A few weeks ago I had the fortune of being invited by Tourism NT to go over and explore the Top End of the Northern Territory, namely Darwin and Katherine. To be completely honest, I had not heard too much about the top end prior to this trip, but in the short span of five days I was completely blown away by the beauty and truly authentic Australian experience that this region had to offer.
Imagine waking up in the morning, walking out to your balcony to your own private white sand beach… Welcome to SkyCity Darwin. Dive right in for a refreshing morning dip straight from your balcony, and swim to the bar and enjoy a cocktail or your drink of choice. It’s not even noon yet? Shh.. I won’t tell. 😉
When you get bored of this pool (unlikely, but you know, just in case), feel free to stroll around to another amazing pool this hotel has to offer: the infinity pool! Enjoy some poolside antipasto or a fruit platter and watch the sun set in the horizon…
MINDIL BEACH MARKETS
Located on the iconic strip overlooking Mindil Beach, this sunset market features over 300 stalls offering all sorts of food and drinks, as well as specialty arts and crafts. It’s also the perfect spot the enjoy the epic sunsets that Darwin is so famous for.
LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
Home to several stunning tropical waterfalls that cascade into crystal clear pools, monsoon rainforests, intriguing magnetic termite mounts and more, Litchfield National Park is a must when visiting the Top End. We first checked out Wangi Falls and enjoyed a beautiful picnic breakfast there, then headed to Buley Rockhole, and ended the day with a refreshing dip at Florence Falls.
DARWIN RIVER TAVERN
Hungry? Fear not! Plenty of good eats around Darwin. A hightlight of our trip was Darwin River Tavern. One of the most recognized taverns in the region, Darwin River serves amazing pub food in generous portion sizes.
Darwin River Tavern is also one of the stops for the epic Heli Pub Crawl by Airbourne Solutions. Yes. Heli Pub Crawl! Need I say more? Didn’t think so.
STREETER PEARL LUGGER CRUISE
One of the best ways to experience a Darwin sunset is from a boat. Streeter is a historic pearl lugger that now runs sunset cruises everyday. You can BYO drinks and even food onboard to enjoy while you sit back for an informative and relaxing evening with some breathtaking views.
NITMILUK NATIONAL PARK
Our next destination was Nitmiluk National Park, 244 km southeast of Darwin, around a series of gorges on the Katherine River and Edith Falls. We unfortunately missed out on the famous Edith Falls due to some unexpected hiccups on the road, but we did eventually arrive in the beautiful Cicada Lodge safe and sound.
Located inside Nitmiluk National Park, Cicada Lodge is luxury accommodation and joint venture between the Jawoyn people and Indigenous Business Australia, bringing a new element of quality service and authenticity to Katherine and Australia’s Top End. Each of the 18 rooms within the lodge features its own balcony with a view of the distinct sandstone country above the Katherine Gorges. And of course there is also a lovely outdoor pool too. It is almost a must given how hot the Top End gets!
After some sunset poolside canepé, we enjoyed dinner at the lodge restaurant and went on a mission to do some astrophotography. Let’s just say it was a fail… Way too much clouds (and cane toads) got in the way of what would have been one of the best locations to star gaze. Oh well. Bed time it is.
Well rested and ready to rock and roll at 5 a.m., we armed ourselves with torches and hiked in the dark from the lodge to Baruwei Lookout. (Really it was just a 30 minute walk.)
We made it to the lookout just in time for sunrise; and my oh my, was it a beautiful sunrise…
Another way to explore the Katherine Gorges (a must-do!) is the Nitmiluk Gorge Cruise. We did the Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Cruise which includes the two gorge cultural cruise, three-course candle light dinner featuring fresh, local Australian produce cooked on board, and a complimentary glass of sparkling wine!
It was a truly exceptional experience listening to our tour guide talk about Dreamtime stories of the traditional owners of the land, the Jawoyn people, while watching the magnificent Nitmiluk Gorges changing color with the setting sun, from red to orange to golden to purple to star-lit… Just magical.
Oh sweet Bitter Springs. How I had never heard about this beautiful oasis in the Top End until now is beyond me. The Bitter Springs are fresh water thermal pools, with some of the clearest water you’ll see, set amongst palm trees and tropical woodlands inside the Elsey National Park. Words don’t do this paradise justice so just see for yourself!
CRAZY ACRES MANGO FARM & CAFE
Calling all mango lovers! A family run, 25 acre mango farm in Berry Springs, Crazy Acres is the place you will find delicious homemade goodies (such as preserves and even soy candles) and a menu full of dishes made from the delicious Kensington Pride mangoes grown on the property!
My favorite was definitely the mango & banana smoothie bowl topped with homemade granola and greek yogurt. So refreshing and just perfect for this NT weather! Oh, and their mango cheesecake is amazing, too!
And this about concludes my short trip to the Top End. As I have mentioned before, my time there well and truly exceeded all expectations I had previously had and I must say the NT is very underrated as a travel destination. I enjoyed my time there and cannot wait to return and explore the rest of NT. Uluru, I’m coming for you next!