Australia's most sparsely-populated region may be better known for its national parks than its cuisine, but the Northern Territory has surprises to offer even the most well-traveled foodie. From indigenous bush foods to freshly caught seafood, the best meals here are often served at pubs, markets, and bakeries.
In Darwin, you'll find a thriving Asian food scene, while Alice Springs is all about trendy cafe brunches and high-end hotel restaurants. Wherever you are in the Territory, this list of the top foods to try will ensure you don't miss a thing.
Also called as Asian sea bass, barramundi is native to the oceans around northern Australia. It's a versatile fish that is often served fried, baked, or grilled and is popular thanks to its light flavor. It pairs especially well with fragrant white or light red wines.
Barramundi can be caught in the Territory year-round but is most plentiful in March and April. In Darwin, grab some takeaway from La Beach or settle in for a treat at Crustaceans on the Wharf. In Alice Springs, Tali is your best bet. For the full experience, book a fishing charter and catch one yourself!
Quandong is one of Australia's best-known bush foods and a traditional staple for many Aboriginal peoples. This fruit can be found in the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia, including the central deserts of the Northern Territory. The fruit is also sometimes referred to as a wild peach or desert peach and is used to make tart jams, chutneys, and pies.
Learn about quandong and other bush foods at Alice Springs Desert Park and Kungas Can Cook in Alice Springs, Aboriginal Bush Traders in Darwin, or Escarpment Restaurant and Barra Bar and Bistro in Kakadu.
As the name suggests, the Kakadu plum is native to the Top End. This small green fruit can be eaten raw or in jams, with a taste similar to a sour pear. The plum is also processed into a nutritional powder as it packs a huge punch of Vitamin C. Although it has been known to Aboriginal peoples for millennia, it has only recently become famous as a superfood around the world.
You'll find Kakadu plums available in different forms at many of the markets around Darwin, as well as at Aboriginal Bush Traders. Other popular bush foods to keep an eye out for in Australia include finger limes and Davidson plums.
With sweet, rich flesh, the Northern Territory's mud crabs are a distinctive dining experience. Head to Pee Wee's at the Point for seafood and picturesque views or Crustaceans for fresh, local chilli crab.
The crabs are usually in season between May and December, but the daily catch is subject to local conditions, so call ahead to confirm the daily menu. If you'd rather catch your own, half-day crabbing tours are available around Darwin's harbor and estuaries.
Another Darwin-only offering, crocodiles are plentiful in the Top End. Often compared to chicken, crocodile meat can be quite chewy when prepared incorrectly. In the Territory, you'll find it served crumbed, on skewers, or in a burger.
At Tim's Surf and Turf you'll find crocodile schnitzel (crumbed crocodile tail) and crocodile spring rolls, while RoadKill Cafe at the Mindl Beach Markets serves up gourmet crocodile, kangaroo, and buffalo burgers on Thursday and Sunday evenings.
Darwin, the capital of the Territory, is known for its multicultural dining scene, where you'll find everything from Greek mezedes to Vietnamese pho and Korean BBQ. The city's most iconic dish is laksa, a spicy noodle soup that is a staple of Peranakan cuisine and which combines Chinese, Indonesian, and Malaysian influences.
Laksa makes a perfect meal for refueling on the go, especially at the Parap Village Markets. Here, you'll find locals lined up for a steaming bowl of Mary's laksa on Saturday mornings. There are a couple more spots competing for the title of best laksa in Darwin, including roadside gem Laksa House and Chok's Place in the city center. For South East Asian food in Alice Springs, we recommend Hanuman.
Despite the dramatically different climate, many Australians indulge in English traditions like cricket, roast dinners, and freshly baked scones with jam and cream. In England, clotted cream is traditional, while Aussies generally favor whipped cream with whatever homemade jam is available.
You'll find scones at many cafes, bakeries, and even in the bush camps in the Territory. Marksie's Stockman's Camp Tucker offers dinner and a show outside Katherine. In Darwin, you can find scones at Eva's Botanic Gardens Cafe or visit Burnett House for afternoon tea on the third Sunday of the month. The Residency in Alice Springs is well worth a visit.
A meat pie with ketchup is an iconic Aussie meal, whether from the servo (gas station), the local bakery, or a chic cafe. The combination of beef, gravy, and pastry may seem basic but it holds a special place in Australia's heart, more beloved than any hamburger or hotdog.
In Darwin, we like Melissa's Take-Away for a quick bite and Ben's Bakehouse for a more extensive menu. In Alice Springs, try a sought-after kangaroo pie at the Bakery or a spicy chilli pie from Loveys Deli. Most places have pepper, mushroom, and potato varieties and serve pies with ketchup, or tomato sauce as the locals call it.