Tennant Creek

Tennant Creek Fire Station


The town was established in 1934, after one of Australia's last gold rushes and is also known as the Territory’s heart of gold; a reference to the friendliness of its people and the area’s gold mining history.

Tennant Creek is a major regional centre located on the Stuart Highway 505km north of Alice Springs, the traditional owners are the Warumungu. East of the town is the Barkly Tablelands - a huge expanse of land that supports some of Australia’s premier outback cattle stations. 

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According to Warumungu legend, the town grew up around the home of a spiky tailed goanna called Nyinkka – a powerful ancestral being. Tennant Creek takes its name from the nearby watercourse, named in 1860 by explorer, John McDouall Stuart, in acknowledgement of the financial help he received for his expedition from John Tennant, a South Australian pastoralist. In 1872 a telegraph repeater station on the Overland Telegraph was erected near the Tennant Creek watercourse.


Tennant Creek is located on the Stuart Highway about 1,000km from Darwin and 500km from Alice Springs at the junction of two great arterial roads, the Barkly Highway and the Stuart Highway.

The mining of gold, silver and copper has been at the heart of the local economy and as the third largest gold producer in Australia, Tennant Creek also offers visitors a range of experiences such as a gold mine tour, viewing an operational gold processing plant or prospecting for gold nuggets.

The vast Barkly Tablelands cover 240,000km2 and supports the important cattle industry and extends from the eastern part of the NT into western Queensland (QLD) with rolling plains of grassland. The lowest area of the Mitchell grasslands is approximately 200m above sea level.

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The Mary Ann Recreation Dam is a popular swimming and picnicking location and hosts the annual Australia Day Regatta, one of the few places in Central Australia where you will see sailing events on water.

With growth and continuing activity, Tennant Creek inevitably became the commercial and administrative centre for the vast Barkly region and its pastoral industry. Climatic conditions throughout the region are semi-arid.

Red sand soils with a grey or brown sandy surface and red earths are the most extensive soil type covering large areas. Vegetation is almost exclusively open eucalypt savanna with eucalypt lacacia shrub lands to the south of Elliott and on the poorer desert country sandy soils.


Culture and history

In 1860 the explorer John McDouall Stuart named a creek to the north of the present town after a financier of the expedition called John Tennant. In 1872, with the establishment of the overland telegraph line, a repeater station was established in the locality. The town itself was declared in 1934, in the midst of Australia’s last significant gold rush, and the gold industry became the driving force of the local economy.


Mean daily maximum temperatures range between 23ºC in June and 39ºC in December with mean daily minimum temperatures of between 7ºC in July and 25ºC in January.

Annual average rainfall is between 600mm in the north and 300mm in the south. Rainfall is seasonal with 95% falling between November and April.


Mining has always been the backbone of the local economy, the Tennant Creek area contains many known deposits of gold, silver and copper.

The total population of the Barkly Fire District is about 6,700 people.

Alcohol (any restricted area)

Many of the Aboriginal communities have alcohol restrictions. Visitors should check with the authorities before entering these areas.

Sacred areas

There are many sacred areas in the Barkly region. Locations can be obtained from Central Land Council.


Tennant Creek schools include a pre-schoolprimary and high school. Some residents prefer to send senior students to boarding school in Alice Springs.

The Tennant Creek Child Care Centre operates year round with a break over Christmas and New Year. Advanced bookings are essential. There is also a play group that meets every Tuesday.

Health services

The Tennant Creek General Practice is a Health Facility of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), and they provide primary health care services.

The Tennant Creek General Practice operates Monday to Friday and consultations are by appointment. There is also a Rural Woman’s General Practitioner who visits for two days each month.

Tennant Creek Hospital is a 20-bed facility located in the town on Schmidt Street. There is an Accident and Emergency Department, Outpatient Department and Patient Travel facility. Aero Medical Services provides coordination for medical aviation transport including inter-hospital transfers, evacuations, and retrievals. St John Ambulance also provides local area transport for patients.

Road access

Tennant Creek is located about 1,000km from Darwin and 500km from Alice Springs.

Travel time from Darwin is approximately 10 hours and 5 hours from Alice Springs. The Stuart Highway is an excellent road but it is recommended that frequent stops are taken and that care be taken if driving at night.

Amenities and services

Since the gold rush in the 1930s, the people of Tennant Creek have prided themselves on self-reliance, community involvement, and the ability to provide their own entertainment. Tennant Creek has been called “the best kept secret in the Territory”, because visitors find the region has far more to offer than they realise.

Motor Vehicle Registry operates Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm.

The news agency are agents for Australia Post, they also provide other banking facilities

There is a variety of cafés and restaurants in the local township, including a couple of Asian food premises and a pizza outlet. The Tennant Creek Memorial Club and Sporties Club are great venues that offer live entertainment and a relaxed, family friendly atmosphere.

Recreation activities

For the thrill seekers, Tennant Creek is an adventure playground. Explore the trails around Davenport Range National Park in a 4WD or tackle the numerous walking tracks in the region.

Sporting clubs include motor sports, a gun club, lawn bowls club, gymnasium, town pool and there is also a variety of local AFL teams, even yoga at the Barkly Sports Club. There is even the Tennant Creek Lions Club.

Permits onto Aboriginal land

Permits are required to enter Aboriginal lands in the region. Enquires can be made at the Central Land Council in Davidson Street. Staff working at Tennant Creek require permits prior to transfer.