24 Hours In Tennant Creek
Tennant Creek is one of the more “off the beaten track” destinations in Australia. The only way that you will get here is if you are travelling overland across the Stuart Highway from Adelaide to Darwin, or from Townsville to Darwin through the Queensland and Northern Territory outback.
Either way, there will be a lot of travelling across some pretty desolate landscape if you want to go to Tennant Creek.
So what awaits you in this outback dot on the map?
Tennant Creek is a great place to really get a feel for the outback. It is a small community, whose main inhabitants are part of the Aboriginal community, making it a great place to learn about traditional Aboriginal culture.
Tennant Creek was originally established in the 1920’s by a rag tag group of miners who sought their fortunes mining for gold, but local Aboriginals have been living in the area for much, much longer than that.
Tennant Creek – How to get there, and away
The only reasonable way to reach Tennant Creek is by road. You can either self drive, or go via Greyhound. Tennant Creek is one of the stops on the route between Townsville and Darwin, with the major stops of interest being Townsville – Mt Isa – Tennant Creek – Katherine – Darwin. I reached Tennant Creek using my mini traveller Greyhound pass from Cairns – Darwin.
Tennant Creek – Where to stay
There is not a whole lot of tourism in Tennant Creek, due to its isolated position in the Australian outback. If you are self driving, there is a caravan park where you can set up camp just off the main road in town. Otherwise, there is one hostel in town – Tourist’s Rest. The hostel is very basic, but has all the amenities you will need to make your stay in Tennant Creek comfortable.
24 Hours In Tennant Creek
Morning – Battery Hill Museums
There are several small museums located around the site of the Battery Hill which now contains the Tennant Creek tourist information office as well. This site is located about 2 kilometres off the main street of town, and is walkable. I recommend visiting this site first thing in the morning if you are planning to walk, since the mid morning – mid afternoon sun in Tennant Creek can be intense and it’s best to avoid it.
There are several museums located on the site. There is a small geological museum which shows the different rocks and minerals that are mined in the area. There is also a small socio historical museum about the lives of Tennant Creek’s first European inhabitants, which offers an extremely interesting look into the sometimes very rough and hard lives that these people led.
Also on site was a small exhibit of stories from prominent elders in the community about their experiences growing up in the area. An interesting look into the lives of people who experienced a very different reality than I did growing up.
The cost to visit all these museums is 7$.
Afternoon – Nyinkka Nyunyu Arts and Cultural Centre
This aboriginal cultural exhibition was the highlight of my trip to Tennant Creek. The exhibit was originally established in 2003 as a way to educate the community about Aboriginal culture, legends, history, and tradition.
The cost to visit is 15$ for entry and to rent the audio guide. I strongly recommend getting the audio guide as well, as I found it added so much to my visit.
The main gallery is rather small and documents the history of the Aboriginal peoples in the Tennant Creek area. A series of dioramas show main events that were important to their history. The exhibit also shows traditional weapons and hunting equipment, as well as documenting important cultural traditions and the traditional bush tucker (food) from this region.
In the outdoor courtyard there is a garden with a path that meanders through the landscape. Planted along the path are a large variety of native trees and other plants. Each plant has a number next to it, and this is where the audio guide really comes in handy. Each number corresponds to an audio entry on the guide, which features a local elder explaining the plants traditional uses as either a food source, medicinal resource, or traditional building material. I found it really amazing to learn how one tree can indicate where there is an underground water source, while another shows where a good food resource can be found. To my untrained eyes, these different bushes looked the same and if I was left to my own devices would probably die of hunger or thirst out in the bush. But for someone with training in the traditional Aboriginal knowledge – the bush is not a desolate wasteland, but a thriving and busy supermarket where they can easily meet all their needs.
Other activities available in Tennant Creek
If you have come to Tennant Creek with your own means of transportation, then one thing not to miss are the Devil’s Marbles. These large rock formations are sacred to the local Aboriginal community, and many legends surround them. Unfortunately, the day tour out to the Devil’s Marbles had been recently cancelled when I visited, and I was unable to visit this important cultural and natural site. However things may change in Tennant Creek, so enquire at the Tourist Information office for the most up to date information.
I visited Tennant Creek using my hop on hop off Greyhound mini traveller pass. These passes are a great way to see a large portion of Australia at a bargain. You can read my review of the mini traveller pass here. My pass was provided complimentary by Greyhound Australia, but all opinions remain my own.