Northern Territory

The Northern Territory covers about one sixth of the Australian continent with an area of 1.35 million km2 which is equal to the combined areas of France, Spain and Italy. About four- fifths of the Territory (1.09 million km2) lies within the tropics and the 6200 km coastline is generally flat and backed by swamps, mangroves and mudflats, rising to a plateau no higher than 450 m.

In central Australia, the Territory is crossed by the east-west ridges of the Macdonnell Ranges, which reach heights of more than 600 m. The well-known monolith, Uluru (Ayers Rock), 348 m high, is near the south-west corner of the Territory.

The northern quarter, known colloquially as the “Top End”, is a distinct region of savannah woodlands and pockets of rainforest. In the north-east, the Arnhem Land plateau rises abruptly from the plain and continues to the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Much of the southern three-quarters of the Territory consists of desert or semi-arid plain.


Darwin, the capital is situated in the north-western corner of the Territory and is a modern, cosmopolitan and tropical city with a vibrant multicultural population and long-standing cultural and trading links in the Asia Pacific region.

With a population of over 110 234 people Darwin is built on a low-lying peninsula located on a working harbour that’s twice the size of Sydney Harbour. The suburbs are lined with tropical palms with a mixture of low set southern Australian style houses and traditional elevated Darwin housing which are built to benefit from the tropical breezes, with lush gardens of palms, bougainvillea, frangipani, orchids and other species.

Wide streets, shady parks, a pedestrian mall, superb ethnic restaurants and contemporary and outback style pubs and clubs have all contributed to an upsurge in the popularity of Darwin city living. Mitchell Street is the main entertainment street, with the Darwin Waterfront Precinct offering a more family style entertaining area with cafes, retail stores and wave pool.

Recreational parks and gardens are dotted through and in the surrounds of Darwin.  East Point Reserve is just a few minutes’ drive from the Darwin central business district and a favourite sunset picnic or barbecue spot for families. Darwin has excellent walking and bicycle paths along the beachfront, through parks and throughout the suburbs.

Darwin has a more stress free environment than in other cities. There’s less traffic, less population and rarely any queues: a city with a holiday feel all year round.


The Northern Territory’s expansive land is so great that the climate varies greatly from town to town and destinations within each region. From the tropical monsoonal climate of the Top End to the deserts of Central Australia, the Northern Territory is diverse and exciting.

Central Australia is a desert climate region, with an average maximum temperature of around 35°C during the day between October and March, and an overnight average minimum of around 20°C. While during the Australian winter months of the more southern parts of Australia, the Central region enjoys an average maximum of around 25°C with dramatic overnight temperatures dropping toward 0°C, typical of a desert region. The location and the weather make the region perfect for camping and four wheel drive exploratory holidays.

From Katherine heading north, to the Top End of the Northern Territory where Darwin is located there is no winter as the climate is tropical monsoonal with a dry and wet season. The dry season from May to October is typically when tourists visit, as the days are filled with blue skies and sunshine and the evening’s cool breezes bring down the temperature. The lower humidity and average daily temperature of around 32°C make for perfect weather while the southern parts of Australia face winter.

Between November and April spectacular thunderstorms fill the northern sky. The humidity rises dramatically up to 98% and the heat can soar up to 39°C inland. The wet season is dramatic with wildlife abundant, beautiful balmy evenings, spectacular lightning displays with cooling tropical rainstorms.

This time of year is also known as the cyclone season in the Top End. During the past century, Darwin and surrounds have been affected by three major cyclones. In the lead up to the cyclone season the Northern Territory Government reminds residents of cyclone preparedness


The Northern Territory's education system provides a variety of choices in public and private schooling with options from preschool to tertiary level, in line with Australian recognised standards.

Education in the Territory is a partnership between students, parents, teachers and the Northern Territory Department of Education. Schooling is compulsory in the Territory between the ages of six and 15. In some areas, Aboriginal pupils are taught in both English and their tribal language. The larger towns also have residential colleges for Aboriginal students.

The Northern Territory University in Darwin is the largest provider of tertiary education in the Territory, offering bachelor, master and doctorate degree programs, diploma and certificate courses, general-interest programs and short professional development courses. The University’s Institute of Technical and Further Education provides a wide range of trade and technical courses, as well as programs designed to develop managerial and supervisory skills.

Housing and cost of living

Housing varies greatly depending on the region of the Northern Territory. In the tropical Top End, elevated houses with louvered windows and ceiling fans are the traditional housing style, enabling airflow and breezes relieving residents from the tropical weather. Also typical are large outdoor living areas with verandas and decking and the essential swimming pool in most backyards. Katherine also has elevated housing. Tropical gardens and dense rich foliage reflect the tropical climate and nature is abundant in the cities and towns.

The further south you travel, it is noticeable that the housing changes to more traditional Australian style homes such as in Alice Springs, brick, on ground with wide verandas to shade homes in the diverse climate throughout the year.

House and unit prices vary greatly across the Northern Territory. For more information about housing costs visit the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory website where more than thirty member agencies are listed.

The comparatively small population in the Northern Territory and vast freight distances do mean higher prices for many grocery lines and produce in some instances. However, these are balanced by shorter distances and less travelling time to and from work and social activities. Depending on where you live in the Northern Territory local markets may offer locally grown produce as an alternative to the traditional supermarket shopping.

International transport links

The AustralAsia Railway provides regular efficient freight and passenger services between Darwin and Adelaide, with connections to the east and west coasts. Thousands of visitors a year board a train known as the Ghan which offers an exhilarating outback travel experience that is regarded as one of the world’s great train journeys.

The Stuart Highway connects Darwin and all the central towns in the Northern Territory with South Australia. This also connects with the Barkly Highway, to north Queensland and the Victoria Highway to northern Western Australia. The Northern Territory outback road network consists of sealed highways and unsealed secondary roads and bush tracks that can be affected by flooding in the wet season.

Darwin has regular international and national shipping connections and is a port of call for dozens of luxury cruise ships.

The Northern Territory’s international airport is in Darwin, and services domestic and overseas carriers with flights connecting through South-East Asian cities to the rest of the world. These flights are relatively short and cheaper compared to flights from other Australian capital cities making Bali, Singapore and the Philippines readily accessible to residents of the Northern Territory for short holidays. Alice Springs and Yulara (Uluru) airports are busy hubs, with direct flights to most Australian capital cities. All regional towns have airports and remote communities rely heavily on air services.


The Northern Territory’s energy resources include oil, natural gas and uranium. Mineral and hydrocarbon production have been a major contributor to the Northern Territory’s economic development. Known mineral resources include bauxite, gold, manganese, zinc, lead and silver, bismuth, copper, diamonds, galena, mica, molybdenum, ochre, opal, palladium, phosphate, platinum, tantalite, tin, tungsten, turquoise, rubies and wolfram.

Live cattle exports from the Territory supply Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. The Territory supplies beef, veal and game meats to European, American, Asian and Pacific countries. Seafood is also a major industry in the Northern Territory with the dominant export being Prawn fishing.

Because of its strategic location, Darwin is an important base of the Australian defence services and units of the Navy, Army and Air Force are all stationed there.

Scientific installations, mainly in Darwin and Alice Springs, are involved in a wide range of international and domestic services including defence communications, geophysics and seismology, meteorology, agriculture, animal husbandry and wildlife.

Business opportunities

There are around 14 000 active businesses in Australia’s Northern Territory, and the vast majority are classed as small and medium enterprises with fewer than 150 employees. The biggest business sectors are mining, agriculture, tourism, construction and public administration. Mining accounts for a quarter of the Northern Territory’s gross state product. The Department of Business can assist business owners at all stages of their business development - getting started, licensing requirements, skills development, business growth mentoring, energy audits and an array of financial incentives and support.

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