If you are planning to head to NT to drive the desert tracks (or if you are already living there), there are many places that you can choose from. The state has over 50 national parks, nature reserves, conservation areas, and marine parks and there are numerous 4WD tracks scattered among these places. These places are ideal for you as they are accessible, remote, and offer spectacular views that you will surely treasure.
Northern Territory is unique among Australian states as it’s the only one with two World Heritage-listed national parks: Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Both of these sites should be your next destination.
So, we have chosen the eight places where you can take on a 4WD adventure in Northern Territory Australia!
- Plenty Highway
- Hay River Track, Simpson Desert
- Kakadu National Park (North)
- Kakadu National Park (South)
- Nitmiluk National Park
- Litchfield National Park
- Mereenie Loop
- Tanami Track
So before you continue, If your new to 4WD and offroading or are not sure what equipment to take out with you on your adventures, make sure to check out the Off Road Aussies Essential 4×4 Equipment List where I have taken the time to review and recommend the equipment I use. If you kit yourself out correctly you will be able to tackle everything that your new adventures will throw at you.
Location: 1793 km southeast of Darwin
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Track Length: 498 km
Track Time: 2-3 days at least
Terrain: Sandy, muddy, and rocky
The Plenty Highway runs from Queensland’s western edges all the way to Alice Springs. The road will allow you to reach the heart of Australia’s Red Centre by traversing a partly sealed track. Your journey on the road also highlights the shifting landscape as views of the outback will flit by your window.
The highway measures a total of 498 km and has large portions of poorly maintained roads. So, you should take note of road conditions before heading out on the track. You can look up for this information from the local police station in Harts Range which is located about 112 km from the main road in Stuart Highway.
Right at the get-go, the road quickly worsens and becomes a dirt road with bulldust and rock one you reach Jervois Station. In addition, several potholes have also been spotted on the track. To completely traverse the track, you will need several days to fully appreciate everything that it has to offer.
The Plenty Highway continues to be a favourite among 4WD enthusiast and it is also one of the most popular destinations for tourists heading to the Northern Territory. As the highway continues to be improved, it will be more accessible to more visitors. However, travellers must still be well-prepared for the journey for now.
You can find more information about Plenty Highway here.
Hay River Track, Simpson Desert
Location: 2004 km southeast of Darwin
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Track Length: 929 km
Track Time: 9 days
The Hay River Track begins from Poeppel Corner and reaches near the southern section of the Plenty Highway. In total, the track measures 929 km from Birdsville to Gemtree which will require you to spend at least 9 days to complete the trip
We recommend that you visit the area during the rainy season since the moisture will bring the flora and fauna of the desert to life. Timing your trip is worth it as you will get a great view of the colourful blooms of the desert’s vegetation. However, they can make travelling along the track slower, which means that you will need to allow for more time to complete the trip.
Like any track on this list, you will need to research the track first to determine if you have the right equipment and enough skills to tackle it. The Hay River Track is recommended only among more experienced and well-prepared 4WD enthusiasts. Due to the site’s remoteness, you will also need to ensure that you have enough supplies to complete the journey. The track is also closed in the summer months but you can head there between March and November.
The main attraction of this track, Hay River, is difficult to drive on due to the river’s soft sand. Interestingly, the water will not bother you due to the area’s arid conditions. You should still be prepared while tackling the track because of the shifting sands caused by the wind. This can be a reason for you to get lost in the middle of nowhere.
One of the reasons why the track is drawing much attention is due to the fact that it is relatively new. Many visitors consider the track as a new and exciting territory that they must explore. However, you will need to secure permits and passes before you can head there.
You can find more information about Hay River Track here.
Kakadu National Park (North)
Location: 150 km east of Darwin
Track Length: 360 km
Track Time: 3 days
Kakadu’s charm is evident even from the park entrance. Most people head straight to the main tourist hub of Jabiru, but to do so means you’ll miss one of Kakadu’s less-visited highlights: the Waldak Irrmbal track. It will lead you north to Pococks Beach which has stunning views of the Van Diemen Gulf. There are also two camping spots along this track. Two Mile and Four Mile Hole are great fishing spots and will allow you access to Wildman River.
From the main track, continue north for about 50 km so that you can finally tackle the challenging parts of it. You will also drive by the flat Manassi Floodplain (which almost occupies the whole park) and it is occasionally interrupted by stands of savanna forest. This gets thicker as you get near Pococks Beach itself. The facilities on Waldak Irrmbal are basic but both Jungle and Pococks Beach camp offer remote camping for visitors than other more accessible sites.
Another 4WD track that you can take is the road leading to Jabiru that leads south. This is a “shortcut” that you can take during the peak season to get away from crowds. You will also pass by magnificent waterholes like Bucket, Alligator, and Red Lily. The track ends on the Alligator River and connects with Old Jim Jim Route (another 4WD track).
From there, you will reach the bitumen road of Kakadu Highway. We recommend that you spend one of your nights on Yellow Water (north of Kakadu Highway) because you can join the sunrise cruise in the morning to explore the huge waterhole. You can also head to Nourlangie by taking the Nourlangie turn-off to reach the amazing rock art and engage yourself in a short hike to other attractions like Ubirr.
You can find more information about Kakadu National Park (North) here.
Kakadu National Park (South)
Location: 280 km south of Darwin
Track Length: 378 km
Track Time: 3 days
The southern part of Kakadu deserves a spot on this list. From the southern border, you will encounter the Goymarr Tourist Park. From there head north to reach the turn-off to one of the most famous waterfalls in Kakadu – Gunlom. In order for you to have the best Gunlom experience, you should take the short but steep walking track that will take you to the top of the falls. The area also has rock pools that are perfectly safe for swimming. In addition, the final rock pool has spectacular views of the park’s western and southern landscapes.
You can also set up camp at the nearby Gunlom camp if you want or head to another camp for a bush camping experience. If you chose the latter, drive southeast to Jarrangbarnmi Campground where you can escape the crowds. The campsites are also located near the Koolpin Creek and a short walk will lead you to remote waterfalls and plunge pools. However, you will need to book ahead to secure a permit to camp in the area.
Another 4WD track that you can explore is the Maguk Track (Barramundi Gorge). Just a short walk away from the nearby camp (about 1 km), you will reach a scenic plunge pool with a waterfall at its eastern side. You can also take another walking track which will lead you to the top of the waterfall and take a dip in the plunge pools there.
If you’re done exploring Maguk, head back to the highway and head north to the Graveside Gorge turn-off. You will drive for about three hours (44 km) along a very rocky and tricky terrain but it is worth it if you want to see another attraction of the park – Jim Jim Falls. The drive can only be taken by 4WD vehicles and it can get very slow-going until you reach the Garamarr campground. The campsite is pretty large, can handle up to 200 people, and has excellent facilities.
On your final day in the park, you can take the Old Jim Jim Road (4WD only) instead of taking the Kakadu and Arnhem Hwy. The track will lead you and will pass by breathtaking floodplains and waterways. You can stop by at Giyamungkurr to take lunch or drink tea. From there, follow the road until you reach the Arnhem Hwy to finally get back to the city.
You can find more information about Kakadu National Park (South) here.
Nitmiluk National Park
Location: 340 km south of Darwin
Track Length: Varies
Track Time: 2-3 days
Terrain: Rocky and sandy
The park is only three hours and thirty minutes away from Darwin but it offers plenty of activities for all kinds of visitors. However, it is not for those who are seeking challenging 4WD tracks. Still there are numerous outdoor activities available in the park to make up for its relatively easy to tread its roads. This is also good for your vehicle as it will not be subjected to rough terrain. The challenge comes from fitting all the outdoor gear that you want to bring to enjoy everything that the park has to offer.
Nitmiluk National Park is centred on a deep gorge formed by Katherine River for millennia. It also features several waterfalls, about 100 km of walking tracks, and lookouts that has fantastic views of the park’s unique landscape. These areas are also where most campsites are located. If you plan on exploring the park by taking a canoe, you can head to canoe campsites (at Gorge 4,6, and 9) to spend the night.
Hikers will also enjoy the Jatbula Trail that will take four days to complete. But if that’s too challenging for you, there are a myriad of tracks that can be completed for a couple of hours to overnight. These tracks will let you witness the park’s history, see geological formations, and immerse in the local Aboriginal people’s culture. Other notable walking tracks in the park are the Baruwei Lookout walk that is accessible for all visitors and the Jawoyn Valley walk where you will witness beautiful rock art.
You can also take a side trip to Leilyn (Edith Falls) and take a dip at the upper and lower pools. The site has an expansive picnic and camping area that is unpowered (unfortunately). If you have more time, an 8.6 km walk along the Jatbula Trail to Sweetwater Pool is also worth a visit. Alternatively, you can return straight to Darwin if you’ve had your fill of swimming, canoeing, and walking.
You can find more information about Nitmiluk National Park here.
Litchfield National Park
Location: 110 km south of Darwin
Track Length: 215 km
Track Time: 1 day
Terrain: Sealed, muddy, and clay
Litchfield National Park features the best waterfalls, lush forests, beautiful gorges, and untouched greenery. While the park’s tracks are mostly sealed and of good quality, there are some parts of it that will take you to lesser-known areas. You can cram a trip in just one day but taking it slow and exploring the park fully is definitely worth it.
However, the park can get a little crowded during the peak season (usually from May to October) so don’t plan ahead if you want to camp in peace. The influx of people is not questionable as you have many things to see and do in Litchfield. The main attractions of the park are:
- Wangi Falls
- The Lost City
- Tolmer Falls
- Buley Rockhole
- Florence Falls
- Magnetic Termite Mounds
If you are a nature enthusiast or love bushwalking, you can head to Tabletop Track to enjoy the more serene parts of the park. You can also do other activities like swimming, bird watching, picnicking, and camping. Spending the night on the park is easy as there are many designated campsites within the park but camping fees may apply. The camps are also unpowered and generators cannot be used inside the park. If you have a caravan, camping is available only at Wangi Falls and permits are needed before you can set up camp. The permits and fees can be secured from the Ranger Station in Batchelor.
Litchfield National Park can be accessed by 2WD vehicles by taking Batchelor on Litchfield Park Road. The park has sealed roads leading to popular sites but more challenging roads will take you to remote attractions. During the summer, the park can be accessed by taking the junction at Stuart Hwy & Cox Peninsula Rd. There are also extremely corrugated road sections which you should tackle carefully. On the other hand, the rainy season will flood the lowlands of the park so you will need to check for the road conditions before you head there.
You can find more information about Litchfield National Park here.
Location: 1,726 km south of Darwin
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Track Length: 153 km
Track Time: 4 days
The Mereenie Loop Road is an unsealed part of the famous Red Centre Way. Naturally, a 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance is recommended to complete it. After rain pours, the road can be closed because of flash floods that can make it impassable for most vehicles.
The road starts at Kataputa Pass and ends at Watarrka National Park. While driving you will pass through the Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Land where you can immerse yourself with the locals’ culture. As the area is owned by Aboriginal people, there are many places in the area that is sacred for them. So, visitors are asked to respect the environment and secure a permit (Mereenie Tour Pass) before heading here. You are also not allowed to camp overnight and the only allowed stop within the permitted area is Ginty’s Lookout. From here, you can take a rest and enjoy the views of the Carmichael Crag and Kings Canyon at the south and Desert Oaks and Kurrajong trees on the north.
You can find more information about Mereenie Loop here.
Location: 1235 km south of Darwin
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Track Length: 1121 km
Track Time: 2 days
Terrain: Sandy and red clay
Despite the fact that the Tanami Track crosses one of Australia’s incredible deserts – The Tanami Desert, it is a moderately simple course for explorers with 4WD vehicles and a prior introduction to remote and dry territory travel.
The Tanami and Granites Mines discovered simply off the track are among the biggest gold delivering mines in Australia. It is accepted that they will stay operational for a long time. The framework of these fly in fly out mines is impermanent, yet tremendous. The utilization of the Tanami Track as their main course will keep on profiting visitors by guaranteeing that it is very much evaluated, that adequately huge fuel stops are adjacent, and that crisis help and offices are close within reach.
There are not many features along the course to make this a particular goal – it truly is only an “alternate way” from the Red Centre to the Kimberley. (Another course is to take the Stuart Highway up to Dunmarra then strike north-west along the Buchanan and Duncan Highways). Additionally, the native spot artworks are likely the best examples in Australia. The nearby networks are urged to paint and their work is consistently gathered from the encompassing networks and put in the exhibition at Tilmouth Well for travellers to see as well as buy
You can find more information about Tanami Track here.