Northern Territory Itinerary: An Epic Guide to Australia’s Top End

In April 2024, my brother and I took a bucket list trip to Australia’s Northern Territory to explore what many call the country’s hidden gem. We spent six days exploring National Parks, billabongs, deep canyons, and scenic waterfalls and saw plenty of crocodiles, too. Thanks to an awesome Northern Territory itinerary, we crossed off so many crazy views and experienced the best that the Top End has to offer.

It was a genuinely amazing experience that surprised me in so many ways. Inside, you’ll find our entire itinerary, all the places we saw and stayed, and gorgeous photos that will inspire a trip.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to more fantastic adventures.

Epic Things to See in the Northern Territory Top End

Here are some of the best sights we saw during our Northern Territory Itinerary.

Kakadu National Park

Motor Car Falls

a long exposure shot of motor car falls
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This was the best waterfall hike we did in the Northern Territory. While it’s utterly beautiful, and the water feels so nice, I think what set this one apart was that we had it to ourselves for 98% of the time we were there. It’s a magical oasis, and having no one else around is not an experience you get often in the US.

It was a 5-6 mile hike with minimal elevation gain. However, as was a theme for this trip, it was quite warm, so bring plenty of water and sun protection.

Boulder Creek Falls

Near Motor Car Falls, this is a shorter hike, though less spectacular. After seeing the photos, I’m really glad we got to do Motor Car Falls.

Doors off Kakadu Heli-Flightseeing Tour

jim jim falls with a ranbow at the bottom of the waterfall
Photo Credit Alec Sills-Trausch

This was, hands down, the highlight of the trip. First, it was informative. Our pilot taught us so much about Kakadu National Park and how the Aboriginal people lived here for thousands of years.

Then, we saw half a dozen waterfalls, including the epic Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. Overall, I couldn’t recommend this flight tour enough.

looking down at twin falls in kakadu national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Yellow River Cruise

lovely reflection from our yellow river water cruise in kakadu
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

After a busy day, hopping on the cruise was a great way to cap off our first day in Kakadu. We spent two hours sightseeing, spotting wildlife (white-bellied sea eagles, crocodiles, and more), and learning more about this area.

This is a perfect activity for families with kids before dinner.

two white bellied sea eagles perched on a tree branch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock Art)

aboriginal rock art from kakadu national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

On our first morning in Kakadu National Park, we took an Aboriginal Rock Art Tour, which was incredibly informative and beautiful. Learning about the history of rock art in this area and seeing just how recent these creations were (1960’s) blew my mind!

You can book a tour or explore it on your own. Please tread lightly and do not touch the rock art.

Nawurlandja Lookout

We took a quick scamper up this after our morning rock art tour. While we went early in the day, the Nawurlandja Lookout is perfect for sunset and should be doable for all hikers.

Nitmiluk National Park

Edith Falls

the main waterfall at upper edith falls
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Edith Falls was an awesome place to see. The 1.5-mile trail from the parking lot to the water and back is worth the 300 feet of elevation gain.

The one unique part is the current is decently strong, creating a mini-water slide that shoots you from one pool to another. It’s a perfect place to bring the family and enjoy the sunny days.

One note: You want to hike to the upper pools, which will be crocodile-free. The lower pools could occasionally have crocs, especially near the end of the wet season.

Southern Rockhole Falls

southern rockhole waterfall was a favorite on our northern territory itinerary
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

We missed the ferry by a few minutes and had to hike in. While the trail wasn’t bad (a steep uphill to start and then easy), it was hot and humid. But the reward – a swimming hole – was unbelievable. This one’s a must-see and so dang fun.

Nit Nit Dreaming Two Gorge Cruise in Katherine Gorge

katherine gorge in nitmilkuk national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This was an interesting tour from a historical and geological perspective. You learned a good amount about aboriginal culture, why this area is essential, and how it has evolved.

Maybe it was the exhaustion of the last day, but the tour felt a little lackluster overall and didn’t have too many exciting features from a photography standpoint. But you still get to see a beautiful canyon and enjoy a boat ride!

Baruwei Lookout

the sun coming up over a rock at sunrise from nitmiluk national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

A short hike gets you up above the Katherine Gorge. We went for sunrise and watched light flood through the canyon. I highly recommend this for a relatively easy morning stroll.

Litchfield National Park

Spending time within the physical national park boundaries wasn’t a priority for this trip, so we only saw a couple of spots on the way back to Darwin. From the looks of it, there are plenty of epic spots to explore!

Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole

florence falls in litchfield park near darwin, nt
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This was a quick trip for our group and the last stop on our Northern Territory itinerary. But it’s pretty awesome and a Top End favorite! Overall, this is a pretty easy 2-mile round-trip hike to the bottom. The first part is flat before you hit stairs that take you to water level. It’s around 175 feet of gain.

I estimate the walk to and from the water took s less than 30 minutes.

Magnetic Termite Mounds

a tourist looks at a termite mound
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

We used this to stretch our legs after being in the car for three hours. And how often do you get to see massive termite mounds? Nothing exciting, just unique.


Sunset Champagne Sail

a gorgeous sunset from the darwin harbor. This was our first stop on our northern territory itinerary
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Our sunset cruise was the perfect introduction to the Northern Territory and Darwin. After a long day—literally—of flying from Seattle, we got to relax on a boat, watch the sunset, and snack on appetizers. It was A++.

Darwin to Kakadu Guided Tour

Our Northern Territory Itinerary

Here’s a brief rundown of how our Top End trip was organized. It was a fantastic way to see these hidden Australian gems. Enjoy my Northern Territory itinerary.

Day 1 in the Northern Territory

an australian flag waves off the boat
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Day 2 in the Northern Territory

  • Travel: Darwin to Top End Safari Campg – 90 minutes
  • Lodging: Top End Safari Camp
  • What we did: We enjoyed a half-day adventure at the Top End Safari Camp. This included an airboat tour to see crocodiles, a larger boat excursion to relax and enjoy the views (snacks and drinks provided), a short helicopter ride over the area, and then relaxing by the pool with dinner later on.
A crocodile enjoys the sunlight
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Day 3 in the Northern Territory

  • Travel: Top End Safari Camp to Kakadu Air – 3.5 hours, then 45 minutes to Cooinda Lodge
  • Lodging: Cooinda Lodge
  • What we did: 60-minute flight over Kakadu Falls to see Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls, and more; Yellow Water Billabong Cruise

30-Minute Kakadu Helicopter Flight

a rainbow a the bottom of jim jim falls. This was the highlight of our northern territory itinerary
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Day 4 in the Northern Territory

  • Travel: Within Kakadu National Park (about three hours overall)
  • Lodging: Cooinda Lodge
  • What we did: Rock Art Tour, Hiked up to Nawurlandja Lookou, Hiked to Motor Car Falls
Motor Car Falls in Australia's Northern territory
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Day 5 in the Northern Territory

  • Travel: Cooinda to Edith Falls – 2.5 hours – Edith Falls to Nitmiluk National Park 1.25 hours
  • Lodging: Nitmiluk Cabins (or Cicada Lodge for a nicer stay)
  • What we did: Southern Rockhole Falls hike (ferry option available, too)

All Lodging Options Near Nitmiluk NP

Day 6 in the Northern Territory

  • Travel: Nitmiluk National Park to Florence Falls – 3.5 hours, Florence Falls to Darwin – 1.75 hours
  • Lodging: Adina Hotel in Darwin
  • What we did: Buruwei Lookout for sunrise, Nit Nit Dreaming Two Gorge Cruise, Florence Falls
One of the unnamed waterfalls we flew over on our northern territory itinerary.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What to know about visiting the Northern Territory

Bring an Outlet Converter

Thankfully, my brother had one, or else I’d have had to buy one. American outlets differ from Australian ones, so your chargers won’t work without a converter. (Note that these are different from UK plugs.)

You can snag one of these for relatively cheap.

Flight time from Syndey

From Sydney to Darwin, it’s around a 4.5-hour flight, which is a little less than a cross-country flight across the United States. Or, to be more precise, it is like flying from Jacksonville, FL, to Calgary, AB.

I flew Qantas, and it was really nice. The entire flight had free WiFi, a screen behind each seat, and a meal included. You’e


Writing this in May of 2024, I can only expect some fluctuations going forward. What you need to know is Australia is more expensive than the US, but our dollar also goes further. When I visited, the exchange rate was about 55 cents USD per 1 Australian dollar.

This means that whatever you buy will be about half as expensive when it hits your credit card statement.

Additionally, gas is quite expensive. They pay by the liter, and there are about 3.8 liters in a gallon. In the Northern Territory, gas was around $2 per liter, meaning each gallon to us Americans would be approximately $7.60.

Puts our $4.50 per gallon prices in perspective, huh?

Driving Distances

Throughout our trip to Australia’s Northern Territory, we never went over a 4.5-hour day—which I think happened only once when we went from Nitmiluk to Darwin on our final day.

Almost all roads are 100kmph or 110kmph, single-lane (with some passing lanes sprinkled in), and predominantly empty. One thing you should know about the Northern Territory is its Road Trains. These are semi-trucks, but instead of pulling one or two loads, they’re carrying three or four.

It’s like encountering a literal train on the road. This makes passing them incredibly difficult and stressful.

a hiker climbs the stairs in nitmiluk national park. It was a fan favorite on our northern territory itinerary.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Dry Season vs Wet Season

If you get down to the nitty-gritty, they might technically have more than two seasons. But overall, there’s the wet season and the dry season, and it’s as simple as that.

The wet, tropical season is from November through April, and the dry season is from May to October. So, as you plan out your Northern Territory itinerary, think about what you’d like to do. Most people visit during the dry season, though locals say the wet season is incredible.

Single and Multi-Day Tours from Darwin

Wet Season Characteristics

  • Temperatures ranging from mid 70’s to low 90’s (25C-33C)
  • 60+ inches of rain
  • Humidity up to 80%
  • A lot of the Top End floods and makes some places unreachable
  • Crazy monsoon storms

Dry Season Characteristics

  • Temperatures in the 70s to 90s (20C-30C)
  • Low humidity (30%)
  • Almost no rain
  • When the dragonflies appear, the dry season is here (this is a common phrase)
  • The top end becomes more accessible, and waterfalls are safer to swim in
  • More outdoor activities occur throughout the Darwin area

The difference between the top end vs the Red Center (Centre)

As you can tell, I haven’t been to the Red Center, so I’ll keep this brief.

It seems to be the legitimate Outback, where you can find kangaroos. (The Top End doesn’t have them.) It’s also far drier and hotter during the summer months and chilly during the winter months.

It’s also a heckuva travel day to get down to Alice Springs and Uluru. I would not recommend combining the Top End and Red Center into a single Northern Territory itinerary unless you have at least three weeks to explore.

Driving (not wise) will take you 15 hours. A flight is slightly over two hours and could cost more than $500+. And that’s just to Alice Springs. To reach Uluru, anticipate another 5 hours of driving.

That said, I have seen some pretty incredible places down here, and if I ever make it back, I would love to check out the National Parks.

What I Brought to Wear on This Trip

Because of the warm temperatures – 90 degrees plus high humidity, you’ll want light clothing.

For me, I brought a lot of moisture-wicking clothes such as athletic shirts, light-wool hiking shirts, and sun hoodies to protect my body from the sunlight.

Here’s everything I brought:

  • Two sun hoodies
  • Two long sleeve hiking shirts (only wore one)
  • Hiking Shorts and then athletic shorts
  • 1 pair of pants (for dinner)
  • Hiking socks
  • Hiking Boots (we went to Tasmania after this and needed waterproof ones but wanted to pack light, so I only brought one pair of hiking footwear)
  • Headlamp
  • Hiking backpack
  • Camera and Lenses
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Bathing Suit
  • Sandals
  • Passport

Where to Stay During Your Northern Territory Itinerary

Top End Safari Camp (North of Litchfield National Park)

This is a pretty cool concept and really gets you off the beaten path and away from city life. They didn’t offer WiFi, so we were totally off the grid. I will note that there’s no AC, so if you book before temperatures drop, you’ll be warm at night.

Additionally, the bugs are pretty terrible, so bring spray.

Otherwise, I had a great time. It was awesome to have a well-rounded adventure of a lifetime in the Top End, and I’m stoked we had it on our Northern Territory itinerary.

A male sits near his tent drinking coffee
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Cooinda Lodge (Kakadu National Park)

This was a lovely place (with Air Conditioning), and the food was fantastic. Each morning, we had a buffet breakfast, and the dinners were delicious, too.

Nitmiluk Cabins or Cicada Lodge (Nitmiluk National Park)

We stayed in the Cabins for a little cheaper experience. They had two bedrooms with bunks) and a common area that would be perfect for a family. If you’re looking for a nicer stay, the Lodge is amazing and also has superb food and drinks!

Adina Apartment Hotel Darwin Waterfront

This was a fun place to stay! There’s a lot to do around it, including a wave pool, sand volleyball courts, and plenty of food spots. There’s also a small gym and pool area for those looking to be active. It’s a great place to add to your Northern Territory itinerary.

The adina waterfront hotel in darwin. This bookended our northern territory itinerary
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

FAQ: Northern Territory Itinerary

What side of the road and car do they drive on in Australia?

In Australia, drivers drive on the right side of the car and the left side of the road, which is different from what they do in the United States.

How many days should my Northern Territory itinerary be?

I recommend at least five days to get to Kakadu National Park and see the sights without being rushed. From there, you can go down to Nitmiluk and see the waterfall before heading back.

I honestly wouldn’t rush this trip, considering that for most people, it’s a bit out of the way from where they live, and you should enjoy the trip without speeding through it.

How long should I spend in Darwin?

I’m a bad person to ask about this because we were only there for an evening and a morning before flying out. If you have things to see in Darwin, sure, enjoy it. But I believe the true beauty and reason to visit is in the surrounding outdoor landscapes.

What is the best time to visit the Northern Territory?

For most visitors, the dry season is the best choice. This lets you adventure unencumbered and lessens any anxiety that the weather will ruin an activity or hike you really wanted to do. Do realize, though, that a lot of the Top End is still flooded for much of April and early May. Thankfully, our early April trip worked out great, and we could access everything we wanted to!

What is the best way to see the Northern Territory?

A car is definitely the best way to see and explore the Northern Territory. If you don’t want to drive on the right side of the car, you can always book tours.

Final Thoughts on Our Northern Territory Trip

For the first time in this part of the world, my trip to Australia’s Northern Territory was nothing short of epic. The places we saw were phenomenal, the people were so kind, and the history was more interesting than I had realized.

If you get the opportunity to explore the Top End, you’re in for a treat. I hope you use my Northern Territory itinerary and make one heckuva trip for yourself!

Happy Travels!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside