skip to main content

The Top End

Map showing the Top End area of Australia

The Northern Territory is huge—six times the size of Victoria or roughly France, Spain and Italy combined. It’s so big that it has different climates: tropical and rainforesty in the northern half and semi-arid desert country towards the bottom. We call the top half the ‘Top End’ (the bottom bit is the ‘Red Centre’).

The Top End chunk of the Northern Territory covers four main areas:

  • Darwin, the NT’s capital city at the northern tip of the Top End
  • World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, three hours east of Darwin
  • remote Arnhem Land, a 90,000 square-kilometre reserve in the north-east corner of the NT
  • the Katherine area, about three hours south of Darwin.

The Top End’s tropical climate allows for a year-round outdoor lifestyle, which locals and visitors are renowned for making the most of.

The dry season, from April to September (when southern Australia is freezing through winter), brings warm, sunny days and cool nights.

That sees a packed Top End calendar of outdoor festivals and events, people cruising on the harbour and fishing for barramundi, and waterfront restaurants and outdoor bars brimming with people having a good time. The Top End is also known for its rich wetlands, wild rainforests and cascading waterfalls, which are all on show at nearby Kakadu and Litchfield national parks. Birds congregate in their thousands around the Top End’s wetlands, as do other iconic animals like the saltwater crocodile.

There are plenty of opportunities to encounter crocs—safely—in the Top End: on a river cruise, at dedicated crocodile parks and in the famous Cage of Death in Darwin city.

Do Darwin

Darwin is a modern, tropical city that offers a special blend of cosmopolitan and outback adventure. You can make it as action-packed or as laid back as you like. There’s no shortage of things to do in Darwin.

Wander around the many stalls selling local art and craft and serving food from every corner of the earth—Thai and Indian to Brazilian and Portuguese—at the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. Watch a movie under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema, or join a three-course dinner cruise on Darwin Harbour (many times the size of Sydney’s). Board the hop-on, hop-off bus to take in the city’s sights.

Explore Darwin’s rich history and its Aboriginal culture at the many excellent art galleries and history attractions. Ride the swell at the Wave Lagoon and soak up the outdoor lifestyle at the Waterfront Precinct with its restaurants, cafes, shops and sprawling lawns. Or jump on a fishing day tour out of Darwin to land a famous barra.

Pack a picnic and take the easy day trip to Litchfield National Park (1.5 hours from Darwin) to bushwalk through rainforest then swim under spring-fed waterfalls at Wangi and Florence falls or soak in the tiered rock pools shaded by rainforest at Buley Rockhole.

Board the ferry or a light plane to the Tiwi Islands to meet local Tiwi artists, explore the islands and make your own piece of art.

When the sun goes down, Darwin comes alive with some of Australia’s best restaurants and eateries, bars and pubs, theatres, nightclubs and an international-standard casino.

Do Kakadu

Oodles of Aussie and international travellers think Kakadu is one of Australia’s best-kept travel secrets. And it’s just three hours drive from Darwin.

Kakadu is World Heritage-listed for both its natural and cultural values—and for good reason. Kakadu is brimming with native wildlife, some 280 species of birds and giant crocodiles. See them on an early-morning cruise on Yellow Water Billabong.

Kakadu’s Aboriginal rock art is some of the oldest and best-preserved in Australia. Visit the rock art galleries at Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwur and see their fascinating record of Aboriginal life over some 20,000 years.

And Kakadu has some of the Top End’s most iconic landscapes—waterfalls, rugged escarpments, sandstone outcrops and rainforests. Explore it yourself or join one of the many tours running from both Kakadu and Darwin.

Top destinations in the Top End

Things to see & do in the Top End

Get inspired

Drive routes in the Top End

Download Top End itineraries

Search & book

Find accommodation, tours, activities and events in the NT


Sending you a postcard from paradise, also known as #EastArnhemLand 🍃 This is Lonely Beach, a very beautiful (and real!) place that you can explore on a tour with aboriginal-owned organisation @Lirrwi Tourism. They offer day and multi-day guided tours into the remote Yolngu Homelands, departing from #Nhulunbuy (#Gove) between April and October. You'll get to see how the world's oldest living culture still does things today - from traditional spear fishing to gathering of bush foods. East Arnhem Land is only a short flight from #Darwin or can be accessed via the Central Arnhem Road.  Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @haylsa!  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

Warning: You may never want your holiday to end at @skycitydarwin 🌴 Nestled on 30 acres of tropical gardens fringed by the crystal blue Arafura Sea, Skycity's centrally located resort offers stunning accommodation and dining options. Relax in one of the 152 stylishly appointed hotel or resort rooms, swim in their spectacular infinity edged pool or lagoon pool, enjoy the cuisine of their five distinctive dining experiences, indulge in spa treatments, and relax on the beautiful private beach. Not to mention there's a swim-up bar! Does this sound like your cup of tropical tea? If so, @Qantas are currently offering sale fares to #Darwin from most Aussie capital cities! Meet you at the swim-up bar 😉 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @jonesaroundtheworld. #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

We're soaking up some serious vitamin-sea with this spectacular shot of one our famous #Darwin sunsets at local culinary hub Cullen Bay. There’s really nothing quite like the incredible explosion of colour that fills the sky, best enjoyed at one of the bars or restaurants right on the water! Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @bryonyleigh__ .  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

Is Buley Rockhole the best all-round swimming hole in #Litchfield National Park? It's so hard to choose 💁‍♂️ Compact and easily accessible, it feels a bit like hanging out in a mate’s backyard pool, but in a setting a thousand times more beautiful. Once you’ve pulled yourself out, wander down the path and try the other swimming spots found at intervals down the hill. At just over an hour from #Darwin, the park is every local's favourite day trip with its waterfalls and waterholes, bush walks, four-wheel drive tracks and wildlife. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @eefexplores! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

#Darwin is well known for its amazing markets and @MalakMarketPlace is no exception! Held in the tropical suburb of Malak every Saturday over the dry season, the markets started in 2015 and have since become a must for locals and travellers alike. With sustainability at its core, this is where you’ll get to know the local growers and their fresh organic produce. Peruse the artisan stalls to meet jewellery makers, fashion designers and craftsman. Who knows, you might pick up a bespoke piece of furniture or artwork to take home with you. With food stalls, live entertainment and plenty to do for the kids, wandering around the market is the ultimate way to fill your Saturday arvo from April to October. We tagged along with @lyntontapp for a tour of Malak Marketplace - check out our story and link in bio for the full video. Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @savvy_social!  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #RestaurantAustralia

View on Instagram

Farewell #summer... said no one in #Darwin! ☀️😎 Not visited by winter and with a relaxed, small-town feel, our tropical capital city is perched on a harbour fives times the size of Sydney’s. Darwin is famous for its multicultural food, outdoor markets, waterside attractions and a warm holiday vibe year-round. If you're planning a visit, it's well worth hiring a car or joining a tour to Litchfield National Park or Kakadu National Park - both are within 3 hours' drive of the city. Talk about nature on your doorstep!  Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @eefexplores.  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

#EastArnhemLand, that vast, mysterious top corner of the Northern Territory, is one of @Australia’s last great untouched wilderness areas. Sure, you’ll get bragging rights for holidaying somewhere so far-flung, but there are many more reasons to travel to this spectacular part of the world. The region is home to some of the country's most pristine coastlines with a number of beaches just a short drive from the main township of #Nhulunbuy (#Gove), including Cape Wirrwawuy. Join a fishing charter and spend the day trying to reel in a barramundi or explore various bush walking trails through pretty wetlands, where you can spot native wildlife. East Arnhem Land is only a short flight from #Darwin or can be accessed via the Central Arnhem Road. Don't forget to look into permits before your trip! Check out our story for more epic scenes 🙌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @iamsavi.  #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd #ArnhemLand

View on Instagram

We interrupt your #Saturday arvo scrolling to bring you this Top End hidden gem AKA, Robin Falls 😍 Most travellers head to Litchfield National Park to chase waterfalls, but what many people don’t know is that just outside the park boundary lies this awesome three-tiered waterfall 🙌 It can be reached by a short walk following a crystal clear creek through pretty tropical woodlands. It's the ultimate spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy a cool dip only 1.5 hours south of #Darwin 👌 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @nuzz_simpson! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

We recently tagged along with @darwin_style to explore the #Katherine region's hot springs, including the magical Bitter Springs 😍 Hidden amongst palms and pandanus trees, this natural day spa is known for its ridiculously clear water and constant temperature of 32 degrees celsius. Bring along a tube or noodle and float with the current from one end to the other - there's ladders for easy access! These hot springs can be found just outside the small town of #Mataranka, an hour south of #Katherine or four hours from #Darwin. Want to see more of Lisa's adventure? Check out our story and link in bio for the full video 💦👍 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @darwin_style! #SeeAustralia #TourismTopEnd

View on Instagram

Do Arnhem Land

Experience ancient Aboriginal culture, dramatic landscapes and true Australian wilderness in Arnhem Land, one of the last untouched regions of the world.

This remote 90,000 square-kilometre reserve to Darwin’s east is wholly Aboriginal-owned land and has some of the Top End's most spectacular natural destinations, with beautiful scenery, rugged coastlines, remote islands, tropical rainforests and wetlands, towering escarpments and savannah woodland.

Stay in a beachfront eco retreat or explore Arnhem Land’s natural treasures at a safari lodge.

Into fishing? Arnhem Land is renowned for its prime, untouched fishing habitats teeming with prized sport and reef fish. Fishing lodges are dotted all over Arnhem Land, or you can join a charter from Darwin.

Do Katherine

The Outback meets the tropics in Katherine, a town three hours south of Darwin and home of the famous Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge.

Katherine has plenty of accommodation options and is your base for taking on the area’s many opportunities for adventure: fishing, camping, hiking, swimming, soaking in hot springs, cave tours, helicopter flights, canoeing, speed-boating, four-wheel driving.

Bring your hiking boots—Katherine is home to one of the world’s best bushwalks: the five-day, 58 km Jatbula Trail that takes in waterfalls, monsoon rainforest, stone country and Aboriginal rock art, camping alongside swimming holes.

For a softer adventure, take in Nitmiluk Gorge aboard a dinner cruise and stay in five-star luxury at the resort right at the gorge.

The Nitmiluk Visitor Centre explains this icon’s significance for the Jawoyn and Dagomen people.

Keep in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, deals and travel information about the Northern Territory. Data privacy statement