Australia’s Northern Territory is an area covering much of the central part of the mainland along with sections of central northern region. Bordered by the Timor and Arafua Seas and the Gulf of Carpentaria on the north, it covers over 1.3 million square kilometers. The third largest of Australia’s 8 federal states and territories, the Northern Territory is the least populated. Barely 230,000 hardy souls make their home in this region. Yet the land is some of the most beautiful and interesting in all of Australia. Places like Kakadu National Park and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with its famed Ayers Rock, draw visitors from all over the world.
Archeologists say the Northern Territory has been inhabited for over 40,000 years. Today most of the inhabitants, called Territorians, live along the Stuart Highway in cities like the capital, Darwin, and Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy. The British made several attempts to colonize the region but the sometimes harsh, hostile environment doomed the expeditions to starvation and failure. Finally hardy ranchers helped the region grow to become what was at one time the world’s largest cattle station. The discovery of gold and copper in the Northern Territory led to a more serious push for colonization and by 1911, it came under commonwealth control.
Even with Commonwealth control and a rush for natural resources, the Northern Territory is still one of the wildest places on the planet. Stuart Highway which connects the major population centers in the Northern Territory is known to locals as the track. This is the main artery people take to get to the Northern Territory’s most popular tourist attractions, Uluru also known as Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta also known as the Olgas. These two spectacular rock formations are sacred to the Aboriginal population. The Northern Territory is home to the breathtaking wetlands and native wildlife of Kakadu National Park. The region also boasts numerous rivers systems and almost two dozen national parks where people can go to immerse themselves in nature.
The Northern Territory is so large and expansive it has two climate zones. The northern section features a tropical climate with wet and dry seasons. Tropical cyclones, monsoons and thunderstorms mark the wet season. The dry season is known for exceedingly high humidity and scorching hot temperatures. The center of the Northern Territory is a semi-arid desert with less than 10 inches of rainfall each year and temperatures which have been known to be as high as 118 degrees in January and as low as -7 degrees in July. These intense temperatures and the rugged landscape limit who lives in the Northern Territory.
Mining and tourism are the major money makers in the Northern Territory. Minerals, petroleum and energy draw a number of companies. Oil, gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, manganese and uranium are all mined in the region. But thousands visit the region to experience its astonishingly rich natural beauty. What’s so amazing about Australia’s Northern Territory? You’ll never know if you never go.