The Northern Territory

Outback Australia

Sunset over Yellow  Water in Kakadu
Tropical sunset
Sunset at Yellow Water in Kakadu, at the end of the Wet Season. Photo by G Crane.

The Northern Territory is vast: it is over 1.3 million km2 (0.5 million mi2) in area, more than five times bigger than the United Kingdom, or twice as big as Texas.

The population of the Territory is about 200 000, with more than half (123 000) living in Darwin and nearby Palmerston. About a quarter of the people living in the Territory are Indigenous Australians.

The Northern Territory is a self governing territory of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Top End

The Northern Territory extends from the tropical 'Top End' to the central deserts in the south.

The Top End has a monsoonal wet-dry climate. In the wet season more than 1500 mm (59 in) of rain can fall, flooding rivers and filling dams and billabongs. Much of the Top End is inaccessible in this time. The dry brings sunny days and much lower humidity. Grasslands turn brown and waterholes dry up. Bushfires burn much of the Top End's bushland during each dry season.

The Top End encompasses Darwin and the town of Katherine, as well as Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.

The Red Centre

Alice sorings at sunset
Alice Springs
Sunset in Alice Springs, over the MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia. Photo by G Crane.

The Centre is a dramatic mixture of deserts and mountain ranges. Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Watarrka (Kings Canyon) are in the Centre. These natural wonders are about 400 km (250 mi) by road to the southwest of Alice Springs.

Alice Springs is the NT's biggest settlement outside Darwin. The population of 'The Alice' is about 22 000. The MacDonnell Ranges run right through town, as does the normally dry Todd River.

There are many gorges, gaps and waterholes in the MacDonnell Ranges. Many of these geological features have permanent water and provide local fauna and flora with cool retreats from the harsh summer Sun. There is a 220 km (135 mi) walking trail from Alice Springs to Glen Helen Gorge in the west.

Visitors can fly to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock direct from the Australian capital cities, or get there by car, road coach or train. The Ghan, a popular tourist train to Alice Springs from Adelaide in South Australia, is named after the Afghan camel trains of yesteryear. The rail trip takes 22 hours. In January 2004 an extension of the train line, reaching all the way to Darwin was opened, more than 100 years after it ws originally promised to the Northern Territory. The whole 3000 km trip from Adelaide to Darwin on The Ghan takes 47 hours.

Alice Springs was founded in 1872 as Telegraph Station, on the Overland Telegraph Line. The Telegraph Station is now a historical reserve, with a collection of restored stone buildings. The nearby spring that Alice Springs was built around and named after still flows.