Dry Season in the Top End
It is hard to believe that the Red Centre and Top End of Australia are in the same territory, considering the complete contrast in climate, landscape and lifestyle. While the Red Centre is known for its semi-arid desert environment and iconic red dirt, the Top End is warm year-round, and its tropical climate and endearing dry season is in our opinion the ideal way to escape the cold of winter.
A holiday to Darwin from May through to October may just be the easiest kind to pack for, with the daily weather forecast unlikely to change from 32 degrees and sunny. Although it is Australia’s smallest capital city, Darwin is bursting with contemporary cafes, restaurants, bars, cultural activities and of course some of Australia’s most spectacular and renowned National Parks are on its doorstep. It is a different kind of tropical paradise, that we promise will become one of your favourite holiday destinations.
The northern most capital of Australia is our most relaxed capital city by far, with the year-round warm weather creating a laid back, tropical atmosphere that makes for the perfect holiday destination for those who shy away from the hectic city pace of Sydney and Melbourne. Walk along the Esplanade waterfront, the centre of cultural activity, thriving with restaurants, shops and parklands to get a feel for the local lifestyle – what we like to compare to the feeling of a never-ending Summer holiday.
Although Darwin is also our smallest capital with a population of around 150,000 people, it is today a thriving modern city that is rich in Aboriginal culture, steeped with history and offers a plethora of things to do and see. If you are planning on visiting in the Dry Season, try to plan your trip to ensure you are in town for the Darwin Festival, which is an 18-day outdoor celebration of music, theatre, visual art, dance, and cabaret that offers something for any visitor.
The town’s unique and dramatic history is truly fascinating and is showcased in Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and the Darwin Aviation Museum, both of which you can discover on the AAT Kings Darwin City Sights Day Tour. And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to the Top End if you didn’t encounter a crocodile…
For an activity to get your adrenaline pumping, just an hour out of Darwin you will encounter the kings of the Top End up close on the Spectacular Jumping Crocodiles Cruise on Adelaide River. Home to over 1,600 crocodiles and an array of colourful birdlife, your wildlife guide will explain crocodile biology, territorial habits and their value to the eco system.
Travel 240km east of Darwin to discover the heart of the Top End and a land one can only describe as a natural paradise – World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park. The enormous, biodiverse nature reserve is home to some Australia’s most stunning swimming holes, over 2,000 plant species and wildlife, ancient Aboriginal rock painting dating back thousands of years, and around one third of Australia’s bird species – it is also Australia’s largest National Park, covering almost 20,000 square kilometres!
If we haven’t convinced you yet, here is our favourite spot in the park, Gunlom Falls:
As what we believe to be one of the most spectacular natural wonders to exist in Australia, the natural infinity pools and dramatic waterfall that overlooks the Kakadu landscape is a destination we promise you will never forget. A steep 15-minute climb leads to the top of the falls, the perfect place to swim and bask in the beauty of our great Top End. We think you need to experience this one for yourself on our Kakadu & Gunlom Falls Adventure Short Break.
On a greater scale to the Jumping Crocs Cruise on Adelaide River, witness the rich concentration of flourishing flora and fauna that exists in the famous Yellow Water Billabong, which is also home to thousands of saltwater crocodiles. It is Kakadu’s largest and most famous wetland consisting of river channels, floodplains and swamps. As a guest on the acclaimed Yellow Water Cruise, you will depart the boat with a wildlife guide who will spend either 90 or 120 minutes pointing out the vast array of birdlife, buffalo, crocodiles and other wildlife along the way, making it a must for those who wish to witness the Top End at its glorious best.
Kakadu is also home to one of the greatest recorded concentrations of rock art anywhere in the world, and some of the best examples of Aboriginal rock art in Australia are showcased at the must visit cultural sites of Ubirr and Nourlangie. With an AAT Kings guide, you will discover the art’s significance to storytelling, education and culture. While visiting Ubirr, be sure to stay for one of Australia’s best sunsets overlooking the lush green floodplains.
For those who are missing the beaches of their coastal homes, the incredible waterfalls situated in Litchfield National Park are the perfect place to cool off and soak up the beauty of the outdoors, in a completely different setting. A two hour drive from Darwin will find you at Florence Falls, characterised by its tumbling twin torrents that are surrounded by the tranquillity of the vine gully. You will never want to leave…
Also discover the natural wonderland of Tolmer and Wangi Falls on the AAT Kings Litchfield National Park Waterfalls Day Tour, which gives guests the perfect introduction to the Top End’s oasis of waterfalls only two hours south of Darwin.
The clear river of Katherine Gorge flows between towering, brilliantly coloured walls to form one of the most fascinating river canyons in Australia, and an iconic travel destination that deserves to be up the top of your travel bucket list. Situated 30 kilometres north east of Katherine and nestled in the heart of Nitmiluk National Park, the best way to experience its exceptional majesty and stunning landscapes is by cruising the Katherine River.
Wind your way along the 12-kilometre stretch, between cliff faces reaching more than 70 meters high, carved through the Arnhem Land Plateau. You’ll see ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, pass cascading waterfalls and river rapids. Spot crocodiles basking on the banks, wonderful bird life and some of the most amazing scenery that the Northern Territory has to offer.
Home to the world’s oldest living culture, Arnhem Land is the perfect place to be immersed in the vibrant Aboriginal culture. You can visit by boat or 4WD with AAT Kings. With an Aboriginal guide, you’ll see spectacular scenery and visit places inaccessible to most, including ancient rock art sites. Learn about traditional land ownership, bush skills, food gathering and bush tucker preparation and meet Aboriginal artists at Injalak Arts and Crafts Centre in Oenpelli.
To find out what the Top End is like during the dramatically contrasted Wet Season, read our blog: Wet Season in the Top End.
Watch our Top End video here.