From Kakadu to Litchfield, Uluru-Kata Tjuta to Nitmiluk, Australia’s Northern Territory is jam-packed with awesome national parks that are as giant and grand as they are diverse and dazzling.
Boasting so many attractions however, what these big name Northern Territory national parks aren’t always thin on is crowds.
Yes, sometimes it is hard to feel like you’re as remote as you’d like to be when there’s 15 other people trying to snap the same waterfall as you!
This isn’t to say that the more famous Northern Territory national parks like Kakadu or Uluru-Kata Tjuta aren’t worth visiting – they most certainly are (and you can read about my experiences there by clicking the links.) It’s just that it is also nice to get away from the crowds occasionally and explore something a bit different.
After all, if you’re travelling in the fabled Northern Territory, it’s probably because you enjoy a bit of a walk on the wild side, or at least some remote, adventurous action! That’s really what exploring the NT is all about.
So, as part of our recent budget 4wd road trip through this part of Australia, we made it our mission to uncover and explore some of the more remote spots that would take us away from the NT’s common tourist trails.
And our mission was successful!
Always fans of the road less travelled, we discovered some wonderfully hidden gems in the form of Northern Territory National Parks that we can’t believe aren’t more popular!
So here, to help spread the word, are 3 of the most epic Northern Territory National Parks that will guarantee you an awesome off the beaten track adventure.
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#1 Limmen National Park
Situated in the east of the NT, we entered this national park on our first day in the Territory after crossing the border from Queensland.
Straddling the Savannah Way, Limmen National Park is a great stop along the top route of this epic drive and should definitely feature on your bucket list … as long as you’ve got a 4wd!
That’s because this national park actually boasts some of the worst roads we’ve driven on. But hey, this is about getting off the beaten track right and there’s nothing like a bit of road corrugation to keep the crowds away!
Our highlight in Limmen National Park had to be the Southern Lost City.
Looking like an abandoned city of ancient temples, these towering sandstone stacks form a dramatic feature on the landscape and are seriously worth checking out.
There’s a great loop walk you can do, which will take you right through the Southern Lost City, allowing you to explore it up close and snap some top pics.
Alongside the walk, was a perfect little campground which, being a Northern Territory National Parks Campground, will only set you back $3.30pppn – what a steal!
Other great places to check out in Limmen National Park include the Butterfly Falls, where you can take a dip to cool off, and Tomato Island (Munbililla), which boasts a fantastic campsite, with great facilities, right on the river.
Perfect for keen fishermen, as well as bird watchers, Limmen National Park is best visited during the May-September dry season when this remote and amazing landscape really comes into its own.
#2 Judbarra / Gregory National Park
If remote four-wheel driving is your bag, then this entry on my remote Northern Territory National Parks list is the one for you!
Heading west from Katherine along the Victoria Highway, the Judbarra / Gregory National Park is the NT’s second-largest preserved area and is split between 2 sections, namely the eastern and western parts, so don’t get confused alright!
In the western section of the park is where the real 4wds tracks are located and there’s plenty to choose from.
From the infamous Bullita Stock Route to the 2-day Broadarrow Track, there’s a serious amount of rough and remote terrain here to explore.
As always, it’s important you check which tracks are open before entering the park and also make sure you have all necessary supplies including fuel, food and water to last you the duration of your time.
In terms of gear, a decent puncture repair kit is a must and a satellite phone is also highly advised.
With all that on board, we were really eager to get stuck into some 4wd adventure in this, one of the most off the beaten track Northern Territory National Parks there is.
Turning off the Victoria Highway, we first headed down the Buchanan Highway, which was already corrugated enough to give dear old Landie a good case of the shakes!
Nothing however, could prepare us for the awesome Tuwakam Track we were about to encounter!
Despite being only 20km in length, the Tuwakam Track took us almost 2 hours to complete!
Bumping our way over dry creek beds and creaking across sections of exposed limestone rocks was certainly an experience!
It was slow going, but the views were worth it and the fact we were so remote was exhilarating.
Because don’t be fooled here: The 4wd tracks in Judbarra / Gregory National Park aren’t dirt roads!
No people, these really are nothing but tyres marks in the earth that follow ancient pathways where cattle were once herded to market.
The whole thing was a real eye-opening adventure and definitely one we won’t forget in a hurry.
It was also great to go somewhere no one else we know has been!
Coming to the end, the Tuwakam Track finally spat us out onto the slightly grander Bullita Access Track.
From here, we made another 4wd detour to check out the Calcite Flow Walk down near Limestone Gorge, before retracing our steps and continuing down to Bullita Campground.
This was to be our home for the night and, true to our desire to get off the beaten track, we were the only people in the campground!
Having collected our firewood on the way in, we were all set to relax, unwind and enjoy the incredible night sky appearing above us, in solitude!
History & Heritage
But it’s not just 4wd fanatics that would call Judbarra / Gregory National Park one of the most epic Northern Territory National Parks there is.
No, there’s also tons of history to be explored in this remote area, mostly in the fascinating form of the Bullita Homestead.
This old working property has now been converted into a small, yet brilliant museum, which details exactly how life used to be on this remote outstation.
In particular, the personal account (in letters) of the 1977 flood that almost destroyed the homestead and its inhabitants, is a gripping tale that really brings home the hardships of existing out in this desolate region, even as recent as 40 years ago.
There’s also the impressive Gregory’s Tree (located the other side of Timber Creek) which played an important role in the early exploration of North Australia by Augustus Gregory and his expedition artist in 1885.
This huge, dramatic tree is also an aboriginal heritage site, sacred to many of the indigenous people of this area and the views of the river and landscape beyond also have an interesting story to tell.
For walkers, the eastern section of Judbarra / Gregory National Park is hard to beat.
Here the mighty Escarpment Walk is located and well worth the effort.
However, our favourite was definitely the short, but incredible Nawukbinbin Walk, which led us up the side of the sloped gorge walls to stunning views down the valley and hidden aboriginal rock art sites.
Camping at the nearby Sullivan Creek Campground was then a great option and again we were afforded the place to ourselves!
Off the beaten track, yes please!
5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national parks! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strolling, I love mine.
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together.
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion, you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
#3 Keep River National Park
Maybe I’m guilty of always saving the best till last, but the final destination of these 3 epic Northern Territory National Parks was also my favourite.
Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly why some places feel so special and for me, Keep River was one of those Northern Territory National Parks.
Right over on the edge of the NT, Keep River lies only 3km from Western Australia and was, therefore, our last stopover after over a month in the Territory.
After a week of solid rain, the sun eventually came out when we reached this national park and meant we could easily enjoy many of the walks and views in this smaller and more compact, but nevertheless spectacular, natural reserve.
Very few people have even heard of Keep River, in fact we hadn’t until we started planning our road trip in Australia, which means this is definitely one of the Northern Territory National Parks most off the beaten track.
But let me tell you, this place really is a hidden little gem!
The entrance is at the southern end of the park, again off the Victoria Highway.
From here, make a beeline to the Cockatoo Lagoon, which is a bird watchers’ paradise. The nearby visitor centre also has some great info and background on the place.
Afterwards, make sure to check out Ginger’s Hill Walk.
This short stroll reveals an intriguing stone structure built for a very specific purpose by the traditional owners of this land.
Camping & Hiking
From here we headed into Goorrandalng Campground, where we set up to enjoy the surrounds for the next 2 days.
And what surrounds!
Situated at the base of some of the most wonderfully striking rock formations, Keep River National Park already makes you feel like you are in the epic Kimberley region.
And I guess to some extent you are, especially if the red sandstone cliffs and escarpments are anything to go by!
There was also a great walk that went directly from the campsite and led us through these rock formations, allowing us to marvel at the untouched landscape beyond.
Getting up early to do this one comes highly recommended, as seeing the dawn colours creep into the rocks first thing in the morning is truly spellbinding.
More than happy to just relax and take in these views for a few days, we made Goorrandalng Campground our home and were hard-pressed to leave!
If you did fancy venturing further north in the park however, then 2 more walks – the 3km Jenamoom walk and the 7km Jarnem walk – both await you, as well as the more isolated Jarnem campground, which sits some 32km from the Park entrance.
Accessible via 2wd in the dry season – although do beware of the corrugation – Keep River is definitely one of the most accessible Northern Territory National Parks that still boasts a reputation as wildly off the beaten track. So, what’s not to love?
Well that’s my list of 3 epic Northern Territory National Parks that will guarantee you an off the beaten track adventure in this wild and remote part of Australia.
Have you visited any of these NT parks? Which was your favourite? And which will you be heading to next?!
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