From a luxe eco getway to canoeing through gorges, we've found the top escapes in the Top End. Plan your amazing weekend away in the Northern Territory now.
For cycling: Nitmiluk National Park
If bumping along 20 kilometres of mountain-bike tracks through Nitmiluk National Park in Katherine sounds like a good time, take the advice of Top End two-wheel enthusiasts: know your limits and beware the soaring temperatures that might slow you down. For anyone who’d prefer to take in the wild, rocky wonder of the bush at a gentler pace, the six-kilometre Jalkwarak trail can be completed on two feet as well as two wheels. Created in consultation with the traditional Jawoyn Elders, the network of paths wind over the top of rocky escarpments where you can squint into nearby gorges and descend into deep valleys, even intersecting with the Katherine River. After a long day in the saddle, 18-room Cicada Lodge is an oasis of outback luxury.
For food: Darwin Gourmet Tours
“Darwin’s food scene has matured in terms of fine dining and creative use of native ingredients,” says long-time local Darrel Trueman. In a classic COVID-19 pivot, the Kiwi-born, Canadian-raised communications professional launched Darwin Gourmet Tours in January after losing his job during the pandemic.
“My wife and I had an incredible food tour in Cambodia three or four years ago and I thought the concept could work really well in Darwin,” says Trueman, who takes guests on a threehour jaunt to his favourite spots in the city, from big-night-out restaurants to an Aboriginal bush-food-inspired café.
Each of the three stops on the dégustation-style tours has a touch of exclusivity: an audience with a chef such as Martin Bouchier, who celebrates NT produce in dishes like braised Eva Valley beef cheek with bush tomato ratatouille at hot new spot Phat Mango; the chance to sample a restaurant’s most popular plates; or an opportunity to try a dish that hasn’t made it to the menu yet.
The tours make several stops at historic and cultural sites along the way, with Trueman offering insights into Darwin’s unique culinary story. Covering just over a kilometre of walking all up, it’s an accessible urban adventure (with brollies supplied on rainy days) and itineraries can be tailored to your preferred time frame and interests.
“Whether you’re a local or visiting Darwin for the first time, you’ll learn something new,” says Trueman.
For a central stay: Hilton Darwin
The Hilton Darwin’s reimagined flagship restaurant, PepperBerry, opened in late 2020 and is already among the city’s top eateries. Showcasing modern Australian cuisine amped up with bush spices, such as salt and pepper crocodile with lemon myrtle aïoli, it’s a popular stop on Darwin Gourmet Tours itineraries. Overlooking Darwin Harbour, the downtown hotel has an enviable location, giving visitors ready access to whichever side of the city they’re in the mood for. Crocodiles? The cheesy-but-oh-so-fun Crocosaurus Cove is a five-minute walk away. Night-life? Make a left or right turn on Mitchell Street for rowdy outdoor bars. The famous waterfront? A short stroll – or grab a Neuron e-scooter to beat the heat. When you return, the outdoor pool on level 10 is a delightful cool down.
For incredible fishing: East Arnhem Land
Image credit: Tourism NT/James Fisher
Bremer Island in East Arnhem Land is a magnet for those keen to snare Spanish mackerel, tuna and reef fish off its stunning coastline. A 15-minute flight from Gove Airport, this paradisiacal spot is home to Banubanu Beach Retreat, a 12-guest eco getaway with canvas tents on elevated decks over the white sand, plus a bar, restaurant and a chef who’ll happily prepare whatever you’ve caught that day (pictured top). Book into the new penthouse bungalow, relax and soak up the property’s enchanting remoteness. If you’re lucky, you might also spot nesting turtles or their hatchlings.
For culture: Kakadu National Park
Just over three hours by car from Darwin, Cooinda Lodge is an outback oasis-style resort with easy access to Kakadu National Park. Delve deep into the traditional custodians’ connection to this richly varied land on an Animal Tracks Safari. Learn from the experts how to gather and forage before enjoying a meal of native foods, such as magpie geese, cooked on the camp fire at sunset.
Top image credit: Tourism NT/Helen Orr