Hidden gems of the Northern Territory

Welcome folks. It’s YourLifeChoices’ podcast Mind Your Own Retirement with me John Deeks and the founder of YourLifeChoices Kaye Fallick. And today we’re going to head to the Northern Territory to say a big hello to Tony Quarmby who’s the general manager of Tourism NT. 

John Deeks: Welcome to you and thank you for giving up your time. I know you’re incredibly busy up there, but I’ve got to tell you for us southerners, we are very, very envious and we know where we would rather be. 

Kaye Fallick:  We’re dreaming of going to the Northern territory, who knows where, who knows when.

JD: Who cares as long as it’s NT.

KF:  Yeah, Tony’s kindly agreed to join us because he is going to share hidden gems in the Northern Territory.

JD: Have you been there Kaye?

KF: I have been there. I adore it.

JD: This is perfect because I have never been to the Northern Territory you have, and we have the expert on the line. Tony, take us to those gems. 

Tony Quarmby: Okay. Well obviously, the territory is famous for Uluru, it’s famous for Kakadu, Darwin’s very well known and of course Alice Springs has got a cult following. But there are so many other places around the territory that few people are aware of. So it’s one of those situations where we love people to get out and about and discover these locations. If we start at the top, if we talk about the Tiwi Islands, for example, which are just off the coast of Darwin. They’re most famous for the AFL grand final that they have there. The Aboriginal teams play a final on the island, which pretty much maxes out all the accommodation that the island has.

JD: How far is that off the coast Tony?

TQ: It’s about 80 kilometres, about two and a half hours’ ferry ride. Just north of Darwin.

KF: It is my dream to go to that final. We’ll get there one day.

JD: It’s a bucket list item that you have.

TQ: It is for so many people, especially AFL fans, because it’s quite an iconic game to watch. But there’s so many things to do on that island, and it is a hidden gem because the history of the island, everything from the Aboriginal history to the World War II history. The early pioneers, they created a church and had missionaries over there. And of course, the art, I think the Tiwi Islands is so famous for its art and culture. That forms several of the tours’ focal points. As I said, it’s about two and a half hours on a ferry and you get to it from SeaLink from Cullen Bay, and then you’re there and back within a day. It’s an amazing trip and something that everyone has to do if you’re coming through or to Darwin.

KF: Should you do it as self-drive Tony or is it really better as a guided tour?

TQ: Well, you’ve got to get the ferry over, so you can walk around Tiwi but it’s better as a guided tour because of all the information that you’re given. That’s not to say you can’t walk around, but obviously there are no vehicles once you get there. So you’re limited in how far you can go. And also the information that you’ll be given won’t be quite as detailed. But you can do it by yourself. You don’t need to do a tour by any means.

KF: Cool. And where to next?

TQ:  Well, while we’re talking about ferries off the coast, the Cox Peninsula, which is just west of Darwin. You get a SeaLink ferry from Cullen Bay as well. You can go west of Darwin and not many people ever do that. And you can go right round to a little resort called Crab Claw Island resort. You’ve got the swimming pools, you’ve got accommodation, or you can just do a day tour where you can experience Crab Claw Island on that more remote side of the top end. It’s one of those places where you can get there and back in a day, but you can experience what it’s like in those real wild areas that most people never get to because it’s just that little bit harder to drive to because you need a four wheel drive or well, some real, um, you know, in depth tour products that can maybe get you there. So that’s another one, the Crab Claw Island, you can actually drive there, but getting a boat will be a whole different experience as well. That’s kind of the top end around Darwin, but then if you travel south – have you guys heard of Litchfield?

KF: Yes, haven’t been there.

JD:  That’s the Litchfield Park?

TQ: Yes, Litchfield National Park. So, most people are aware of Kakadu and Kakadu is phenomenal – the wildlife cruises you have there are terrific. But Litchfield is the favourite of locals. At Litchfield, you have the waterfalls that you can swim in, it has the rock pools you can sit in, locals take a big esky full of sandwiches and drinks and spend the day there and there’s so many different rock pools. You’ve also got the different history of the region, plus the termite mounds. They’re phenomenal to look at, to stop and learn about the natural phenomena that are these big cathedral termite mounds. While I’m talking about Litchfield, we’re also about to open up another five or six waterholes, waterfalls and camping grounds that the Northern Territory government has now made accessible by creating roads to these new areas. It’s called Litchfield Central Valley and that will be opening shortly after a little bit of new infrastructure opens up those areas.

KF: So good for the grey nomads, perhaps.

TQ: Perfect, perfect for them because you’ve got a lot of the traditional areas, but now we’ve got even more of them. So that means that you can find your own personal waterhole, your own personal waterfall and enjoy that to yourself.

KF: So Tony, I have to ask here, waterholes, swimming, Northern Territory. What’s the C word? The crocodile word? How safe is this?

TQ: It’s perfectly safe. Perfectly safe.

KF: Do you promise?

TQ: Yes. Promise. Litchfield doesn’t have the crocodiles, occasionally some small freshwater crocodiles might venture in, but the park staff get them out pretty quickly. It’s the other side of the highway in Kakadu and the Mary River areas that you’ll see the crocodiles. Litchfield, like I said, you may get a freshwater crocodile sighting in there and very rarely the saltwater crocodile, but the park rangers have them under control. So, they’re perfectly safe.

JD: One more star destination from you, Tony, please?

TQ: For our audience right now, Hermannsburg Precinct down in the Red Centre, just down past the McDonald Ranges has had a big refurb. There’s more history, stories, there’s more things to see there. And for the colonial and Aboriginal history, it’s phenomenal. It’s one of only five spots in the territory that’s nationally listed as an NT heritage site. So that’s just gone through a big refurb and not many people are aware of that just outside Alice Springs. So another one especially if you’re in the Red Centre.

KF: And has that kind of religious background or an artistic background?

TQ: Both actually. Albert Namatjira was the artist very famous for that region. But the early missionaries created Hermannsburg, around the Aboriginal culture. They schooled some of the Aboriginals at Hermannsburg and obviously part of the mission was to introduce religion to them. So it’s a fascinating story.

JD: Tony, I’ve just got to say that I am so pleased that I can’t travel overseas for the next couple of years. And I know that you love your Italy and all the rest of it, Kaye. But this is a chance for us to really go, “okay, I want to go to the NT. I’ve never been there.” And there’s just so much to see within our country. And it’s kind of like saying no, don’t use your passport. You can’t anyway. See Australia first. I know it’s the old thing but it’s true.

KF: And do it slowly.

JD: And do it slowly, like good food.

KF: It’s not smelling roses in the NT but sitting, watching a waterfall for an hour or two.

JD: Tony, where can we find out more?

TQ: Northernterritory.com will have any answers to any questions you have. 

KF: Brilliant. I look forward to learning more about where to go. And John and I are about to pack the suitcase and rev up the engine.

JD: Yup, we’re getting the car all set to go. Tony, thank you so much. And please enjoy your time up there.

TQ: Thank you. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Start planning your NT holiday by visiting www.northernterritory.com.

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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