The Best Northern Territory Road Trip Destinations | 15 Must-See Places For Your Itinerary

Did you know that the Northern Territory is astonishingly big? The NT is 1.4 million square kilometres of breathtaking landscape lined with a fantastic coastline. If going on a road trip to Australia’s hidden gem is on your bucket list, we’ve got the itinerary for you! 

The Northern Territory’s tropical climate makes it a perfect place to explore the great outdoors. You’ll learn more about the rich Aboriginal culture and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds that make this place unique and special. 

The area is so vast and filled with must-see landscapes. You’ll need to plan your itinerary accordingly to avoid missing out on the fantastic array of watering holes, outback towns, and national parks. Here are the 15 must-see destinations for a northern territory road trip of a lifetime. 

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How Long Do I Need For A Northern Territory Road Trip?

Even though the Northern Territory is a huge state (did you know it is six times bigger than Britain?), you can still explore many great sights in a week or two. You can actually explore several unique destinations in just three days if you only have time for a short road trip. This short northern territory road trip can include Uluru, Darwin, or Alice Springs. 

However, if you want to make the most of what the region offers, it would be best to allocate 7-14 days. This duration will give you enough time to discover archaeological sites, swim in rivers and waterfalls, and watch wildlife, among many other exciting activities. 

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is a vast archeological site considered a living cultural landscape. It offers a peek into how Aboriginal people lived thousands of years ago. Its famous rock art reveals the Indigenous people’s creation stories, their way of life, and the skills that allowed them to thrive. 

The park’s exceptional cultural and natural values allowed it to secure a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has the honour of being one of just four places in Australia that has made it onto the prestigious list for both cultural and natural significance. 

How Do I Get To Kakadu National Park?  

You may book a flight to Darwin and hire a vehicle from there to drive yourself to the park. If you want an easy driving and sleeping option in one, consider hiring a campervan. You can also book a tour if you feel like going with a group on a bus or a four-wheel drive. 

Where Can I Stay in Kakadu National Park?

The 20,000 square kilometre park has four main areas that offer hotels and cabins. If you’re planning to be closer to the area’s extraordinary biodiversity, you can set up your tent or park your caravan at one of their campsites.

What Should I Do While I’m in Kakadu National Park?

  • Swim in Gunlom Plunge Pool
  • Visit the ancient Aboriginal Rock art and tour the outdoor galleries with an indigenous guide.
  • Cruise down the East Alligator River to spot some giant saltwater crocodiles in the region.

Channel Point Coastal Reserve 

If you’re a fishing enthusiast, then Channel Point Coastal Reserve is a dream destination. As one of the Northern Territory’s most fertile fishing grounds, it offers an unforgettable day for boaters and experienced anglers. 

How Do I Get To Channel Point Coastal Reserve? 

You should only list this destination on your itinerary if you have four-wheel-drive equipment and skills. Make sure also that you have experience travelling in coastal conditions. You can drive towards Litchfield National Park and take the unsealed route to the north of Wangi Falls reserve.

Expect a 240 km journey from Darwin. There is about 67 km of unsealed 4WD road on the journey, so it would be wise to have a 4WD recovery kit handy. 

Where Can I Stay in Channel Point Coastal Reserve? 

The reserve has ten camping areas with basic facilities such as public toilets, showers, fire pits, a boat ramp, and a wash-down area. Make sure to secure a permit so you can access the reserve.

What Should I Do While at Channel Point Coastal Reserve? 

  • Go fishing
  • Set up camp
  • Ride a boat
  • Watch wildlife

Please remember that you need a fishing permit issued by the Northern Land Council to enter Aboriginal land and waters. 

Litchfield National Park

Many travellers and nature lovers are drawn to Litchfield National Park’s stunning waterfalls. You can view them from a helicopter or swim in one of its cool plunge pools. It also offers a magnificent opportunity to discover clusters of weathered sandstone pillars at the Lost City or see the fields of magnetic termite mounds.

The picnic grounds lining the Wangi Waterfalls can give you a front-row seat to see some frilled-neck lizards, frogs, and marsupial mice dart along the water’s edge.

How Do I Get To Litchfield National Park? 

You could include this destination in your northern territory self-drive itinerary by renting a car or hiring a campervan in Darwin. Travel time is usually an hour and a half with no stops. 

Where Can I Stay In Litchfield National Park? 

The park offers a landscaped area to set up your tent or park your caravan. You can choose a site that suits you and your family’s needs. There are basic facilities such as a laundry area, barbecue equipment, a sink, and a refrigerator that guests can use.

What Should I Do While I’m in Litchfield National Park? 

  • Visit historic ruins and scenic lookouts
  • Swim in one of the park’s plunge pools
  • Take a helicopter ride to see the sights
  • Go bushwalking and spot wildlife
  • Drive a four-wheel drive 
  • Take part in ranger-guided activities
  • Go fishing in the Upper Finnis River

Nitmiluk Gorge  

Nitmiluk Gorge is a slice of paradise known for its majestic beauty and spectacular size. The land, owned by the Jawoyn people, offers a fantastic view of its thirteen gorges, rock art sites, and thundering waterfalls.

You can immerse yourself in the ancient culture and traditions of the Jawoyn people as they share their stories and guide you through a series of sustainable and immersive adventures.

How Do I Get To Nitmiluk Gorge? 

You can hire a vehicle and self-drive from Darwin. Take the Stuart Highway towards Katherine and head along Gorge Road until you reach the park. Expect the trip to last for about three and a half hours.

Where Can I Stay in Nitmiluk Gorge? 

The park has unpowered and shaft-powered camping and caravan sites, cabin accommodations, and a tent village. The camping site offers basic outdoor kitchens, laundry facilities, barbecue areas, a swimming pool, and free Wi-Fi. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can dine in the Jatti Pool Restaurant; however, it’s only open from April to October.

What Should I Do While I’m at Nitmiluk Gorge Caravan Park? 

  • Go canoeing – you can hire a canoe at the visitor centre.
  • Swim in marked areas
  • View Aboriginal rock art
  • Spot wildlife
  • Go bushwalking and hiking
  • Ride a mountain bike
  • Go boating, and fishing  
  • Join ranger-guided activities

East MacDonnell Ranges 

These parallel ranges run east and west of Alice Springs offer several great gaps, gorges like the Trephina Gorge, as well as sites that have aboriginal significance. It also provides a peek into the past through the Arltunga Historical Reserve, the location of the 1930s gold rush. 

The Ross River Homestead is a resort facility that you can include in your East MacDonnell Ranges itinerary—patterned after the 1890s, Loves Creek Homestead gives visitors a unique outback experience. 

How Do I Get To The East MacDonnell Ranges? 

From Alice Springs, you can either join a tour or hire a car to get you to East MacDonnell Ranges. You can easily access the first 75 kilometres of the road in a standard vehicle and tour Trephina Gorge. You will need a 4WD car to see other attractions beyond that point.

Where Can I Stay Near The East MacDonnell Ranges? 

You can set up camp or park your caravan in the centre’s established campgrounds. However, you will need an off-road caravan to get to this point. There are basic facilities such as toilets, water supply, barbecues, and picnic tables ‌you can use. If you want to experience roughing it out in the great outdoors, the park also has gorgeous bush camping areas without facilities. This will give you a great unplugged camping experience. 

What Should I Do While I’m in The East MacDonnell Ranges?

  • Go bushwalking
  • Go camping
  • Drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle
  • Hike
  • Swim in waterparks
  • Ride a BMX bike, and a go-kart
  • View Aboriginal rock art
  • See the sights at the Arltunga Nature Reserve.
  • Join an astronomy show and an outback dinner 

Kings Canyon 

King’s Canyon, located at the heart of Australia’s Red Centre, rises 270 metres above sea level. Four hundred forty million years in the making, the Canyon offers diverse geological structures and sandstone domes. 

The indigenous community of the Karkke Aborigines leads an immersive cultural experience that brings its visitors on a journey into their culture and traditions. Their musical instruments, medicines, and language reveal their connectedness to nature. 

How Do I Get To Kings Canyon? 

You can take a five-hour car ride from Alice Springs using the sealed Stuart and Lasseter Highway. Alternate routes include the unsealed Mereenie Loop Road. You can use a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access this road. Ensure that you secure a permit, too.

Where Can I Stay in Kings Canyon? 

There are powered and unpowered campsites that provide a scenic view of the canyons. There are dedicated parking bays for your caravans designed to accommodate your motorhomes with ease. These campgrounds are equipped with several amenities for independent travellers, groups, and families. 

What Should I Do While I’m in Kings Canyon? 

  • Camp at the Uluru-Kata National Park
  • Go glamping at King Canyon’s Resort
  • Swim in the resort pool
  • Watch the sunset 
  • Hike towards the Rim Walk
  • Join an immersive cultural experience

Ayers Rock 

Ayer’s Rock Resort’s campground is an excellent location to pitch your tent, caravan, or motorhome. This aboriginal-owned location also offers many experiences, from shopping to relaxing at the spa and hiking adventures. 

The resort offers a sweeping view of the majestic Uluru, a giant rock with a deep spiritual and cultural significance. It is one of Australia’s most respected and recognised landmarks. 

How Do I Get To Ayers Rock? 

You can get a direct flight to Yulara from several cities such as Melbourne, Alice Springs, Sydney, and Darwin. You can also take a 465 km car ride from Alice Springs as part of your Northern Territory road trip. Hiring a campervan at the airport or joining a tour are also some of your travel options. 

Where Can I Stay Near Ayers Rock? 

If you want to experience the beauty of Uluru, you can stay at the Ayers Rock Campground. You can choose to park your campervan, motorhome, or caravan in one of the powered campsites or stay in an air-conditioned cabin. You can also sleep under the stars and pitch your tent under desert oaks. Make sure you choose the right tent to ensure you have a comfortable stay. 

The campsite offers barbecue equipment, a swimming pool, a playground, laundry facilities, and an outdoor kitchen for your convenience and enjoyment. 

What Should I Do While I’m at Ayers Rock? 

  • Spend a day at the cultural centre
  • Go bird watching
  • Visit rock art formations
  • Watch the sunrise and sunset
  • Join ranger-guided activities 

Katherine

Katherine is an excellent road trip pit-stop since it’s sandwiched between two destinations, Darwin and Alice Springs. This home to the Tjuwaliyn Thermal Pools is flanked by soft sandy beaches and majestic paperback trees. 

The Katherine Gorge boasts walking tracks, waterfalls, swimming holes, and rivers safe from crocodiles. This place also has something for history buffs- the Springvale Homestead, the oldest homestead in the Northern Territory.

How Do I Get To Katherine? 

You can hire a vehicle from Darwin Airport and drive yourself to Katherine. You can also join a tour or take a bus or train to reach the town. If you arrive in Katherine via public transport, you can easily hire a car in the area to get you around. 

Where Can I Stay in Katherine? 

The caravan parks in Katherine are considered some of the most comfortable in the region, so you’re assured of a good night’s rest amidst the sounds of nature. Some parks are a short distance away from bushwalking trails and boat cruises. Facilities include communal cooking areas, toilets, swimming pools, and a cafe. 

What Should I Do While I’m in Katherine? 

  • Swim in waterfalls, billabongs, waterfalls, and rivers. 
  • Go bird watching
  • Visit the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre
  • Enjoy hiking and bushwalking
  • Tour Museums
  • Soak in Katherine Springs

Finke Gorge National Park

The main attraction of the Finke Gorge National Park is Palm Valley, a maze of pinnacles, gorges, and sandstone amphitheatres. It is home to its namesake, the Central Australian Cabbage Palm, a plant only found in Australia. 

The park also provides a captivating experience of driving along the Finke River, one of the oldest catchments in the world. Visiting artists also revel in the unique rock formations found in the Amphitheater.

How Do I Get To Finke Gorge National Park? 

You can use Alice Springs as your starting point for this trip. You can hire a vehicle from there and travel 138 kilometres to the park using Larapinta Drive. The last 16 km is the sandy bed of the Finke River, so it would be best to use a high clearance 4WD vehicle on the get-go. 

Where Can I Stay in Finke Gorge National Park? 

You can pitch your tents in the designated camping areas along the Finke River. There are communal fire pits, gas barbecues, picnic tables, and toilets that you can use. 

What Should I Do While I’m in Finke Gorge National Park? 

  • Go bushwalking
  • Take a hike
  • Spot wildlife
  • Go on a picnic
  • Climb the Kalaranga Lookout
  • Wander through the Mpaara Walk and Mpulungkinya Walk

Dundee Beach Holiday Park

Only 140 km away from Darwin, Dundee Beach Holiday Park is an excellent location to enjoy the ocean. It’s every fishing enthusiast’s dream with its unspoiled fishing areas, accessible boat ramps, and exceptional fishing charters. 

Its pristine beaches offer a peaceful tropical escape made more memorable by a spectacular sunset view. You’ll get a chance to reconnect with nature and commune with turtles, birds, and crabs. 

 How Do I Get To Dundee Beach? 

You can drive yourself from Darwin and travel for about 140 km to get to the park. All roads are sealed, so any type of vehicle will do. 

Where Can I Stay in Dundee Beach? 

There are powered and unpowered camping sites that can accommodate your tents and caravans. You can use the park facilities, including a laundry area, barbecue equipment, boat ramp, and shops. Check out the local guidelines regarding legal beach camping to see where else you can pitch your tent in the area. 

What Should I Do While I’m at Dundee Beach? 

  • Join chartered fishing tours
  • Go boating and fishing
  • Swim
  • Enjoy birdwatching and mud crabbing 
  • Hang out at the Dundee Beach Trailer Boat Club

Gunn Point

Gunn Point Peninsula is a beach paradise with about 55 kilometres of pristine shoreline. It’s only an hour’s drive away from Darwin, making it an ideal part of your Northern Territory road trip. It’s a popular fishing and boating destination because of the accessibility of boat ramps. 

How Do I Get To Gunn Point?

You can reach Gunn Point Beach after an hour’s drive from Darwin. Take the Howard Springs road from the Stuart Highway and travel for about 50 km until Gunn Point. Roads are sealed so that you can use any type of vehicle. However, you can take your 4X4 on designated access points if you’re up to the challenge. 

Where Can I Stay Near Gunn Point? 

You can set camp in one of the designated areas, but you have to ensure to light up a small campfire only. There are no freshwater or toilet facilities, so you have to prepare for these situations accordingly. This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy some unplugged camping

What Should I Do While I’m In Gunn Point? 

  • Set up camp
  • Collect seashells
  • Go fishing and boating 

Tennant Creek 

If you want the genuine outback experience, make sure you drop by Tennant Creek as you travel along the Stuart Highway. This Red Centre destination offers a perfect mix of nature and culture with its iconic rock formations, historical reserves, vast cattle station, and gold mining heritage sites.

You can glimpse the rich Aboriginal culture and history at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre, considered one of the best in the Northern Territory. After a day full of exciting activities, you can have a relaxing picnic at the picturesque Lake Mary Ann. 

How Do I Get To Tennant Creek?

You can access Tennant Creek by car, either by driving south from Katherine, east from Queensland, or north from Alice Springs. You can also book a tour or ride a bus to reach the place. 

Where Can I Stay In Tennant Creek? 

There are several powered caravan sites to park your motorhome or camper without unhitching. You can also pitch a tent in one of the location’s remote bush camping sites. Facilities are limited in some camping sites, so you have to be prepared for it. 

What Should I Do While I’m In Tennant Creek? 

  • Visit Aboriginal art galleries
  • Explore the Battery Hill Mining Centre
  • Swim and picnic at Lake Mary Ann
  • Go on a self-guided walk at the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station
  • Spot wildlife at Davenport Range
  • Wander around the Pebbles
  • Enjoy birdwatching at Connels Lagoon

Jabiru

If exploring Kakadu National Park is on your itinerary, Jabiru is an excellent base since it has all the services you need for a stress-free trip. This main township has shopping centres, a library, and a service station. You can also enjoy its 50-meter swimming pool, sports club, and nine-hole golf course to warm you up for your next adventures.

How Do I Get To Jabiru?

You can travel south by car through the sealed Stuart Highway from Darwin. Expect a three to four-hour drive and plenty of opportunities for pit stops along the way.

Where Can I Stay In Jabiru?

You can set camp in one of the 186 powered and 100 unpowered caravan and campsites in Aurora Kakadu Lodge. It is an ideal place to stay since all Kakadu tours pick up and drop off at the lodge. You’ll feel refreshed after a long day of activities with their swimming pool, poolside bar, and lush tropical gardens. 

What Should I Do While I’m In Jabiru? 

  • Get to know more about Kakadu at the Bowali Visitor Centre
  • Take a scenic walk along the Bowali track
  • Immerse yourself in Aboriginal art at the Marrawudi Gallery
  • Participate in ranger-guided activities

Kununurra

Kununurra’s favourable weather ‌and breathtaking landscape make it an ideal place to visit during your NT road trip. It has things to do and places to visit for everyone- walking trails, wildlife, freshwater springs, history, and art. 

It also hosts world-class events, such as the National Argyle Swim, Waterski Competitions, and farmer’s markets.

How Do I Get To Kununurra? 

You can book a flight to Broome or Darwin, then hire a car and self-drive Kununurra. Travel from Broome usually takes 10-11 hours, while it takes about six hours to drive from Katherine. You can travel via a 4WD via the unsealed Gibb River Road from Broome if you’re up to it. 

Where Can I Stay In Kununurra? 

Kununurra has an assortment of powered caravan parks and camping sites that can fit your needs and budget. Most of them have pools, barbecue areas, shops, and visitor centres. 

What Should I Do While I’m In Kununurra? 

  • Ride a four-wheel-drive at Gibb River Road
  • Take a cruise on Lake Argyle
  • Ride a helicopter over Mitchell Falls
  • Trek through Bungle Bungles
  • Join an aboriginal tour 
  • Hike through Mirima National Park

The Devils Marbles

You can find boulders that are precariously balanced and scattered across a vast valley at the Devils Marbles. This mesmerising place is a sacred site owned by the Warumungu people. It was formed a million years ago and continuously eroded, creating a new view for every visit. 

You can learn more about this geological wonder through a self-guided walking trail peppered with information boards and signages.  

How Do I Get To The Devils Marbles

You can take a four-hour car ride from Alice Springs via the Stuart Highway or take an hour’s drive from Tennant Creek. 

Where Can I Stay Near The Devils Marbles? 

You can stay at a camping site or a camper park at Devils Marbles. There are picnic areas, barbecue facilities, and a fire pit; however, you need to drive a few kilometres to get firewood. There are public toilets and water, but no shower facilities. 

What Should I Do While I’m At The Devils Marbles? 

  • Go on a self-guided walking trail
  • Go bush camping
  • Spot wildlife, birds, crabs, and unique plants
  • Climb and wander around the boulders

When Should I Visit The Northern Territory? 

May to October is the region’s dry season. This is the best time to visit the Northern Territory. It is the time when the Red Centre is at its coolest. 

Do You Need A 4WD In The Northern Territory? 

You can take a road trip through the Northern Territory and visit several unique spots using a regular car. However, there are attractions ‌you can only access through a 4WD, such as some of the best areas in Kakadu National Park. Some gorges, waterfalls, and swimming holes are only accessible via unsealed roads, where four-wheel drives are necessary. 

Related Questions

Are There Dry Areas In The Northern Territory? 

Alcohol is banned in over 100 places in the Northern Territory. These are generally restricted areas controlled by the Federal and NT governments. The communities and parks have signages at the entrance to tell if they are alcohol protected or general restricted.

Are There Crocodiles In The Northern Territory? 

The Northern Territory has the world’s most enormous crocodile population. There are 100,000 of these predators out in the wild. You can learn more about these fantastic reptiles via guided tours or cruises during your stay. Remember to heed safety warnings and never attempt to find a croc on your own. 

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