Put your best foot forward to see the Northern Territory from a different perspective.
Most visitors don’t think of the Northern Territory as a hiking destination. Yet travelling on foot is the best way to explore many of the area’s signature sights. Whether you are looking for a day hike or are ready to tackle something more strenuous, there are some great options to explore the central desert and the delights of the Top End. You can discover hidden valleys, follow bush trails to remote waterfalls or see dramatic gorges. Whichever walk you choose, remember to take plenty of water, and avoid the heat of the day.
THE TOP END
Easy does it: You will rarely be alone on Kakadu’s most popular trails, but there are plenty of less- visited tracks where you can escape the crowds and soak up the park’s unique atmosphere. Try the Bubba wetlands walk, a 4km loop walk that starts at the Muirella Park camping area. Allow about two hours for this scenic stroll along billabongs and swamps dotted with waterlilies. Ghost gums, bloodwoods and paperbarks fringe the wetlands; the brown marks on the trunks of the paperbarks show how high the water rises during the wet season. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to take a dip: this is saltwater crocodile country.
Step it up: Litchfield National Park may just be the Top End’s best-kept secret: a lush wilderness studded with croc-free waterholes. It even has its own long-distance walk, the Tabletop Track, a 39km circuit that takes between three and five days to complete. For those who take a less hardcore approach to hiking, the last 10km stretch of the trail, from Walker Creek to Florence Falls, makes a great day hike. The landscape varies between arid savannah grasslands and lush monsoon forests; expect to spot water monitors and frilled-neck lizards as well as glossy spangled drongos, rainbow bee-eaters and colourful kingfishers. Bring your bathers; the forest-fringed Florence Falls, fed by twin cascades, is a fabulous place to take the plunge.
Go hard: Katherine Gorge is one of the Top End’s most visited attractions. It is also the starting point for the 66km Jatbula Trail. Done over five or six days, this is one of the NT’s signature walks. The track hugs the Arnhem Land Escarpment, following a song line of the Jawoyn people and offering magnificent views. This is classic savannah country: speargrass, termite mounds, and rust-red rocks. Camps are spaced between 11 and 16km apart; start walking early and you can be at camp by lunchtime. Each camp is beautifully situated by the water, and as these places can only be reached on foot, hikers effectively have their own private plunge pool beside which they can while away the afternoon.
THE RED CENTRE
Easy does it: The 10km walk around the base of Uluru is well-known, but the Valley of the Winds trail, which winds its way between the beehive domes of Kata Tjuta, is an under-the-radar gem. This 7km circular walk takes you through a hidden landscape of grasslands studded with ancient mulga trees, a green oasis where finches and budgerigars skim over the bushes and wallabies make their homes near rocky slopes. Although most of the trail is relatively easy, the valley does get hot during the day, so be sure to start your walk early.
Step it up: Kings Canyon is one of the Red Centre’s most memorable sights, its 100 metre high walls sheltering a hidden oasis stretching along the banks of a hidden creek. The 2.6km Kings Creek Walk along the bottom of the gorge is popular with visitors, but fewer people tackle the area’s other extraordinary trail, the 6km Rim Walk. You will need to be fit: the track starts with a climb up no fewer than 500 steps. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long before you start seeing magnificent views. There are incredible panoramas of the canyon and its features, including the sandstone domes known as the Lost City. The walk usually takes between three and four hours to complete, and you will need to start early. Daytime temperatures along the rim can be punishing, which is why there is no access to the Rim Walk after 9am.
Go hard: Just how hard are you prepared to go? Perhaps Australia’s most famous walk, the Larapinta Trail stretches a daunting 223km, running along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges. However, it is easy to pick out the most scenic stretches, which take in some of Central Australia’s most famous sights including Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge. The easiest way to tackle the Larapinta is with a reliable operator such as World Expeditions, which runs a 6-day itinerary overnighting at the company’s own campsites. With daily distances averaging between eight and 16km, this is the no-fuss way to enjoy this iconic experience.
It’s about time you did the NT. Visit northernterritory.com to start planning your adventure.
Ready to experience the NT’s best walks? For more information about planning a trip to the Northern Territory, visit Wotif and get a great deal on a holiday.