The iconic red monolith that is Uluru is undoubtedly the region's most famous landmark and is a go-to for almost every visitor. But to see the giant rock at its most spectacular, witnessing a sunset and sunrise is pretty much essential. Watching the colours change over the otherworldly landscape is a breathtaking experience and there are a couple of designated platform viewing areas set into the sand dunes, offering views of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. To maximise your time, make sure you join an organised tour. AAT Kings (www.aatkings.com) offer both guided sunrise and sunset excursions to see the World Heritage-listed site in all its glory.
No journey to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is complete without a visit to Kata Tjuta - or ‘the Olgas.’ This unique formation of domed rocks huddled together - there are 36 boulders in total - is around 35km west of Uluru. The tallest rock is approximately 200m higher than Uluru and combined they form deep valleys and steep gorges. The 7.4km Valley of the Winds loop is a great bush walk that cuts through the winding gorges. It takes 2-4 hours, depending on your fitness level.
A four-hour drive from Alice Springs and a three-hour one from Uluru; Kings Canyon has the deepest gorge in the Red Centre. 100m high on its plateau the ‘Lost City’, is an area of red sandstone rocks weathered into the semblance of ruined houses and streets. You can circumnavigate it by hiking the 6km Rim Walk, which takes around 3-4 hours.
Head northwest to the most iconic outback town of all; Alice Springs. Here - on the Telegraph Station Historical Reserve 4km out of town - is an experience that most tourists in Alice miss out on. Outback cycling is an award-winning mountain bike company that offers visitors a chance to see the real outback on two wheels. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fuelled, rock jumping session or a ride to soak up the amazing panorama of desert landscape; with 20-plus kms of well maintained trails - many of which are only frequented by locals - there’s an option for you.
The Aussie equivalent of the Orient Express, The Ghan train has been in operation since its inaugural trip way back in 1929 and today it’s one of Australia’s two most epic rail journeys.
The 2979-kilometre, 54-hour journey heads straight up the Red Centre from Adelaide to Darwin (and vice versa). It takes three days and two nights north-bound (four days and three nights south-bound) but many guests join in Alice Springs to make the overnight journey to Darwin. Aside from the stunning scenery, Platinum or Gold Service guests travel in style with all-inclusive meals and drinks in the classically styled Queen Adelaide Restaurant carriage. The journey attracts both local and international tourists, so you’ll be sharing your dining table with a mixture of characters - many of whom wouldn’t be out of place in an Agatha Christie novel.
Hop on a boat and cruise through the 100m deep Katherine Gorge - a series of gorges formed by the Katherine River cutting through sandstone of the southern Arnhem Land plateau. You’ll take in magnificent, towering sandstone cliffs, stunning waterfalls and sandy beaches, used by the local freshwater crocodiles as nesting grounds. Most tours will also take you to some of the 450 ancient Aboriginal rock art sites in the gorge, some of which is estimated to be up to 8000 years old.
Prior to “Crocodile Dundee’s” release in 1986, Kakadu wasn’t really on the tourism radar, however, thanks to many of the iconic scenes being shot in the World Heritage-listed National Park the national park was well and truly put on the map. Covering 20,000 square kilometres of landscape, it’s Australia's largest national park and one of the world's most spectacular wilderness areas.
AAT Kings offer multi-day trips to the park, in which you can explore the flood planes and rocky escarpments that make up the park. Highlights include the ancient rock art galleries in Ubirr, believed to be 20,000 years old and a cruise along the East Alligator River with a local Aboriginal guide.
Multicultural Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory and there’s no better area in the city to see just how cosmopolitan the city has become than the recently redeveloped Waterfront Precinct. Here you can work up a sweat jogging along pathways or riding bike trails that weave along the harbour wall and afterwards cool down in the wave-generating pool or the saltwater lagoon. A few minutes walk along the esplanade and you’ll find the open-air Deckchair Cinema set on the edge of the harbour. Running seven nights during the dry season, it’s a stunning setting to watch the sunset and then watch a flick under the stars.
A handy five-minute walk from the CBD, it’s easily the best area to base yourself for a weekend and the AdinaVibe Waterfront hotel is positioned in the heart of it all. Set in the midst of luxury waterfront residences and opposite the swimming lagoons, the property also has in-house pool, spa and gym facilities. Little wonder that visiting A-listers have also made a beeline for the new property - Be rubbed shoulders with Jarvis Cocker in the hotel lobby during our stay.
It may not be as well known as Kakadu, but many Territory locals rate Litchfield even higher. The 1500-sq-km national park encloses much of the spectacular Tabletop Range - a wide sandstone plateau mostly surrounded by cliffs - and it’s one of the best places in the Top End for swimming, with waterfalls plunging into gorgeous, crystal-clear cascades and croc-free plunge pools.
AAT Kings runs guided excursions to Litchfield, which cover both bushwalking and a multiple swimming opportunities in the plunge pools of Florence, Tolmer and Wangi Falls, alongside sights such as the giant termite mounds.
Believe it or not, Darwin is quickly emerging as a foodie destination. There’s not only a raft of hip eateries opening every other week, but both Darwin and the NT received a seal of approval from culinary god, Redzepi - the creator of the “world’s best restaurant” Noma in Copenhagen - who took heavy inspiration from the NT for his Sydney pop-up restaurant, so it’s official: NT food is cool.
For brunch, Alley Cats Patisserie on Mitchell Street is your go-to. In addition too great coffee, they serve hearty - yet perfectly put together - breakfasts, alongside (as the name suggests) gourmet sweets and breads. For a casual lunch or a waterfront dinner, the new Oyster Bar on the Waterfront Precinct has a wide selection of both raw and grilled oysters, alongside share-food and platters (the salt and pepper squid is a definite standout). For Asian fare, the newly opened Little Miss Korea has already been lauded nationally. It’s the first DIY Korean barbecue in Darwin and it’s trendy, industrial setting ensures plenty of Instagram-worthy snaps.