With the festive season and New Year just around the corner, there’s no better place to ‘do summer differently’ than the Northern Territory. From electric tropical storms, cascading waterfalls and epic sunsets in the Top End, to immersive Aboriginal cultural offerings, iconic wonders and outback stays in the Red Centre, there’s an array of unique experiences to be had in the NT this summer and beyond.
BONZA TO LAUNCH NEW AFFORDABLE NT FLIGHT ROUTES
Low-cost airline, Bonza, is set to launch new routes to Darwin and Alice Springs, offering Aussies cheaper travel options to the NT. Bonza will add 12 new flights each week to and from the Territory including Sunshine Coast to Darwin (starting 29 November), Gold Coast to Darwin (starting 1 December), and Melbourne to Alice Springs (starting 12 December).
VIRGIN SET TO LAUNCH NEW FLIGHT ROUTES INTO ULURU
Uluru is set for a tourism boost, with Virgin Australia announcing two new direct services from Melbourne and Brisbane, commencing next year. Launched in partnership with the Northern Territory Government and Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia (operators of Ayers Rock Resort), the new services will inject more than 62,000 seats per year to the Red Centre, connecting tourists directly to the spiritual heartland of Australia, while providing more choice and value to travellers. The new routes, starting 6 and 7 June 2024 respectively, will be the first time Virgin Australia has operated Uluru services from Brisbane and Melbourne. The new services will support the growth of the Aboriginal tourism sector, contributing to the Northern Territory’s more than $3 billion visitor expenditure.
TOURISM NT LAUNCHES CHATNT WITH ABBIE CHATFIELD
Tourism NT has launched ChatNT, an Australian-first AI innovation fronted by media personality Abbie Chatfield. A tongue-in-cheek play on Chatfield’s last name, ChatNT is an AI travel tool that offers inspiration from Chatfield – in her signature tone of voice and phrasing – for Australian travellers interested in planning a summer holiday in the Northern Territory. ChatNT is the first time an Australian brand has used GPT-3.5 technology via Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service – the same technology powering ChatGPT – to generate celebrity-like conversations and interactions with audiences.
NT TOURISM INDUSTRY ACHIEVERS RECOGNISED AT BROLGA AWARDS
The NT’s tourism industry night of nights saw 28 Territory businesses, organisations and individuals crowned as the best in the business. Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia’s Wintjiri Wiru, emerged as a standout performer taking out the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Experiences category as well as being crowned the Chair’s Choice for Tourism Excellence. Darwin Waterfront won the best Major Tourist Attraction award, while Darwin Festival was crowned best Major Festival after winning the same award in 2022. Sab Lord and Ann-Maree Grant of Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris received the highest individual accolade, jointly receiving the Tourism Minister’s Perpetual Trophy in recognition of their dedication and commitment to Territory tourism.
DARWIN WATERFRONT CELEBRATE AWARD WINS
Darwin Waterfront has been recognised for its commitment to providing safe, accessible and unique options for visitors, taking home two accolades at the NT Disability Inclusion Awards – the Inclusive Communities Award and the Overall Award for Excellence. A range of works were completed over the past 12 months to improve accessibility across the venue, including the introduction of priority seating in the Wave Lagoon, daily roll-out of a MobiMat and construction of new parking and event facilities.
DARWIN INTERNATIONAL LAKSA FESTIVAL CROWNS WINNERS
After a month celebrating the Top End’s love of laksa, the winners of the fifth Darwin International Laksa Festival have been announced. This year’s festival broke records, with more than 120 dish entries and over 90 different venues taking part. Darwin Waterfront restaurant CHOW! was awarded the coveted ‘Golden Bowl’, KOPI Stop café was voted the ‘People’s Choice’ winner, and Darwin Sailing Club took out the ‘People’s Choice Best Inspired By Dish’ for their laksa-inspired mango crêpe.
EPIC OUTBACK SERIES FILMING IN THE NT
Netflix’s new six-part series, Desert King, will see the NT shine on a global stage. The story follows a succession battle for control of the world’s largest cattle station, as the Lawson family compete with the outback’s most powerful factions including rival cattle barons, desert gangsters, Indigenous Elders, and billionaire miners. Bolstered by a talented Australian production crew including cinematographer Simon Duggan (The Great Gatsby) and director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek), the series is the largest screen production ever filmed in the NT.
DARWIN STREET ART FESTIVAL TRANSFORMS TRAVELODGE RESORT
This year’s Darwin Street Art Festival saw the creation of 20 new vibrant murals including a poignant tribute to the local Larrakia people, the Traditional Owners of Garramilla (Darwin). Travelodge Resort Darwin was the only hotel to be painted as part of the festival, with local artist Adnate transforming the hotel’s five-storey-high exterior wall into a striking mural depicting portraits of two children from the local Fejo family. Made in consultation with the Fejo family, the stunning mural represents the emerging generation and future of the Larrakia people.
SILVERSEA CRUISES EXPANDS DARWIN VOYAGES
Silversea Cruises is expanding its NT voyages, giving cruise passengers more opportunities to explore and disembark in Darwin. From 2025, Silversea will run its 10-night Kimberley-voyages round trip from Darwin, visiting Broome as a port of call. Longer voyages from the Territory such as Darwin-Bali and Darwin-Fiji will also be offered, welcoming international passengers to enjoy some of the best that Darwin has to offer.
DARWIN WATERFRONT PUTS ACCESSIBILITY FIRST
The Darwin Waterfront Corporation (DWC) is making positive strides in improving the accessibility of the Darwin Waterfront and making it a welcoming destination for everyone. Thanks to its strong commitment, DWC has recently been awarded Accessible Tourism Accreditation under the Quality Tourism Framework. Some notable changes include introducing daily Mobi-Mat® beach access to Darwin's Saltwater Lagoon to ensure wheelchair and mobility aid entry to the water, establishing a priority seating area at the Wave Lagoon, and expanding its accessibility guides.
DISCOVERY RESORTS PARTNER WITH ABORIGINAL SKINCARE BRAND
Discovery Resorts – Kings Canyon has partnered with Aboriginal-owned bath and body products business Yaye (pronounced ‘Yah-yah’, which means ‘big sister’ in local Arrente language) to exclusively offer its Summer Range in the resort’s deluxe rooms and glamping tents. Discovery Resorts – Kings Canyon is the first accommodation in Australia to stock the emerging brand, providing guests with an added cultural touch. The Summer Range heroes extracts of Native Silk Lemon Grass (also known as ‘Aherre-Aherre’), which is a traditional bush medicine.
WHAT'S NEW FROM THE NT
NEW TROPICAL AIRPORT RESORT WITH STRONG LARRAKIA TIES
Set to become Australia’s first ever airport resort, the Novotel & Mercure Darwin Airport Resort will be the perfect tropical base for Top End travellers following a recent $30 million renovation and integration of the adjoining hotels. Launching 5 December 2023, the resort will feature a combined reception area, 423 rooms including new five-star pool villas, family suites and freestanding bungalows. The resort will also host a new 65-metre lagoon pool (the largest swimming pool in any Australian state or Territory) and children’s aquatic playground; new poolside dining, a major upgrade of conference and event facilities; and tropical landscaping. Located on the lands of the Larrakia Nation, the resort has proudly embraced local Aboriginal culture. As part of this redevelopment, a striking Aboriginal mural has been installed on the 41-metre water tower in front of the property, and the hotels are looking to introduce the Gurambai Cultural Experience, a short walking tour curated by Larrakia guides.
NEW CAMPSITES OPEN IN LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
Litchfield National Park is home to spectacular waterfalls, crystal clear waterholes, magnetic termite mounds and 12 new campsites at Surprise Creek Falls. The off-the-beaten-track campground, loved by locals for its 4WD access and series of pristine rock pools, now has 19 campsites with a 2.6km track connecting the old and new sites. Facilities include barbeque and fire pits, hardstands for vehicles, picnic tables and pit toilets.
NEW FOOD AND DRINK
DARWIN’S FIRST DEDICATED RUM BAR
Bar Kokomo is Darwin’s first rum bar, launched by award-winning Darwin bartender Anneliese Grazioli and the team behind popular Darwin cocktail bar, Hanky Panky Lounge. Anneliese’s main inspiration for Bar Kokomo was “all things rum with a strong focus on the Caribbean” – a region that shares climate and lifestyle parallels with Darwin. The bar’s drinks menu includes blissful cocktails and rum concoctions, and the kitchen serves dishes inspired by flavours of the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
EPIC CULINARY SAFARI AT BAMURRU PLAINS
Luxury safari lodge Bamurru Plains is set to launch its culinary safari Wild Taste of The Top End exclusively from 24-27 March 2024. Multi-hatted Australian chef James Viles, known for his sustainable cooking approach, will host hands-on culinary experiences and bespoke menus sampling native ingredients and wild bush flavours distinct to the Top End’s habitat and ecosystem. The experience includes return charter flights from Darwin, accommodation and guided wilderness safaris exploring Kakadu’s Mary River region, unearthing the natural beauty and rich diversity of the Territory’s unique food bowl.
WILD WINE ESCAPE AT BULLO RIVER STATION
Following its inaugural success this year, Bullo River Station has announced its Wild Wine Escape will return 30 August to 2 September 2024. The four-day retreat, hosted by Voyager Estate’s Chief Winemaker Tim Shand, will welcome guests for a distinct luxury and epicurean experience combining the very best of Australian wine, food and outback discovery. The package includes accommodation and activities (flights and transfers not included).
LIQUID LIGHT LAUNCHES AT DARWIN WATERFRONT
An exciting, large-scale outdoor installation, Liquid Light, will transform the Darwin Waterfront Recreation Lagoon into a showcase of water, light and sound. Running from 25 November-10 December 2023, the four-week spectacle will include three different shows, with multiple free performances each night until New Year’s Eve. Delivered by Australian company, Oracle Liquid, the multi-media experience includes laser projection, water fountains, flames and animations, programmed to an energetic soundtrack.
AUTOPIA TOURS INTRODUCES NEW EXPERIENCES
Darwin, Berry Springs & Kakadu
Autopia Tours recently launched several new experiences that can be booked throughout the Top End’s Tropical Summer. The first is a half-day Territory Wildlife Park Experience, which highlights some of Australia’s most iconic and unique wildlife in a stunning bushland setting before stopping by the Berry Springs Tavern for lunch. Autopia Tours has also launched a new two-day Kakadu Outback Retreat Experience that showcases the best that Kakadu has to offer during Tropical Summer. Discover some of the oldest and best-preserved Aboriginal rock art in the world, spot prehistoric crocodiles on a Yellow Water Cruise, and be immersed in the stories and culture of Traditional Owners on this unmissable tour.
NEW STOCKMAN’S EXPERIENCE AT KATHERINE CATTLE STATION
Multi-award-winning Katherine Outback Experience has launched a new Stockman’s Experience, which provides a rare look into what life is like working on a remote cattle station. Guests will learn how wild horses are tamed and be part of a working dog training session to roundup cattle or goats. The tour also offers behind-the-scenes access to the farm, including feeding and interacting with farm animals. The tour will run every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning from October 2023-April 2024.
TOP END WILDERNESS PHOTO SAFARI RETURNS TO BAMURRU PLAINS
Canon master photographer Richard I’Anson is back for another year for his wildly popular Top End Wilderness Photo Safari, hosted at Bamurru Plains. Running from 7-11 April 2024, nine guests will join Richard as he shares his tips on mastering landscape and wildlife photography, surrounded by the beauty of Kakadu’s Mary River. The experience includes accommodation, gourmet meals, wilderness safaris as well as a daytrip to the dual World-Heritage listed Kakadu National Park to see ancient rock art and experience a scenic flight over Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls.
BULLO RIVER STATION OFFERS NEW ABORIGINAL CULTURAL TOUR
Bullo River Station is set to launch a brand-new Aboriginal cultural tour for the 2024 season in partnership with ECO and ROC-certified sustainable tourism company, Kingfisher Tours. Led by local Djarrany-Djarrany guides, the tour will depart Bullo River Station in the morning and transfer guests via helicopter to Legune Station for a day of cultural education and immersion. Guests will view ancient rock art, learn about Dreamtime stories, go birdwatching, collect mussels and try their hand at net fishing. The tour is available as an optional extra to Bullo River Station guests and will run three times a week.
CULTURAL IMMERSION WITH 100% FINKE RIVER CULTURE & ADVENTURE
Alice Springs & Surrounds
Aboriginal-owned and operated 100% Finke River Culture & Adventure has launched a new small-group, cultural immersion tour in the Red Centre. Over five days and four nights, guests will visit sacred sites of the Western Arrernte people, the community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg), the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct which is brimming with Aboriginal art history, and stay on homelands with Traditional Owners. Here, guests will learn about local food, culture, and connection to Country as well as the Dreamtime stories that have been passed down over generations. The tour, which is only running a few times a year, has already sold out for select dates.