Alcohol Restrictions in the Northern Territory

Alcohol Restrictions in the Northern Territory are as strict and as confusing as any where else the country and there are more than 100 places in the NT where alcohol is totally banned under the law.  These are known as general restricted areas, which are controlled by the NT Government, or alcohol protected areas, which are controlled by the Federal Government.

Alcohol is totally banned in these areas outside a licensed premises without a liquor permit or special event licence.  You will find signage at the entrance of these communities telling you whether it is a general restricted or an alcohol protected area.  In some cases alcohol may be brought into a general restricted area under conditions stated on a permit - eg: for consumption at permit holders’ homes, where there is no licensed liquor outlet, in the case of Lajamanu, Maningrida, Wadeye, Barunga and Yirrkala.  Alcohol is available from a local community outlet, for drinking at a defined drinking area, such as Beswick, which has a permit system and a social club but no takeaway alcohol sales.   If you are from Beswick you can buy takeaway alcohol from another area or drink takeaway alcohol at home.

Ban on alcohol in a public area

This is known as a public restricted area and will have signage in place. If you drink alcohol in a public restricted area, the police can do all of the following:

  • search you for alcohol
  • take your alcohol and/or tip it out
  • give you a fine
  • take you to court where you can be given a maximum fine of 20 penalty units.  (What's a penalty unit?)

However, you can carry or transport unopened alcohol through a public restricted area to another unrestricted area or private premises to drink.

Find out where you can't drink in the NT

Regulated drinking areas

Drinking alcohol in a public place is banned within 2km of a licensed premises everywhere in the NT. Only a small number of places have exemptions.

These areas will have signage telling you that you are in a regulated area. You can be fined or taken to court if you are found drinking alcohol in these areas.

Ban on drinking at private premises

This is known as a private restricted area. Each private restricted area must have signage at the front of the premises.

This is a private premise, such as a home or business, where alcohol is totally banned.

Emergency alcohol bans

This is as known as special restricted area.

An area can be declared as special restricted area in urgent situations when it is considered to be for the wellbeing of the community.

A total alcohol ban will be in place unless you have a permit.

But what does all this mean to the casual traveller?

If you are travelling to the Northern Territory (NT), you should make sure you know the laws about drinking and buying alcohol as you can be fined or imprisoned if you break the law. There are many NT communities where alcohol is totally banned, known as dry areas. 

Go to list of restricted areas for more information.

There are some areas where you must have a liquor permit to drink alcohol.  

There are also places in the NT where it is illegal to drink alcohol in public places

Changes to who can buy takeaway alcohol

From 1 September 2017 all Territorians and visitors to the Northern Territory will need to show photo ID to buy takeaway alcohol.

Find out more about the changes to who can buy takeaway alcohol.

Buying takeaway alcohol

There are rules for buying takeaway alcohol in some areas of the Northern Territory that apply to everyone, including tourists and visitors. 

In some areas you must show photo ID to buy takeaway alcohol

Find out more about buying takeaway alcohol

Transporting alcohol through dry areas

You may take unopened alcohol through a restricted area but you cannot drink it, give it away or sell where there is an alcohol ban. 

Go to list of restricted areas for more information.


You may be fined, imprisoned or have your vehicle, boat or plane seized if you use them to transport alcohol to a restricted area for distribution without a liquor licence. 

Find out more about alcohol penalties and offences.

Drinking in public places

To find out where you can and can't drink alcohol in public go to:

 Go to a list of restricted areas to see where alcohol is totally banned. 

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