How to plan a Trip to Northern Territory (Top End)

Australian Outback has been tempting for me… all the while. Though I did plan , it took a long time for my trip to materialise due to different reasons. Finally, I booked my tickets to Darwin for around 300 AUD. I could have got better deals definitely, but since I work full time it is often hard to get leave when the ticket prices are low !

I visited Northern Territory in the month of March. I feel since it is not a place which you randomly visit, having a plan is good for the best experience & value for money.

Yellow Water Reflections

It is important to have an idea about the geography. Northern Territory is classified into two parts, Top End & Central. Top End constitutes of Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine ( Nitmiluk) and Arnhem Land regions & Central constitutes of the Red centre/Alice Springs region. This post is about the Top End region.

Darwin is the capital of Northern Territory and is situated almost at the northern end of Australia. Chances are that most likely you will be flying down to Darwin unless you are flying down to Alice Springs/Uluru.

YELLOW WATER

Here are few things which make your trip unique,

  • Northen Territory is the Australian state with highest percentage of indigenous population ( close to 30% where all other states have single digit numbers)
  • Tropical climate with an enjoyable Dry season.
  • Long distance between destinations
  • Lot of Road Rules ( yes , I mean a lot more than in the other parts of Australia
  • Expensive (from cost of living to food to transport)
  • A lot of warnings all around constantly pointing at the risk of Crocodile attack

Crocodiles

Climate

Northern Territory has Tropical Savannah Climate with two seasons – wet season & dry season . Wet Season is from October until April signifying high humidity & rainfall with most of the rain between December & March . Dry Season prevails from May to September which is relatively hotter and less humid.

When to Visit?

With two distinct climates, it is tricky to decide when to visit Top End. There are pros & cons of visiting in either season.

Wet Season Visit 

  • Less crowded
  • Accommodations are relatively cheap
  • Many attractions/roads are closed ( such as Jim Jim falls , Gunlong Plunge pool etc )
  • Heavy Monsoon rains can interrupt your plans
  • High Humidity

Northern Territory waterfall

Dry Season Visit

  • Peak Season & more crowd
  • All attractions are accessible
  • Very Hot but less Humid

I, usually tend to visit places during offseason if I am convinced that the beauty cannot be spoiled by the weather . I visited  Top End in the month of March and my only regret was that I could not see Jim Jim falls & Gunlong plunge pool.

Accommodation

There are options available including Hostels. If you plan to travel in the peak season it is better to book early enough as the options are limited. Also choosing Air Condition will be a good idea to manage the hot or humid weather depending upon when you travel. Camping is allowed in many places, but checking the weather conditions and permits will be good to avoid surprises.

On an average, one bedroom units are available from 80 AUD onwards and hostel accommodations are available from 25 AUD onwards.

Transport

Though some of the below points we tend to check for every road trip, it is more important while visiting Northern Territory because of the distance between places and the less accessibility in case of a trouble.

Northern Territory Roads

  • Few attractions are accessible only by 4WD (such as Lost City in Litchfield National Park and Maguk Gorge in Kakadu National Park)
  • Few attractions are not accessible by rental vehicles at all as that is not covered in insurance (such as Jim Jim & Twin Falls)
  • Many of the Car Rentals which otherwise allow free kilometers have limited kilometers when you hire cars in NT ( Check Top End Tourism site for better deals )
  • Ensure to check the Road Report before & during your  travel. Up to date information is available here: http://www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/roadreport/
  • Public Transport is available within city limits however, I could find any service operating outside the city limits. Chartered services are available which connects Darwin with the National Parks. More information is available in the Top End Tourism website.
  • Arnhem Land is home to the traditional land owners and hence a permit needs to be applied to gain access to drive through. Turn around time for the permit can be up to 10 working days. Also, there is a range of activities which should not be done while in Aboriginal land ( such as consuming alcohol, hunting etc. ). Check details before planning travel to Arnhem land.
  • There are long distances between the petrol pumps, so it is better to fill up the tank every time you see a pump.
  • Road Trains are not a rare sight and need to be careful while you drive.

Connectivity

Mobile connectivity is not great in many places. While traveling Outback, the best bet is Telstra. Also, satellite phones are available for purchase. Make sure to plan this expensive option in advance with your service provider. Kakadu region did not have any connectivity for most of the time I was there.

Fishing

Flies & insects 

A lot of flies can be seen where ever you go . Buying a Fly Net & insect repellant will be a good idea.

 

Hope you enjoyed the post. Have you been to Top End?

Is there anything you would like to advise ?

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