When to Visit Australia: Darwin, Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Katherine & surrounds

          In my preparation for the working holiday, I did some research on when to visit the north. For the working holiday,  the Australian government requires three months work in the northern half of the country to qualify for the second year visa. I recently read an article about a backpacker dying of heat stroke in Northern Australia while working for his second year visa. So, below is a summarized list of recommendations from Northern Territory tour and experience operators, local contacts, and Regional Experience Expert, Libby Larsen.

The Top End

Darwin, Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Katherine & surrounds as

Known for its tropical weather, Salt Water Crocodiles, rich Indigenous culture, abundant fishing spots, National Parks and laid-back Australian lifestyle; the Top End is blessed with more than its fair share of world-class destinations and attractions.

If you’re planning to explore the Top End during your trip to the Northern Territory, then you’ll likely be headed to Darwin, the multicultural capital made famous by the markets and festivals that litter it’s beautiful natural harbour.

Darwin is the perfect hub from which to explore the various treasures sprinkled throughout the Top End, including the World Heritage-listed Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, and Arnhem Land, one of Australia’s last true wilderness destinations.

To the south lies a vast network of rivers, escarpments and gorges collectively known as the Katherine region, including Nitmiluk National Park and the towering sandstone cliffs that form the world famous Katherine Gorge.

Wet Season (November – April) What to expect

Ubirr, Kakadu National Park

  • Intense and dramatic weather.
  • Large amount of Rain, downpours, and flooded planes
  •  25c/77F-33c/91F and 80+% humidity. Perks: huge waterfalls, green landscapes,
  • Kakadu extra lush and full waterfalls
  • Katherine Gorge “visually impressive”
  • Road Closures
  • Beautiful Thunderstorms
  • Increase Wildlife

January and February considered the most beautiful with vibrant landscapes, powerful waterfalls, and dramatic weather bringing life to the National Parks


  • Plenty of Indoor activities and attractions
  • Downpours
  • road closures lasting for months (alternative..fly)

TOP END WET SEASON FEATURES: Wildlife flowers, increase crocodile activity, Green Season, Extra safety precautions necessary, risk itinerary disruptions, potentially most stunning time year

          At the conclusion of the wet season and leading into the dry season (March through April), the waterways begin to subside and fish become plentiful in the rivers and billabongs as they feed in the run-off from various floodplains. Huge tidal rivers around Darwin, Kakadu and Katherine become host to metre-long barramundi and is largely considered to be the best time of year for fishing in the Northern Territory, if not all of Australia.

Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park

Dry Season (May – October) What to Expect

  •  warm sunny days and crisp winter nights.
  •  21C (70F) to 32C (90F)
  • drying heat throughout the day
  • lower levels of humidity (around 60 – 65%)
  • comfortable time of year to visit.
  •  lowest temperatures between May and July
  • Most accessible time of year
  • Less dramatic weather, lanscape, and scenery

         Gray Line Australia’s tours showcase the best of Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks during the dry season. “Our tours visit various waterholes and waterfalls in these regions, so there are plenty of opportunities to cool off,” Chantelle said.

           Libby also identified Gunak Barlu National Park and Coburg Peninsula as destinations of particular interest during the dry heat. “I would do a 4WD camping trip [to Gunak Barlu or Coburg Peninsula] with the family, or the Jatbula trail through Nitmuluk National Park, which is spectacular that time of year,” she said.

           The dry season: coolest, busiest, and driest months of the year in what is generally considered the best time to visit the Northern Territory as a whole. With swimming holes gently cooling and humidity settling to a much more reasonable 60%, the Top End is without a doubt at its most welcoming during this time.


Busy Period (June – August)

          The Top End’s monsoonal climate generates two distinct seasons for visitors to choose from, both uniquely magical in their own way but on opposite ends of the spectrum. The busiest time falls in the dry season, most notably from late June through to early September to coincide with school holidays.

          Temperatures are at their most comfortable as the sun provides a drying heat throughout the day and the clouds have parted, leaving the state wide open for business.

          “It’s the best time to get outdoors amongst it all. The Top End is vast so you can get away from the droves of tourists if you want to.”
The Top End’s dry season is well documented for its travel upside. Offering cooler daytime temperatures (ranging from a pleasant 27C to 32C), lower humidity levels, warm days and crisp nights, the season provides a climate that is ideally suited for exploration and perfect for a region that is full of natural wonders in every direction.

          Our Northern Territory Experience Expert described this period as being ideal for adventure activities. “It’s the best time to get outdoors amongst it all. The Top End is vast so you can get away from the droves of tourists if you want to,” Libby said.

Quiet Period (January – March)

          During the transition from dry to wet, humidity rises and the air becomes thick with heat and moisture. Known as the ‘build up’ or ‘troppo’ season, this period is subject to gathering storm clouds but only sporadic rain, with locals and visitors alike doing their best to cope with stifling conditions.

          With relentless heat and humidity not considered particularly desirable to the average traveller, visitations understandably decrease in the Top End throughout Troppo Season, and there is a consequent lull in activity.

           The time of year has also bred its own unique expression amongst the locals, known as “gone troppo” or “going troppo”, which simply means to go mad or crazy due to the tropical heat and humidity.

Our Recommendation (August – September)

          With such distinct seasonal diversity, you’ll need to visit the Top End more than once before you can truly tick it off your bucket list. Both in the peak of its dramatic wet season and during the most comfortable moments of its sunny dry season, the region is transformed from one holiday oasis to another, providing two utterly unique adventures.

           However, if you only have one shot at your perfect Top End adventure, then nothing beats the shoulder season from August through September at the tail end of the dry season.

           Getting the best of the dry season’s blue skies with slightly reduced crowds (school holidays typically end in late July or early August) makes for an ideal setting to explore the region’s many hidden gems in peace.

           Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of the summer heat, May through June provides the region with its coolest temperatures of the year whilst also being early enough to skip the influx of visitors exploring the state from June through August.

All information obtained through https://news.experienceoz.com.au/the-best-times-to-visit-the-northern-territory/. Go here for more information.

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