Sometimes the most romantic vacations are the ones that are the most unconventional. Sure, you can settle for that sandy beach that belongs on a postcard, but sometimes it’s best to put popular opinion to the wayside and do something truly original for a romantic vacation. Exploring the magical landscape of Australia’s Northern Territory accomplishes just that.
The Northern Territory is the heart of Australia’s Outback. The territory is best known for its enchanting landscape stretching from the tropical coast of the Top End to the sun-kissed rocks of the Red Centre. If you head to the Northern Territory, you’ll enjoy magnificent sunsets each evening that are the perfect backdrop to romantic dinners and nights spent enjoying nature in each other’s company. It offers unforgettable cultural experiences, stunning encounters with nature, a gorgeous setting that cannot be beat, and the chance for romance unlike any other place on the planet.
While it’s important that you follow your interests when putting together your next romantic vacation, we have some recommendations on what to do in the Northern Territory for a couple’s getaway. Hopefully this will give you and your partner an idea of why the Northern Territory is a great destination for your next romantic journey.
Alice Springs is the quintessential Outback town and the halfway point on the highway from Adelaide to Darwin—both cities are 1,500km away. It has a population of a little over 25,000, but that modest population boasts a huge amount of character. It’s the kind of place that you and your partner will talk about years after visiting: “Honey, remember those funny little bearded dragons at the Reptile Centre or the excited kangaroo at the Kangaroo Sanctuary? Imagine if we were doctors working for the Flying Doctors Service, flying out each morning to visit patients across the desert.” Alice Springs is a town bursting with originality, which makes for a memorable vacation to share with your loved one.
In the town, you can do some shopping and see “main street” at Todd Mall, with its pedestrian shopping avenue in the centre of town, and hit up one of the surprisingly good restaurants around the city centre. You can get a taste for the desert while remaining in town at the Alice Springs Desert Park or spot local reptiles at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
A great place to make some memories with your partner is at the Kangaroo Sanctuary just to the south of town near the airport. This large sanctuary serves as a rehabilitation centre for kangaroos. Spend a few hours learning about efforts to rehabilitate injured kangaroos and return them to the wild. After learning about conservation efforts, you’ll have a chance to interact with the animals themselves and you may even be able to hold a baby kangaroo in a pouch, taking advantage of the short time period when you can interact with them before they’re sent to the rehabilitation centre to acclimate back to the wild.
West MacDonnell Ranges
While Alice Springs itself has a lot to love, the surrounding landscape demands its fair share of your attention. The town serves as the gateway to the Outback and has magnificent natural highlights in all directions. So know that whichever direction you head, you’ll find something breathtaking.
Head west of the town to reach the West MacDonnell Ranges, one of Australia’s most famous mountain ranges. You could pick most any spot in the Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park and find a romantic spot to go for a hike or spend some time gazing at the sunset with your partner, but as always, there are a few places you should consider before others.
One is Ellery Creek Big Hole, where you can spend the perfect day at the secluded beach with your partner. Red cliffs surround this picturesque waterhole, which was formed over thousands of years from floods through the Outback. If you two are looking for something active, hike the 3km trail that takes you to nearby rock formations, while you can just as easily spend an afternoon lounging on the sand and swimming in the clear waters of the waterhole.
Another spot you should prioritize is Simpsons Gap, possibly the most famous gap along the mountain range. You’ll find a waterhole here as well as wildlife including black-footed rock-wallabies. But the most magnificent aspect of Simpsons Gap is how the high cliffs frame the divide between the Outback and the sky. You may want to spend an hour or two simply watching the colours change over the cliff sides and spill out of the canyon into the bush, or wait past sundown to watch the night sky come alive above you.
You may also want to spend a night at the Ooraminna Station Homestead, an old Outback station transformed into a comfortable property in the midst of the desert. At Ooraminna Station Homestead, you can dine beneath the stars, spend a day in a quaint cottage, or go camping on the expansive stretches of bush. It’s a great place for a romantic night out in the magical stillness of the Outback and conveniently located near Alice Springs.
Alice Springs: West MacDonnell Ranges Full Day Tour
Experience the rugged Australian Outback on this half day tour to the West MacDonnell Ranges, you will see the John Flynn Memorial, the incredible Simpsons Gap, walk into Standley Chasm, and enjoy a light lunch before returning to Alice Springs.More Details
After exploring Alice Springs and its surroundings, it’s time to head to the southwest to reach Uluru/Ayers Rock, the sandstone monolith that is the foremost natural icon of the Australian Outback. This rock is the largest monolith in the world and a sacred place for the local Anangu people that have lived in the Red Centre for thousands of years. It’s mystical, ancient, and overwhelmingly beautiful. You can’t ask for a better setting for candlelit dinners or stunning nature hikes than Uluru.
Uluru is a landmark that rewards multiple perspectives. Perhaps the most memorable way to see it is on a helicopter flight in the afternoon. You and your partner can ride above the Outback and see the red rock from above just as the sun begins to dip towards the horizon and cast deep shadows across the desert. You can also arrange for a hot air balloon ride at dawn. Seeing it from high above will give you a newfound appreciation for its size and rich red hue. It’ll also be a memory that you and your partner will cherish for the rest of your lives.
After seeing Uluru from high above, spend an evening enjoying the Sounds of Silence or Field of Light experience at sundown. As the light fades over the Red Centre, the landscape is transformed with thousands of lights illuminating the ground surrounding the rock, transforming the very earth into a starscape. The Sounds of Silence dinner experience also plays into the magical quality of this landscape by showcasing the quintessential sounds of the Outback during a candlelit dinner overlooking Uluru.
While in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, you should also connect with the local Aboriginal people, who have been caretakers of the land for tens of thousands of years. A fun way to get in touch with Anangu culture is the Maruku Arts Dot Painting Workshop, which educates travellers on the artistic and ceremonial heritage of dot painting and then lets you make your own artwork that taps into this long tradition. You can also arrange to hike into the wilderness surrounding Uluru in the company of an Anangu guide, who will educate you on the sacred stories of the rock formations and let you know about the landscape’s importance in the mystical Creation Time (Tjukurpa).
You should also take the time to see nearby Kata Tjuta/The Olgas, a series of red domed rocks spread out across the desert. They’re the natural counterpart to Uluru and almost as magnificent in their size and hue. Between Uluru and Kata Tjuta, you’ll have two unforgettable natural landmarks as the backdrop to your romantic escape.
The Red Centre of the Northern Territory may not be your conventional destination for a romantic getaway, but it has natural highlights, intimate experiences, and stunning beauty that’ll make for a romantic vacation you’ll never forget.
11 Mar 2020, 1:31 p.m.