Holidays & Tours

Northern Territory movie locations that have to be seen to be believed

Lights, camera, plane tickets!

By Paul Ewart
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Looking for cinematic travel inspiration? These real-life Northern Territory filming locations have big-screen appeal.

With its vast deserts, crocodile-infested wetlands, geological wonders and sacred Aboriginal sites - it’s little wonder the NT has notched up a raft of movie credits. From epic romances and teary dramas, to comedies and adventure-soaked blockbusters, for more than half a century filmmakers have been captivated by the breathtaking scenery of the Top End, and as a result it has become part of global cinematic history.

For those looking for some home-grown travel inspiration, why not visit the real-life filming locations from some of your favourite Australian big screen success stories - these scene-stealing backdrops have serious star power of their own.

'Australia' with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (2008), filming locations

Frequently referred to as Australia’s answer to Gone With the Wind, there’s little doubt Baz Luhrmann’s epic historical drama is the stuff of Hollywood’s golden age. Starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, the movie is set against a backdrop of World War II and explores outback life, Indigenous culture and, of course, love, all while showing off the landscape.

A great jumping-off point to explore nearby Kakadu and Lichfield, the NT capital of Darwin is also the starting line for fans wanting to relive the movie’s filming locations. Make a beeline to the historic Stokes Hill Wharf - the site of the infamous Bombing of Darwin 75 years ago, which is dramatised in the movie - and then relive the tragedy at the newly opened Bombing of Darwin virtual-reality experience.

'Crocodile Dundee' with Paul Hogan (1986), filming locations

An accidental worldwide blockbuster, the fish-out-of-water tale of weathered, outback croc hunter Mick Dundee (Paul Hogan) catapulted the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park onto the tourism radar.

Kakadu stretches to 20,000km2 of landscape - making it Australia's largest national park – and the hit flick shows off the rich red landscapes, cascading waterfalls, deep blue billabongs and expanses of tranquil wetland that make it so special.

Must-sees include the ancient rock art galleries in Ubirr, believed to be 20,000 years old and a cruise along the East Alligator River.

'Ten Canoes' (2006), filming locations

Set in Australia long before Western contact, Ten Canoes (starring Jamie Gulpilil) follows a group of Indigenous men hunting goose eggs and building canoes.

The first ever movie filmed in Australian Aboriginal languages, Ten Canoes was shot entirely in Arnhem Land - an area roughly the size of Victoria, with a population of only about 17,000 - and today this Aboriginal reserve is one of Australia's last great untouched wilderness areas.

See ancient Aboriginal rock art and traditional crafts (this is the place where the didgeridoo originated), forage for bush tucker, and stay in wilderness lodges and try your hand at some of the world’s best fishing.

'Tracks' (2013), filming locations

The real-life story of Robyn Davidson who, in the late ‘70s, decided to make the long journey from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, across 2700km of outback, accompanied only by four camels and her dog. Tracks was adapted for the big screen in 2013 after a few false starts and lovingly showcased the spectacular scenery of the region.

Real-life adventure lovers can make like the author and try their hand at cameleering at Kings Creek Station. A working cattle and camel station, this outback institution is also the biggest exporter of wild camels in the country. To bag that enviable holiday snap, get in the saddle for a short sunrise or sunset ride at Uluru. The iconic red monolith is undoubtedly the region's most famous landmark and should be a go-to for every visitor here.

'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' (1994), filming locations

Repeatedly voted one of Australia’s best homegrown films, this 1994 cult classic takes drag queens (Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving and Terence Stamp) on a colourful, cross-country adventure from Sydney to Alice Springs in an old tour bus.

Follow in their footsteps by hiking the rim of the deepest gorge in the Red Centre, Kings Canyon (full drag is optional), or visit the iconic Lasseters Hotel in Alice Springs, which is the scene of their final performance.

While in the mining town, make sure to head to the Telegraph Station Historical Reserve to soak up the truly amazing panorama of desert landscape.

'Last Cab to Darwin' (2015), filming locations

Now this is a road trip movie with a difference!

When Broken Hill cab driver Rex (Michael Caton), is told he has stomach cancer and doesn’t have much longer to live, he takes it upon himself to go out on his own terms and makes the decision to drive the 1,900km to Darwin to a euthanasia clinic.

Along the way, he takes in the picture-postcard views of the outback and stops off at the tiny, isolated communities, including William Creek, Oodnadatta and Berry Springs (a beautiful area of natural swimming holes surrounded by bush about an hour outside of Darwin).