Guides

Your Ultimate Travel Guide For Exploring The Northern Territory On A Budget

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There’s not many travellers — Aussies or not — who don’t have The Red Centre on their bucket list. Uluru is constantly topping must-see lists and providing natural wonders to marvel at.

The one down side, though — and frankly the reason many travellers haven’t been yet — is the price tag associated with a trip to the Northern Territory.

Here’s the thing, you can still see all the best bits of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Kakadu without completely blowing the budget.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

With international travel on hold, it means this icon of Australia is about as quiet as it’s ever going to get, making it the perfect time to take a trip. Being fairly remote, it’s often considered to be too expensive and too far — but despite the entry fee from $38 for adults, that’s not always the case.

For starters, here’s a packing list to ensure you have everything you need and won’t wind up with extra expenses.

 

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Free Experiences

  • Watch as Uluru changes colours in the light of the sunset from the sunset one of the 5 public viewing platforms.
  • Take the free and unguided 10km Uluru Base Walk which loops around the sacred rock, through desert, acacia woodlands and grassed clayplans.
  • There’s a free daily ranger guided Mala walk, following a 2km tour along the base of Uluru through to Kantju Gorge. Along the way you’ll see caves, rock art and discover the culture of the Anangu people, who have inhabited the area for more than 22,000 years.
  • In the same park as Uluru, are the scared, ancient rock formations of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Check them out on the Walpa Gorge Walk or The Valley of the Winds walk.
  • If you happen to be staying as a hotel guest of Voyages, you can join in a variety of their free experiences — like bush tucker tours, Indigenous storytelling and didgeridoo workshops.
  • It’s free to check out the diverse range of Indigenous artworks at Maruka Arts gallery. There’s even dot-painting workshops and meet and greets with local artists.
  • Bruce Munro’s iconic Field of Light (aka those lights that brighten up the outback well into the night and form Central Australia’s largest ever installation) isn’t free, but it’s also surprisingly affordable for a tourist activity, at . $44 pp.

Accommodation

  • Voyages Ayers Rock Resort has five hotels and a campground, so there’ll be something for your budget. Obviously camping is your cheapest option, but you can also nab a two-bedroom cabin at their Ayers Rock Campground from $43 a night. Or try their hostel, Outback Pioneer Lodge, from $260 a night.
  • You’ll find Curtin Springs an hour’s drive from Yulara. This million acre cattle station has been run by the Severin family since 1956. Their onsite accomodation starts from $75 a night, including 27 hotel rooms and a campground. They also have fuel and homestyle meals available.
  • About halfway along the three-hour drive between Uluru and Alice Springs sits Kings Canyon Resort. With Lodge rooms from $145 a night, there’s many advantages to staying at the NT’s ‘other’ natural wonder.

 

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Dining

  • Obviously, there’s always the DIY option, particularly if you’re staying at a campground. Just BYO groceries.
  • Voyages has a range of affordable dining options, from classic Australian to a noodle bar. They also have Kulata Academy Café, which is run by trainees of National Indigenous Trainee Academy. There also happens to be a bar featuring uniquely Aussie cocktails like the Bush Tucker Bloody Mary.

Kakadu

As the largest national park on land in Australia, Kakadu is one of the most incredible experiences you can have in Australia. From monsoonal forests, to wetlands, to epic waterfalls, it’s the perfect place for a bit of adventure. Not to mention the primo wildlife spotting.

Don’t miss any of the sights while sticking to your budget with these tips.

Free Experiences

  • Watching the sunset over the Nadab floodplains at Ubirr is one of the most unforgettable sights you’ll ever see. Plus on your walk there, you’ll pass through an ancient gallery of Indigenous art.
  • How about a dip in a natural infinity pool with a panoramic view of the park? That’s exactly what you’ll get at Gunlom. Get there via the Gunlom Walk, a short yet steep trail.
  • Another popular photography spot is the 200-metre Jim Jim Falls. Surrounded by forest and dramatic cliffs, the waterfall ends in a deep plunge pool and beach, so you can go swimming.
  • Go for a bush walk (or 20). Some of the best include the Jarrangbarnmi walk (Koolpin Gorge) (although you’ll need a permit) or the more challenging Twin Falls Plateau Walk, which ends at a scenic lookout over the Arnhem Land plateau.
  • It’s not free, but a boat tour on the East Alligator River with Guluyambi Cultural Cruise involves unique views of Kakadu and a local guide to share insight on Indigenous culture in the area. So $79 per person is a fair asking price, if you can budget it in.
  • Time your trip with A Taste of Kakadu — usually in September — and enjoy a Indigenous cultural food festival including traditional ground oven feasts, handcrafted menus from celebrity chefs, forage walks with traditional owners, ancestral stories and cultural workshops.

 

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Accommodation

  • Kakadu has some of the best campsites in the country, and there’s no better place to sleep under the stars. Local favourites include the Burdulba camping area, Ganamarr (near Jim Jim Falls) and Gunlom camping area (near Gunlom Falls). You will need a 4WD and to keep an eye on the Parks Australia website to see what facilities are available on the grounds and if permits are required.
  • If you’d rather have a roof, Mary River Roadhouse has motel rooms, backpacker accommodation, powered van sites and camping sites available — all for budget-friendly prices.
  • Aurora Kakadu Lodge has a caravan park and room from $120 a night. There’s also a lagoon-style spa onsite, plus a poolside bar and bistro.
  • Anbinik Kakadu Resort has 15 peaceful campsites from less than $50 a night. You can BYO caravans, campervans or tents. Otherwise jump in one of their rooms or cabins starting from $110 a night.

Dining

  • There’s no denying that cooking for yourself is by far the cheapest option you’ll find in this area, so pack some groceries if you’re on a real budget.
  • With meals starting from $15, Cooinda’s Barra Bar and Bistro isn’t a bad choice for a mid-range splurge. Find local options like wild goose pie and smoked crocodile, as well as classic favourites, like Aussie parma.
  • For similar prices, you can get your Thai food fix at Anbinik Restaurant.

(Lead Image: Tourism NT/ Kyle Hunter & Hayley Anderson)