Tennant Creek, Northern Territory

Tennant Creek began life as a temporary telegraph repeater station in 1872 in the days when messages were sent by Morse code. About 1000 kilometres south of Darwin and 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs, Tennant Creek remained an isolated outpost visited only by a few hardy pioneers. When gold was discovered in the region in the early 1930s, the last great Gold Rush in Australia was sparked. Visitors who happen to be carrying a metal detector can try their luck at a public fossicking area about 50 km out of town or take a tour to a mining lease where equipment is included. You can see how gold bearing ore was treated and poured into ingots at the historic Gold Stamp Battery or visit the Battery Hill Mine demonstration site built by a present-day producer, Normandy Mines, to see how gold is mined and processed today. If you're feeling brave, you can also don a hard hat and visit the 1930s Dot Mine at night.

Tennant Creek is a welcome overnight stop on the long drive between Darwin and Alice Springs but it also has a lot to offer if you have time to explore and a four wheel drive vehicle. Four wheel drive tours and trail rides on horseback are also available. It is also the main centre for tours to the Devil's Marbles, about 100 km to the south in a valley straddling the Stuart Highway. Scattered throughout the valley, hundreds of rounded boulders up to six metres in diameter, many balanced on top of each other, are said to be the fossilised eggs of the Rainbow Serpent of Aboriginal Dreaming. You are allowed to climb them though traditional owners ask that the marbles (known as Karlu) are not climbed. The rocks also make for a cool, protected space for native plants and wildlife. If you look carefully, you may spot the small black-headed goannas who live within the boulder crevices. Bottle-shaped mud nests are also seen hanging from underneath the rocks, made by local Fairy martins. Spectacular at dawn and sunset, they make for great photographs.

Devils Marbles - Tennant Creek - Northern Territory