With cabin fever the new shared experience, the Northern Territory’s sparsely peopled, wonderfully vast spaces are beckoning. Leave your four walls behind and embrace the freedom of the NT’s wide open spaces at these 10 destinations.
1. Nitmiluk Gorge
Jaffa-coloured cliffs envelop you as you glide along a mirror-like Katherine River in Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, one of the most remote – and magical – destinations you’ll find in the NT. Whether you join a cruise, hire a kayak or hike in to check out the rock art, Nitmiluk will satiate your wanderlust while allaying any social distancing concerns. The gorge is near the outback town of Katherine; the best time to visit is during the dry season, from May to September.
2. Kakadu National Park
If you dream of visiting Kakadu, the months immediately after restrictions lift are a great time, as not only will local operators welcome tourism dollars but you’re likely to find the park emptier than usual.
That means you can soak up the beauty of the waterfalls by yourself. One of our favourites is Jim Jim Falls, which runs dry in winter allowing travellers to trek a 900-metre trail to a large amphitheatre and two cool plunge pools. The Ubirr rock art galleries and lookout are also a must-see.
3. The Larapinta Trail
One of the toughest and rewarding treks in Australia, the Larapinta is a top choice for those of us with a bad case of cabin fever. The 223-kilometre desert route leads through the West MacDonnell Ranges and takes around 14 days, making it one epic Red Centre adventure.
If you don’t have the time or fitness to take on the whole journey, the walk is broken up into 12 more manageable sections. Make the most of the experience by joining fellow hikers on World Expeditions’ six-day Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort tour with semi-permanent campsites.
4. Longitude 131°
The Northern Territory is home to some special accommodation and one of the standouts is Longitude 131° at Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Scheduled to reopen in September, the luxury camp features 16 tented pavilions with unobstructed views across a desert landscape to “the rock”. There’s also a restaurant and bar in a central lodge, with all the creature comforts you could want.
5. Kata Tjuta
Widely known as The Olgas, Kata Tjuta is a big group of domes about 40 kilometres west of Uluru (and actually taller than the monolith).
Seeing the 36 domes by chopper will impress, but if you’d prefer to get up close (or spend less) there are plenty of walks around the base. The Valley of the Winds walk is the pinnacle at 7.4 kilometres; it goes between the domes for a more secluded experience. You can also experience Kata Tjuta on a guided tour with AAT Kings, and there’s a dune-viewing area from which to catch sunrise and sunset.
6. Bullo River Station
Experience life on a working cattle station at this stunning property, which spans half a million acres in the East Kimberley. Spend your days working the farm, swimming in waterholes, catching barramundi, admiring Aboriginal rock art, and getting up close to iconic wildlife, including crocodiles and jabiru. As dusk descends, retire to your cosy, contemporary room, watch sunset among the boabs, or enjoy billy tea with other travellers for a standout holiday.
7. Alice Springs
Alice Springs, in the heart of Australia, may be one of the NT’s top destinations but you can escape the tourist buses on a number of day trips. Hot-air ballooning is a sure-fire way to distance yourself while still seeing Alice and the MacDonnell Ranges with Outback Ballooning. You can also join an Alice Springs Mountain Bike Tour with Outback Cycling (all fitness levels are catered for) as well as a camel tour with Pyndan Camel Tracks.
8. Karlu Karlu
Reconnect with nature at the otherworldly Karlu Karlu, also known as the Devils Marbles, in the Red Centre. The collection of huge granite boulders are part of Aboriginal Dreamtime (it’s believed they’re fossilised eggs of the Rainbow Serpent) and are a sight to see when sunset paints the landscape mauve. The boulders are up to six metres in height and can be found an hour’s drive south of Tennant Creek.
9. Kings Canyon
With sandstone walls soaring almost 300 metres skyward, Kings Canyon, in Watarrka National Park, is the kind of place you’ll want to, metaphorically, get lost in.
For serious post-ban fitness, tackle the six-kilometre Canyon Rim Walk (about three to four hours) that leads to the supernatural sandstone landscape known as the Lost City, as well as the Garden of Eden waterhole (for admiring, not swimming). It’s a tough walk so be sure to set out early to beat the heat.
10. Tiwi Islands Retreat
Our final recommendation for a socially distanced holiday is the Tiwi Islands and in particular the Tiwi Island Retreat. A true remote island experience with access to some of the best fishing and Aboriginal art the beachfront retreat is fast becoming a hero experience of the NT and Australia.