There is no doubt that the top end of Northern Territory delivers a fantastically special & unique Australia holiday. The beauty of this area is the joy of exploring World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park as well as both Litchfield & Nitmiluk National Parks – all within a 3 hour circuit drive of each other and Darwin. Easy driving and magnificent nature-based activities to enjoy for the whole family!
So with that in mind our family of 5 began our Top End adventure by collecting our hire vehicle in Darwin and driving 120km south to our first stop Litchfield National Park. Litchfield National Park comprises 1500 sq kms of largely untouched landscape. It is a favourite to view monsoonal rainforest, the perennial spring-fed streams and waterfalls, magnetic termite mounds, the weathered sandstone outcrops, as well as historic ruins.
Our family enjoyed exploring many of the walks and swimming holes such as Buley Rockholes, Wangi Falls & Walker Creek. For respite at the end of the day’s walks, we made our base at Batchelor Butterfly Farm & Tropical Retreat in the township of Batchelor (only 20 minutes from the park) and what a wonderful surprise that was! Our daughter was enthralled with all the butterflies, my sons loved the swimming pool and the adults enjoyed the restaurant and very good quality meals. The accommodation was basic but clean & comfortable and the visit to Litchfield was a delight for everyone!
After 2 days exploring Batchelor/Litchfield National Park we then headed 240km south-east to Katherine. It’s a drive through the Northern Territory’s stunning and lush northern tropics, steeped in nature, aboriginal culture and outback pioneering history. There are many stops and points of interest enroute. Katherine is very much an outback town, and does not have alot of endearing qualities about the town itself. However, the region boasts the not-to-be missed Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park.
Nitmiluk is home to the spectacular Katherine Gorge, a series of 13 sandstone gorges carved over a billion years by the Katherine River. The impressive gorge walls and white sandy beaches can be explored on foot, by canoe or on a cruise and are stunning from the air on a scenic helicopter flight. Aboriginal culture is strong in the area and there are many Aboriginal rock art sites dotted throughout the Park. Nitmiluk National Park has plenty of adventure activities! It is a haven for nature lovers, with its rugged landscapes, dramatic waterfalls and lush gorges providing an abundance of flora and fauna.
Canoe trips along Katherine Gorge are a must-do activity. Unfortunetly for our family we were unable to enjoy canoeing due to the National Parks survey for crocodiles in the area Better to be safe than sorry! However, we managed to enjoy Katherine Gorge in many other ways: the 3 gorge cruise, swimming in a picturesque waterfall and bush walking along the many trails throughout the park. The park rangers & tour guides provided interesting information on the area and Nitmiluk has a simply stunning landscape and plenty of adventure activities to enjoy.
Our next stop was World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park, a 240km drive north of Katherine. Definitely the highlight of our trip, Kakadu is the jewel in the crown for the Northern Territory. Covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres of exceptional natural beauty and unique biodiversity, Kakadu is one of very few places World Heritage listed for both its cultural and its natural values. Kakadu is a living cultural landscape. Generations of the Bininj/Mungguy Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for tens of thousands of years. Kakadu National Park is a timeless place – a landscape of exceptional beauty, great biodiversity and a wide variety of of landforms, habitats and wildlife. Kakadu is home to 68 mammals, more than 120 reptiles, 26 frogs, more than 2,000 plants and over 10,000 species of insects.
Our first adventure in Kakadu was a 2km walk to Gunlom Falls. We were lucky enough to swim and enjoy the clear natural plunge pool area and waterfall. This was followed by many notable stops as we explored the park: Night wildlife safari spotlighting for the wildlife in a Billabong, a one hour scenic flight over Kakadu & Arnhem Land, Ubirr & Nourlangie regions walking and admiring Aboriginal rock art sites, swimming in Jim Jim Falls plunge pool and visiting Jabiru Township the centre of Kakadu. At all of these points of interest park rangers were available and provided informative talks about the art and culture/stories several times per day. Well worth listening!
But perhaps the most amazing of all the regions in Kakadu is the Yellow Water Wetlands. This is an area that will deliver the WOW factor with plenty of wildlife action! In fact just before we arrived a crocodile had been caught eating a shark, unfortunately for the shark he was in the wrong area and beaten by one of the world’s oldest predators! We took a sunset cruise around the wetlands and loved the wildlife action and awesome scenery.
We enjoyed 3 days in Kakadu, and could have easily stayed for a few more. There is so much to do! Apparently most people who visit Kakadu make the mistake of only visiting Kakadu for a day trip with a 6 hour return journey to Darwin built in! That does not allow time to visit many sites, and really soak up the atmosphere of the awe-inspiring land that is Kakadu. To our family, Kakadu National Park was more than just a beautiful landscape. We left with a greater understanding of the Aboriginal connection to the land. And in the words of Jacob Nayinggul, from the Manilakarr clan: “Our land has a big story. Sometimes we tell a little bit at a time. Come and hear our stories, see our land. A little bit might stay in your hearts. If you want more, you come back.”
Our Top End Northern Territory Adventure was nearing completion as we left Kakadu and headed west back to Darwin (300km) for a few days relaxation before heading home. Darwin proved a good place to relax and rejuvenate, visit some museums, do some shopping and enjoy the atmosphere of the famous night markets.
A holiday adventure of a lifetime to remember!
- Winter season (May to September) is traditionally the most popular time to visit. The daytime temperatures range around 30 degrees Celsius and the nights are cool. Perfect weather for all activities.
- All roads travelled are bitumen and fully sealed. So short distances, and easy driving. This drive is also a good one for motorhome vehicles as an alternative to car/accommodation.