North­ern Ter­ri­tory

Libby larsen re­veals her lo­cal in­sights about the best bits of the NT for fam­i­lies.

Holiday with Kids - - Contents -

Libby Larsen re­veals her lo­cal in­sights into the best of the NT for fam­i­lies.

With breath­tak­ing red rock canyons, crys­tal­clear wa­ter holes and vast wet­lands teem­ing with wildlife, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory is home to some of the most awe-in­spir­ing land­scapes in Aus­tralia. Com­bined with the rich­ness of Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture, there’s no won­der it’s a bucket-list des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies.

Delv­ing into Dar­win’s de­lights

Laz­ing beach­side on the lawns at Café De la Plage, chilled tunes float­ing in the air while I watch my boys play­ing on the beach, I re­flect on what a spe­cial place Dar­win is for fam­i­lies, and how much I love this beau­ti­ful trop­i­cal city.

If you ask my boys what the best things to do in Dar­win are, they’ll drag you straight to Cro­cosaurus Cove to get a pic­ture with their friend Fluffy, the baby salt­wa­ter croc. There are some huge crocs at Cro­cosaurus Cove that you can learn about and watch be­ing fed at the Big Croc Show, but it’s not all crocs. Don’t miss the in­ter­ac­tive hands-on rep­tile talks. Next, my boys would in­sist you make a bee­line to the Wave Pool at the Dar­win Wa­ter­front for some fun wa­ter ac­tion.

Din­ing by the wa­ter is the best way to eat out in Dar­win. The Dar­win Ski Club and Stokes Hill Wharf are bril­liant for fam­i­lies, and Mindil Beach Sun­set Mar­ket is a spec­ta­cle not to be missed. For ac­com­mo­da­tion, Vibe Ho­tel Dar­win Wa­ter­front is just a hop, skip and jump from the Wave Pool and restau­rants.

A great half-day trip is the jump­ing crocodile cruise on the Ade­laide River, 50 min­utes from Dar­win. Watch­ing the mag­nif­i­cent crocs launch­ing them­selves out of the wa­ter is truly a sight to be­hold. There are a range of tour op­er­a­tors, but we love Ade­laide River Cruises.

Any trip to Dar­win isn’t com­plete with­out a visit to Litch­field Na­tional Park, a 1.5-hour drive from Dar­win. Bask­ing in the gush­ing cas­cades at Bu­ley Rock­hole and plung­ing into the pic­turesque swim­ming hole at the bot­tom of Florence Falls is pure bliss.

Cul­ture, cruis­ing and crocs in Kakadu

We’ve had some amaz­ing ad­ven­tures in Kakadu Na­tional Park over the years. I like to think of Kakadu as the ul­ti­mate out­door class­room. Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple have lived here for at least 65,000 years and are known lo­cally in the re­gion as Bin­inj or Mung­guy.

Be­lieve me, I’m not a morn­ing per­son, but the sun­rise Yel­low Wa­ter Cruise is worth get­ting up for. Be­ing sur­rounded by pink wa­ter lilies in the soft morn­ing light, with jabirus, croc­o­diles, egrets, whistling ducks, mag­pie geese and king­fish­ers on the South Al­li­ga­tor River Wet­lands is an awe-in­spir­ing way to start the day.

Gu­luyambi Cul­tural Cruise on the East Al­li­ga­tor River of­fers a unique lo­cal Bin­inj cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence. Our guide, Hil­ton, demon­strated his knowl­edge of hunt­ing tech­niques with mas­ter­ful spear-throw­ing. He also showed us lo­cal bush foods and medicines and how to make ochre. Our boys found it fas­ci­nat­ing.

One of the most breath­tak­ing places in the NT is the in­fin­ity plunge pool at the top of Gun­lom Falls. It’s a steep onek­ilo­me­tre hike up­hill to get to the top pool, but worth the trek. The bot­tom swim­ming hole is also amaz­ing and great for lit­tlies.

World-class rock art can be found at Nourlangie and Ubirr. I highly rec­om­mend a lit­tle side trip to In­jalak Arts in Arn­hem Land to do the rock art tour.

Jabiru, the main town in Kakadu, is a three-hour drive from Dar­win and has a range of places to stay. The most iconic is the Mer­cure Kakadu Crocodile Ho­tel, which, as the name sug­gests, is shaped like a croc.

Pad­dling about in Kather­ine

The im­pos­ing cliffs of Kather­ine Gorge in Nit­miluk Na­tional Park are dra­matic. The park is owned by the Ja­woyn peo­ple. Nit­miluk Tours runs ex­cel­lent boat trips through a stag­ger­ing net­work of gorges, or you can opt to hire a ca­noe, a great way to spot the area’s di­verse wildlife. After a day at the gorge, re­lax and re­vive at Ci­cada Lodge.

Stargaz­ing and rocky ranges in Alice

Cen­tral Aus­tralia is a place that gets un­der your skin and makes you want to re­turn again and again. Alice Springs sits in the mid­dle of the stun­ning Macdon­nell Ranges which are part of the Yeperenye or ‘cater­pil­lar’ cre­ation story for the Ar­rernte Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

Alice Springs Desert Park runs noc­tur­nal tours where kids can spot­light en­dan­gered Cen­tral Aus­tralian species like the ru­fous hare-wal­laby. At the Kan­ga­roo Sanc­tu­ary in Alice Springs, my boys ex­pe­ri­enced pure joy as they cra­dled and fed the baby joeys. It’s pop­u­lar, so you need to book well in ad­vance.

Take a drive out to the strik­ing Or­mis­ton Gorge, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Stan­d­ley Chasm for the kids to try to spot rock wal­la­bies that hop along the nar­row rock ledges.

Un­be­liev­able Uluru and cap­ti­vat­ing Kata Tjuta

Hav­ing worked as a park ranger at Ulu­rukata Tjuta Na­tional Park, I was keen for the boys to ex­pe­ri­ence this iconic Abo­rig­i­nal-owned na­tional park. Ulu­rukata Tjuta is a liv­ing cul­tural land­scape im­bued with un­fath­omable sig­nif­i­cance for Yankun­yt­jat­jara and Pit­jan­t­jat­jara peo­ple.

We headed straight to the park to watch the sun set over Uluru. The ex­tra­or­di­nary tones of red and or­ange at­test that there is no place on Earth like this.

We rode camels and biked around Uluru, and were hum­bled by the ma­jes­tic Walpa Gorge at Kata Tjuta. The boys loved the Dot-paint­ing Work­shop at Maruku Arts, a not­for-profit art col­lec­tive owned and op­er­ated by the Anangu, and learned how to tell their own sto­ries in the style of lo­cal artists.

You can fly di­rectly to Uluru or drive from Alice Springs, which takes around five hours. Voy­ages Ay­ers Rock Re­sort, just out­side the park, has a range of ac­com­mo­da­tion from camp­ing to glamp­ing. We opted for Emu Walk Apart­ments; be­ing self­con­tained, it’s per­fect for fam­i­lies.

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05 01 Rock Art Tour with In­jalak Arts © Re­becca Bart­ley 02 Camel at Uluru © Tourism NT 03 Gu­luyambi Cul­tural Cruise in Kakadu 04 Libby’s boys at Kata Tjuta 05 Thrills at Cro­cosaurus Cove 06 Uluru glows or­ange and red © Tourism NT. Im­ages 03–04 © Libby Larsen

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