The Territory is an area of majestic grandeur, where nature is strong and those who trifle with her put themselves in peril. It is not an area of a single climate, though, for Darwin, in the north, is a tropical city, with Wet and Dry seasons, the Wet bringing torrential tropical rain and the Dry converting the landscape to parched red earth. Alice Springs, near the south, by contrast, has an arid semi-desert climate, with annual rainfall of only about 350 millimetres and night temperatures falling below freezing in the winter months.
The Northern Territory is the last refuge of the Australian aborigine. Approximately 25% of the population is of aboriginal descent and more than 10,000 full-blooded aborigines survive here. Large tracts of land are Aboriginal Reserves, which cannot be entered without a permit, although where roads pass through it is sometimes permissible to travel those roads without formality. It is either time-consuming or expensive, or sometimes both, to reach the Territory, so many visitors place it low on their list of priorities. Indeed, a substantial number see nothing but the east coast and leave thinking that they have seen Australia. However, in recent years an increasing number have made the effort to get here and have been well rewarded for doing so.
In fact, the new National Parks, Kakadu in particular, have become so popular that they are beginning to suffer some of the minor symptoms of over-tourism.
Throughout Australia, the people have a feeling of state superiority. Somebody from Sydney has a natural suspicion of somebody from Melbourne and vice versa, but a Territorian is nobody’s enemy and is respected and welcomed everywhere. A Territorian is the nearest that Australia has to a real-life Crocodile Dundee. The Northern Territory is indeed a great little place.
Whilst on the topic of size, and to put matters into perspective, the Northern Territory is about six times the size of Great Britain, and has a total population similar to that of, as an example, Hobart. The total population of the Northern Territory would fit into Sydney twenty times, and nearly half of those live in Darwin, which does not leave many people for the rest of the Territory.
Until 1911, the Northern Territory was a part of South Australia, but then the Commonwealth Government assumed responsibility. In 1978, the Northern Territory was granted a large measure of self-government and given its own parliament, and in 1994 the impressive new Parliament House in Darwin was opened.
The Northern Territory has no transport services of its own, except for the local buses which operate in Darwin and Alice Springs. Passenger rail service is provided by Great Southern Railway, at present from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Long-distance bus services are provided by McCafferty’s and Greyhound. There is a direct service from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and connecting services link Darwin with Adelaide via Alice Springs, Perth via Broome, and Brisbane via Tennant Creek and Mt. Isa. The bus companies offer various passes aimed specifically at those who wish to visit the Northern Territory, usually including visits to Kakadu National Park and Ayers Rock.
There are flights to Darwin and Alice Springs from all major places in Australia. If you use a sector of a Boomerang Pass air ticket to get here, it will be good value and a comfortable method of making the journey, but you will miss the experience of seeing the Territory from ground level and the gaining of a true sense of size and distance.
Free camping in Northern Territory