Tennant Creek

Tennant Creek is a town in the Northern Territory of Australia. It has a population of around 3,500. It is known as the Territory’s heart of gold mainly due to the people, but also in reference to the gold mining history.


Paterson Street, Tennant Creek

Tennant Creek in Central Australia sits on the Explorer’s Way, 500km north of Alice Springs and 1000km south of Darwin. The town is surrounded to the east by the Barkly Tablelands - a huge expanse of land that supports some of Australia’s premier outback cattle stations. Tennant Creek sits in the middle of the outback, but the country is beautiful and anything but barren. The town is situated in open mallee scrubland, surrounded by rocky ranges and brilliant blue skies that give way to millions of stars at night.

Prior to the gold rush era, Tennant Creek’s first European residents were workers on the Overland Telegraph Line, which established a communication link between Australia and the rest of the world. The Telegraph Station was built in 1872, and this historical collection of stone buildings can be explored today.

Aboriginal culture is strong in Tennant Creek. The traditional land owners of this area are the aboriginal Warumungu people, and they recognise a number of sacred sites in the area, including the region’s most famous landmark – the Devils Marbles – about 100km south of the town. They believe that these are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent – a creature of a Dreamtime story. The Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre in Tennant Creek is an award-winning aboriginal attraction that showcases the people’s stories and art. The Barkly region is steeped in the ancient traditions and beliefs of its traditional custodians, and around nine Aboriginal groups call the area home, including the Warumungu, Walpiri, Kaiditch and Alyawarr people.

The Barkly region is also renowned for the cattle industry and encompasses some of Australia's largest and most historic stations. These include Newcastle Waters, Banka Banka and Brunette Downs. The Overlander's Way tourism drive follows the paths of many droving heroes who brought vast herds of cattle through the Barkly on their way to the Queensland coast.

The air is fresh and clean here and the colours of the landscape are ever-changing as the rocky hillsides pick up the varying sun's rays between daybreak and evening. This phenomenon is particularly evident at the Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu to the Aboriginal people), a collection of huge granite boulders precariously balanced on top of one another, 100km south of the town, which glow fiery red as sunset hits. The Pebbles (known as Kunjarra) are another granite outcrop formation, just north of the town, and it's also a sacred site for the Warumungu people.

Camping is popular way to experience the region. There are plenty of spots to pitch a tent or roll out a swag, but some of the best spots are dotted throughout conservation reserves in the Devils Marbles and the Davenport Range National Park - a 1120 square-kilometre area east of the highway about 250km south of Tennant Creek. The Park is dotted with waterholes that attract plenty of wildlife, birds and fish.

A number of walking trails throughout the region allow travellers to experience the plants, birds and landscapes of Tennant Creek up close. One walking path winds its way through the Honeymoon Ranges to Lake Mary Ann, five kilometres north-east of the town, and the perfect spot for a swim and a picnic.

Adventure lovers have plenty of options in the Tennant Creek area. Four-wheel-drivers in particular are spoilt for choice with the plethora of moderate to challenging tracks available to test their skills and their vehicles. The Davenport Range National Park is an excellent four-wheel-drive destination and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. The Old Police Station Waterhole, located on the Frew River, is the park's best known attraction, and the moderately challenging Frew River Four Wheel Drive Loop Track is an exciting alternative route in. It's a rocky, 17-kilometre track with several kilometres along the ridgeline, which affords spectacular vistas. This is just one of the four-wheel-drive tracks in the region. Camping in Tennant Creek is an adventure in itself. There are caravan parks and camp grounds in town, but for a real feeling of isolation, where there are no creature comforts, pack up the car and try one of the region's bush camping sites in the peace and quiet of the outback - make sure you take all your own supplies. Why not aim to go home in style after you discover your fortune in Tennant Creek? There are a number of sites in this area where people can fossick for their own gold - and apparently there's still plenty here to be found. Another adventurous pursuit in this area is experiencing life on an outback cattle station. Travellers can camp at Banka Banka Station, an operating station 100km to the town's north.

Map of Tennant Creek Town, NT

The only way to reach Tennant Creek is via Alice Springs, Darwin or Mt Isa in Queensland. A 4WD will come in handy, however, the main roads are sealed. Helicopter and small plane trips are a popular way to reach remote destinations and you get to take in the spectacular landscape.

Get in

By plane

Tennant Creek has an airfield, and charter flights are easily arranged from either Darwin or Alice Springs. Tiwi Air has some scheduled services from Darwin.

By car

Cars can be hired at Alice Springs or Darwin. It is possible to hire at one and drop off at the other for a fee, but probably best to check with the company beforehand. Tennant Creek is 500km north along the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs and 1000km due south from Darwin. Car rental companies in the Northern Territory have daily distance allowances after which a surcharge is payable; however, if you book with the government wholesaler, Territory Discoveries, you can get unlimited rates.

By bus

Greyhound services the highway between Adelaide and Darwin, with a stop in Alice Springs. Northbound the coach arrives in Tennant Creek at 2.10AM, and departs at 3.25AM. Southbound, it's a similar time, with the coach arriving at 2.30AM and departing at 3.45AM.

By train

The Ghan, running on the famous Adelaide-Darwin route, passes by Tennant Creek twice each way per week and will stop on request. Serious enthusiasm for train travel is required to book in advance, arrive at 2AM in the morning, and then catch the next onward train out at 2AM three or four days later. The Ghan, being a tourist train rather than a regular form of transport, also charges a significant premium to the bus, and takes considerably longer.

Devils Marbles, Tennant Creek

Get around

The town itself is relatively small and everything within the town can be reached on foot. A car is needed to reach attractions slightly further afield.


Tennant Creek Telegraph Station



There are several small shops including a supermarket in Tennant Creek mainly selling the essentials.



There are several bars/pubs as well as a liquor store.


In addition to Tennant Creek itself, lodging options are available in other (relatively) nearby settlements along the Stuart Highway, including Ti Tree and Barrow Creek.


Tennant Creek's telephone area code is 08. To dial a number in Tennant Creek from elsewhere in Australia, dial the area code and the eight-digit telephone number. For calls originating from within the same area code—i.e. Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the far western fringe of New South Wales—the area code can be omitted. To call Tennant Creek from outside Australia, dial 61 (the country code for Australia), then area code 8 (omitting the initial zero), then the eight-digit phone number.

The emergency numbers for Australia are 000 (fixed-line or mobile phones) or 112 (mobile phones only).

Tennant Creek's post office is on the main street in the centre of town, at 49 Paterson Street.

Go next

Routes through Tennant Creek

Darwin Katherine  N  S  Alice Springs
Katherine  N                            S  Wycliffe Well Alice Springs

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, July 09, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.