIP experience, you can even fee the crocs with the assistance of experienced handlers and hold a baby crocodile! Don’t forget to check out the barramundi in the 200,000 litre freshwater aquarium and get educated at World of Crocs, the on-site museum. Crocosaurus Cove is a must do Top End experience, guaranteed to thrill you at any age. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Darwin YHA is right next door.