The Northern Territory forms more than one-sixth of the Australian continent and is about 1600 kilometres from north to south.
The state that is in the centre of the frame for the Aussie film Top End Wedding is scattered with sandy deserts, includes landscapes like no other and an abundance of colour and rich heritage sites that the experts at Cosmos Tours have distilled into 11 days.
Enjoy a few extra days in Darwin
Arrive in Darwin a few days ahead of your tour traversing the Top End to enjoy Australia’s smallest capital and to view the evening sunsets that are so routinely spectacular they have a market named in their honour. In addition to meandering around Mindil Beach Sunset Market, and watching the sun melt into the ocean you should seize the chance to bond with your fellow travellers at the welcome drinks and informal meeting that marks your first night of the Top End & Central Australia Explorer tour.
Kick off for Kakadu
The hullaballoo of birds and insects can be heard the second you step off the air-conditioned motor coach and into Kakadu National Park. Today, the sightseeing will include a visit to Nourlangie Rock where you will follow the same tracks and songlines as your guide’s Dreamtime ancestors to see a collection of ancient Indigenous rock art. Learn about the bush foods and medicines stocked in the native pantry before tucking into the Top End’s famous barramundi flavoured with local foraged ingredients.
Wild animals and Warradjan
It seems the sky has been instructed to wear a shade of light blue for your arrival in Kakadu National Park, as you cruise the waterways of the Yellow Water Billabong to spot water buffalo, crocodiles and an abundance of native birds. Visit the Warradjan Cultural Centre to learn more about the local Indigenous people who lived and hunted around the region for up to 65,000 years. The rest of the day is spent at leisure, meaning you could choose to judder over the treetops in a helicopter, take a walking tour to Jim Jim Falls or simply enjoy cocktails around the resort pool.
Kakadu to Katherine
Day four sees you diving neatly into the depths of the stunning swimming hole near Edith Falls where you can float languidly until it’s time to leave. The tour continues travelling south along the Kakadu Highway to Katherine, a bustling little township on the banks of the Katherine River. Your evening is at leisure, and so we recommend dinner under the stars at Marksie’s Stockman’s Camp Tucker (open in the dry season) where your tin plate will be filled with stew and damper, which you can enjoy over a few yarns and billy tea.
From Katherine onto Tennant Creek
Rise before the sun on day five to join a dawn cruise that will take you through Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, a landscape of otherworldly beauty. Slice through the dramatic cliffs past sandy beaches and pristine wilderness as the sky changes from the colour of ink, to an icy blue blushed with pink. Plough a path through the pristine wilderness to encounter wildlife such as cockatoos, eagles and wallabies while learning about the history and culture of local Indigenous people. Enjoy your evening at your leisure at The Barkly Bar & Grill where you can linger over a cold beer and some pub grub.
Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles to Alice Springs
Intrepid Aussies on this Top End tour will no doubt have heard about the iconic Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles, a collection of giant granite boulders strewn across the landscape. But what they may not know ahead of the tour is the Dreamtime story about the six-metre-high rock formations, which are said to be the fossilised eggs of the Rainbow Serpent. Tour participants will also stop at Alice Springs Brewing Co. before arriving at the hotel.
The Alice in wonderland
The end-of-the-world cries of crows and sound of the gnarled trees creaking like old bones add an eerie sensory element to your excursion to Standley Chasm. Known traditionally as Angkerle Atwatye (‘gap of water’), your Western Arrernte guide will lead you through the ancient 80-metre-high gorge, which was carved into the sandstone in the West MacDonnell Ranges when the Finke River system was flooded.
You will tick off some of Central Australia’s top tourist attractions today when you visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service, School of the Air and Old Telegraph Station. You can’t visit a town like Alice without visiting one of the atmospheric places to eat or drink. We recommend you spend your free time at Monte’s Lounge, a circus-cum-cabaret-themed bar and restaurant.
Enjoy Kings Canyon architecture
Kings Canyon has evolved over millions of years and this day eight excursion is mind-blowing for keen hikers and nature lovers. Head into the canyon at midday when the sun paints the soaring sandstone formations in hues that range from tangerine to carrot, marmalade, marigold and rust – all chosen from the Dulux colour chart. Pull on your hiking boots for the Kings Creek Walk so you can sidestep clumps of spinifex, which are like tufts of flyaway hair, and rocks as gnarly as walnuts. The evening’s leisure activity could include a scenic helicopter ride or a simple sundowner with your significant other.
Say yoo-hoo to Uluru
Rise early to better appreciate the views from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk over the weathered domes of ‘The Lost City’, ‘Garden of Eden’ and ‘Priscilla’s Crack’. Arrive at Uluru in the cool of the afternoon where you can enjoy a locally guided tour around the base of this national monument followed by a visit to the Mutitjulu Waterhole, where you will find ancient galleries of rock art. Enjoy nibbles and drinks while watching the sun daub the sky in pastel shades of ’80s eyeshadow around Uluru.
Sidestep the everyday at Uluru
Rise early to better appreciate the views around Uluru and take a sidestep from the everyday. After admiring the deep-red hues of the world’s largest monolith, you could take an optional scenic helicopter ride over Kata Tjuta, where the 36 domes look like buttons embroidered on a red quilt. You can also spend your leisure time wisely and enjoy a tour on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a bush food experience or a hike around this wonderful open-air museum. The evening is spent farewelling your tour director and fellow travellers at a festive dinner.
Fond farewells at Uluru
You will have to say goodbye to your new-found friends eventually. Sadly, that time is now. Exchange Instagram handles over breakfast, which signals the end of your Top End & Central Australia Explorer tour and ask around to see if anyone else wants to join you and purchase additional nights in Uluru. It will be time well spent.
– Cosmos tours are all Covid-safe, with measures such as pre-trip health screenings, social distancing, and regular temperature checks. Learn more here.
– You may be sharing your experience with other travellers but rest assured these tours are aimed at like-minded Aussies, so expect to make plenty of friends.
– The itinerary allows for free time so you can make your own discoveries and enjoy some downtime, too.
– Guests can cancel their tour and get a full refund up to 30 days before departure with the purchase of SafetyNet Travel insurance.
– Meals include breakfast daily and three dinners.
Experience the Top End and Central Australia or pick from more great Cosmos itineraries such as the Tropical Island Discovery.
Day 1 – Arrive Darwin
Day 2 – Darwin – Kakadu National Park
Day 3 – Kakadu National Park
Day 4 – Kakadu National Park – Nitmiluk National Park – Katherine
Day 5 – Katherine – Mataranka – Tennant Creek
Day 6 – Tennant Creek – Devils Marbles – Alice Springs
Day 7 – Alice Springs
Day 8 – Alice Springs – Kings Canyon
Day 9 – Kings Canyon – Uluru
Day 10 – Uluru
Day 11 – Uluru