Escape to a Northern Territory bathed in winter sunshine

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As southern Australia heads into winter, the best season in the Northern Territory is just kicking off. After wet season rains have left the land glistening, waterfalls are pumping, freshwater swimming holes are full and warm winter sunshine bathes the Top End and the Red Centre in a warm glow.

From May to October, travellers visiting the Top End and the Red Centre in the Northern Territory are greeted by sunny skies, low humidity and comfortable temperatures – it’s the perfect weather for outdoor exploring with most of the Territory fully accessible during the dry season.  

If you aren’t ready for summer to end, we’ve curated an enviable list of the best NT experiences in the Top End and Red Centre during the Dry Season. From Darwin’s sunset markets to swimming in the pristine national parks and a brand-new star-gazing outback festival.

The Top End

  • Relax on the beaches of the remote Tiwi Islands. Stay at tropical resort Tiwi Island Retreat or eco-friendly Tarntipi Bush Camp, and make the most of the island’s pristine environment and culture, from fishing adventures to indigenous art tours.

  • Participate in Australia’s largest Indigenous event, Garma Festival. From 30 July to 2 August, join the Yolgnu clans of Arnhem Land in a 4-day celebration of art, music, dance and ceremony. Garma also brings together prominent leaders, academics and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing First Nations people.

  • Follow in the footsteps of Jawoyn people and conquer Nitmiluk’s five-day, 58-kilometre Jatbula Trail. Before temperatures soar, commit yourself to one of the world’s best bushwalks, passing by waterfalls, monsoon forest, stone country and Aboriginal rock art.

  • Plunge into Gunlom Pool. Located on Waterfall Creek, Kakadu and a short distance from the carpark, Gunlom is surrounded by idyllic tropical scenery. A short steep walk up the escarpment rewards you with breathtaking views of three habitats – stone country, woodland and riverine, and takes you to a series of rock pools and waterfalls, perfect for a relaxing swim.


Gunlom Pool. Image NT Tourism Matt Cherubino

Gunlom Pool. Image NT Tourism Matt Cherubino

  • Soak up the sunshine and tunes at BASSINTHEGRASS, Darwin. On 15 May, watch artists, like Boo Seeka, Lime Cordiale, Ocean Alley, Peking Duck and The Rubens, grace the Mindil Beach stage.

  • Discover Indigenous culture at Taste of Kakadu. From 28-30 May, celebrate Kakadu’s cuisine, culture and country with a program that includes bush tucker walks, Nourlangie rock art tours, damper workshops, open-air cooking demonstrations and more.

  • Trial Nitmiluk National Park’s newly opened biking trails. Take on the 20km network and enjoy scenic views of ancient sandstone country and famous Nitmiluk Gorge.

  • Go waterfall/waterhole-hopping at World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Climb to the top of infinity-edged plunge pool Gunlom, enjoy a relaxing swim at Maguk and take a monsoon forest walk to Jim Jim Falls, surrounded by dramatic 200m-high cliffs.


Maguk swimming hole. Image Tourism NT Kyle Hunter and Hayley Anderson

Maguk swimming hole. Image Tourism NT Kyle Hunter and Hayley Anderson

The Red Centre

  • Go outback stargazing at Dark Skies Festival, Alice Springs. From 6-17 May, Earth Sanctuary will be hosting projection-based artworks, scientific talks, musical performances and workshops, all under the outback’s star-filled night sky.

  • Try brand-new Heli-mountain bike experience from Alice Springs Helicopters. Riders and their bikes will be chauffeured to one of five landing sites, where they’ll take in desert views and witness the vastness of the MTB network, before finally hitting the road

  • Hire a 4WD and go wild swimming at Tjorita, West MacDonnell Ranges. Take a cool dip and bask inside the soaring red walls of Ellery Big Hole, Redbank Gorge and Ormiston Gorge.


  • Go outback stargazing at Dark Skies Festival, Alice Springs. From 6-17 May, Earth Sanctuary will be hosting projection-based artworks, scientific talks, musical performances and workshops, all under the outback’s star-filled night sky.

  • Try brand-new Heli-mountain bike experience from Alice Springs Helicopters. Riders and their bikes will be chauffeured to one of five landing sites, where they’ll take in desert views and witness the vastness of the MTB network, before finally hitting the road

  • See the race that stops the Territory at the famous Uluru Camel Cup. Running from 28-29 May 2021, this is a quirky, fun-filled weekend of camel races, a reptile show, whip cracking display, Fashion on the Field catwalk and red dirt dance party beneath the outback sky.

  • Lace up your walking boots and explore Kings Canyon Rim Walk. The six-kilometre circuit offers panoramic views of the desert dunes, weathered domes of ‘The Lost City’ and Garden of Eden rockhole.

  • Take in all the Uluru has to offer on-board a camel, bike, Segway or Harley Davidson. For a unique experience that you’ll be sure to remember, pick a sunrise tour with Uluru Segway Tours, Uluru Motorcycles and Uluru Camel Tours, or hire a bike with Outback Cycling Uluru.

    About the author: Fiona Harper is a Queensland-based travel writer – follow Fiona at Travel Boating Lifestyle


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