The Northern Territory’s Best Cultural Experiences

They’re among our most popular destinations in Australia. Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs and Uluru all offer unique experiences, but these Northern Territory gems also give travellers the chance to learn more about the First Nations people who’ve lived on and nurtured these lands for 60,000 years. 

Being remote and a good distance from one another, the best way to ensure you take in the Northern Territory’s finest experiences is by hiring a rental car, exploring at your own pace and booking tours with Indigenous guides in advance. Following are some of the best cultural experiences you’ll find throughout the Northern Territory. 

Cultural Experiences from Darwin 

At almost 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu National Park is one of the largest national parks in Australia. About three hours’ drive from Darwin, it’s a spectacular place with lush rainforests, rocky gorges, serene swimming pools and incredible wildlife. The Bininj/Mungguy people have lived here for tens of thousands of years, and now offer tours to see some of the highlights of the park, including a selection of its more than 5,000 rock art sites. 

During the tourist season – May until mid-October – there are many bookable Bininj/Mungguy-led tours and activities. These include spending time with local artists learning how to paint and weave, touring billabongs to learn about Kakadu’s habitats and wildlife, and exploring rock art sites and learning more about history of one of the world’s oldest living cultures. 

There are many cruises of the park’s most famous wetland, but Kakadu Tourism’s Yellow Water Cruise is an Indigenous-owned experience. Spanning 90 minutes to two hours, this is the best way to see the incredible birdlife of the billabong, as well as encounter the waters’ other residents, the enormous and very dangerous saltwater crocodiles.  

If you want to stay close to Kakadu to explore even further, book a lodge room or glamping experience at Cooinda Lodge, right near Yellow Water Billabong. 

Get Close to Culture in Katherine 

About 320 kilometres southeast of Darwin is where the outback meets the tropics. Katherine is one of the largest settlements in the Northern Territory, but travellers tend not to spend too much time in the town itself. Instead, the main attraction here is Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, about 30 kilometres away. 

Its name is slightly deceiving because Nitmiluk Gorge actually consists of 13 gorges carved through ancient sandstone country. A great introduction to them is the four-hour Timeless Land Three Gorge Tour. It cruises between red cliff walls and includes the chance to swim in the Lillypond seasonal waterfalls or rock pools. There’s also the chance to hire canoes, explore the stunning scenery and watch the local wildlife on the self-guided Malappar Traveller paddle. 

Stay just a 15-minute walk from the jetty at the luxurious Cicada Lodge, owned by the Jawoyn people. It has just 18 rooms, each decorated with artwork depicting ancient stories, as well as an excellent restaurant where the chef prepares a contemporary menu highlighting the flavours of the region. The concierge can help book any tours you want to take in the region. Apart from the ones above, there’s also the chance to go on a private Jawoyn rock art tour by helicopter. 

Central Australia’s Cultural Gems 

The outback region that surrounds Alice Springs and Uluru, themselves 470 kilometres apart, is a unique environment. The road is fully sealed, so perfectly safe for your rental car, and it’s a must-do if you have the time. 

Start in Alice Springs at the Aruluen Cultural Precinct, where there are four galleries, museums, sacred sites, public art and a theatre. The Aboriginal artworks in the Araluen Art Collection trace the history of Aboriginal art in Central Australia and the beginning of the Western Desert art movement, including original artworks by renowned watercolourist Albert Namatjira.  

On your way to Uluru, be sure to stop at Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm), an important women’s site for the Arrernte people. Take one of the guided tours and cultural presentations that cover history, kinship, Sorry Business (Aboriginal rituals observed during a period of mourning) and other important cultural experiences.  

Hermannsburg Historic Precinct is a preserved mission that operated for 150 years. Now there’s the chance to explore the buildings and discover the site’s stories. There is also an important artistic community here, and you can visit Hermannsburg Potters. The artists’ unique style has been exhibited and collected around the world for the past 25 years.  

Once at Yulara, the town that services Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, there are many ways to engage with the traditional owners. Maruku Arts holds a dot-painting workshop twice daily at the Yulara town square where you’ll work beside a local Anangu artist. 

Join a day-long SEIT Patji tour where your Aboriginal guide will take you to their homelands and spend time teaching you about their culture and the fight for land rights before heading to a dune overlooking Uluru and Kata Tjuta at sunset.  


To explore the Northern Territory and its many cultural attractions, hire a rental car before you set off.