Rain Check



  • Written by Jodi Clark

Tales from the Top End: What's New in the NT

With the end of the Wet Season in sight and waterfalls well and truly awash, the Northern Territory is looking as spectacular as ever this February. In the Top End and elsewhere through the Territory, new products, festivals and events are springing up like green grass after the rain.

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store over the coming months.


Darwin’s newest locally-built, family-owned boutique hotel opened in the heart of Darwin’s CBD earlier this month. Combining modern architecture with Darwin’s laid-back lifestyle, Darwin City Hotel offers a suite of 83 standard, deluxe and superior-style rooms, and is perfectly positioned for guests who want to take full advantage of Darwin’s thriving al-fresco dining scene.


Nitmiluk Tours has just released a brand new eight-minute scenic helicopter flight for travellers on a budget. The whirlwind flight heads out over the Northern Rockhole at Nitmiluk / Katherine Gorge and gives a bird's eye view of some of the most spectacular waterfalls along the Jatbula Trail.  Priced at a nifty $99, the best time to do the flight is between January and June when Waterfall Season in the NT is in full flow. 


Intrepid Travel is adding a three-day tour of Arnhem Land, Kakadu, and Litchfield to its list of specialist itineraries in the Northern Territory, with Indigenous guides joining travellers for special parts of the tour.  Over three big days, guests will visit the Mawurndaddja Rock Art Site, as well as the Ubirr Aboriginal art sites. A Binninj guide will join the group as it sails down the East Alligator River, while other Aboriginal guides will jump aboard to explain the cultural significance of various art sites. The tour is priced from $1,150 per person. 

There will be 4 departures of the expedition style Journey into East Arnhem Land (PLBA) Jul-Sep 2018.  

Intrepid is also adding a seven-day expedition through East Arnhem Land staying at Nyinykay Homelands and Bremer Island’s Banubanu Beach Retreat. This rugged wilderness area is home to the Yolngu people, who will share their fishing, hunting and cultural secrets with guests during the trip. Prices start from $5,995 per person.


Iconic Territory brand, Paspaley, is spreading their tourism wings with the launch of their all-new Paspaley Flying Boat Tours in and around Darwin Harbour. The luxury venture, which launched earlier this week, is set to provide visiting cruise ship passengers with a glamorous scenic tour of the Top End.  

There are only 16 Grumman Mallards flying boats in operation across the globe, so passengers abord Paspaley's new flying boats will not only enjoy the luxury airline travel of yesteryear but they'll see the rugged wilderness of the Top End in style and comfort.


BASSINTHEGRASS Music Festival returns to Darwin’s George Brown Botanic Gardens mid-May and kicks off an epic calendar of dry season events in Darwin. The 12-hour concert event is set to deliver non-stop new age tunes paired with classic beats and chilled vibes thanks to an eclectic line up. 

Paul Kelly makes his debut at this year’s BASSINTHEGRASS and joins an all-star line-up including Client Liaison, Confidence Man, Dean Lewis, Dune Rats, Illy, San Cisco, Spit Syndicate and Vera Blue alongside local bands.  Vera Blue, one of Australia’s most exciting breakthrough female artists, will also grace the BASSINTHEGRASS stage for the very first time, after a stellar 2017 that saw her appear twice in the Triple J Hottest 100 and receive her first ARIA nomination in 2017 for Best Pop Release.


The Top End is renowned for its pristine harbour and coastlines so SeaLink Northern Territory has teamed with the folks at Crab Claw Island Resort to showcase Darwin’s beautiful Bynoe Harbour region to the world. SeaLink’s two-hour day cruise, which runs during the Dry Season and includes an afternoon of free time, takes in the history of the region including the pearl farms, showcases locally-caught seafood and even allows a little fishing time off the beaches at Crab Claw.


Cicada Lodge’s love affair with food continues in 2018 with the announcement of their sell-out ‘A journey of the palate’ event in Nitmiluk National Park from mid-April. In a first-of-kind in region, Aboriginal chef Mark Olive will join one of the country’s leading wine critics, Jeremy Oliver, for the three-day event which kicks off with a five-course degustation meal.

This event will also showcase Australia’s top five food and wine regions. Add a cruise and a helicopter trip over Nitmiluk / Katherine Gorge into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a decadent event… so much so that the event sold out within hours of going on sale. Cicada has also announced a French-inspired foodie event which includes a three-course French Chefs’ Table Menu, French breakfast and a night’s accommodation at the Lodge for $450 per person on May 12. Other events are in the planning stages for later in the year.


World Heritage-listed Kakadu and the tropical Top End provide the perfect setting for A Taste of Kakadu - a festival that embraces Indigenous bush delicacies with a modern foodie twist. Territory staples like barramundi, magpie geese and native yams will be served up during boutique dinners, over campfire stories and in sunset cooking sessions by some of the best Aboriginal chefs in the country during the event which runs from 18-27 May.

Food is the great connector, so gourmands who fancy a 10-course degustation in a secret, bush setting will rub shoulders with home cooks workshopping the secrets of incorporating Indigenous native foods into everyday meals. Evening boat cruises serve up sparkling wine and bush-inspired canapes with a side of Kakadu, and the kids aren’t forgotten with finding yam missions and mini Master Chef sessions on offer throughout the festival.


Crocodylus Park in Darwin has launched a new guest experience to feed exotic animals. The special one-on-one sessions will see guests join the park’s keepers and playful meerkats, lions, tigers, monkey, tortoises, chameleon, blue tongue lizards, snakes and dingoes for informative hand-feeding sessions that also teach animal behaviour. Bookings are essential, minimum $30 per person.


A $750,000 all-weather, state-of-the-art al fresco deck complete with local fig trees, lush gardens and large roof overhangs will open at The Precinct Bar on the bustling Darwin Waterfront in the coming weeks. The new venue boasts two themed bars serving craft beers, a large selection of wines and modern pub fare, and is only metres from Darwin’s famous lagoon wave pool. 

Three new restaurants, BBQ Tonight, Lime Cafe and a still-to-be-named family style restaurant are also scheduled to open in the coming months.


Some of the NT’s most famous landscapes will be transformed into spectacular outdoor movie theatres, showcasing the very best in local short films and ancestral stories as part of the inaugural Northern Territory Travelling Film Festival (NTTFF).

Natural auditoriums will pop-up from 21 May to 9 June, starting in the Territory’s Red Centre in Alice Springs before journeying north up the Stuart Highway to the Top End. Locals and tourists will be able to enjoy movie screenings in iconic NT destinations including the backdrop of Anzac Hill in Alice Springs; amongst the ruby boulders of Tennant Creek; nestled between the striking wetlands of Kakadu; and beside the ancient waterways of Nitmiluk National Park, just outside of Katherine.

The curated 126-minute program will feature 10 quintessentially Territorian short films that organisers say are reflective of the burgeoning crop of regional and Indigenous filmmakers.  The inaugural program also includes acclaimed award-winning films, including four original works from the Indigenous Short Film Program – Carry The Flag, Finding Maawirrangga, The Greedy Emu and BAKALA, - which touch on prevalent cultural issues and finding solace in ancestral locations.


The Darwin Waterfront’s Dry Season events program kicks off in late April 2018 with the Thailand Gran Festival and Thai heritage celebration. The Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s open-air Opera Gala, complete with fireworks, and the multicultural ‘Harmony Soiree’ is set to round out the activities for May.  The jam-packed line-up of weekend activities will continue until the end of June and includes free movies under the stars, school holiday activities, sporting and swimming events and foodie extravaganzas.


Territory Day is one of the most spectacular events on the festival calendar.  Celebrating 40 years of self-governance, Territorians and visitors alike gather on 1 July for public fireworks shows across the Territory. For one day only, the Territory lights up in a rainbow of rockets, bangers and Roman candles as locals compete with one another to produce the most brilliant pyrotechnics display on the only day of the year where people are allowed to light fireworks.

To plan your Top End adventure visit: northernterritory.com.


"Northern Territory is looking as spectacular as ever this February"


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