The Outback Travel Guide

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Photo: Christopher Meder - Photography/Shutterstock

Few visitors who explore Australia's remote Red Centre and wild Top End are left unmoved by the stark, expansive beauty of the landscape. The Outback's amazing World Heritage national parks, many on the ancestral homelands of the traditional indigenous owners, are home to some of Australia's most fascinating and iconic natural attractions, such as Ulruru (Ayers Rock), the magnificent Bungle Bungles, and the vast bird-filled wetlands and raging waterfalls of Kakadu. The Outback contains deeply carved rock canyons, deserts with unending horizons, and prolific wildlife. It is Australia at its wildest, rawest, and most sublime, and it's a landscape that will sear itself onto your memory forever.

The Top End of Australia is a geographic description—but it's also a state of mind. Isolated from the rest of Australia by thousands of miles of desert and lonely scrubland, Top Enders are different and proud of it, making the most of their isolation with a strongly independent and individualistic attitude. The region is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Darwin and Broome—closer geographically to the cities of Southeast Asia than to any Australian counterparts—host the nation's most racially diverse populations: Aborigines, Anglos, and Asians share a tropical lifestyle.

In the west, the Kimberley offers some of the most dramatic landscapes in Australia. A land of rugged ranges and vast cattle stations, the Kimberley is still the frontier, a place even few Australians get to see. Like Top Enders, the people of the Kimberley region see themselves as living in a land apart from the rest of the nation, and it's easy to see why: climate extremes, inaccessibility of the landscape, and great distances combine to make the Kimberley one of the world's few uniquely unpeopled spaces.

For thousands of years this area of northern and central Australia has been home to Aboriginal communities that have undiminished ties to the land. Stunning examples of ancient Aboriginal rock art remain—on cliffs, in hidden valleys, and in city art galleries and cooperative art centers in remote communities. Aboriginal artwork has now moved into Australia's mainstream art movement, and some expensive canvases by Aboriginal artists decorate galleries, homes, and corporate boardrooms around the world. But there is more to Aboriginal culture than art, and there is no better place to try and understand it than here, on a guided tour of some of the country's most spiritually significant Aboriginal sites.

Cities in The Outback

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