While many travelers to Australia head straight to Sydney to see Bondi Beach, the Opera House, and the plethora of hip restaurants in downtown, only the most intrepid travelers fly north. Nearly a four-hour flight from Sydney, Darwin feels a world away from the bustling metropolis. Here, Aboriginal culture remains largely intact and the Australian way of life is preserved.
As your plane descends into Darwin, the gateway to the Northern Territory, you’ll fly over impossibly blue waters surrounding the Top End town, beckoning notions of an afternoon swim amidst the heavy heat blanketing the region. Although a refreshing dip in the ocean may sound like the perfect way to cool off, the waters surrounding Darwin are home to a thriving crocodile population. A word to the wise: Only swim in marked crocodile-free zones or at hotels, where some seaside properties have netted off portions of the ocean to create a safe swimming area for guests.
After exploring Darwin, venture two hours east to the Mary River National Park wetlands for a stay at the 10-cabin, 15-tent Wildman Wilderness Lodge, a luxurious reprieve from the wilds and relenting heat of the region. Take a swim in the property’s plunge pool, and stay until sunset. At dusk, kangaroos and wallabies come out of hiding and hop throughout the property—truly a once-in-a-lifetime sight. The property also offers exclusive excursions such as a flight over the wetlands, where crocodiles and buffaloes roam in abundance.
But in order to really experience the rugged Northern Territory, you have to leave the comfort of luxury. In lieu of a tented suite, opt to camp in the heart of Kakadu National Park with Lord’s Kakadu & Arnhemland Safaris, where day hikes lead to 20,000-year-old Aboriginal rock art hidden amongst a sea of stone escarpments, which shape sears a plateaued horizon on the vast network of tropical savannah.
While in the park, venture down the South Alligator River aboard a Yellow Water Cruise: While floating along the river, crocodiles will rise above the water, slither through the channels, and reveal their notched, reptilian skin. For a local perspective, board a Guluyambi Cruise along the East Alligator River. Here, an aboriginal guide will lead you through the area bordering Arnhem Land: Once the pathway is cleared of crocodiles, you can journey into Arnhem Land, where you’ll hear about the land through Aboriginal histories passed down from their ancestors.
Learn about the Aboriginal culture at the region’s prized arts studio, Injalak Arts. The workshop supports artists who are reinventing the tradition of storytelling by way of canvas designs (each is etched with symbols to tell a tale). There's also gorgeous hand-weaved bowls in every color—the perfect take-home gift.
After browsing the works and learning from the artists themselves, enlist the help of a local guide to deliver you to Injalak Hill, where rock art from generations past are on display. Bring a packed lunch to enjoy in a shaded stone nook overlooking the endless stretch of floodplains.
For a last foray into the wilds of Australia’s Northern Territory, opt for a boat ride along the Adelaide River, home to the infamous jumping crocodiles. While in the safety of the caged vessel, watch as the area’s apex predator soars into the air, snapping its sharp teeth.
After so much adventure in the Northern Territory, opt for an exploration of the Blue Mountains: Just outside of Sydney, the region is a popular getaway among locals. Leaving Sydney, board a private helicopter to transport you to Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, a 40-villa oasis set amidst Australia's Great Dividing Range between the Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone National Park.
Once you arrive, rest in the lap of luxury before taking a safari through the grounds as thousands of kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats circle your jeep. You can also hike the grounds and swim in your private plunge pool. But whatever you do, don’t miss the chance go horseback riding at the private stables, where Sheikh Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates retires his former race horses.