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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 dangers.

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.

South of 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 park.

Katherine is at the junction of the Victoria Highway, leading to Kununurra in north-east 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.

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