THE Northern Territory is stunning year round, yet when the wet season rolls in like clockwork it adds vibrancy to the landscape as floodplains fill and spill into surrounding waterways and the green foliage thickens and deepens in colour.
Touring the Top End in the green season also means you'll be visiting off-peak when hotels and tour operators offer generous discounts so your trip-of-a-lifetime won't break the budget.
If you're ready for a cool change this summer, here are Northern Territory Tourism's picks to whet your appetite for travel in the green season:
Dramatic Darwin: The tropical capital is treated to vivid sunsets, spectacular light shows and refreshing rains, which bring a cool change. The sailing club at Fannie Bay or the Darwin Waterfront are the perfect places to watch the show unfold.
A visit to modern-day Darwin is also a journey back through Australia's wartime history. East Point Reserve, just 10 minutes' drive from the city centre, is home to a collection of artillery housed in the original concrete bunker used by the army to plan the strategy for the defence of our northern shores.
The Territory's famous 'build up' and run-off from monsoonal rains also make for great fishing from January to mid-March; and the Million Dollar Fish competition provides a million extra incentives for anglers to stay, play and fish. For those who prefer to feed their fish rather than catch them, Aquascene offers a daily fish-feeding experience in the heart of Darwin that's perfect for families. Expect to see inquisitive mullet, milkfish, catfish, bream, batfish and barramundi coming in to feed.
A lusher Litchfield: The swell of wet season waterfalls, like popular Wangi Falls, makes for epic images when taken from the lower viewing platforms at Litchfield National Park, a 90-minute drive from Darwin's CBD. While the 4WD tracks and some walking tracks close during the green season, most of the park remains open year-round, as do the popular gin-coloured Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole.
If you're heading to these parts, a trip to the Tolmer plunge waterfall showcases the power of Mother Nature - and it's easily accessible in green season. A quick dip in the infinity pool at Greenant Creek offers unbelievable views from the escarpment and, if you're lucky, you'll have the place to yourself during the wet. In fact, this spot is so good, that park rangers rate it as one of the small must-do experiences in life.
For those who love their camping, it's also much easier to nab a great camping spot at this time of year and soak up the quiet. Outdoor types can roll up their swags and join Territory Expeditions' three-day Kakadu/Litchfield small group camping expedition from now through to April.
Single women might want to join the Ethical Adventures team on a one-day tour that takes in Howard Springs, "Batchelor" and Litchfield National Park - just BYO sense of adventure.
Kakadu-it: Uluru aside, a visit to World Heritage-listed Kakadu is one of the most spiritual experiences a traveller can have on home soil. A scenic flight is one of the best ways to fully appreciate this ancient and rugged landscape as water buffalo roam, green spear trees reach their full height, billabongs swell and fill, and waterfalls are in full flow. Operators like Kakadu Air take in the park showstoppers - Jim Jim and Twin Falls - the sight of which guarantees to make your cameras whir as fast as the helicopter's rotors as the drama unfolds below.
On the ground, sealed roads make exploring a breeze and Nourlangie Rock (or Burrunggui as it is known to the Gun-djeihmi speakers) is one of the most impressive ancient galleries in Kakadu. This open-air gallery was the wet season home for generations of Aboriginal people, and park rangers stress it's important to look and not touch to preserve the site for future generations.
A cruise on Yellow Water - a lush, tropical billabong that's home to buffalo, crocodiles, 120 species of reptiles and flocks of native birds (some 300 species in total) and all manner of flora - is a must-do. Kakadu Tourism offers a 90-minute trip through the wetlands complete with expert commentary and the occasional trumpeting of brolgas (that can be heard up to two kilometres away), which brings visitors nose to snout with the region's salties.
A range of discounted cruise options and accommodation packages are available during the green season, including a sunset and sunrise cruise package with overnight stay at Cooinda Lodge; or slip into safari life or embrace the emblem of the NT and stay in the park's croc-shaped hotel, Mercure Crocodile Hotel.
For a touch of understated bush luxury, treat yourself to a night or two at Bamurru Plains lodge, perfectly plonked on a buffalo station right on the fringes of Kakadu National Park. Surrounded by savannah woodland, you'll wake to birdsong, feast on bush-inspired gourmet meals and fall asleep to the sounds of nature. The property is closed during the early months of the wet season (November-February) but operates as an exclusive fishing lodge from February to April and re-opens in May.
A leaner, greener Katherine (Nitmiluk): Stretching from Queensland to Western Australia, the Katherine region is where the outback meets the tropics. It is filled to the brim with dramatic gorges, riverways, thermal springs and waterfalls. In country as beautiful as this, it's a good idea to take to the sky and soar over the Z-shaped lands to really appreciate the diversity. No less than 13 gorges dot the landscape, with names like Biddlecombe Cascades, Crystal Falls and 17 Mile Falls rolling off the tongue as you fly low along the escarpment towards Arnhem Land.
A little closer to terra firma, Nitmiluk Tours runs its Nit Nit Dreaming Two Gorge Cultural Cruise through the lands of the Jawoyn people. It continues until the water levels rise too high. For water babies, Mataranka Hot Springs and its neighbour, Bitter Springs, are a 50-minute drive south.
Immerse yourself in nature with a hike through Nitmiluk National Park to the Southern Rockhole - one of the few places you can swim during the wet season. The walk is more hike than stroll as you clamber over the rocky escarpment, so bring good walking shoes. And, at day's end, retire to your safari tent in the national park campground, complete with resident wallabies and a side of fresh NT air.