Darwin & Litchfield in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) is worth the visit. We included it in our 2 month trip to Australia. In April (Australia’s Autumn), we flew from Western Australia to Darwin, the gateway to two famous national parks – Litchfield and Kakadu. We did not have enough time to go to Kakadu, which deserves at least 2 days due to travel time to/from Darwin. With 1 day available to visit, we chose to visit Litchfield. Litchfield National Park was such a treat that it made our stay in Darwin worthwhile.
There are several attractions in the downtown area, and more points of interest outside of downtown. Many tours leave from Darwin, so it is a great place to spend a couple of nights and to choose tours to places like Kakadu (seasonal), Litchfield, Katherine, Kimberly, or a cruise from Darwin Harbour and more.
We stayed in an AirBnB with superhosts in a highrise apartment with views to the harbour. A central location and a couple blocks off of the main thoroughfare allowed easy walking access and no downtown noise. The apartment complex has a pool so we could cool off after a hot day. (If you want information on our accommodations please ask in comments.)
Know that beaches can be dangerous. We did not chance swimming from any beaches due to the saltwater crocodiles. It is so hard to fathom that it is risky to swim in the gorgeous coastal water; we swim in US coastal waters regularly.
Darwin was a key strategic location for the allies in WW II. It was the target of 64 air raids by the Japanese. Hence, it is a modern city built up post-WWII. The Darwin Military Museum is an interesting place to see WWII history and some of the artillery left behind by the US. While I had no interest in this museum, I was happy that Tom did because it was a great learning experience.
If staying in the city as we did, the Hop-On Hop-Off bus is the easiest way to travel to each location on the outskirts of the city, but don’t count on accurate pick up times. Due to their inability to stay on schedule, it is best to plan 2 days to see Darwin using the Explorer Bus. With the Darwin Explorer Bus, there are 10 stops outside of downtown and one in town at the Visitor Information Center. The 10 stops include –
- Crocosaurus Cove where you can feed the crocs
- Doctor’s Gully to feed the fish
- Cullen Bay Jetty and Apartments at the Marina
- Casino, Mindl Markets, and Botanical Gardens
- Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (don’t miss this art and historical gallery)
- Military Museum – a place to see WWII artillery
- Parap, Parap Markets open on Saturday only
- Stokes Hill Wharf
- Waterfront Precinct for restaurants, cocktails, a swim on the croc-proof beach or in the giant public wave and swimming pool complex
- Fort Hill Wharf – Cruise Ship Terminal
Litchfield National Park
For me Litchfield ended up being the bigger draw with all of its waterfalls and swimming holes over Kakadu. Litchfield National Park is known for its numerous waterfalls, monsoon rainforests, magnetic termite mounds and historical sites. The tour with Litchfield Dreams offered at least 3 different areas for waterfall hikes and swimming in the gorgeous natural pools. I love the water, and would prefer to be in the water in hot humid weather than anywhere else. I was in!
With a pick up at our apartment for a 7 AM departure, we were off for a full day of adventure with Litchfield Dreams. Brad, our driver offered colorful commentary along the way.
Our tour included a first stop at Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the Adelaide River to see the infamous saltwater crocodiles. We had tea and met some of their more friendly animals prior to boarding the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise boat. The trained staff coaxed the crocs to the boat and feed them pig meat while they explain the life of a croc. We fed the birds too, like the white breasted sea eagle and kites flying over the river.
Did you know that crocs can live to 100 years old? And the males are territorial with their females each in an individual area and all a part of the male’s territory. The crocs with missing limbs have been in battles likely over territory. While males will always attack other males, sometimes they will attack females too. Crocs eat any type of meat and are opportunistic so they come out for the pig meat served up by the Jumping Crocodile Cruise folks.
While the Jumping Crocodile tour was included in our tour package, it can be done individually for $40 AU/pp.
After the crocodile adventure, we continued our drive through the countryside and saw burned out fields. We learned about the Aboriginal tradition of burning fields after the harvest to prepare the land for future planting. It was a sight to see the smoke rising from various spots across the countryside.
Our travels took us through the town of Humpty Doo. (I love that name, don’t you?) There was once a cattle station here and now it is a farming community known for growing mangoes, dragon fruit, passion fruit and melons.
The tour included a lunch spread at our stop at the Banyan Tree Café, with the 100 year old enormous banyan tree. Our lunch included sandwich and salad options, fruit, and sweets. After the group was satiated, we were off to our next adventure…
… on to Litchfield National Park. We stopped in the park to visit a Cathedral Termite Mound where Brad gave us the background on these creatures unique to Australia’s Northern Territory. These mounds, controlled by a queen, can be up to 100 years old and up to 40’ tall and hard like concrete. We saw so many in the time we visited the Northern Territory. Quite a sight!
Buley Rockholes was a beautiful spot of cascading waterfalls accessed by a short hike into the woods. Brad showed us the safest way to enter and how to maneuver around the different falls. Time to play in the water! Check out the natural beauty for yourself …
Another short hike and we arrived at the larger Florence Falls, with a big pool and torrential falls. Brad showed us how to swim through the falls to get behind them and next to the rock wall, a fun challenge for those of us brave enough to try. Since I love the water and a challenge, I did it at least 3 times. Then Brad clued us in to an underwater cave. With a mask, I was able to swim down and look into the cave. I certainly have done this with a tank and weights while diving, but it was a first to hold my breath and hold myself down under the water to be able to see into the cave.
Several hikes were part of the tour to see the forests’ flora and fauna, including many birds; cockatoos were my favorite. Some hikes revealed gorgeous views of falls.
While we were invited by Litchfield Dreams, this is a totally independent and honest review based on our experience.
Darwin & Litchfield Conclusion
In our initial planning, we were going to skip Darwin. Now, I am so glad that we went! Darwin stands out in my mind after this trip as an interesting place to visit, and I loved Litchfield and playing in the waterfalls! If you are looking for a tour, check out Litchfield Tours (or Litchfield Dreams).