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10 best road trips in the Northern Territory

Come with us as we explore the Northern Territory and show you Australia’s best kept secrets.  Here are 10 of the best road trips in the Northern Territory.

Incredible landscapes, quirky country pubs and unique outback towns and amazing road trips.  The Northern Territory is considered one of Australia’s best kept secrets. 

Discover some of the best secrets of Outback Australia as we road trip through the Northern Territory.

Explore the Northern Territory’s best road trips

Devils Marbles Hotel

Each of these journeys has something special to offer so if you’re planning to road trip in the Northern Territory there are so many to choose from.

Many of these roads in the Northern Territory are bitumen sealed and well-maintained however, there are a few roads included in this list that are partially unsealed and some are only for 4WD use.  Be sure you are aware of the road conditions and take care.

Don’t rush, take your time to see all there is to see.

Visit those quirky pubs, go off the beaten track, explore the unusual and revel in the remoteness of the Territory.  You will see tons of wildlife, stunning waterfalls and waterholes, rock formations that will take your breath away but most importantly, expect to meet some interesting characters along the way.

There are plenty of places to stay.  I do recommend you stop in at those quirky hotels like the Devils Marbles Hotel or Daly Waters.  The unique townships, roadhouses and isolated camping spots will make your road trip through the Northern Territory one of the best experiences ever.

Explorer’s Way – 3028 km

Devils Marbles

Recommended: at least 2 weeks

One of the early inland explorers, John McDougall Stuart trekked from South Australia to Darwin.  The Explorer’s Way cuts through the entire length of the Territory and will take you past many famous sites including Alice Springs, Devils Marbles, Tennant Creek, Mataranka Hot Springs and Katherine Gorge.

Take your time on the journey, there are many side opportunities which will enhance your Territory road trip.  Head off to see Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon or stop in at one of the many hot springs along the way north.  Enjoy the drive.

Where to stay:

Alice Springs

Tennant Creek

Katherine

Darwin

Darwin to Litchfield – 116 kms

Litchfield National Park - Wangi FallsRecommended – 1-3 days

An easy day trip from Darwin city that will show you another side of this tropical paradise.  Litchfield National Park is a pristine rainforest with magnetic termite mounds, waterfalls and swimming holes like Buley Rockhole or Florence Falls.  A perfect place for bushwalkers, there are plenty of trails and walking tracks to explore.  If you have a 4WD you can venture into the Lost City, a series of large freestanding sandstone formations that look like an ancient city in ruins.

Where to stay:

Darwin to Robin Falls – 122 kms

travel photos

Recommended:  Day trip or long weekend

Robin Falls is a great place to visit for a day-trip or short camping trip from the main centres of Darwin or Katherine.  Just south of Litchfield National Park near the township of Adelaide River this gorgeous fresh water waterfall is a great place to visit.

The falls are reached by a short 20 minute walk following the crystal-clear creek.  With wildflowers and birds along the bush-walk, Robin Falls is a unique place to enjoy the Top End. Access to the area is seasonal so time your visit for early in the Dry Season.

Where to Stay

Darwin to Kakadu – 253 klm

Aboriginal rock art

Recommended:  1 week

A road trip to Kakadu National Park is one of the most sought after destinations in the Northern Territory.  Stop off at the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruise along the way.  Plan to stay a few days at Kakadu to immerse yourself in this amazing part of the world.

Climb Ubirr Rock for a spectacular sunset or sunrise, do an Aboriginal Cultural Tour to see ancient rock paintings at Nourlangie and Ubirr and take a sunrise or sunset cruise on Yellow Water billabong.  World Heritage listed Kakadu is one of the most magnificent places in the world.

Where to stay:

Nature’s Way – 457 klms

best road trips northern territoryRecommended:  1 week

This roadie is the perfect round trip from Darwin to Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, returning to Darwin.  It also takes in Pine Creek, made famous during the gold rush in the 1870’s.

Stop off at Adelaide River to visit Australia’s only War Cemetery and of course you must visit the Adelaide River pub to pay homage to Charlie, the buffalo from the Crocodile Dundee movies.

Where to stay:

Arnhem Way – 730 klms

best road trips - northern territoryRecommended:  Minimum 2-3 weeks (closed Nov-April wet season)

Arnhem Land is one an off-the-beaten-path destination in the Northern Territory so if you’re looking to go remote, this is the road trip for you.

Take Arnhem Way to head to the Gove Peninsula, now known as Nhulunbuy.  Passing through raging rivers, savannah woodlands teeming with wildlife, wetlands brimming with fish, prehistoric crocodiles and spectacular birdlife.  Learn about Aboriginal culture through the locals who live remote continuing their traditional hunting and gathering activities.

You will need a permit to enter Arnhem Land, so check the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation and East Arnhem Land websites for more info.

Where to stay:

  • Nhulunbuy – Walkabout Lodge has both hotel and camping facilities
  • There are a number of fishing lodges along the way offering accommodation and food.

Alice Springs to Darwin – 1497 klm

Amatjera Woman

Recommended:  7 – 10 days

This road trip is one I’ve travelled many times and one that shows off the Northern Territory at its best.  There’s so much to see along the way so stay alert and enjoy the ride.

One of the most amazing places to see is Karlu Karlu, otherwise known as the Devils Marbles so make sure you enjoy a walk through this spiritual place.  Tennant Creek, Mataranka Hot Springs and Katherine Gorge are some of the highlights of this road trip. Take your time, there is so much more to see!

Where to stay:

Red Centre Way – 690 klm

Red Centre Way

Recommended: 5 days or longer

Driving to from Alice Springs to Uluru via the Red Centre Way will give you spectacular views as you travel through red desert sands, spinifex and mulga forest.  The Red Centre Way travels west south west, towards Glen Helen passing by Ormiston Gorge and the start of the Finke River.

Formally known as the Mereenie Loop road, the Red Centre Way is unsealed for the most part requiring a 4WD.  A scenic route taking in Mount Sonder, Gosse Bluff, Kings Canyon and the spectacular Western MacDonnell ranges.  This is the heart of the Australian Outback.  Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park will be a further reward at the end of the drive.

A $5 permit is required to travel this route.  Available through Central Land Council 08 8953 4343 or through Glen Helen Resort, Hermannsburg Petrol Station and Kings Canyon Resort.

Where to stay:

West MacDonnell Ranges – 135 km

Ellery Big Hole

Recommended:  7 – 10 days

This drive takes you from Alice Springs to Glen Helen Gorge and the start of the Finke River, but to get the full benefit of this road trip you need to stay a while.

Alive with wildlife, amazing scenery, and incredible rock formations and tons of hikes through the ranges, make sure you take your camera with you.   Sights include Simpson’s Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Redbank Gorge, and others along the way.

Where to stay

  • Glen Helen Resort for motel and camping sites
  • Ormiston Gorge & Ellery Creek Big Hole – camping under the stars

Binns Track – 2,230 km

Binns Track – Photo Credits – Steve Edgington

Recommended: 10 days | 4WD only

One of the Northern Territory’s newly created 4WD trecks.  Travel from Mount Dare on the South Australian border to the Top End gold mining township of Timber Creek.  You will explore the East MacDonnell Ranges, the Davenport Ranges, Tennant Creek and Gregory National Park.

Passing massive sand dunes as you pass through the East MacDonnell Ranges, ancient rock carvings of the Arrernte people of Central Australia.  Pan for gold in the abandoned gold rush towns of Arltunga and fossick for semi-precious stones at Gemtree before visiting Karlu Karlu or Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve.

As you head offroad, you’ll pass through enormous cattle stations and onto the Judbarra or Gregory National Park, well-known for its Barramundi, Boab trees and limestone landscapes.

Where to stay:

  • Many camping sites are accessible on this road trip
  • Alice Springs: Ross River Homestead
  • Camping under the stars

Getting to the Territory

A road trip through the Northern Territory is one of Australia’s classic adventures.  The journey will take as long as it takes however 10 days should get you there, with short stops along the way.

  • East:  Head west towards Mt Isa and the Barclay Highway.
  • West:  Drive east from Broome, turn left to Darwin or right to Katherine.
  • South:  Head north from Adelaide.

If you prefer:

  • Air: Domestic and international flights are serviced from a range of destinations across Australia, Europe, the US and nearby Asia.  Although at the time of writing, flights are only available domestically.
  • Rail: The Ghan is a popular rail adventure which leaves from Darwin and Adelaide, with tours available in Alice Springs and Katherine. Named after the Afghan camel traders who travelled here in the 19th century. The full north-south journey takes 54 hours.

Getting around the Territory

  • Daily flights operate between Uluru, Alice Springs and Darwin.
  • Self-drive options with hire vehicles available in Darwin, Uluru and Alice Springs.
  • Bus networks are another option.

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Best Road trips in the Northern Territory

There is so much to see in the Northern Territory, read more:

The Northern Territory is the Outback Travellers’ dream.  With so many amazing road trips to explore these wide open spaces … you are sure to be amazed with the outback and all it beholds.  Enjoy your road trip adventures in the Northern Territory.