Australia's Northern Territory covers an area twice the size of Texas, so you'll need to plan your itinerary carefully to make the most of Australia's Outback playground. Many visitors take a road trip from Alice Springs in the center of Australia to Darwin in the north, with plenty of stops along the way to marvel at the unique landscape, while others join organized tours to far-flung gems in Arnhem Land.
If you are traveling independently, make sure to carry plenty of water and to check road conditions before setting out (especially during the wet season, which runs from November to April in the north). Outside of Alice Springs and Darwin, you'll likely find yourself staying in small towns with limited accommodation offerings. Offering access to national parks and quirky local attractions, here's our list of where to stay in the Northern Territory.
If Uluru is on your Australia bucket list, you'll likely find yourself passing through Alice Springs. Alice is located the heart of the Red Centre on the traditional lands of the Arrernte people, a five-hour drive from Uluru itself. (It is also possible to fly in and out of Uluru if you're short on time.)
Despite counting only around 25,000 people as residents, this little town is a destination in itself. Top attractions include impressive landscapes like the Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park and cultural experiences like visiting one of the surrounding Aboriginal art centers.
In the town center, you'll find reliable hotel brands like DoubleTree by Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Quest, while Alice's Secret Travellers Inn is a great budget option. If you'd rather sleep under the stars, we recommend Standley Chasm, a half-hour drive west of town.
Yulara is a small town located just outside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and serviced by Ayers Rock airport, making it the perfect base for your visit to the rock. It is mostly made up of tourist services, including tour providers, hotels, restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
Ayers Rock Resort offers seven hotels at different price points, plus a campground, and visitors can choose from a wide range of dining options. We recommend staying at least a couple of days in the area, so you have time to check out gorgeous places like Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas), as well as Uluru.
Approximately 500 miles north of Alice Springs, Daly Waters is home to one of the friendliest watering holes in the Territory. The Daly Waters Pub is open all day every day, with great food and a range of accommodation options in a quirky setting.
The town sits at the intersection the east-west Carpentaria Highway and the north-south Stuart Highway, making it a busy thoroughfare by outback standards. Tennant Creek is another good pit stop along the highway, a little closer to Alice.
Between Daly Waters and Katherine, Mataranka is an oasis for travelers emerging from the Red Centre, or a last taste of lush greenery for those heading south. Take a dip in the thermal pool or go for a hike at Elsey National Park. The Mangarrayi and Yangman Indigenous people are the traditional owners of the park.
Despite its population of only 350 people, Mataranka has three motels in town that cater mostly to budget travelers, plus Mataranka Homestead and Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping on the road out to the National Park for those who'd prefer to be immersed in the surrounding region.
Just a three-hour drive south of Darwin, the town of Katherine is known for its proximity to Nitmiluk Gorge. At this gorge system on the lands of the Jawoyn people, you can take a cruise, hire a canoe or explore the stunning waterfalls on foot.
There are campsites available in Nitmiluk National Park, as well as hotels, hostels, and resorts in town. The Ibis Styles is a great choice for families. At Manbullo Homestead, you can stay on a working cattle property, while at Cicada Lodge, you'll be on the doorstep of the national park.
Darwin is the Territory's capital and its largest city, a 4.5-hour flight from Sydney. With a population of around 140,000 people, it is known for its strong Aboriginal cultures, eclectic markets, and incredible sunsets over the Timor Sea.
It is the gateway to Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks and has a tropical climate, with the wet season running from November to April. (The saltwater crocodiles that can be found in the shallow waters around the city are another big drawcard.)
Travelers can choose from a wide range of hotels, as well as tourist parks, Airbnbs and apartments across the city. Try Vibe Hotel on the waterfront for great value or Mindl Beach Casino Resort for a little more luxury.
Jabiru is the main tourist town in Kakadu National Park, a 2.5-hour drive west of Darwin. It serves as a base for exploring the park, as well as a departure point for scenic flights and day tours into Arnhem Land. The Bowali Visitor Centre is a great place to start your visit.
Accommodation options in town include the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, the Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park and Anbinik Kakadu Resort. There is also a supermarket and a pharmacy if you need to restock during your journey.
There are also plenty of campgrounds scattered throughout the region, as well as luxury lodges like Wildman Wilderness Lodge and Bamurru Plains.
If you've been dreaming of an island escape, the Northern Territory has got you covered. The Yolŋu people are the traditional owners of Bremer Island, a popular resort destination around an hour’s boat ride or a short charter flight from Gove Airport in remote East Arnhem Land.
Here you can leave the Outback behind and experience pristine beaches, hiking trails and fishing areas. The only place to stay (literally) is the eco-friendly Banubanu Beach Retreat.