The second northernmost point on the continent covering a rather vaguely-defined area of perhaps 400,000 square kilometers behind the northern coast. It surrounds Darwin and stretches east to the Arnhem Land, south to Kakadu and north to the Tiwi Islands. The landscape and Aboriginal history are awe-inspiring.


Darwin
The capital of the Northern Territory is the gateway to explore the Top End. The city boasts a relaxed lifestyle and a huge choice of outdoor activities. There are only two seasons in the Top End – the “dry” from April to October and the “wet” from May to September. The dry season is regarded as the best time to visit but don’t be deterred by the wet season as it is the time when you will see the Top End at its most green and the waterfalls at their most spectacular.

Litchfield National Park
The 1,500 square kilometer Litchfield National Park is an easy journey (an hour-and-a-half drive) from Darwin. The Park contains several types of Top End habitats including lush monsoon forests, termite mounds, unusual rock formations, waterfalls and cascades.

The Park encloses much of the spectacular Tabletop Range, which is a wide sandstone plateau mostly surrounded by cliffs. During the monsoon season, from October to May, four major waterfalls thunder from the cliffs to tropical rock pools many meters below. During the rest of the year the waterfalls flow more gently, making the waterholes perfect spots for a cool dip. For visitors, Litchfield's main attractions are permanent spring fed waterfalls (Florence, Tolmer and Wangi), cascades at Buley Rockhole, magnetic termite mounds, and a wildlife cruise along the majestic Reynolds River. Sealed roads link all main attractions.

The region has a pioneering and pastoral history and places like the ruins of Blyth Homestead, built in 1929 but abandoned in the 1960s, are a reminder of the tough conditions faced by pioneers. Just outside the Park's entrance is the small township of Batchelor, which serves as a gateway to Litchfield.

Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land
Kakadu National Park is just 257km from Darwin along the sealed Arnhem Highway. In its 19,000sq km, it is home to around 275 species of birds, 75 species of reptiles, 25 species of frogs, an estimated 10,000 species of insects and 1,600 plant species comprising more than a third of the Top End's plant life.

The name "Kakadu" comes from "Gagudju" - the main Aboriginal language used in the Northern part of the area at the start of the 20th century. Today, three major languages are spoken within the park - Gundjeihmi / Mayali, Kunwinjku and Jawoyn. For at least 50,000 years, Aboriginal people have continuously lived in the area now defined by the National Park, leaving behind shelters, stone tools, grindstones and ochre for ceremonial painting.

The parts of their legacy most visitors come to see are the famous Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock, where Dreamtime legend, and day-to-day lining are presented side-by-side. The rock art galleries reveal sprayed hand stencils, hunters carrying barbed spears and creation beings Namarrgon the Lightning Man and Ngalyod the Rainbow Serpent. Fish, birds and animals are presented x-ray style, revealing internal organs and bone structures. There are as many as 5,000 other recorded sites scattered throughout the Park.

The sandstone escarpment to the east, soaring 100 to 200 meters, is a celebration of waterfalls like Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Gunlom. Between November and March, when the rains come to the Top End, Kakadu National Park springs to life. The floodplains fill to become an endless sea of birdlife and the waterfalls roar their loudest. Waving meadows of speargrass grow 2 meters high in just a few short weeks.

As Arnhem land is Aboriginal land most of it is blocked off from independent travelers, however you can visit the north western and north eastern corners of la and Gove, and Oenpelli near Kakadu's East Alligator River. The area also has some magnificent rock art, which is a big attraction, along with its natural beauty. The drive along the dust road from Kakadu to Oenpelli is spectacular, as you travel along the East Alligator flood plain.

Katherine
Katherine is a town with a population of around 10,000 situated 320 km southeast of Darwin.  It is the third largest settlement in the territory after Darwin and Alice Springs. The town was given its name after the daughter of one of the sponsors of John McDouall Stuart who first saw the area in 1862. A narrow gauge train line south from Darwin to Katherine was completed in 1926. It fell into disuse. In 2003 the line was replaced with standard gauge as part of extending the line to Alice Springs north to Darwin. Katherine is now the only stop of The Ghan between Alice Springs and Darwin.

The Nitmiluk National Park near the town has many caves full of ancient rock paintings. These caves often become flooded during "the wet" as the river can rise 18 m in the narrow passage. In a particularly wet season, the caves higher up can become flooded, damaging these ancient treasures forever. The central attraction of the Nitmiluk National Park is the magnificent twelve-kilometer Katherine Gorge, carved by the Katherine River through the Arnhemland plateau. Often described as thirteen gorges, it is in fact one continuous cleft, turning left and right along fault lines and separated during the dry season by rock bars. The spectacle of the river, hemmed in by orange cliffs, makes for a wonderful cruise or canoe trip and, unlike Kakadu, Nitmiluk also welcomes bushwalkers along its many marked trails.