Top End Overview
- Wetlands and wildlife
- Country life
- Croc watching and saltwater angling
Tropical weather, rich indigenous culture and national parks are headline acts in themselves, but add to this an impressive cast of brilliant sunsets, world-class fishing and a colourful calendar of events and you have a taste of this northernmost point.
Darwin’s the modern and multicultural capital of this wonderfully vast region where much is remote, yet easy to access. World Heritage-listed Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks provide an exciting antidote to hectic urban lives – zebra crossings are well and truly gazumped by waterside signs warning of crocodiles. Even if you can’t spy any of the snap-happy reptiles, be assured they might be eyeballing you. So, as infectious as the laid-back lifestyle is up there, let that little frisson keep you on your toes.
Typically Top End
At a whopping 200,000 square kilometres, World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is the largest in Australia. Famed for its natural and cultural wonders, it’s not just home to several Aboriginal rock-art sites and plenty of saltwater crocs. No sir. Grab your lizard-skin waistcoat and doff your tooth-trimmed cowboy hat to Mick Dundee. Indeed Crocodile Dundee was based on a real-life hunter from the Top End.
- Ring Darwin Radio Taxis (131008) for a cab.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is optional – and certainly isn’t expected. However, it is customary to tip waiters 10 per cent of the bill if you’re pleased with the service.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Other than in Darwin or Katherine, where shops are generally open from 9am to 6pm, there’s not much that requires opening and closing.
- Packing tips
- Make sure you bring industrial-strength insect repellent and a sun hat that means business.
- Recommended reads
- Though books about the Northern Territory are few and far between – mainly because so few people actually live here – there are plenty of novels that evoke the Outback experience. Louis de Bernières’ Red Dog is a collection of stories about an itinerant canine that criss-crosses the Australian Bush; Dirt Music by Tim Winton is a gripping tale of passion and revenge in the country’s arid interior; Xavier Herbert’s epic Poor Fellow My Country is a state-of-the-nation novel about European and indigenous cultures meeting in 1930s and 1940s Northern Australia.
- As Indonesia and Malaysia are just a couple of hours’ flying time over the horizon, and with a hugely multicultural population, it’s hardly surprising that the Top End takes a lot of its culinary cues from Asia. Large market gardens produce a steady stream of mangos, pineapples, papayas and other tropical fruit, which combine deliciously with barramundi and mud crab – the spoils of world-class fishing.
- Australian dollar (A$).
- Time zone
- GMT +9.5.
- Dialling codes
- Australia country code: +61; Northern Territory: (0)8.
- Do go/don't go
- There are two seasons in the Top End: the wet and the dry. If you want to see spectacular waterfalls, lightning storms and monsoon rains then head to the Top End between November and April. However, many roads are closed at that time so most touring is done by boat or plane. The dry season – between May and October – is far less humid. It’s the best time to visit if you want to see wildlife, as the area’s animals gravitate towards a few billabongs in search of scarce water supplies.
Don't go home without...
some Aboriginal art, and a handbag or belt made from crocodile skin. Make sure your croc-skin comes with a certificate to say where it came from; you’ll need it at customs.