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About Northern Territory
An Australian adventure without a visit to the 'Top End' is a missed opportunity. This is where you'll find the magical red desert of Uluru and the wondrous wetlands of Kadadu National Park. And the best places to stay in the Northern Territory rank among the most relaxing in all of Australia.
Crocodile Dundee, with his broad accent, brown, leathery skin, cowboy outfit and big knife is most people's first encounter with the Northern Territory. But Hollywood hasn't strayed too far from the truth: the Northern Territory is a bit like the wild west in a stunning, but often unforgiving outback setting, with the added danger of some seriously deadly critters and the added fun of some slightly wacky characters.
People are eaten by crocodiles in the Northern Territory at a rate of one every few years - unfortunately it's often tourists who don't take the warnings seriously enough and are too tempted by the beauty of the billabongs. You also can't swim off many beaches, despite their beauty, because of the fear of box jellyfish.
But in this state people also hunt water buffalo from helicopters. And there are only two seasons. the hot dry season, when bush fires start from nothing, and the hot, humid dry season, when electrical storms decorate the sky for hours and many locals go a bit loco. So as you might imagine, the Northern Territory is very much its own animal, as are the folk who live here.
This was the last bit of Australia to be colonised by Europeans, and is probably the best place to learn about the Aboriginal culture. And of course it's where you'll find some of Australia's most stunning landscapes, from the biologically diverse floor plains of Kakadu to the hazy escarpments and mangrove swamps of the north to the rugged, sun scorched bush of the Kimberly ranges to the red desert around Alice Springs.
For around 50,000 years Alice Springs has been home to several groups of indigenous Australians and there's still a strong population and thriving local culture here. But despite being the closest town to the world's most famous rock, Alice Springs is still a four-hour drive away from the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where you'll find Uluru, and the less famous, but no less dramatic Kata Tjuta (or the Olgas). The southern edge of the Northern Territory is also where you'll find the Watarrka National Park, home to the magnificent King's Canyon, with its sheer 300m cliffs offering a death defying views.
State capital, Darwin sprawls in its tropical humidity, an extremely laid-back city. Darwin's pace of life abhors unnecessary exertions, and you'll soon find yourself falling into step, or stepping inside into the air conditioning. Darwin provides plenty of space for relaxation, in the pavement cafes and bars, the fantastically diverse covered markets and in the lush shady, bougainvillea and frangipani scented parks.
Despite being a long way from anywhere, Darwin is a cosmopolitan city, called home by people from around 50 different countries. This adds energy to the arts scene, and Darwin has some fantastic little museum and a surprisingly exuberant arts scene.
The Hotel Guru's pick of the best places to stay in the Northern Territory includes a wilderness lodge in the Kakadu National Park and the ultimate glamping experience with stunning views over Uluru.
The Top End
- Skycity Darwin has its own beach, and both an infinity pool and a lagoon pool, so it definitely qualifies as a resort. Its luxurious rooms look out over a calm bay or else the lush hotel gardens and there's a relaxed, tropical vibe in tune with the location.
- The Wildman Wilderness Lodge is a collection of fifteen safari tents and ten stand alone cabins in the wildlife haven of the Mary River wetlands. Luxury and fine dining await you after your animal encounters, and it's all great value - but very remote. Definitely one of the best places to stay in the Northern Territory if you want off the beaten track.
- In the heart of the Kakadu National Park you'll find Jabiru, the town in the park, and in the heart of town you'll find the Kakadu Crocodile Hotel - a crocodile shaped hotel. Spacious, clean and cool, this hotel will keep you as comfortable as possible while exploring the park.
- For the ultimate in Top End luxury there's Bamurru Plains, a 'wild bush camp' with just nine stand alone bungalows and all the luxury you can imagine. You're right by the coast and the Mary River wetlands, and there's an excellent chance you'll see crocodiles, wild boar, water buffalo and wallabies - and of course an amazing array of birdlife.
- The luxurious Cicada Lodge offers spacious rooms with amazing views over the Katherine Gorge. It's perfect for those wanting to explore Australia's fauna, with indigenous guides on site for wildlife tours.
The Red Centre
- Longitude 131° allows you to stay right by Uluru, in what's probably the world's most luxurious tented camp experience. The fifteen tents are tents only so far as they're covered with white sails of tarpaulin, but they're permanent structures with plumbing and cooling systems. As well as catering for your every need, a stay here allows you the optimum amount of time to just gaze on the wonder of this rock, rising grandly out of the desert.
Best Hotels in Northern Territory
Wildman Wilderness Lodge 25 rooms from $86Kakadu National Park
Wilderness luxury at its best with ten stand-alone cabins and fifteen safari tents offering comfort and luxury in the heart of the wildlife haven of the Mary River wetlands. Air conditioning, fresh linen and fine dining await after a day taking in the magnificent surrounding scenery and animal life.CyclingRemote - Off the beaten track.Views - Great views from hotelBarefoot Luxury - For total relaxation.
Kakadu Crocodile Hotel from $91Jabiru, Kakadu National Park
This crocodile-shaped hotel does not disappoint. Spacious, clean and cool rooms are complimented by top amenities including a a swimming pool and nearby tennis courts. A stunning location in Kakadu National Park.Back to Nature - Located in the spectacular Kakadu National ParkOutstanding locationHideaway - Tranquil and intimate.Remote - Off the beaten track.Recommended by - Fodors
Skycity Darwin 152 rooms from $121Darwin (49137)
With its own private beach area, an infinity and lagoon pool, this is the ultimate chill out resort. Luxurious rooms look out on to the bay and the beachside garden, with the decor matching the tropical location.Swimming Pool - Infinity edge pool, plus lagoon swimming pool on the beachGreat walks - Good for walkers.SpaOn the beach - In front of the hotel.
Cicada Lodge 18 rooms from $282Northern Territory
Luxury hotel offering spacious, air conditioned ensuite rooms and a swimming pool with magnificent views across the Katherine gorge. Original work by Australian artists hangs on walls. Take advantage of indigenous guides and wildlife tours to take in this unique landscape.Views - Across distinct sandstone country above the gorgeBirdwatching - Over 192 species in regionFull of characterOutstanding locationRecommended by - Fodors
Bamurru Plains 9 rooms from $364Kakadu National Park
Wild bush luxury comes no better than this, with nine spacious stand alone bungalows privately situated amongst the pandanus vegetation on the edge of the Mary River wetlands. Organic cotton sheets and high pressure showers ensure comfort, and the wildlife spotting opportunities are endless.Restrictions on children - Must be over eight years oldBarefoot Luxury - For total relaxation.Outstanding locationHideaway - Tranquil and intimate.Recommended by - I Escape, Mr & Mrs Smith
Longitude 131° 15 rooms from $796Alice Springs
With breathtaking views out to the sacred Uluru rock, this is the ultimate glamping experience. Every need is catered for during a stay, with luxurious tents combining style, sophistication and comfort in the most glorious way. Al freso dining is a must.Views - Tents look out onto the magnificent UluruRestrictions on children - Must be over twelveBarefoot Luxury - For total relaxation.Outstanding locationRecommended by - Tablet, Fodors, Mr & Mrs Smith