From Aboriginal art to unique
wetlands, the Top End of the
Northern Territory is an area of tremendous
cultural and natural significance. Much of the region is inaccessible by
road and during the Wet season, from October to March, even the roads
become impassable. Beef cattle, buffalo and tourism have all played their
part in the fortunes of the Territory. It's frontier country 'rugged
terrain, vast distances and crocodiles' but its rewards outweigh the
Darwin, founded in 1869 after numerous attempts had been made to establish
settlements elsewhere in the Top End, is a good stepping off point for
some of the fine national parks in the region.
Darwin is Litchfield National Park offering spectacular
year-round waterfalls and good swimming. To the east of
Darwin is Kakadu
National Park, a World Heritage area, where magnificent Aboriginal rock
art galleries can be found. In Kakadu National Park the cliffs of the
Arnhem Land Escarpment descend to the coastal floodplains, which support
millions of migratory birds including magpie geese and whistling ducks.
Brolgas and jabirus (Australia's only type of stork) feed in the shallows
and barramundi inhabit the East Alligator River.
Adjoining Kakadu National Park, and accessible by road from the city of
Katherine, is Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park. Here you can take
a boat trip along the Katherine River to see the colourful sandstone walls
of the gorge. Wallabies, dingoes, echidnas and freshwater crocodiles are
some of the larger kinds of animals that live in the park. The stony
ridges sustain bloodwood and
Darwin stringybark eucalyptus trees as well
as a variety of grasses. Edith Falls is a lovely swimming spot in the
Katherine is at the junction of the
Victoria Highway, leading to Kununurra
Western Australia, and the Stuart Highway, the main north
-south route. Along the
Victoria Highway are the Keep River and the
Gregory National Parks, which both have important Aboriginal sites.
South of Katherine, near the junction of the Stuart Highway and the Roper
River Highway that heads east to the
Gulf Country, is Elsey National Park,
where the warm springs of Mataranka provide a shady oasis.