If you’re heading to Australia on a working holiday visa you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only place you could find work is on the East Coast. Big mistake. Read on for three tales of desert stars, secret canyons, buzzing cities and a whole world of working opportunities you’d never even considered. Welcome to Australia’s Northern Territory.
I ended up in the Northern Territory largely by mistake, I decided I would like to go and see Uluru and then head to the West Coast to look for work but when I got to Alice Springs I loved it. It’s a weird wee place but full of character (and characters). I asked the tour company I was travelling with if they had any work and, two years later, I finally left Alice.
Thanks to my job I got to spend my time exploring the Red Centre which is like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else in the world, miles and miles of nothing then, suddenly, a small mountain range, or a big red rock! I also travelled the Stuart Highway between Alice and Darwin. As you travel North the landscape very gradually begins to dramatically change, the termite mounds start to appear and they get bigger and bigger until they’re over 7 feet tall. There’s some amazing natural hot springs just south of Darwin (not that you really need warm water in their climate) as well as brilliant waterholes (just make sure you follow all advice regarding the crocs).
Be prepared for heat in the summer in the centre, some days it was so hot the rain evaporated before it even hit the ground! But it can get pretty chilly in the winter especially overnight – more than once I woke up in a frost covered swag. By far my favourite thing to do when I lived in NT was camping, every chance we could we’d grab our swags in the back of a car and head out into the bush, find a spot, light a fire (where there weren’t fire warnings) cook up some food and sleep under the stars. You’ll never get over the amazing view of the stars and milky way from the Aussie outback.
During my first year in Aus I did my 88 days of rural work (to qualify for a 2nd year visa) 8 hours inland from Darwin in a roadhouse right by an aboriginal community. Very long days but I got to see so many places and experience so many things I wouldn’t have if hadn’t ventured out.
After my first taste of Northern Territory, I spent 9 months of my second year visa in Darwin. I started in a travel shop and, after 6 months, went to work in a bar down the waterfront. We spent our weekends and bank holidays visiting Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Dry season is a good time to visit (May-Sept) you can swim in the waterfalls as the crocs have gone. During the wet season they are certain areas which aren’t as easy to access but main roads are still open.
Before we were due to leave the NT we did a 6 day road trip down to Uluru and back up. It was AMAZING! We definitely didn’t leave ourselves enough time as we were up before sunrise and stopped driving after sunset, but this meant we got to cook dinner on a portable stove under incredible stars. We stopped at The Devils Marbles, Daly waters pub, Mataranka Hot springs, Edith Falls and Uluru.
There is no place like the NT, I like to call it the ‘real Australia’. People are happy as long as they have a beer in their hand and a BBQ on the go.
I first arrived in Darwin at the very end of the rainy season so it was still a little bit humid with the occasional down pour but the best thing about going then is that most backpackers tend to wait until the dry season has started so by going a bit earlier it’s a lot easier to get a job.
I worked in a restaurant and bar and also helped host events, such as the Darwin fashion week. I loved it because I got to spend a lot of time outside and it is right on the waterfront so the views are fantastic, especially during lightning storms!
I loved the Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin, they’re on every Thursday and Sunday and you can go and watch the sunset and have street food from around the world!
Litchfield National Park and Kakadu National Park are also both amazing. They have waterfalls and natural pools that you can go swimming in…but watch out for the crocs! For Kakadu, I’d spend at least 1 night there as it’s huge and there’s lots to see. My favourite thing about Kakadu was climbing up to the top of a cliff, a good couple of hundred meters above he ground, and discovering some pools at the top that had been heated by the sun. The views from there were incredible and I really felt like I was looking out over the whole world.