Gardens, Landscapes and Art of the Top End
Join garden expert Elizabeth Swane to discover the diverse natural beauty of Australia’s ‘Top End’, and delve into the Northern Territory’s fascinating history and artistic culture.
Thanks to Darwin’s coastal tropical climate allowing for the flourishing of a wide range of floral specimens, see the best of this natural abundance in sites such as Anthill Gardens, the largest private tropical garden in the Territory, and a selection of private gardens. Also visit the extensive George Brown Botanic Gardens, before exploring some of Darwin’s unique history and art in the Darwin Military Museum, and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Then venture into Kakadu National Park, a 20,000 square-kilometre wilderness of wetlands, rivers, grasslands, escarpments and forests as old as time itself.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following pages may contain images and names of people who have died.
Arrive in Darwin in the mid-afternoon on suggested Qantas flights. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Make your way to the hotel and check in. At 17:00, enjoy an orientation coach tour of Darwin, visiting the Esplanade, Cullen Bay, Myilly Point Heritage Precinct and Fannie Bay. Conclude at the Darwin Waterfront for a special welcome dinner with Elizabeth and fellow travellers.
After breakfast, set out for a walking tour of central Darwin, including the Legislative Assembly Building, the Supreme Court, the Territory Library and a visit to the gardens of Government House, the official residence of the Administrator of the Northern Territory. Then visit the Darwin Military Museum, commemorating the significant role of the armed forces in Territory life, particularly during the bombing of Darwin in 1942.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory for a guided tour of its special exhibition, followed by free time to explore the permanent exhibitions, including the Cyclone Tracy exhibition.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, followed by an evening at leisure. You may wish to take a stroll down to Mindil Beach to explore the famous sunset markets, where hundreds of small businesses sell everything from crocodile jewellery to exotic tropical fruits.
In the morning, visit one of Darwin’s private gardens, where local horticulturalists display the best in tropical gardening, integrating native and exotic species. Continue to the George Brown Botanic Gardens, one of the finest displays of tropical flora in Australia, and one of the only such gardens in the world in which marine and estuarine plants grow naturally.
Then, visit the Paul Johnstone Gallery, which exhibits works from community art centres across Northern and Central Australia by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.
Return to the hotel in the early afternoon, with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure to continue your exploration of Darwin at your own pace.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning, visit Jasmine Jan Studio and Gallery, where the eponymous artist – and zookeeper! – has turned her enthusiasm for the plants and animals of her native Top End into striking works of art, with a unique aesthetic combining her training in science, visual arts and animal husbandry.
Continue to Anthill Gardens for a light lunch followed by a tour of the gardens. Named for the ‘cathedral’ termite mounds standing sentinel over the entrance, Anthill Gardens is the largest private tropical plant display in the Northern Territory. Adorned with frangipani, bouganvilleas, poincianas, roses, heliconias, flowering ginger, cacti, agave, bromeliads and bamboo, Anthill Gardens embodies the floral abundance of the Territory in every season.
Return to the hotel in the afternoon before an evening at leisure.
After an early breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to Kakadu National Park.
In the late morning, arrive at Bowali Information Centre, which serves as the gateway to Kakadu and explains the history and significance of the area to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians over the centuries.
Enjoy some free time for lunch before continuing to the awe-inspiring Nourlangie rock art site, with paintings dating back as far as 20,000 years, representing the very beginning of Australian art. Nourlangie represents the changing relationship of the local Bininj/Mungguy people with the landscape of Kakadu over the millennia, and tells the story of their ancestors, including Namarrgon (Lightning Man), who splits the dark clouds with his stone axes to make lightning and thunder in Kakadu’s prodigious Wet Season storms.
Depart early for the drive into western Arnhem Land and a visit to the Injalak Art Centre, the most important community art centre in the region. Male and female Indigenous artists display their skills in distinct sections of the art centre, with the male artists specialising in screen printing and fabric work, while the female artists continue their millennia-old tradition of pandanus weaving.
After lunch, visit the Ubirr rock art site, famous for its ‘X-ray’ depictions of humans and animals, revealing the artists’ intricate knowledge of internal anatomy. Paintings at Ubirr include the Rainbow Serpent, barramundi, goannas, possums, wallabies and a European buffalo farmer with his hands tucked nonchalantly into his pockets.
In the late afternoon enjoy a cruise on the peaceful Yellow Water billabong, where fish eagles soar above the treetops and mighty crocodiles glide silently through the water below. Then celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Elizabeth and fellow travellers.
After an early breakfast, check out from the hotel and return to Darwin.
Along the way, stop at the Window on the Wetlands information centre, which provides an informative explanation of the formation and function of the wetland ecosystem within Kakadu National Park.
Arrive at Darwin Airport in time for flights departing from 14:00 onwards. For those tour members remaining in Darwin, the coach will continue to Darwin CBD, where tour arrangements conclude.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
22 February 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Australia.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 star hotels (or best available) with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinner
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Expertise and insights of your tour leader, garden expert Elizabeth Swane
- Yellow River cruise in Kakadu National Park
- Entry permit for Arnhem Land
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Hotel/airport transport on departure if using group transfer
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- Airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfer on arrival
- Hotel/airport transfer on departure if not using group transfer
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (highly recommended; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Darwin – Mantra on the Esplanade ****
Kakadu – Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel ****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.