The Northern Territory is abundant in many things – vibrant landscapes, culture, wildlife. It’s also laced with heart-pumping 4WD tracks to satisfy your inner explorer.
The Northern Territory, for most part, is divided into two distinct regions due to the dramatic differences in weather and environment. The Top End encompasses the region north of Katherine while the Red Centre covers everything to the south. One thing these regions have in common is a range of places to go off-road. Here are a few of our favourite 4WD tracks in the Northern Territory.
The Top End
Life in the Top End has two main seasons, the Wet and The Dry. By far the most popular time to visit the Top End is the Dry Season, between May and October. The weather is warm, dry and sunny, ideal for getting around. The hot humid wet season is between November and April where frequent storms bring flooding rains. Although a quiet time for tourist numbers, the Wet is becoming more popular for spectacular thunderstorms, lush green landscapes and pounding waterfalls. The downside is that most unsealed roads are impassable so getting around by vehicle is limited.
The Top End is dominated by its famous National Parks of Kakadu and Litchfield. Many people can get to the easy accessible parts of Kakadu and Litchfield. The more remote parts require a little adventure.
Did you know we have recently launched TrulyAus Tagalong Tours? We take groups of 4WD enthusiasts on epic adventures around the country. See if there’s a tour happening near you by visiting our adventure hub.
Kakadu National Park
Getting off the sealed roads in Kakadu is worth it. There are three main destinations at the end of sandy tracks: Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls on one 60km (2 hour one way) track and the short 12km Maguk track. The reward for effort is cooling swims, tropical vegetation and enormous rock cliffs and gorges. Both destinations require 4WD.
Tips for Kakadu:
- Crocs: In most 4WD advice articles, it is recommended that you walk water crossings to check the depth before driving across. The Top End is definitely not the place to do this. Saltwater crocodiles are a big and ever-present risk in rivers, billabongs and coastal regions. The rangers check popular waterholes like Jim Jim after the Wet for crocs that may have moved in. Any stranded crocs are captured and removed. Always obey croc-warning signs.
- Take your walking shoes: Jim Jim falls requires a one km walk / rock hop to get to the swimming hole and waterfall.
- Avoid brushing up against some plants. The green ants have a nasty bite.
Need some more advice on getting around Kakadu? Check this out.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield has some fantastic waterfalls and swimming holes like Wangi Falls and Florence Falls, which are mainly 2WD. There are specific 4WD camping areas at Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek), Surprise Creek Falls and Florence Falls. South of the Litchfield Road is a strange crop of sandstone structures reminiscent of an ancient city, hence the name Lost City. It’s a rocky winding 10 kms trip between towering rocks.
Tips for Litchfield
- Just an hour out of Darwin and being so accessible, it can get really busy in the dry season. Plan on getting to campsites before late morning, as it’s on a first in, first served basis. (An online booking system is being proposed to start in October 2021)
- Like Kakadu, take notice of crocodile warning signs.
Find out even more about visitingLitchfield National Park here.
The Red Centre
The red Centre is home to dozens of Australia’s most iconic natural landmarks. Uluru, the Olgas, Kings Canyon – the list goes on. It’s also packed with great opportunities for getting off-road and exploring some of the state’s lesser-known gems.
Chambers Pillar is thought of as the centre of Australia. This limestone pillar has been visited by many explorers who actually carved their names into the rock. A lot of others have followed suit, so it’s a challenge finding the famous ones.
Chambers Pillar is now an historic reserve and 160km south of Alice Springs via the sandy 4WD track.
Tips for Chambers Pillar
- Sunset is the best time to view and photograph the pillar as the different coloured rocks light up. You can camp out there to capture both sunset and sunrise.
- Be very careful when driving over single lane sand dunes. You can pop a flagpole on your car to signal to the other cars. There’s a steep jump up on the road into the reserve.
Find out more about visiting the park here.
This outback dirt road connects two very special National Parks. From Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) to Finke Gorge National Park, the road requires 4WD. Once in Finke River things get seriously 4WD. They don’t call it Boggy Hole for nothing. Driving the Mereenie Loop is one of the best ways to truly experience the rugged desert landscapes of red rock ranges and beautiful white trunked ghost gums.
From Kings Canyon, the Mereenie Loop goes for 200kms to the historic town of Hermannsburg where the famous Indigenous artist Albert Namatjira painted the surrounding landscapes. Hermannsburg is also the jump off point for tracks to Palm Valley and Boggy Hole.
Tips for Mereenie Loop
- Central Land Council transit permits are available from Alice Springs Tourist Information, Hermannsburg (Ntaria), Kings Canyon (Watarrka), and the CLC in Alice Springs.
- Drop your tyre pressures going into Finke Gorge National Park as there are plenty of soft sandy patches.
- Take plenty of water especially in the hotter months.
Great Central Road (or Outback Highway)
While much of this road is in Western Australia, the inspiring part of this drive is cresting red sand dunes to see Kata Tjuta and Uluru as purple bumps in the far distance. On each crest of red sand, they appear just that little bit closer. The entire track is 1000km from Laverton (WA) to Uluru (NT).
Tips for Great Central Road
- There are two permits to get from two Aboriginal Land Councils
- Avoid summer
- Watch out for camels, a pretty big road hazard.
Here’s what you need to know about permits and visiting the park here.