Even before I had arrived in Darwin, Australia I couldn’t wait to leave the city. Sounds slightly odd, I’ll admit, but I had heard that the best of the Northern Territory was to be found in the national parks that lie on the doorstep to Darwin.
Not having access to my own car and hesitant to get behind the wheel of a 4wd beast myself, I quickly looked in to day trips that would take me out and about. Litchfield National Park was top of my list for a Darwin area must-see and I figured the best way to see the park would be to benefit from the knowledge of a local.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is 130km south-west of the city and covers an area of around 1,500 square kilometres. Its proximity to Darwin means that it is perfect for exploring over a one to three day period.
I wanted to ensure I discovered the best that Litchfield had to offer whilst I was there, so I joined Marc on his day-long trip into the national park. Marc runs a brand new tour company called Poshly Tours and in fact I was lucky enough to check out Litchfield on his first official outing into the park.
Choosing a smaller, locally run business over some of the national companies that run tours into Litchfield felt a lot more genuine. Marc couldn’t have been more friendly and attentive as he took our group for an exploration to some of Litchfield’s not-to-be-missed spots.
We left Darwin in the early morning and headed out towards a small town called Batchelor. Just passed this town we swapped from a small minibus into a 4wd vehicle. Although many parts of Litchfield are accessible by sealed roads, there are a few places in the park where it is advisable to be in a 4wd.
First up was a walk to view Tolmer Falls. This waterfall cascades deep down into a gorge where several colonies of rare Ghost bats and Orange Horseshoe bats reside, so for that reason you cannot walk down into the gorge itself. The scenery is still worth the walk and from the viewing platform you can see for miles out across the park.
As the sun crept higher in the cloudless sky it was time to seek shade and water. A perfect place to find both is a walk to Curtain Falls, between the Upper and Lower Cascades. Walking though gorges is always fun as the path usually leads you over rocks and tree roots. After a short scramble through the tropical vegetation we emerged at a beautiful swimming hole.
We had this pool all to ourselves for ages and relished taking a refreshing dip to cool off. This area is low-risk for crocodiles so we could swim in peace and enjoy the waterfall.
The most popular spot in Litchfield National Park has to be Wangi Falls. The plunge pool is large and easily accessible from the car park, so is a must-see for most visitors to the park. For that reason, Wangi can feel quite crowded so I would recommend trying to get there either first thing in the morning or towards the end of the afternoon to try and get a more peaceful experience. For those with more time, there is a walk to the top of the falls, which although steep in sections, would provide a beautiful vantage point over the area.
Wangi Falls had a large picnic area perfect for a bbq lunch in the shade. We refuelled with a selection of Australia delicacies that included kangaroo, buffalo and crocodile, watched over by an inquisitive hawk from a nearby branch.
We finished our tour of the waterfalls with a trip to Florence Falls. This waterfall is very impressive, and in the wet season gushes with a fierce torrent of water. It is spectacularly beautiful and plummets into a great pool for swimming if you have the energy to walk down (and then back up!) the 160 steps to access it. At the top of the steps there is a great lookout point.
A highlight for me was our visit to Buley Rockholes. When we got to this popular swimming spot it was quite busy, so Marc took us down a track leading away from the main pools. In less than ten minutes we were at our own totally secluded swimming spot, where the water gurgled across the rocks and down into numerous little pools.
We sat here enjoying the water in pools that were like naturally formed spa baths and toasted Marc on a successful debut trip into the park.
Dotted across the Northern Territory landscape are the unmissable outlines of gigantic termite mounds. These intriguing works of nature are amazing architectural feats complete with arches, tunnels, chimneys, insulation and nursery chambers. On the way out of the park we stopped at a viewing platform where you can see a large number of termite mounds up close. Magnetic termite mounds are thin and face north to south so as to minimise the exposure to the sun for natural cooling.
Also in this area are the huge Cathedral Termite Mounds, built by the Spinifex termite. These are much larger in circumference and height and grow at a rate of roughly 10cms a year.
Litchfield National Park is only a couple of hours drive from Darwin. This means that is a viable option for a day trip if you are short on time, or there are plenty of campsites in the park if you wanted to extend your visit over a few days. You could hire a car from Darwin – check the road status to see if you need a 4wd – or you could take a day trip with a local operator such as Poshly Tours, who offer small, authentic day trips around the Darwin area.
When To Go
This Park is spectacular at any time, though most 4WD tracks are closed during the wet season (Oct-Apr). I would recommend visiting during the dry season (Apr-Oct) as most areas in the park will be accessible and open for swimming. That being said, a little bit of rain will ensure the waterfalls are all flowing at full force and would be a spectacular sight to see.
If I had more time, I would certainly spend longer exploring Litchfield. There are weathered sandstone pillars only accessible by 4wd, called the Lost City, that I would love to check out plus numerous bush walks.
Have you ever visited Litchfield National Park or would you like to? What other attractions around Darwin are worth the visit? Share your stories with me!
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