With its handful of shops, restaurants and sights, including an excellent Aboriginal cultural centre, TENNANT CREEK remains the best stopover on the long haul between Katherine (669km north) and Alice Springs (507km south). At the heart of the Barkly Region, Tennant is a hub for the rich mining and beef industries and the surrounding area and is home to the NT’s oldest, and some of the world’s biggest, cattle stations. If your visit coincides with one of the many campdrafts and rodeos that dominate the social calendar (March–Oct), you might just have one of the best experiences of your trip.

Sadly, Tennant also has a dark side, with alcohol-fuelled violence and severe social problems blighting the Aboriginal community that makes up half the town’s population of 3900. Hoteliers often warn guests not to venture out at night or at least take a taxi. At the time of writing, it remained to be seen whether alcohol selling restrictions were having an effect.

John McDouall Stuart came through Tennant Creek in the early 1860s, followed by the Overland Telegraph Line ten years later. Pastoralists and prospectors arrived from the south and east, and in 1933 it was the site of Australia’s last major goldrush. This was the time of gritty “gougers”, such as Jack Noble and partner Bill Weaber (with one eye between them), who defied the Depression by pegging some of the most productive claims. Mining corporations continue to exploit the rich deposits here, with mineral exploration the most important industry alongside beef.