Tennant Creek, Northern Territory
Located approximately 1000 kilometres south of Darwin and 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs is the town of Tennant Creek. Tennant Creek is part of the expansive Barkly Region known for its cattle stations, gold mining, and Aboriginal culture. Considered one of the most authentic parts of outback Australia, Tennant Creek has is a must-visit for anyone travelling either direction along the Stuart Highway.
Things to Know About Tennant Creek
Before booking a tour of Tennant Creek, here's some information about the town.
The region around Tennant Creek has been owned by the Warumungu people for thousands of years before Europeans began to arrive in 1860. Tennant Creek is the site of several surviving telegraph stations that were a part of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line that ran up the middle of the continent. In the 1930s, the town was host to the last gold rush in Australia, and at the time, was the third-largest producer of gold in the country.
Next to tourism, mining is still a major economic activity for Tennant Creek, and over 200 tonnes of gold have been mined in the area over its lifetime. Mineral exploration is still occurring to this day to find deposits of zinc, copper, silver, lead, and more.
Since the completion of the Adelaide-Darwin railway north of Alice Springs in 2004, Tennant Creek has been fully accessible by rail. The famous experiential passenger train The Ghan passes through the town twice a week.
Barkly Region Flora & Fauna
The Barkly Region is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna that can be found across national parks and conservation reserves. The boulders that make Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles) provide shelter to several species like spiny-tailed goannas and fairy martins. Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve is also teeming with plant and animal life, with over 53 bird and 19 reptile species recorded in a biological survey of the area.
Things to Do Around Tennant Creek
Here are some of the most popular points of interest and attractions around Tennant Creek.
Battery Hill Mining Centre
Located just one and a half kilometres from Tennant Creek town centre is the Battery Hill Mining Centre, where you can go on an underground mine tour and experience what it was like during the 1930s gold rush. The museum has three exhibits dedicated to the lifestyle of the miners and the different types of minerals found in the region. You will even have a chance to see something truly historic - the last operating ten-head gold stamp battery.
Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles)
Approximately an hour south of Tennant Creek is Karlu Karlu, aka the Devils Marbles, a collection of hundreds of boulders that vary in size, with some even as large as 6 metres high. These boulders have formed over millions of years and continue to crack and change over time. The local Aboriginal Dreaming story describes the boulders as fossilised eggs left behind by the sacred Rainbow Serpent. The boulders will change colour with the sunrise and sunset, so be sure to grab your camera and arrive at the perfect time.
Tingkkarli (Lake Mary Ann)
Swim and relax around Tingkkarli, aka Lake Mary Ann, located just 5 kilometres north of Tennant Creek township. This stunning artificial lake is a refreshing break from the arid landscape of the Barkly Region. It makes a perfect picnic spot with plenty of shade and barbeque facilities to be found along its grassy edges.
Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre
The Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre is considered one of the best places to learn about Aboriginal art and culture in the Northern Territory. Learn about the local story of the 'Nyinkka', a Warumungu legend of a spiny-tailed goanna who created Tennant Creek. Here you can also meet the women of Julalikari Arts and watch them create pottery, paintings, textiles, and more using vivid colours. Enjoy guided tours, museum, and art exhibits, and then take a break at the 100% Indigenous-owned Jajjikari Café, which uses authentic Aboriginal herbs and spices in its menu.
Desert Harmony Festival
The Desert Harmony Festival is held every August in Tennant Creek and is a five-day celebration involving music, food, theatre, sports, workshops, cultural activities and much more. The festival highlights the diverse array of multicultural talent in the region and connects local artists with travelling productions.
Tennant Creek Telegraph Station
Travel back 140 years and visit the iconic Tennant Creek Telegraph Station about 16 kilometres north of the township. Take a self-guided tour and learn about the history of the Overland Telegraph Line and the pastoral development of the region. The Telegraph Station also offers some amazing photo opportunities at sunset.
Davenport Range National Park
This 112 square kilometre nature reserve is easily one of the best places to take a 4WD in the Northern Territory, allowing you to explore an expansive outback landscape and sleep under the stars. There's a diverse array of wildlife to discover in the park, including black-footed rock wallaby, emu, waterbirds, and many species of fish.
AAT Kings' Tours of Tennant Creek
Several of AAT King's outback tours include a visit to the Karlu Karlu, aka the Devils Marbles, before inviting you to spend a night in the historic gold mining town of Tennant Creek. See our related tours below.