I immediately realised Tennant Creek is the Outback: pure and simple, rugged and daunting. In looking for an authentic experience of the Australian Outback, one must consider visiting Tennant Creek. Located in Australia's Northern Territory, Tennant Creek is isolated in scenic scrubland.
More of the Old Telegraph Station. Source: Reinhard Dietrich / Wikimedia Commons
Accessible via Alice Springs or Darwin—cities 500 km and 1000 km away, respectively—Tennant Creek is most effectively reached by plane or helicopter. Air travel affords wonderful views of the surrounding landscape. Alternatively, travellers can reach Tennant Creek by hiring a car (the only agency we could find was Thrifty through this site), or opting for a bus or train ride. However, it is worth noting that car, bus, and train travel take significantly longer than air travel. A train trip into Tennant Creek will take several days; travelers will willingly sacrifice expediency for views and experiences that define life in the Outback.
Opting for the scenic route, train travel was a unique and rewarding travel experience. On the train, I found the openness of the Outback staggering. Surrounded by scrubland, nearby vistas rose sharply and clear skies provided sunny views by day and gave way to nightly starlit skies unsullied by light pollution.
Once in Tennant Creek, I found it best to get around on foot. Although a cars could have been helpful in reaching distant Tennant Creek attractions, Tennant Creek itself is best appreciated as a pedestrian, with the occasional side tours to nearby attractions—I wanted to experience the air, the openness, the scenery, all of it without being in a box, separated from nature by glass and steel. So that's what I did—I hiked, knowing later, I could use a four-wheeler to extend the trip to surrounding attractions like the mining town of Warrego or the Davenport Range National Park will enhance any trip.
Day 1 - What to Do in Tennant Creek
When planning a trip to Tennant Creek, it is important to know that camping is required. There is no getting around this. For most people, there are campgrounds, but for the truly adventurous travelers, there is the option to camp in the bush. Those up for an authentic bush-camping experience must remember to be fully prepared with supplies. Less rugged, I opted to stay at a campground. Then, I decided on the things I wanted to do in Tennant Creek. For an introduction to the region, I visited the Tennant Creek Museum at Tuxworth Fullwood House and the Nyinkka Nyunyu Interpretive Centre, two noteworthy cultural Tennant Creek Attractions.
On my second day, I visited Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve and The Pebbles. Devils Marbles is best viewed at sunrise or sunset. I got an early start and visited the unique, spherical rock formations. Known as Kunjarra to the Aboriginals, the Pebbles is a smaller version of Devils Marbles. Both sites are essential Tennant Creek attractions. That night, I visited the Bill Allen Lookout. Of things to do in Tennant Creek, experiencing a sunset panoramic view of the landscape is a must. With a 360-degree view, the Bill Allen Lookout is a breathtaking, essential stop for every visitor to Tennant Creek.
Keen to experience a bit of Tennant Creek's past, I joined a tour to fossick, or pan, for gold outside Warrego, a small mining town. Gold mining forms an important part of Tennant Creek's history, and when considering things to do in Tennant Creek, it is worthwhile to dip into the past while enjoying the surrounding Outback landscape. After the side trip to fossick for gold, I visited the Davenport Range National Park. Davenport Range offers numerous walking trails, as well as a wide array of fish, birds, and other native wildlife. A notable stop at Davenport Range is the Amelia Creek crater. The remnants of a former impact crater, visiting Amelia Creek offers travelers an unparalleled opportunity to see vestiges of the celestial world, as well as the lasting impact that that world has on Earth. Throughout Tennant Creek, the Aboriginal influence is strong. Davenport Range is no exception. Because the Davenport Range marks the boundary between tribal lands, travelers witness the confluence of Aboriginal culture in Australia's Northern Territory.
The Absolute Best
Under darkening skies, the views at Bill Allen Lookout were peerless. There is nothing comparable to looking at a 360-degree sky full of stars on a perfectly dark night. The view was breathtaking and the experience will not soon be forgotten.
Mining for gold was always hard in Tennant Creek. Source: Ursula Cay / Wikimedia Commons
The visits to the Tennant Creek Museum and the Nyinkka Nyunyu Interpretive Centre were, by far, the cultural high points of the visit to Tennant Creek. By no means rugged, the Tennant Creek Museum highlights early 20th century technology and mining history. The Nyinkka Nyunyu Interpretive Centre was an enriching look into the Aboriginal arts and culture and, more than anything else, defines Tennant Creek tourism since all travelers are basically walking in the footsteps of Australia's native populations.
The Most Rugged
Aside from the camping required to experience Tennant Creek—and any type of camping is increasingly rugged in 2015—the 4-wheel drive tracks at the Davenport Range National Park are a true adventure. While I did not participate, the tracks at Davenport offers a 17-kilometre track that is rugged enough to come with the caveat that it is to be experienced only by experienced drivers.