There’s so much to entice a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory. From the striking landscape and rich culture of the Red Centre, to the vast national parks, rainforests and beaches of the Top End, it’s an intrepid traveller’s paradise. It’s also a must-do for those wanting to connect with Australia’s ancient history – a definite highlight of any trip to the heart. And thanks to the Northern Territory’s tiny population and sprawling land area, even in peak season, it’s easy enough to beat the crowds.
Once you’ve decided what to do in the Northern Territory, that will help you determine when to go. Ahead, we’ve broken down some of the top destinations in the NT and what you need to know about when to visit.
The Best Time To Go To Darwin
Darwin is the Northern Territory’s coastal capital, and where many people fly in and out. Regardless of where your onward journey takes you, if you land here, it will be worth staying a couple of days, as there is plenty to eat, drink, see and do in Darwin. From sundowners sipped at sidewalk tables to perusing market stalls, museums, and galleries with indigenous art, Darwin is a truly cosmopolitan destination – with year-round warm weather to boot. Being a tropical city, Darwin has two seasons: wet and dry. The Darwin weather will be rainy in January, February and March, with the potential for cyclones, too. Conversely, the Darwin weather in June and July is warm and dry, so when the rest of Australia is searching for winter sun, here is where they come, which means it can get busy. Also, if you’re planning on using Darwin as a launchpad to the surrounding islands and beaches, be aware that jellyfish season is from October to May.
The best time to go: Try August and September to catch the tail end of the dry season.
The Best Time To Visit Kakadu
Visiting Kakadu National Park is about more than just an outdoor adventure. This massive, magical landscape houses a magnificent ecosystem, and so much history as well. Follow a local guide to see ancient rock paintings, float along a billabong, and swim in waterholes under majestic falls. This UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed park is popular, meaning it can get crowded at the better-known sites, particularly during the dry season. But as Australia’s biggest national park, spanning 20,000 square kilometres, with an exploratory spirit and a willingness to get off the beaten path, you can easily find some quiet. Flying into Darwin International Airport is your best connection, and going on a Kakadu trip from Darwin will take around three hours by car. How long you spend in Kakadu depends on how much of this sizeable park and its many attractions you’d like to see – a week’s stay should allow you to get a good amount out of it.
The best time to go: March and April will see the park at its most lush, green and dewy following the rainy season. If you’re keen to swim in the falls, plan your trip closer to the dry season, but book early, as from May to October it fills up quickly.
The Best Time To Go To Uluru
As far as bucket list travel experiences go, visiting this spellbinding sandstone site surrounded by red desert should be up there. There’s a special energy to Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock). Given how sacred it is to First Nation’s people, that should perhaps come as no surprise. Many make the pilgrimage to see this rock formation, which burrows deep into the earth and rises impressively from the desert, change colour at sunrise or sunset. It’s a mesmerising performance that sees the contours of Uluru turn from sandy brown to burnt orange and rust red, or vice versa. Getting to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a journey. Still, it will be worth it to tick this symbolic landmark off your list. Book your flights to Alice Springs and then hire a car to make the six-hour trip, taking in the archetypal Australian landscape along the way. As with any desert adventure, you can expect some extreme weather, with sweltering hot daytime temperatures turning freezing at night. As long as you prepare adequately, however, a trip to Uluru can be amazing at any time of year.
Best time to go: May offers the attractive combination of milder temperatures and off-peak prices.
The Best Time To Visit The Northern Territory, At A Glance
- January, February, and March are the wettest months in the Top End, with the potential for cyclones. Of these months, January has the highest recorded rainfall. If you can handle a little humidity and don’t mind the drama of a tropical storm, however, you’ll find a lot to love about the wet season. Thundering waterfalls can be enjoyed from above, the landscape is extra wild and green, and the skies put on a particularly spectacular show. In the desert, the weather is arid and hot during this time.
- Being on the cusp of the dry season, April is a good time to visit Darwin and the Top End for discounts and decent weather. The Tjungu Festival also happens during this month.
- May sees the start of more clement weather in both central Australia and the Top End. It’s an excellent time to visit Uluru.
- June and July are the peak months of the dry season and can see the Northern Territory’s attractions become a little crowded. If you don’t mind sharing, your reward will be clear skies and great weather, plus a packed calendar of events. The Walking with Spirits festival in the Outback is a highlight.
- August is coming to the end of high season and slightly cooler in parts of the Northern Territory. During this month, the Darwin Festival offers a vibrant mix of entertainment, or for a distinct, somewhat remote experience of indigenous culture, the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land is well worth the trip.
- The shoulder month of September is a good one to slip in a trip to the Top End. It’s also a fun month to visit the desert, where the spring wildflowers will be on full display.
- October is a “last resort” month for the Top End, with tours winding down, seasonal places shutting up, and everyone waiting for the rain. It’s also the start of jellyfish season around the coast. You can still make trips to the desert, though, where the weather will be temperate – you might even pick up a cheap airfare.
- Are you a keen fisher? Then November might be your month to visit the NT, as the barramundi are likely to be biting. Pack some tinnies and hop in a dinghy.
- December is peak summer and festive season, meaning the schools are empty and the shops are full. But as far as travel, it’s low season and wet.
Get your trip to the Northern Territory underway by booking flights to Darwin, Alice Springs or Uluru with Webjet. Find the perfect NT accommodation too, and also lock in your hire car if you’re planning on road-tripping while away.