Kakadu National Park has long been the big attraction of the Northern Territory’s top end, but Litchfield is right on its heels. The two parks are less than 200 kilometers apart and within an hour’s drive of Darwin, but if you visit one it doesn’t mean you should skip the other.
Litchfield has no park entry fees, as opposed to Kakadu which costs $40 per person. Its roads are friendlier and you don’t need a 4WD to access most points of interest. We found that three nights gave us a comfortable amount of time to explore.
The park’s hub is Batchelor, a town that was born after uranium was unearthed in the area. There are plenty of caravan parks here, but we stayed 15km out in the Coomalie Creek RV Park. It was a spacious park and only cost $25/night for power and water, making it a much more attractive base than the pricier options of Batchelor.
Day 1: Florence Falls, Buley Rockhole, Termite Mounds
We arrived at Coomalie in the morning, set up camp, and drove 60km straight to Florence Falls for a swim. There is an easy walk down to the plunge pool, but be sure to stop at the viewing platform for views of the double waterfall from above, as shown in the photo at the top of this post.
Buley Rockhole is only 3.4km from Florence, so we stopped there next for another swim. It’s a series of staggered rock pools that are safe for swimming, though I’ve heard several reports of leeches so beware! I didn’t have any trouble though we only spent about fifteen minutes in one of the top pools.
On the way back to camp we stopped to take some photos of the magnetic termite mounds. These can be found all over the top end, but this is a good place to park safely and take your time looking at them.
The mounds are two meters high, built instinctively in a north-south direction to minimize exposure to the sun. They look like large tombstones; it’s an eerie sight but cool to see.
You’ll also see lots of cathedral termite mounds, identified by their cathedral-like shape and towering height of up to 5 meters. They can stand from 50 to 100 years, housing active termite colonies who continually add to the structure until it self-destructs.
Day 2: Tin Mine, Wangi Falls, Tolmer Falls
Our schedule was a bit funny because we drove to Darwin on our second morning to meet a family we were housesitting for. We returned via the northern entrance of Litchfield through Berry Springs, part of which is unsealed.
First stop was the tin mine; it was interesting if underwhelming. The searing heat has a way of tempering my enthusiasm for most non-water-based activities, like walking around a disused tin mine.
From there it was a dip in the ever-popular Wangi Falls, an enormous plunge pool with two tumbling waterfalls that keep the water clear. We did a short hike over the top of the falls to earn our swim; there aren’t views of the water itself but it gives a nice perspective on the rainforest-like surrounds. We also saw a wild pig which made me forget about crocs for a brief minute.
Before heading back to camp we stopped for a look at Tolmer Falls, one of the tallest falls in the park at an estimated 32m-42m high. There’s no swimming but it is a spectacular sight.
Day 3: Lazy Day
We spent the entire third day at the caravan park, reading and lazing about in the shade. Originally we’d tossed up going back into Litchfield to take on some of the 4WD tracks, but the desire to do absolutely nothing won out and I have no regrets.
If you go to Litchfield
- Grab a national park map to plan your trip; pay close attention to where you can swim and where you can’t! Crocs do inhabit the park.
- Drink lots of water. We visited in the dry season but it was still hot, about 35 degrees C (95F) each day.
- It is a popular place so expect crowds at the swimming spots; as usual, arriving early means less people.
- We missed out on Cascades (too hot for a long-ish hike late in the afternoon) and a few sights accessible down 4WD tracks; in the end we couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for bumpy roads but if you’re feeling energetic, go for it.