Road Trip Itineraries around Australia

Camping in Darwin and Around the Top End – 7-Day Itinerary

Planning a camping trip to Darwin and around the Top End?

It’s not hard to see why a trip to the Northern Territory’s capital, and Australia’s ‘Top End’ is so popular. In only 7 days you can easily tick off a range of landscapes and experience a lot of what Australia has on offer – past and present.

This 7-day itinerary takes you around the street food markets of Darwin, through the Aboriginal rock art and croc encounters within Kakadu National Park and to the refreshing swimming holes in Nitmiluk and Litchfield National Parks.

Read on for my 7-Day itinerary to camping in Darwin and around Australia’s Top End.

Where: Australia’s Top End, Northern Territory.

Distance: 1,200km round trip.

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Planning your trip

When to go

Aim for April to October. If you wish to do a self-drive road trip around the Top End and visit all the attractions listed in this route, then it’s important to time your visit during these months. This is because April to October is the dry season.

Due to its tropical climate, the Top End has a dry and wet season that lasts for six months each and during the wet season, many attractions and roads become inaccessible and closed due to flooding. Always check road conditions ahead of travelling and especially if you are travelling closer to the beginning and end of the wet season.

I visited and completed this route in July 2022 when the weather is generally just more comfortable for walking and exploring. For me, daytime temperatures were around 30 degrees and it was somewhat humid, but dropped overnight to a comfortable level for camping and sleeping. These temperatures and the humidity can swing up and down though and you should be prepared for tropical climates at whatever time of year you visit.

The vehicle

You can complete this route in a two-wheel-drive (2WD) car because the roads are sealed. There are even enough accommodation options along the route – from hotel and motel rooms to cabins in the caravan parks – to not need to camp or hire a campervan. However, as is the case with a lot of places in Australia worthy of a good old road trip; camping along the way is a major part of your experience.

Camping options also provide some of the better locations around Australia and the Top End is no exception. Especially when you consider the camping opportunities inside all the national parks covered in this itinerary. This is different to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Red Centre where for example, you cannot stay inside the park and need to drive in each day.

The only section requiring a four-wheel-drive (4WD) on this road trip itinerary is Jim Jim Falls in Kakadu National Park. I enjoyed this place for the drive-in, the scramble across the rocks to the plunge pool and the fact I timed it right and got it all to myself. Therefore if you have a 4WD I recommend visiting here. However, you wouldn’t be missing too much if you only have, or hire, a 2WD vehicle and can’t access Jim Jim Falls. Especially as there is only a trickle of water in the falls themselves during the dry season.

Book your rental car in advance to find the best deals.

 

Booking accommodation in the Top End

Camping in Darwin

When camping in Darwin, it’s a good idea to book your accommodation in advance. I travelled this route in July 2022 during the peak of the dry season and whilst I was able to find an unpowered camping site in Darwin, some caravan parks were fully booked. Expect it to be harder to find a place at the last minute if you need a powered camping site.

Camping Litchfield and Nitmiluk National Parks

Campgrounds inside both Litchfield and Nitmiluk National Parks were fully booked when I visited so the same goes for these camps. Book online as far in advance as possible to get a spot.

If all campgrounds in Litchfield and Nitmiluk national parks do happen to be fully booked then don’t worry. Unlike Darwin, there are plenty of free camps and cheap bush camping options close by. I’ve included the places where I camped in this blog post, or you can find more options with the Wikicamps app. This is an app I use all the time when planning where to camp. The app makes it really easy to find and read reviews of campsites – from bush camps to caravan parks – based on a number of different filters. It isn’t free but you can download and take advantage of the free 7-day trial before you commit to the $7.99 annual fee.

Camping in Kakadu National Park

Camping in Kakadu is different to Litchfield and Nitmiluk national parks because you cannot book camping sites online or in advance.

All the campgrounds in the park are run on a first-come-first-served basis with a campground host on site to collect camping fees in the late afternoon. Essentially, you turn up, find a spot and pay later. It’s cash only so make sure you have enough with you.

My advice when camping in Kakadu National Park is to get in early (before 4 pm) to be able to take your pick of a good spot. However, the campgrounds mentioned in this post have a big enough capacity and all the sites are unmarked so it’s unlikely you would be turned away. There are designated fire pits dotted around all the campgrounds I visited so don’t forget to collect firewood from the sides of the road to have a campfire at night.

Planning your visit to Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is huge and spans a few different areas so out of all the national parks in the Top End, it pays to plan your visit here. There is a lot of driving involved so aim to spend at least three days in the park to cover the main areas and attractions.

This visitor guide pdf is everything you need to help plan your visit. It outlines the seven different areas of Kakadu National Park and what you can do in each of them. It was extremely helpful during my visit. Download it online or pick up the paper copy at the Bowli Visitor Centre.

It’s free to enter Litchfield and Nitmiluk but you need to pay a fee for Kakadu National Park. Buy your pass online before entering the park which has limited mobile signal. It costs $40 per adult for a 7-day pass.

There are several free ranger talks on offer (for example, a tour of the rock art sites) but they get booked up so book ahead online to secure your spot.

Kakadu National Park
Ubirr, Kakadu National Park

The route

This route from Darwin and around the Top End is based on having a car or campervan and camping along the way.

Days 1 & 2 – Darwin

Day 3 – Darwin to Kakadu National Park – (286km) 3hr drive

Day 4 – Kakadu National Park – (130km) – 1hr 30mins drive

Day 5 – Kakadu to Nitmiluk National Park – (230km) 2hr 30mins drive

Day 6 – Nitmiluk National Park to Litchfield National Park – (400km) 4hrs 30mins

Day 7 – Litchfield National Park to Darwin – (145km) 1hr 45mins drive

Less than a week?

If you have less than a week and are planning instead to base yourself in Darwin, you can easily take a day trip to Litchfield. Many people do this including Darwinites because it’s only a 1hr 30mins drive away from the CBD. You can also book onto full-day tour of Litchfield National Park and a Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the nearby Adelaide River.

Kakadu National Park on the other hand is a 3-hour drive away and it would be difficult to cover the entire park and all its different sections in one day. However, if you only have one day to explore it then I recommend concentrating your time around the East Alligator River region to experience the best of Kakadu. This includes visiting Bowli Visitor Centre, seeing the rock art at Ubirr and taking the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise down the East Alligator River to Arnhem Land.

This full-day Kakadu National Park tour can be booked from Darwin and covers the East Alligator River section of the park as well as the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise in its itinerary.

 

More than a week?

If you have extra days to explore Darwin and around the Top End, here are a few more trips and tours you can do in the area:

Camping in Kakadu National Park
Saltwater croc-spotting in Kakadu National Park

 

7-Day Itinerary: Darwin and Australia’s Top End

 

Day 1 – Darwin

Begin your trip with a couple of days in Darwin. Spend it soaking up Darwin-life at its many markets, museums and plentiful watering holes from which to watch the sunset. It’s more humid, more tropical and much more culturally eclectic here. You can’t help noticing straight away the difference in this respect to the rest of Australia.

Hit Darwin’s markets

Darwin’s markets and specifically the street food, are worth investigating. Heavily influenced by Asian immigrants, the smells amid Darwin’s tropical-looking streets are reminiscent of Bali and any other south-east Asian market I’ve visited before.

Apart from Mindil Beach Sunset Market which takes place on both Thursdays and Sundays during the Dry Season, Darwin’s markets are all held at the weekend. So if you can time your visit to Darwin over the weekend then you will have the opportunity to sample all the markets!

Here’s a run-down of the regular markets to visit during your stay. Hot, cheap, street food is served at every single one.

 

On your first day in Darwin’s head to Parap Village and Laneway Coffee for the best coffee in town. Stick around to have brunch at this cafe which wouldn’t look out of place in Melbourne and Sydney.

If you are here on a Saturday then wander around Parap Village Markets and get in the queue for the popular and very delicious, Mary’s Laksa.

Spend time at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct

After a wander around the market and shops, head to the Waterfront Precinct in Darwin’s CBD.

This is where you’ll find Darwinites and tourists alike hanging out around The Lagoon. It’s a fenced-off saltwater swimming pool complete with a sandy beach and the only place you can safely swim in Darwin – always be crocwise in Darwin and the Top End. There is a wave pool too if you’re looking for some fun or to simply cool down and escape the humidity.

Whilst at the waterfront it’s worth walking over to Stokes Hill Wharf to visit the Royal Flying Doctors Service Darwin Tourist Facility. It’s $28 per adult entry and it’s more of an experience than a museum. Instead of walking around reading information boards you watch two short-film screenings and experience two VR headset displays covering both the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) and the events of February 1942 when Darwin was bombed during WWII. You also have the chance to sit in an RFDS cockpit and plane.

Finally, catch the sunset from one of the bays before heading to Mitchell Street for dinner and drinks. Darwin’s coastal suburbs are set up perfectly for having a drink whilst watching the golden fireball sink into the ocean. I visited the Darwin Ski Club in Fannie Bay and enjoyed it for its laid-back Aussie-style friendly atmosphere.

Day 2 – Darwin

If you are visiting over a weekend, don’t miss the Nightcliff and Rapid Creek Markets held on Sundays, north of the CBD. The former is smaller with local craft and art stalls and the latter is the most authentic, locals market selling vegetables as well as cooked street food. I had a paw paw salad with fried chicken at Rapid Creek Market and it was so good I went back for seconds!

Once you’re sure you have covered all the markets and lazed around sipping fruit juice and smoothies to cool you down, make sure to head to Mindil Beach Sunset Market. This is Darwin’s most popular and packed market. My advice is to time it to arrive just before sunset. This way you can catch the sun setting from the beach before wandering around the market after dark.

This is when the crowds die down, making it much easier to wander from food stall to food stall deciding (with difficulty) what to eat. The lights make it feel like you are in an Asian destination and this is when street entertainers and people painting at the art stalls are around. In other words, make sure you stick around after sunset.

Parking at Mindil Beach is easy with a large grassy area being opened up for the market and lots of free places to park.

Finally, if you’re looking for somewhere to relax in the evening then check out Darwin’s open-air Deckchair Cinema.

Camping in Darwin

There are little to no camping options in the centre of Darwin or even around the main bays of Fannie and Cullen, so expect to camp somewhere that’s a 10-20 minute drive away from the CBD. It seems to be the case that the further out you stay, the cheaper it becomes.

The closest caravan parks to the centre of Darwin are situated off the Stuart Highway. They seem to mainly be around the airport with many campers reporting a lot of air traffic noise. With the exception of Lee Point Village Resort which is close to the beach near Nightcliff, all the other caravan parks are further along the Stuart Highway around Palmerston City.

Camp at Darwin FreeSpirt Resort

I camped at Darwin FreeSpirit Resort which is located between the Darwin suburbs of Willinee and Palmerston City and is a 20-minute drive from the CBD. This is a huge place located next to the main Stuart Highway and the only place that was reasonably priced and had space (last-minute) when I visited in July 2022.

It gets mixed reviews on Wikicamps and having now stayed there I can see why. It all depends on where your camping site is located and its proximity to the main road. For a lovely, more peaceful experience look at their campsite map before booking and make sure it’s on the right side of the park. The best spots are sites 1-19 deep in the park and away from the Stuart Highway. These spots are really nice and are surrounded by tall palms.

Kakadu Nattional Park
Kakadu National Park

Day 3 – Darwin to Kakadu National Park – (286km) 3hr drive

Leave Darwin early doors and drive into Kakadu National Park for your first day exploring the East Alligator (Erre) area.

Long on my list of places to visit, Kakadu National Park provides its visitors with a feeling of getting closer to the past and to the Aboriginal clans which walked around it tens of thousands of years ago. Out of all the walks and rock art sites I’ve done around Australia, the rock art sites at Ubirr and Burrungkuv (Nourlangie) are the most extensive and as a result, unforgettable.

Start with the East Alligator (Erre) area

The drive to the first stop in the park is Bowli Visitor Centre which takes 3 hours. Drop in to learn all about the area, also known as Stone Country, from the informative display boards here.

Next, drive to Ubirr to complete the rock art loop walk. It’s a one-hour walk taking you to many impressive rock art galleries with some really good information boards explaining what you are looking at.

Make sure you take the path letting you climb up onto the escarpment for 360-degree views of the surrounding floodplains and sacred rocks. There are some steep sections to climb to the lookout but it’s worth it for one of the best views in the park.

Top tip: If you’re keen to watch the sunset over Kakadu National Park then leave the Ubirr rock art loop for later and catch it from the lookout.

Camp at Merl Campground

Merl Campground is the campsite closest to Ubirr and Cahills Crossing and is full of lovely, shaded sites which are mostly private and come with their firepit. Collect firewood from the roadside before you camp up for the night.

It costs $15 per adult per night and you simply drive in and pick a spot. The campsite host will come at around 5 pm to collect the camping fees so bring cash with you.

Top tip: If camping at Merl Campground be aware of the mosquitoes and be prepared with insect repellent! This was one of my favourite campsites in the park but also the worst campground for mossies.

Saltwater crocodile near Cahills Crossing

From the campsite take the walking track down to Cahills Crossing (or it’s a 2-minute drive). Here you can see saltwater crocodiles from the crossing or the boat ramp. It’s best done just before sunset when the crocs are more active. As with anywhere you travel in the Top End, remember to maintain a good distance from the water and be crocwise. Saltwater crocodiles are extremely dangerous.

On the Gulumbyambi Cruise (more details below), the majority of the crocs are found on the other side of where you can stand or drive across Cahills Crossing. So for the best opportunity to see lots of salties in Kakadu, you are the best booking onto a water cruise within the park.

East Alligator River, Kakadu National Park
Guluyambi cruise boat on Arnhem Land

Day 4 – Kakadu National Park – (130km) – 1hr 30mins drive

Spend your second day cruising down the East Alligator River into Arnhem Land before driving to the Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) and Jim Jim Falls areas in the park.

Book onto the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise

I can’t recommend this river tour enough if you are looking for something which gives you both the opportunity to see lots of saltwater crocodiles and is informative about the culture of the Aboriginal clans in the area. 

I saw at least 20 crocs and the guide, Robin, on my tour talked about the animals, the trees and how his people use everything for food, shelter and ceremony. The tour concludes with a 15-minute stop on Arnhem Land before cruising back down the East Alligator River, past a couple of rock art sites and back to the boat ramp.

The Guluyambi Cultural Cruise tour takes just under 2 hours and operates four times a day leaving at 9 am, 11 am 1 pm and 3 pm. I took the 9 am tour for the best chance to see the saltwater crocodiles most active. It costs $82 per adult and to get the time you want I would book at least a couple of days in advance. The company takes a maximum of 25 people on a relatively small boat, getting you closer to the crocs (but not too close of course).

Book the tour directly online, or if you wish to visit Kakadu National Park from Darwin, there is a full-day tour  which includes the Guluyambi Cultural Tour.

Visit Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) to see more rock art

After the tour, drive to the Border Store for a quick look at artworks before continuing onto Burrungkuv (Nourlangie). Here you can see more ancient rock art around an easier and shorter walk to Ubirr. Make sure you walk up to the lookout here as well and don’t miss the 20,000-year-old shelter.

Camp at Karnamarr Campground (4WD only)

Drive to Karnamarr Campground located near Jim Jim Falls and on the edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment. Allow an hour to drive the 50kms to the campground down an unsealed track (it’s corrugated in parts with a 60km per hr speed limit). The campground is first-come first-served and costs $15 per adult per night.

You will need a 4WD with high clearance to drive to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls walking tracks from the campground.

Camping at Mardukal Campground

An alternative bush camp in this area is Mardukal Campground. This is also a case of turning up and paying the camp host later in the afternoon and with all parks campgrounds, costs $15 per adult per night.

Camping at Cooinda Campground and Caravan Park

If you are looking for powered sites and more facilities then Cooinda Campground and Caravan Park is the place to camp. It even has a swimming pool.

Burrungkuy (Nourlangie), Kakadu National Park
Burrungkuy (Nourlangie)

Day 5 – Kakadu to Nitmiluk National Park – (230km) 2hr 30mins drive

Spend your last morning in Kakadu exploring Jim Jim Falls and Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water) areas, before driving out of Kakadu and heading south towards Katherine and Nitimiluk National Park.

Drive and walk up to Jim Jim Falls

If you have a 4WD then I recommend making the trip to Jim Jim Falls. This is not necessarily for the falls and the swim in the plunge pool. There is barely a trickle of water during the peak-to-late Dry Season. Instead, it’s the drive-in from the campground that makes it interesting and lets you see a different side of Kakadu National Park. One that has thicker vegetation. It’s also the walk to the plunge pool which is fun and sees you clambering over rocks to reach your destination if you like that sort of thing.

The walk to Jim Jim Falls plunge pool takes 30 minutes each way. The water is cold in this shaded plunge pool but refreshing after the walk year-round. Arrive early before the tours to try and have it all to yourself.

If you have more time, there is a longer 6km walk up onto the escarpment overlooking Jim Jim Falls, or you can drive an extra 9km to do the Twin Falls walk. This involves taking a boat across to the start of the walk as well as a river crossing. A snorkel is recommended.

Visit the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water) region

The next region to visit is Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water). You can either take a Yellow Water boat cruise down the river to spot more saltwater crocodiles or take a short walk along the boardwalks and try your luck here.

Along the way, make sure you drop into the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre. This centre has a lot of information on how Aboriginal people have lived and survived in Stone Country for tens of thousands of years.

Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water), Kakadu National Park
Croc at Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water)

 

Go for a swim at Maguk

Finish your trip around Kakadu National Park with a visit to Maguk before hitting the road towards Katherine. At Maguk you get to swim surrounded by tropical vegetation and is the perfect way to end your trip.

NOTE: Gulom Falls was closed until further notice when I visited in July 2022, and Maguk was suggested as an alternative swimming hole.

Drive to Leliyn (Edith Falls), Nitmiluk National Park

Next on your road trip is the picturesque Nitmiluk National Park near Katherine.

Drive just over two hours (190km) south of Maguk to Leliyn (Edith Falls) which is in the northern section of the park. It’s on the way towards Katherine and Katherine Gorge so aim to drive here for the late afternoon and camp close by. You can then drive on to Katherine Gorge the following day.

The main Sweetwater Pools swimming area at the bottom of Leliyn (Edith Falls) is a very short walk from the car park and campground. You can then head on up along the Leilyn Trail (a 2.6km loop walk) and ascend to the upper falls. The walk takes an hour in total plus swimming time.

I visited in the morning and it was quiet, but quite chilly so I’ve suggested getting here for the afternoon to have hopefully a lovely cooling dip in the waters (both top and bottom of the falls). There is also a lovely cafe next to the car park with seating in the shade for after the walk.

Camp at Leliyn – Edith Falls Campground

Leliyn – Edith Falls Campground is located inside Nitmiluk National Park near the day-use car park (do not confuse this with the Sweetwater Pool campground which is walk-in only). It was fully booked when I visited but looked like a nice, shady campground with the convenience of the store and cafe nearby. Booking as far ahead (months in advance) is advised. You can only book it online at parkbookings.nt.gov.au.

Camp at Edith Rail free camp

I stayed at Edith Rail Campground which is a free camp located just after the turn-off to Leilyn (Edith Falls). It’s a popular spot nestled in next to a billabong. There is some road noise but this dies down at night and there are no facilities so you need to be self-sufficient to stay here.

 

Day 6 – Nitmiluk National Park to Litchfield National Park – (400km) 4hrs 30mins

Get up early and drive about an hour (90km) south to Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge). Spend the morning here before the longest driving stretch of the trip to get you back up near Litchfield National Park for your final day.

Nitmiluk National Park
Where you swim at the end of the Butterfly Walk

Take the Butterfly Gorge Walk

There are a number of walking trails to choose from at Katherine Gorge. After speaking to a couple of people, Butterfly Gorge seemed to be the most recommended walk so I did this one. Mainly because it is one of the few which ends with the opportunity to swim in the gorge itself.

The 12km return walk takes 3-4 hours return and brings you to a bank on the edge of the gorge to leave your stuff and go for a swim. For the last 30 minutes, the path hugs the gorge wall where there are a lot of butterflies (hence the name), otherwise, it’s a good hour each way of ascending and then descending. It’s a hot walk with little shade until just before you reach the gorge so the swim to cool down in the water is very welcome!

From the visitor centre car park pick up signs for “Southern Walks” and then follow the different coloured markers and maps. It’s well sign-posted from about 5-minutes into the walk.

Hire a kayak

I didn’t hire a kayak and did the Butterfly Gorge walk instead. However, in hindsight, I think hiring a kayak would be the best way to see the gorge. This is because the walk I did brings you out to the bottom section of Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) and whilst you can swim out and around the corner to see a little more of it, you only see a tiny section of the gorge.

If you decide to do this, you can hire a kayak for half a day (4.5 hours) from $75.50 per adult if hiring a double canoe and from $86 for a single canoe. This option is the Malaparr Traveler self-guided tour and there are other, longer tours available where you can see all three gorges.

Head into Katherine

Stock up in Katherine on any supplies you need and grab a coffee at The Black Russian Caravan Bar. It’s located right next to the visitor centre with lots of seating outside.

If you have time, visit one of the many art galleries around Katherine (mainly open Mondays to Fridays). I stopped at Top Didj Cultural Experiences and Art Gallery. It’s 7km out of town but of all the galleries I’ve visited, I found it to have one of the best ranges of art available for purchase to suit all budgets. You can also book great-looking cultural experience here.

Drive to Litchfield National Park

Next up is your final park, Litchfield National Park. Drive in for the afternoon if you’ve managed to book into one of the national park campsites or camp just outside at a caravan park near Batchelor of Berry Springs.

Navigating Litchfield National Park

It’s worth noting here exactly how to navigate Litchfield National Park. It can be visited within a day because all the main (2WD-accessible) attractions are one after each other on a road that loops off from the main Stuart Highway. So whether you come off the Stuart Highway and pass through Berry Springs (coming from Darwin), or pass through Batchelor (coming from Katherine), you can drive through the park in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.

Camp at Florence Falls or Wangi Falls

The two most popular campgrounds in Litchfield National Park, accessible by 2WD, are Florence Falls and Wangi Falls. Book online and well in advance at parkbookings.nt.gov.au.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either of them if you have the luxury of choosing between the two. From Florence Falls, you are within walking of the falls and also Buley Rockpools. However, Wangi Falls is seriously impressive so to have these to yourself after the daytime crowds have gone is an inviting thought.

Camp at Zebra Stone

With the campgrounds inside Litchfield National Park all booked up, I looked for a campsite just outside of the park.

Looking for a cheap place to stay overnight, I camped at Zebra Stone. This is a well-run and cheap ($10 per adult per night) bush campground (unpowered only!) which is 30km from Florence Falls. It’s unpowered camping only but they have a lot of land available for you to turn up and camp wherever you like. Campfires are allowed so don’t forget to collect firewood from the sides of the road before you arrive.

Alternatively, there are many campsites around Bachelor on the road into Litchfield National Park, or north of the park if you drive further up the Stuart Highway around Berry Springs.

 

Day 7 – Litchfield National Park to Darwin – (145km) 1hr 45mins drive

Spend your final day in Litchfield National Park driving from one swimming spot to another. It’s a stunning place filled with swimming holes, waterfalls and rainforests.

It’s also easily accessible and within close driving distance of Darwin so it is very popular. This means it’s busy – much busier than Kakadu or Nitmiluk national parks – so the best tactic is to arrive early or late at each attraction to avoid the crowds.

Top tip: Pick which swimming hole you want to visit the most and head there first and as early as possible.

 

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park
Florence Falls

 

Florence Falls

One of the most picturesque spots in the park is Florence Falls. If you take the walking track in the direction which passes the lookout first then you get an incredible view of the cascading falls on your approach. Continue down the steps to the plunge pool at the bottom for a swim under the falls.

Once you’ve had your swim, I recommend picking up the loop track which takes you back to the car park via a more tropical section of the park. The information boards are nice and informative here about all the different trees and plants you’re looking at.

Before reaching the car park you have the option to continue walking up to Buley Rockpools, or driving round to its own car park.

Have fun at Buley Rockpools

This is a fun place with lots of little rockpools to sit in and a couple of plunge pools to jump into. It’s not far from the car park or a 20-minute walk from Florence Falls.

Have fun exploring all the different pools and levels, or relax in the water in the sun. As with any natural swimming hole and rock pool, always take care whilst moving around because the rocks can be slippery.

Stop off at Tomley Falls

You cannot swim here but there a two nice and short, 400m and 800m walk to two viewing platforms overlooking the falls.

Enjoy Wangi Falls

This was the most impressive place I visited in Litchfield National Park. The falls themselves are only a few hundred metres from the car park and there is a cafe and general store here so it’s also the busiest place in the park.

You are unlikely to have this place to yourself during the day! It’s just not that kind of place and it gets extremely busy with families and people carrying their foam noodles in and around the grassy, picnic areas in front of the falls. However, the pool in front is massive – the biggest I went to in the Top End – so it doesn’t really detract from your experience once you get into the water.

Once you’ve had your swim make sure to do the 400m walk to the treetop deck. The views aren’t much at the end of the walk but the boardwalk through the rainforest here is really nice. The sounds coming from the trees are incredible and don’t forget to look up to see all the flying fox bats having a snooze during the day.

Top tip: If you swim across to the smaller falls on the left as you look at them, then to the right is a hole in the rock face which is a rockpool you can climb up and into. Even better, this pool has (slightly) warmer water here.

Relax at Cascades

If you are looking for somewhere away from the crowds – perhaps a nice, quiet spot to eat lunch – then make your way to Cascades. A local recommended this place to me and it was the most serene place I visited in the park. The short walk there is also a nice, rainforest area to walk through. 

There are three areas where you can swim: before the cascades, the cascades themselves, and then above them. The cascades have the most beautiful setting and you can swim right under the cascades. I got this place all to myself which, after what seemed to be a really busy day with lots of people around, was such a lovely way to end my time in Litchfield National Park.

Allow an hour to walk to the cascades and back including time for a swim.

Cascades, Litchfield National Park
Cascades

Drive back to Darwin

After your day in Litchfield National Park, make your way back to where you started your trip. It’s only a 1hr 15 minutes drive from Cascades back to the centre of Darwin so you should hopefully have time to fit in a final sunset!

So when are you heading to Darwin and the Top End?

A camping road trip exploring Darwin and around the Top End is such a special adventure. From the short walks through tropical vegetation and beautiful swimming spots in Litchfield National Park, to the bigger walks and the opportunity to kayak through the magnificent Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. And then there is Kakadu National Park. Where you get to see some of Australia’s best rock art sites as well as a diverse range of flora, fauna and saltwater crocs in the East Aligator River and Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water) area. Here you gain a better understanding of the ancient practices and culture of the world’s oldest civilisation.

In a relatively small area, you get to explore three very different national parks, as well as dip into life in a laid-back and small, tropical city. It’s certainly one road trip I’ll never forget and I hope this guide helps you navigate the area and create your own special adventure around Darwin and the Top End.

Happy camping!