- Your Guide to Travelling the Northern Territory -
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The best adventures and hidden spots as told by locals, travelers and our own explorers.
Top End InspirationSee more stories from NT
Northern Territory Touring
From fresh local barramundi to trendy sushi burgers and campfire croc-in-a-pot, the Northern Territory has more than a few surprises for the food-loving traveller. When you think of Australia’s culinary hot spots, the Northern Territory is not usually front of mind. But it would be a mistake to discount the Top End from your list of must-visit foodie trails. Here are a few of our top picks. MINDIL BEACH MARKETS, DARWIN Right on the beach, the markets serve fare as bizarre as sushi burgers (deliciously awesome, by the way) to the freshest oysters and twisty doughnuts Once the bellies are full, there’s still plenty to do, including Indigenous music performances, watching local artists paint, and endless stalls of unique handmade articles to take home. GECKO RESTAURANT AT MARY RIVER WILDERNESS RETREAT, ANNABURROO Overlooking a panorama of the eco-tourism property of Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Gecko Restaurant is an oasis to enjoy a nice cool breeze on a hot summer's day. Its modern Australian menu featuring local produce has a French twist and, while it’s catered to all tastes, it’s pretty hard to go past the mouthwatering local barra. You can easily spend a couple of hours relaxing on the balcony taking in the natural surroundings. KAKADU LODGE BISTRO, JABIRU The convenience of having a restaurant and bar onsite at your caravan park cannot be overlooked, especially after a long day jam packed with activities. Strategically located next to the Kakadu Lodge's swimming pool, allows parents to refresh with a cold beverage, while being able to keep an eye on the kids. The menu once again features locally caught barra, juicy steaks and salads, as well as a selection of cocktails and a good beer and wine list. BOWALI VISITOR CENTRE, KAKADU The award-winning Bowali Information Centre offers much more than a place for travellers to get directions. Located in a natural bush setting, the experience starts the second you take the leafy trees walk from the carpark. The onsite cafe is a great spot to grab a coffee and a quick bite to eat before exporting wildlife displays and checking out the Aboriginal art mural at the end of the museum walk. FINCH CAFE, KATHERINE The modern and stylish Finch Cafe in Katherine has plenty of country quirk mixed with fresh local produce, immaculate presentation and great coffee. There are several healthy options for those watching the waistline, and there’s also a selection of locally-made products if you wanted to take home a foodie souvenir. MARKSIE’S STOCKMAN’S CAMP TUCKER DINNER, KATHERINE This is an unmissable experience on your drive through the outback. Dining under the stars next to a campfire may sound romantic, but Marksie’s kitchen is not quite candlelight and serenading with violins. Be prepared for a night of laughter, great storytelling and the exotic flavours of Marksie’s special Indigenous bush herbs. The three-course dinner represents everything you would expect NT flavours to be about – you are served crocodile, wild barramundi, camel, buffalo and kangaroo, presented as a hearty slow-cooked meal to die for. And it wouldn’t be a true outback experience without the billy spinning contest at the end of the night! BLACK RUSSIAN CARAVAN CAFE, KATHERINE I am a Melbourne coffee snob, and can confidently say the Black Russian Pop-Up Cafe in Katherine does a great brew. Running out of a 1950s-style caravan, it offers plenty of quirky style along with a unique selection of toasties and sweets, all made in-house. Conveniently, it is also located right outside the Katherine Visitor Information Centre, making it a perfect spot to start your day’s adventure. RUM JUNGLE TAVERN, BATCHELOR The Rum Jungle Tavern is everything an Aussie pub should be. The green oasis beer garden provides a great shady area, and its spacious air-conditioned interior means there's plenty of space to spread out while watching a game on TV. There's a generous selection of food, and has to be the best pub meal we’ve had throughout the entire trip. CRAZY ACRES MANGO FARM AND CAFE, BERRY SPRINGS Crazy Acres is a family run, 25 acre mango farm in Berry Springs.Whether it’s a quick refreshing ice-cream stop, or a breakfast or lunch, it’s all about the healthy goodness here. Surrounded by mango trees in every direction, with almost every dish incorporating mango flavours, you really do feel as though you’re in mango heaven.
Darwin InspirationRead more on NT
Delights of Darwin
From crocs to curious fish that eat out of your hand, Darwin proves a hit with the kids, as Travis Godfredson discovered. The Northern Territory has always been one of those iconic destinations that beckons every Aussie adventurer. There is so much history, culture, natural beauty and incredible wildlife – not to mention a very large rock – that it really is a rite of passage to spend some time there exploring. But the best part is that it's extraordinarily accessible for travelling families. We have three young children, four-year-old Molly and six-year-old twins William and Abbey, and by touring around Darwin we found a myriad of things to do to keep the kids entertained. CROC HUNTING The Top End is world famous for its prolific croc population, and there are multiple ways to safely get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. With all the build-up to the trip, the kids were restless to see a real-life croc, and they were not disappointed when we joined the ‘Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise’ on the Adelaide River. It's just one hour's drive from Darwin down the Arnhem Highway on the way to Kakadu National Park. Our guide Damien was a true blue Aussie in the mould of the late, great, Steve Irwin, and as he introduced us to his crocodile crew the kids sat with jaws dropped as these three metre ancient beasts jumped out of the water to claim their prize – a juicy piece of meat held over the side of the boat. There are predatory birds of all shapes and sizes here, too. Kites swoop to take small pieces of meat from Damien, who greets them by name. They are majestic birds of prey and it’s hard not to be impressed by them. Crocodylus Park, just on the outskirts of Darwin, is another top place to see crocs – and even pat them. It is home to more than 1000 fresh and saltwater snappers ranging from baby hatchlings to full-grown adults up to 4.8 metres. Here the kids can hold a juvenile and learn about what are one of the most ancient species on the planet at more than 200 million years old. The park also gives young ones the chance to hang out with a bunch of other cool animals including playful meerkats and young tortoises, feed monkeys as well as see dingoes, blue tongue lizards, and even lions and tigers. At the Museum of Art Gallery they kids can meet one of the NT's biggest crocs a five metre giant called ‘Sweetheart’. This big fella was the dominant male crocodile in Sweets Lookout billabong, a waterway located 55km southwest of Darwin in the Finniss River system. He had attacked a few dinghies in the late 1970s so the Parks and Wildlife Commission decided to capture him and relocate him. Sadly, he passed away after 780kg beast got entangled with a log while under anaesthetic. Nowadays, Sweetheart stands as a monument to crocodiles at the museum and our kids were pretty impressed with him. This is far from 'just another museum'. There is a rolling events calendar of fun stuff for the kids to do, including book reading, storytelling and activity stops through the various exhibition's and the museum's gardens. SOMETHING'S A LITTLE FISHY One of the coolest ways for kids to get right up close to the marine world is at the Aquascene fish feeding sanctuary on the water at Doctor's Gully. At high tide hundreds of fish swim up to the shallows to be hand-fed bread by eager locals and tourists. The fish are remarkably friendly – they have been doing this for more than 60 years. You can stand on the viewing platform's concrete stairs to feed all manner of species – milkfish, catfish, mullet, bream and rock cod – our kids were engrossed by this wonderfully close encounter. If you’re brave you can stand in the water so they frolic over your feet and around your shins as they gape for bites of doughy goodness. NEW FURRY FRIENDS Kids can never say no to a cuddle with a small furry creature, and the Territory Wildlife Park is the place to do it. Less than one hour from Darwin, the park consists of very deliberately zoned habitats to accommodate all manner of wildlife. There’s the monsoon forest walk, a wetlands, a walk-through aviary, rocky ridge and nocturnal house. The flight deck captured our kids' attention, with their favourites being a barn and a huge rescue wedge-tail eagle called Yarak. The park encourages interaction between visitors and its inhabitants, and at the reptile enclosure the kids pat bush rats, a baby wallaby and stare at iconic Aussie blue tongue lizards. There's a wonderful conservation focus and, an educational opportunity as well. William befriended a cute spotted quoll and begged us to let him take it home once he discovered quoll populations are declining due to habitat loss, frequent burning and cane toad poisoning. There are 24 individual exhibits in the park's aquarium that follow a natural journey from escarpment country through waterholes and billabongs to the sea. The aquarium is home to turtles, crocodiles, rays, barramundi, a variety of sharks and coral reef fish. BUDDING HISTORY BUFFS Of all the cities in Australia, Darwin has the strongest wartime history. RFDS Tourist Facility offers kids the chance to learn more about this incredible service, and there’s also the great displays about the bombing of Darwin by Japanese planes on 19 February 1942.These stimulating stopovers aren’t dowdy dad affairs that leave the kids lunging for the iPad either. They're seriously cool and feature interactive displays that make learning fun. There’s even a hologram experience for the kids to learn about John Flynn, who started the RFDS. There’s also another hologram telling the story of Rear Admiral Etheridge Grant, Commanding Officer of the USS William B Preston, who narrates his own version of the Bombing of Darwin Harbour. The kids also got to sit in the cockpit of a decommissioned RFDS Pilatus PC-12 aircraft - very cool. The Darwin Cenotaph, in the city's Bicentennial Park, is another unmissable historical spot. The kids can learn a little more history and then check out the view over Darwin Harbour. JUST COOL IT Another notable characteristic about the Top End is the heat – and sometimes you just need to beat it. Soothe tiny feet and flaring tempers with a refreshing dip at Berry Springs Nature Park, just a short drive along the Stuart Highway from Darwin. Here the kids can splash about in one of the many natural pools, go for a bushwalk or enjoy a picnic or snack from the kiosk on site. Howard Springs Nature Park is another top spot where the kids can cool off in its series of man-made rock pools and then say g'day to local wildlife including turtles, barramundi and a snake or two. It's a great way to let them burn off some energy, especially if you are planning a longer drive that afternoon. Come Flights to Darwin connect to each major city in Australia. Stay There are many and varied types of accommodation in Darwin, to suit all budgets. Our family hired a caravan and stayed in Discovery Parks Darwinhttps://www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au/nt/darwin/darwin Play Family-friendly activities abound in Darwin. Visit www.northernterritory.com/Drive for more information on the sites and activities mentioned in this story.