With its handful of shops, restaurants and sights, including an excellent Aboriginal cultural centre, TENNANT CREEK, 26km south of Three Ways, 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 mining and beef industries and the surrounding area is home to the NT’s oldest, and some of the world’s biggest, cattle stations.
Sadly, Tennant also has a dark side, with social problems and alcohol-related issues blighting sections of the Aboriginal community which makes up close to half the town’s population of around 3000. It can feel edgy when venturing out at night – taxis are a good idea if you’re taking more than a short walk – but the small town has for decades made efforts to shake off its reputation, and it deserves to be visited with an open mind.
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 gold rush. Mining corporations continue to exploit the rich deposits here, with mineral exploration the most important industry alongside beef. The Stuart Highway becomes Paterson Street, the town’s main drag, as you enter Tennant.