Delve beyond the region’s main highlights to find an alternative adventure. Paul Harding reveals his top seven off-the-beaten-track activities
Why visit? For an after-dark wildlife encounterWhen? May to October
Billabong cruises are a highlight of a visit to Kakadu, but for something different try a night cruise.Kakadu Culture Camp offers the chance to spot nocturnal birds, crocs and snakes inhabiting Djarradjin Billabong on a night spotlight cruise.Led by local Aboriginal guides, the tour is strong on indigenous culture and can be combined with rock art tours and a stay in the excellent eco safari camp. www.kakaduculturecamp.com
Why visit? For rugged and remote 4WD adventures and bushwalking
When? Many 4WD tracks are closed in the Wet between October and May – the ideal time is June to August.
Nourished by the Victoria River and its off shoots, this13,000 sq km national park is a real adventure –bypassed by most tourists but visited by 4WD enthusiasts, bush campers and those looking to get o the beaten track. Dramatic sandstone gorge country conceals Aboriginal rock art and rugged tracks lead to isolated riverside campsites. This is where the dry centre meets the tropical Top End. www.nt.gov.au/nreta/
Why visit? For superb sports fishing and island insights
When? April to November
In the Gulf of Carpentaria, about 50km o the coast of Arnhem Land, Groote Eylandt (Dutch for ‘Great Island’) is home to the indigenous Anindilyakwa people. Only in recent years has th island opened up to tourism, primarily as a mecca for sports fishing, but visitors will also discover a uniquely isolated culture of rock art and traditional customs. Permits are included with accommodation bookings; flights available from Darwin. www.dugongbeachresort.com.au
Why visit? For remote coastal wilderness
When? Dry season from May to September; access roads are closed in the Wet but most visitors fly in.
Poking out of the far north-western tip of Arnhem Land, the Cobourg Peninsula is very nearly the most northerly point in Australia (only Cape York is higher on the map). So it’s remote. But the main attraction, Garig Gunak Barlu National Park (above), is accessible to well-prepared 4WD vehicles,revealing sublime wetlands and a tropical coastal marine environment of dugong, dolphins and turtles. Most visitors come here for the fishing and birdwatching; resorts can organise charters and permits. www.capedon.com.au
Why visit? For a Red Centre tour with an Aboriginal chef
When? Year round
Combine bush tucker and Outback barbecue with Aboriginal culture on your tours around the Red Centre. Chef and tour guide Bob (Penunka) Taylor, from central Australia’s southern Arrernte people, has travelled widely as a chef, and now brings his unique perspective back to his traditional homeland. There are lunch and dinner tours to the West MacDonnell Ranges, or longer safaris to Uluru and Kings Canyon. www.rttoursaustralia.com.au
Why visit? For one of Australia’s great multi-day walks – with a twist
When? Avoid the hottest months (December to February)
Many consider bushwalking in central Australia to be a spiritual experience, but you can take that a step further on guided walks with a difference. Into the Blue leads multi-day walks created around a theme – from Aboriginal bush law to photography, writing and even yoga and meditation, all led by specialist expert guides. Most tours run for a week and cover sections of the Larapinta Trail. www.intotheblue.com.au
Why visit? For fine art and unique traditional culture
When? Dry season, roughly April to November; the Tiwi Islands Football Final and Art Sale is mid-March (no permit required)
Bathurst and Melville Islands – the Tiwi Islands – lie in the Timor Sea about 80km north of Darwin. The Tiwi people have developed a unique culture (below),including the use of pukumani, carved and painted burial poles; today their artwork is highly regarded. You can apply for a permit to visit independently, but the easiest way to visit is on a tour from Darwin by air or ferry. www.aussieadventures.com.au
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