When you think of Northern Australia, you might mistake it for mostly vast, empty landscapes or tropical beaches and muggy weather.
Yet there are so many more beautiful attractions to the northern half of the country that you need to know about now. Everything from precious jewels and freshwater springs, to exotic birds and breathtaking views, Northern Australia is a part of the world that we are privileged to call our own.
You may already know a few main places to tick off the list, but Discovery Parks has provided the ultimate insider’s guide. They’ve broken it down into the top 16 things to do in 8 Northern Australia destinations. All the way from Rockhampton, Queensland through to Onslow, Western Australia, this should get you started.
Rocky’s got the best beef in the country: it’s a known fact. Your steaks will rival anything you’ve ever cut your teeth into. But, that’s not all this town is about. Walk along unspoilt white sand beaches and learn about the local Indigenous history.
Located right off of the Yeppoon Coast, this chain of 13 islands is what we all see in the Queensland brochures. Secluded beaches, turtles paddling along in the water and clear blue water. Sail, snorkel, fish, swim or birdwatch – it’s your holiday for the making.
The cultural centre aims to educate visitors about the local Aboriginal people that live in northern Queensland. Take a didgeridoo tour, watch a Djarn Djarn dancers performance or learn how to throw a boomerang. If you’ve got a bit of a green thumb or you’re a secret botanist, try their self-guided native plant tour.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Rockhampton
The outback: it’s where the true country lies. Emerald is a large mining town in the Central Highlands of Queensland. Once known as a prominent sunflower producer, it is now home to world’s biggest sunflower Van Gogh painting. Discover this gateway into Central Queensland through fossicking and fishing.
This’ll make your eyes sparkle. We’ve got gemstone-itis: and the only cure involves lots of sapphires. Learn to find sapphires, take a tour of an underground mine or buy one of these jewels for yourself. It’s a geologist’s mecca and a jewellery lover’s paradise.
If you see yourself as a bit of an art aficionado or simply can’t pass up the opportunity to say you’ve seen a Van Gogh in person, visit this 25m high sunflower painting. It may not be the original, but its impressive detail and size are absolutely remarkable.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Emerald
Through the plains and scrub, Mount Isa is the oasis of the outback. With a strong mining history and the world’s third largest rodeo, this towns got plenty to brag about. Not a place to just drive through – it’s a town to stopover and discover.
30 million years of history sit right here in these fields. This national park has one of the most sensational fossil deposits you’ll ever come across. It’s also a stunner of a park: freshwater springs, sandstone ranges and walking waterfalls.
World War II shook Australia to its core. With the imminent possibility of attack, troops headed north to defend the country. History fanatics can experience this snapshot in time at the preserved underground hospital. Walking through the tunnels, you’re able to imagine what life would have been like for the patients and medical staff during this time.
Time to head to tropics and embrace the sweat: humidity is high here. Never fear. You’ll be cleansed, refreshed and rejuvenated by the end of your trip. If the Mt Isa Underground Hospital & Museum wasn’t enough, the history of this town will have you reading every plaque and brochure for more!
Fact of the day: Darwin was bombed more than Pearl Harbour in World War II. The museum is a display of the town’s fascinating role during the war and even hasa B52 bomber. What we love: the restored articles and information on famous female pilots at the turn of the century.
Can you say that you really experienced the Top End without visiting Kakadu? When you’re not behind the wheel of your 4WD or taking photos by the Gunlom Falls, peer into your binoculars to spot a Black-breasted Buzzard or a Rainbow Pitta. Colourful birds of all kinds love to flutter in these trees.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Darwin
Driving into Kununurra, you can’t help but think: hey, I think I could actually live here. It’s a calm country town beside mountain ranges, red flat earth and massive waterways. A 4WD will get you far if you’re looking to get to Valentine Falls, but there’s plenty to do if you’re looking to be taken around by a local or wanting to see more of this east Kimberley town.
Zebra rock is a unique stone found only in the east Kimberley region. Commonly reddish-brown with white stripes, zebra rock deposits are excavated alongside the Ord River. Zebra Rock Gallery hand designs their own creations from the stone: jewellery, coasters, book holders and bowls. Choose polished pieces of stone from a basket to take home as a souvenir or gift to friends.
Discover the Kimberley with these enthusiastic and lively tour guide. Triple J Tours have a variety of experiences. Cruise down the Ord River and Lake Argyle or view the Bungle Bungle ranges from up in the air. Enjoy the good life with a spot of tea and cake on the boat while taking in the sights of freshwater crocodiles and rock wallabies.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Lake Kununurra
Mild days and loads of sunshine – dry season in Port Hedland is unbeatable. Begin your day at the crack of dawn to try your hand at the best fishing spots and end your evenings looking out over the horizon at Staircase to the Moon. Hello, Pilbara country!
From October to January, the turtles are living along the North-West coast next to Port Hedland. Cemetery Beach and Eighty Mile Beach are two convenient locations to see these turtles hang around the shore, being turtley cool. The local group Care for Hedland, have made an outstanding contribution in their conservation efforts with these creatures.
Word of mouth will tell ya that Spoil Bank is one of the best places to catch a salmon or whiting. You’ll also find bream and flathead swimming in these waters. A 4WD is needed to access the site, but your sense of adventure will know that it’s worth it!
Stay at Discovery Parks – Port Hedland
When people think of Karratha they either think of Karijini National Park or lots of red dirt. Karratha has got more flair than that. It has history, art and access to the utterly photogenic Dampier Archipelago.
Spread over 3kms, the Cossack Heritage Trail is a bit of pioneer life. Dotted alongside it are historic buildings, including the old gaol, and the otherworldly boab trees. Beware: old Cossack is abandoned and has the feeling of a ghost town.
Island life: can you smell the salty air and taste the first drop of a chilled beer? We sure can. Dampier Archipelago is comprised of 42 islands and hands-down one of the best fishing, diving, snorkelling and swimming spots in Australia. Say a hippity hello to the bottlenose dolphins while you’re here!
Take it slow in Onslow. Rest and enjoy this coastal town along the Warlu Way. It’s got lookouts that will make every park bench from now on seem dull. Visit one of the longest coral reefs in the world or have an unrushed saunter through the old town.
A magic marine wonderland, Ningaloo Reef is the picnic spot to top all picnic spots. The stunning Turquoise Bay provides breathtaking views while you eat your sandwich and drink your tea. If you still want more, more, MORE places to fish, then hop onto a charter and go big-game fishing.
Get a little spooked at the old town of Onslow. The town was set up during the gold rush of the late 1800s. Each site has a plaque of information on the history of the area. Little is left of the town itself, but the cemetary, police station and gaol still remain.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Onslow