4 Northern Territory road trip itineraries for epic outback adventures
It’s time to take to the open road and discover everything that the Top End has to offer.
We’re committed to our readers and editorial independence. We don’t compare all products in the market and may receive compensation when we refer you to our partners, but this does not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn more about Finder.
Are you itching to see the Northern Territory? Are you in Darwin and have a few days to spare? Well, look no further because we've brought together all the must-do road trip itineraries for the picturesque red centre. We've got your destinations covered, so all you have to do is pick the playlist.
Darwin to Alice Springs
Alice Springs is the heart of the Northern Territory as well as the country. Your red centre adventure starts off driving from Darwin to Katherine, where you'll then spend the day exploring the incredible gorge. As your final destination is quite a drive from Darwin, Tennant Creek is where you'll spend your next night. From there, you'll hit Alice Springs where you can hot air balloon, tour Uluru and hike through the West MacDonnell Ranges.
- Distance: 2,998km, 30 hours round trip.
- Itinerary length: 7 days.
- Route: Darwin to Alice Springs via Katherine and Tennant Creek on National Highway 87.
- Highlights: Katherine Gorge, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs.
- Best time to drive: September is the best time to visit the red centre as temperatures are mild. It's important to note that most tours are seasonal and run between April and October. It's best to avoid travelling from December to March as this is the flood season for the tropical end of the territory.
- Things to do: Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge Cruise, West MacDonnell Ranges, Day Trip to Ayers Rock, Hot Air Ballooning, Tour of Alice Springs, Alice Springs Desert Park.
- Stay at: Knotts Crossing Resort, Bluestone Motor Inn and DoubleTree by Hilton Alice Springs.
- Eat at: Barrel & Cruse Bistro in Katherine, Sporties Club or Memories Restaurant in Tennant Creek and Epilogue Lounge and Rooftop Bar or Barra on Todd Restaurant and Bar in Alice Springs.
Darwin to Berry Springs
Are you in Darwin and need a quick weekend away? Why not head to Berry Springs? Just over half an hour south of Darwin's city centre, it's conveniently close and jam-packed with outdoor activities.
We recommend picking a warmer weekend where you can spend the day immersed in the waters of the Berry Springs Waterhole. Best of all, with no long drive home, there's no rush to leave.
- Distance: 105km, 1 hour and 20 minutes round trip.
- Itinerary length: 2 days.
- Route: Darwin to Berry Springs via Tiger Brennan Drive.
- Highlights: Territory Wildlife Park, Berry Springs Waterhole.
- Best time to drive: March and April offer cooler temperatures so you can escape the heat, and it's also when native flowers bloom.
- Things to do: Territory Wildlife Park, Berry Springs Waterhole, Crazy Acres, Blackmore River Conservation Reserve.
- Stay at: AAOK Lake Resort and Caravan Park or Noonamah Tourist Park.
- Eat at: Berry Springs Tavern or Johnny's Dine-In Takeaway.
Darwin to Litchfield (and the Greater Litchfield Loop)
Situated just an hour south of Darwin's city centre, Litchfield National Park offers a close escape from the busyness of city life. From adrenaline-packed activities to the soft calm of a hike, this road trip is perfect for a few days off the grid.
Spend your first couple of days exploring the ins and outs of Batchelor and the picturesque Litchfield parklands, and stop for a break in Berry Springs on your way home. Cool off at the local watering hole before heading back home.
- Distance: 369km, 4.5 hours round trip.
- Itinerary length: 3 days.
- Route: Darwin to Litchfield via Batchelor and Berry Springs.
- Highlights: Litchfield National Park, Batchelor, Berry Springs.
- Best time to drive: From March to September is recommended, as this is when the humidity is at its lowest. Keep in mind that this is peak season.
- Things to do: Batchelor Butterfly Farm and Pet Garden, Nina's Ark Wildlife Sanctuary, NT Adventure Park, Swim in Buley Hole and visit Wangi Falls, Berry Springs Waterhole.
- Stay at: Litchfield Motel, Litchfield Tourist Park or Banyan Tree Batchelor.
- Eat at: Rum Jungle Tavern, Batchelor Butterfly Farm or Berry Springs Tavern.
Darwin to Kakadu and Nitmiluk
Pack up the car and set the GPS for Kakadu and Nitmiluk. Just three hours south east of Darwin, get ready to immerse yourself in the natural wonder of these national parks. You'll kick things off in Nitmiluk with a serene self-guided tour of the gorge, then you'll head north east to Kakadu.
The experiences here are endless, with Aboriginal cultural tours as well as a look into how things run in the outback. In Kakadu, you can also see the local waterfalls, before slowly making your way back home to Darwin.
- Distance: 1,214 km, 13 hours round trip.
- Itinerary length: 5 days.
- Route: Darwin to Nitmiluk National Park and Kakadu via National Highway 1.
- Highlights: Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine Gorge, Kakadu National Park, Marrakai.
- Best time to drive: May to September is recommended, as this is the dry season and the heat is low.
- Things to do: Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery, Nitmiluk Gorge Canoe Tour.
- Stay at: Nitmiluk Chalets, Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, Aurora Kakadu Lodge or the Cooinda Lodge Kakadu.
- Eat at: Jatti Poolside Restaurant, Kumbidgee Restaurant, Savannah Bar & Restaurant, Barrel & Cruse Bistro in Katherine and Mimi Restaurant in Kakadu.
Need a car? Book a ride now
Frequently asked questions
What kind of car do I need?
To play it safe, you'll want to take a 4WD. Road tripping across the Northern Territory may require you to take unsealed, dirt roads or possibly take a route through national parks. In these instances, you'll want a vehicle that can take on the conditions.
If you're hiring a car, make sure the company allows you to take the rented vehicle down unsealed roads. Many companies don't as a standard, and if anything happens to your vehicle on unsealed roads, you may be liable for any repair costs, even if you do have insurance. Some companies do let you pay a premium that will cover you on unsealed roads.
What are the best campsites in the Northern Territory?
Some of our favourite campgrounds include:
- Wangi Falls Camping Area, Litchfield National Park
- Gunlom Campground, Kakadu National Park
- Jatbula Trail, Katherine
- Palm Valley Campground, Namatjira
- Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, Limmen National Park
- Walker Creek, Litchfield National Park
- Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs Park, Douglas-Daly
- Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve, near Davenport Ranges National Park
When is the best time to visit the Northern Territory?
The Northern Territory is split into two climates. The northern end of the territory, which includes Darwin and Kakadu, is a tropical climate. In this case, you'll want to travel between June and September to avoid high heat and humidity.
The southern portion of the Northern Territory, where you'll find Alice Springs and Uluru, has a desert climate. This means that the days are hot and the nights can reach 0 degrees. The best time to visit Alice Springs is in September when the temperatures are the most comfortable.
The latest deals and discounts on Northern Territory travel
More guides on Finder
Family getaways from Canberra to put smiles on their dials
Break out of the big city and explore the local townships, national parks and beaches with your brood these school holidays.
10 romantic getaways in the Northern Territory
Your secluded escape awaits with some of the Northern Territory's most picturesque stays that were made for couples.
6 Northern Territory family holiday destinations that are truly unforgettable
These kid-friendly destinations in the NT are the perfect way to introduce kids to the stunning territory, from the Top End to the Red Centre, including a list of our favourite swimming spots for the ultimate cool down.
Best places to visit in the Northern Territory in 2020
Unique cultural experiences and picturesque natural wonders await in these six destinations. Plus, our top picks on the territory's best camp sites.
Northern Territory travel restrictions | Where you can go in October 2020
Everything you need to know about accommodation, attractions, national parks and transport to safely travel around the NT.
NSW road trip ideas to set those wheels in motion
Spend your weekend bushwalking, beach bumming and sampling some of the state's best local produce when you hit the road on one of these hot little road trips.
Western Australia road trips that showcase the best of the state
Adventurous and picturesque road trips around the state for memories that will last a lifetime.
10 Victoria road trips from Melbourne that are anything but ordinary
Searching for adventure outside of Melbourne? These 10 Victoria road trips will hit the spot – even if you only have a day or two to spare.
13 Queensland road trips that are anything but ordinary
Get out of the city with these 13 road trip itineraries that will take you to the beach, forest, countryside and outback.
Brisbane to Cairns road trip itineraries
Find your perfect Brisbane to Cairns road trip itinerary, whether you have 2, 3, or 7 days to spare.
Ask an Expert