On Wednesday I outlined Part Two of our Epic 11 Night Road Trip around the Northern Territory, which took us from Kakadu National Park to Katherine and which will be covered over 3 parts, this week.
THIS IS PART 3 OF A SERIES – Katherine to Darwin, via Litchfield
Arrrrh, I woke up in the early hours feeling decidedly icky and sick and ended up walking across to the toilet block which thankfully wasn’t very far. What a sight we must have looked …. well Richard wouldn’t let me go out on my own, in case I got accosted by a wild animal!
We did see a wallaby chilling out and rummaging for bugs and it didn’t seem put off by the sight of two half dressed bedraggled looking individuals walking past, in fact it gave us a quick look and carried on looking for food.
The lights were on in the toilet block and I felt so rough that I didn’t even carry out my normal critter search, so god knows what I was sharing space with. Ignorance is certainly bliss in some circumstances!
Back in the motorhome I fell back asleep and thankfully felt much better on waking at 8am.
Today was earmarked for chilling out and relaxing, so we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast and caught up with emails while Richard read his book. We strolled over to the visitor centre for a leisurely lunch and spotted a cute wallaby with its baby on our walk back. Well the babies tail …..
By late afternoon the weather was more conducive to a walk, so we headed down towards the boat ramp and the start of the Baruwei Lookout Walk.
The numerous walking trails in the Park vary in difficulty and length, but the prevailing factor for us was the heat, so we left the Baruwei Loop Walk (via Lookout) and concentrated on the shorter one.
Baruwei Lookout Walk
Despite waiting for late afternoon it was still warm and humid, but the walk was moderate in difficulty and we found it easy. The track is mainly short and steep passing through trees in some areas and culminating in a rich reward of incredible and magnificent views of Katherine Gorge and 17 Mile Valley from the lookout platform.
We didn’t encounter another living soul along the track, bar a new friend who was chilling out on a tree minding its own business.
The remainder of the evening was spent eating and drinking and generally chilling out!
Feeling a tad sad to leave this beautiful area we drove back to Katherine and grabbed breakfast to go from MacDonalds as we were keen to get on with our journey. Heading north on the Stuart Highway we passed Pine Creek and stopped in Adelaide River for lunch.
Adelaide River Inn
The small but perfectly formed town of Adelaide River was established during construction of the Overland Telegraph Line and played a key role during World War II serving as a supply head for Darwin’s defense.
Adelaide River Inn is a roadside Inn offering comfortable rooms and camping sites and is ultimately famous for playing host to “Charlie” the Buffalo, who found fame playing a starring role in the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee. Oh my god, was it really 1986 when we first watched that film at the cinema!! (Feeling Old!!!)
Charlie, was a beloved local resident until his death in 2000, however he will always be remembered fondly due to being stuffed and taking pride of place on the bar of the Inn. And yes, I did have to take a photo of him, despite Richard saying it was too cheesy, meaning he was too chicken to do it.
I refrained from buying any memorabilia as THAT would have been cheesy, but instead we enjoyed a great toasted sandwich sitting outside enjoying the sunshine.
I did spot a cosy area with seating that would have suited us perfectly, since someone had changed the sign from Knitters Corner to Nutters Corner, but couldn’t decide whether it was meant for locals or tourists!
Just down the road is probably what the town is best known for, its war cemetery and we wanted to visit and pay our respects.
Adelaide River War Cemetery
Adelaide River was the headquarters of a large base establishment during WWII and after the war, the Army Graves Service moved graves from temporary military burial grounds and civil cemeteries into the newly created Adelaide River War Cemetery. Especially created for the burial of servicemen and women who perished in this area, there are 434 burial spots, including ones for 14 airmen of the Royal Air Force, 18 sailors, 12 unidentified men of the British Merchant Navy, one soldier of the Canadian Army, 181 soldiers and 201 airmen belonging to the Australian forces and 7 men of the Australian Merchant Navy.
This cemetery is beautiful in its simplicity. We felt a sense of calm and peace whilst walking around the graves which are set in an immaculately kept grassed area beyond which there are abundant colourful beds and a boundary fence composed of a screen of shrubs and trees.
What I liked the most was how low growing shrubs are dotted in regular patterns among the headstones, which made it feel more personal as though the graves are in a colourful garden. Such a fitting resting place, so beautiful and personal.
Leaving Adelaide River and Charlie behind we continued along the Stuart Highway before turning off for the 13 km drive to Batchelor. Enjoying a renaissance since the establishment of Litchfield as a national park, it was originally built to serve the mining of uranium at Rum Jungle, which ceased in the 1980’s.
Driving out of Batchelor for a further 6 km and just outside Litchfield National Park is Litchfield Tourist Park, set in cattle country and our next stop.
Litchfield Tourist Park
Ideally situated close to the entrance of the National Park this has a great tranquil feel with the landscaped gardens, bushland and freely roaming cattle and horses over a back fence. We were left to choose a site to suit our needs, so we chose one near the fence so we could watch the horses. The park has cabins and bunk houses to rent, a swimming pool,bar & cafe, beautiful gardens to wander around and even Finnis River which flows right through the back yard.
After choosing a site for the night we drove into Litchfield National Park to the site of Magnetic Termite Mounds, situated about 17 kms from the eastern boundary of the Park.
Dotted along red dirt plains, these are incredible architectural feats built by termites, yes termites! They come complete with tunnels, arches, chimneys, insulation and nursery chambers. If that wasn’t amazing enough, the mounds are also aligned north to south to minimise exposure to the sun!
I was lost for words the more I read about these termites. How do they come to build the mounds. Do they have a community meeting and a coming together of minds? Does one termite say to the others, hey do you fancy joining my building company and build a mound or too? Seriously, this is spectacular! We could do with some of these termites to teach our house builders a thing or too.
A formal viewing area is located just off Litchfield Park Road and boardwalks take you close to 2 metre high thin Magnetic Termite Mounds which are aligned north to south and to the giant 4 meter high Cathedral Termite Mounds.
Across the road is a magnificent cathedral Termite Mound which at 5 metres tall, could be over 50 years old. Currently home to a colony of grass eating cathedral termites don’t you know!
We decided we had had our fill of termites for the day and returned to the Tourist Park to have dinner and sit outside as the sun set.
Wanting to make an early start this morning as we had a lot of ground to cover we had a yummy cooked breakfast at the Bar & Cafe, located in the big shed.
Driving from the site into Litchfield National Park we headed past the termite mounds to our furthest point, namely Wangi Falls.
Litchfield National Park
There is a local saying that goes: ‘Litchfield-do, Kaka-don’t’, but I beg to differ. Having witnessed the beauty and splender of Kakadu, I would argue that they just offer slightly different options, with swimming being high on Litchfield’s list.
The spectacular sandstone plateau of the Tabletop Range takes centre stage in this 1500 sq km national park. An ancient land inhabited for thousands of years by the koongurrukun, mak Mak Marranunggu, Werat and Warray Aboriginal people, this park has it all to offer visitors.
Weathered sandstone cliffs shaped by water, with stunning waterfalls flowing over from their edges into crystal clear plunge pools making them a swimmers playground.
With Darwin a mere 120 kms away, this is an ideal day trip, but with offerings including bushwalking and the 39 km Tabletop Track which takes 3-5 days to complete, it is easy to see how you could spend a week here.
Once inside the Park all the main attractions are easily accessible from the main road which passes through the Park. The trick is to try and go in the opposite direction to the tour buses and start as early as possible.
With this in mind we started at our furthest point and worked backwards towards the entrance.
As one of Litchfield’s most accessible waterfalls, it is also one of the most popular and can be found on the west side of the Park from the main road.
Tree shaded manicured lawns, picnic tables, a kiosk, barbecues and plunge pool are available for you to watch two falls cascading over the rock escarpments above. During the wet season the fast flowing falls are a spectacular sight which must be a sight to behold. Note to self – return trip required!
We walked to the viewing platform at the base of the waterfall for photos, before embarking on the Wangi Falls Walk which is a 1.6 km trail passing through rainforest up to a stone escarpment over the falls and back to the car park.
Wangi Falls Walk
The trail is classed as a Grade 3 – moderate, steep in sections and takes an hour return depending on your level of fitness and speed.
On reading this sign Richard was actively looking for spiders, I mean REALLY searching, lifting branches up, inspecting tree trunks … you name it. I however was enjoying the beautiful trail with eyes firmly above ground level, well that is until I tripped on an object and nearly went flying. I then conceded to keeping a mediocre eye on the ground but was actively NOT looking for any spiders.
Despite not seeing any spiders, we saw brightly coloured butterflies, lizards and birds along the trail. Back at the base, we cooled our feet off in the lower plunge pool and low and behold, look what I spotted, which resulted in a frenzy by Richard to get a closer look!
Back in the motorhome we continued our way around the Park to our next stop, thankful that we had started early and had not run into any coach tours.
There is no swimming here, to protect the base of the falls which is home to several colonies of rare Bats, notably Ghost Bats and Orange Horseshoe Bats.
Tolmer Falls Walk
With a starting point at the Falls Lookout and taking you along Tolmer Creek, this easy 1.6 km walk was fairly level, rocky in places and took about 35 minutes to complete.
The falls cascade elegantly over two high sandstone escarpments, plunging into a pool below. Well, they probably look better in the wet season, as the waterfall looked more like a trickle!
As it was starting to get quite hot we continued along Litchfield Park Road to Buley Rockhole, where we bumped into the hordes coming from the other direction. The result of this was that we couldn’t find any space available to park! I think it is more of a place to swim as it is a series of waterfalls and rock holes or so the sign told me, which was the closest that I could get to them. Not to be deterred we continued to our next stop.
Due to the heat becoming an issue for us, we abandoned the idea of a Creek Walk and headed straight to the viewing platform and wow, we were not disappointed. These were my favourite falls!
As an Aboriginal Custodian said :
“That element of running water makes it an exclusive place;exclusive to the individual. You got peace of mind on that creek”.
The lookout provides a panoramic view of the valley and waterhole below. The falls cascade into a plunge pool and they were spectacular.
We felt that we had experienced quite a lot of what Litchfield National Park has to offer despite not swimming. If the truth be known, I am not sure we would have swum even with more time. That slight chance that just one crocodile could have got into the pools was enough to put me off! This was not helped by Richard announcing that if it did happen and I was killed by a lone crocodile that I would certainly make headline news back home!
It was time to leave Litchfield National Park and start our drive back to Darwin and our last night in the Northern Territory. We retraced our journey along the Stuart Highway and went straight to book into our last night’s accommodation Hidden Valley Caravan Park. Only problem was that I had written the wrong address down and we were trying to book into the wrong caravan park ha ha!! Suitably chastised, I directed us to the correct Discovery Parks in Winnellie, the closest park to Darwin and only a few minutes drive from the Maui Depot for the next day.
This is another well laid out site with excellent facilities and probably due to the location was quite busy. As it was only 3.30pm and our powered site was pre-booked, we decided to drive into Darwin and visit some area we hadn’t yet discovered.
East Point Reserve
Covering 200 hectares and readily accessible from the suburbs and city, this recreational reserve offers bike lanes, barbecue and picnic facilities, fantastic views of Fannie Bay and Darwin and the ultimate sunset watching spot.
Lake Alexander was created as a small saltwater lake offering year round safe and stinger-free swimming.
Home to abundant wildlife including bandicoots, possums, butterflies, birds and wallabies, the 1.5 km boardwalk through the vine forest into the mangroves is an ideal opportunity to try and spot them.
During WWII, East Point played an important role in Darwin’s protection, and there is a series of WWII gun emplacements located on the point’s northern side, together with the Military Museum.
We drove around the Point which was quiet and peaceful in the late afternoon, and then headed to another new area of Darwin, Cullen Bay.
A man made housing and marina development with long and short term accommodation, this is prime and enviable waterside living at its best.
Marina Precinct enjoys a variety of services, and a host of some of Darwin’s best restaurants to boot.
We wandered along the boardwalk onto Cullen Bay Beach which is simply stunning, with fantastic views, as the majority of Australia’s beaches enjoy.
It was time for us to grab something to eat and as it was Thursday night ….. there was only one choice, Mindil Market! We didn’t stay but instead parked up and grabbed takeaway chinese and some delicious cheesecake to take back to the caravan park and enjoy with a glass or two of wine. Sadly it was our last night in and around the wonderful and enlightening Top End, and we would be dropping off our home for the past week and taking a flight out of Darwin.
We enjoyed the caravan parks we stayed at especially the setting of Litchfield Tourist Park. Both were well-laid out, with excellent facilities and friendly helpful staff. The journey worked well and it was great to utilise the motorhome and drive around East Point and Cullen Bay.
For details and a map of the Baruwei Lookout Walk, check this Information Sheet.
Charlie the Buffalo is available to accept visitors at the Adelaide River Inn.
Details of Adelaide River War Cemetery can be found here.
Litchfield Tourist Park has a variety of accommodation options on offer.
This is a great map showing the location of all the waterfalls in Litchfield National Park.
There are several short walks within Litchfield national Park.
Discovery Parks Darwin has a variety of accommodation to suit all budgets.
Read more about East Point Reserve at the official website.
In Summary …..
Hopefully this 11 day Itinerary has given you a taste of how easy it is to arrange your own self-drive road trip around the outstanding, spectacular and beautiful Northern Territory.
READ PART 1 – Darwin to Kakadu National Park
READ PART 2 – Kakadu National park to Katherine
READ PART 3 – Katherine to Darwin, via Litchfield National Park
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