You don’t have to be in your seventies with a caravan in tow to see more of Australia (though a caravan would be nice). In fact, opting for an Aussie adventure is growing in popularity for young travellers. We're slowly waking up to the fact that you don’t have to score a stamp on your passport to visit some of the world’s top destinations, we have heaps right here!
While the east and west coast win all sorts of popularity contests for travellers, as do the major cities like Melbourne and Sydney, one of the underrated Australian destinations we think you should explore is the Northern Territory’s Top End.
Famous for huge crocodiles and dramatic waterfalls, the top end of Australia refers to a chunk in the Northern Territory covering four main areas; the state’s capital Darwin, World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, remote Arnhem Land and the Katherine area. The NT itself is a huge place to begin with (roughly the size of France, Spain and Italy combined) and there's a lot to see and do if you make it here. To narrow down your holiday planning, these are five experiences we think you shouldn’t miss if you make it to the Top End on your next mid-semester trip.
Get in the water with a crocodile at Crocosaurus Cove
Don’t jump to any conclusions, we’ve watched Crocodile Dundee enough times to know the Northern Territory’s saltwater crocodiles aren’t the kind of creatures to cut laps with. But there is a safe way to get in the water with these slightly terrifying, but mostly incredible prehistoric beasts. At Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, you can cage dive with some of the biggest crocs in the world, watch them feeding and make the only real eye contact you’d want to below the surface with one of these creatures. Not sure if you have it in you? Maybe this epic shot will help to convince you.
Chase waterfalls in Kakadu National Park
One of the dreamiest Northern Territory destinations, Kakadu National Park is filled with waterfalls, hikes and amazing views. Australia’s biggest national park, covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres, we have plenty of recommendations for you to squeeze into a trip here. Swim in the Gunlom Plunge Pool or Maguk’s natural waterfall, each with incredible views of Kakadu’s natural landscapes, and visit the many Aboriginal rock art sites throughout the national park for a lesson in Indigenous culture and history. Even though Kakadu National Park is only 3 hours drive from Darwin, we advise you to spend more than one day here. The 3 day Kakadu and Litchfield safari is one of our favourites, allowing extra time to chill in rock pools, hike the many trails and take in the landscape. Plus, all your meals and a professional guide are included too.
Escape the heat in Litchfield National Park
It’s no surprise that the Northern Territory is a place too hot for some to handle, especially those used to a cooler, significantly less sticky climates. Lucky you are young and agile enough to take on this tough terrain and the heat! With that said, up here in the NT, you will eventually feel yourself in need of a refreshing swim and that is where Litchfield National Park is a lifesaver. Only an hour out of Darwin, Litchfield is an oasis filled with (crocodile-free) waterfalls, plunge pools, rivers and creeks. We love Florence Falls, Wangi Falls, Tjaetaba Falls plunge pool and Tjaynera/Sandy Creek Falls. Hang on, Buley Rockhole needs a mention too. The gist of Litchfield is: bring your bathers because you’ll want to spend a lot of time in the water when you visit here.
Feast till you’re full at the Mindil Sunset Markets
What do students love nearly as much as travelling? Discounts of course! Yep, on a student budget, we are constantly on the hunt for bargains and markets are one of the best places to hunt these down. During your Top End trip, you need to visit the Mindil Sunset Markets, held every Sunday and Thursday in the heart of Darwin. With tonnes of food stalls from a range of international cuisines, unique craft vendors and a guaranteed picturesque sunset, we have little doubt you will enjoy this market experience. Feeling adventurous during your visit here? Try some of the local delicacies including kangaroo and crocodile. Oh, and did we mention you can BYO beverages, making for an even sweeter and cheaper treat.
Relax in the Mataranka Thermal Pools
That incredibly long stretch from Darwin to Uluru is not barren emptiness, no no. Somewhere between those many, many miles is the crystal blue, soothing waters of Mataranka Thermal Pools, a lush natural pool oasis settled among paperbark trees in true Aussie outback serenity. Think Australia’s own version of Mexico’s cenotes. It’s not just the ridiculous beauty of the pools either - they have mystical healing abilities! Yep, the warm waters are said to soothe any ailments and aches, ideal for those who've spent the day on their feet hiking. You can also find amazing local Aboriginal art in the township close to the pools at The Stockyard Gallery, the perfect place to find a souvenir to bring home from a memorable trip to the Top End.
Image thanks to @AusOutbackNT
If you make it to the Top End, we have a sneaking suspicion this won’t be your first and last time in the Northern Territory. Keep the journey going and discover another national treasure in the state.