The local aboriginal tribes believe that Litchfield National Park was formed by their ancestors thousands of years ago, and their spirits are believed to be present in the area still. The landscape here is stunning, and the area is filled with history. Whilst staying in Darwin we hired a car and took the two hour journey south to visit Litchfield. All the attractions at the park share information about the site, the aboriginal importance and the wildlife you can look out for.
Whilst you’re in Darwin you will undoubtedly hear other travellers talking of their trip to Kakadu National Park, which lies to the east of Darwin, and takes a little longer to get to, at 3 hours. This trip was too far for us and so we decided Litchfield, often described as a smaller Kakadu, would be enough for us. We woke bright and early to pick up the car and set off. The journey is a little dull at times as you make your way down the highway, but the monotony is broken up by the natural beauty of the area. When you arrive at Litchfield, just shy of 2 hours after setting off, you will find it easy to navigate between attractions as one road runs through the heart of the park, like a spine with nerves splintering off every now and then, leading to beautiful destinations and back again.
Our first stop of the day was at the Magnetic Termite Mounds. Here there is a small walk way that takes you out across the field. There is a perfect strip through the trees where the termites have eaten away and created a field for their mounds, stretching as far as you can see. Just one of these mounds on its own is pretty special, but the magic here is created by the volume of mounds, stretching on and on, some huge, some small, all running in the same direction to ensure the temperature within the mound never gets too high.
Next it’s on to Buley Rockhole. The water here flows in gentle falls creating swimming pools and walkways from the rocks. When we arrived the rocks were filled with local families and groups of travelers lounging in the sun, and each pool was occupied with tourists trying to cool down in the chilled waters. This was a particularly busy spot, though it was easy to see why. Everywhere you looked people were enjoying themselves, the company they were in and the beauty of the area.
After a walk around we hopped back in the car and headed to the lookout point at Florence Falls and then on to Tolmer Falls. We navigated our way down to the bottom, again it was quite busy, but the four of us found a quiet spot under the shade of some trees. Whilst enjoying people-watching we pulled out our cheese and ham sandwiches, which had gone soggy from the heat of the car, and relaxed with our feet dangled into the water. There were tiny fish filling the small pools where the water was less strong, who ventured close to explore our feet and occasionally nibble our toes. We dropped some bread into the water for them to enjoy lunch with us. We were a little naughty and walked back along Shady Creek, which was closed due to damage on the path, but it was fine…perhaps a few steps here and there were broken but nothing that caused too much of a hazard.
We carried on wandering in and out of attractions, lookout points came and went, meandering loop walks around rivers and streams filled much of the day. And then we reached Wangi Falls, which is where we had planned to head for a cooling dip. These falls are the most beautiful in Litchfield, or at least I think so. We stripped into our swim wear and hopped in the large swimming hole the falls tumble into. It was quite busy, but the pool is big enough to not really notice. The water was perfect, cooling our skin from the hot sun and clearing the dirt and dust after our walks around, soothing my aching feet. We swam to the bottom of the falls and admired the perfect rainbow that formed there. This I thought to myself is heaven, this is what travelling is all about, moments like this right before my darling boyfriend dunked me under the water.
How to Plan Your Trip to Litchfield National Park
If for you, like us, Kakadu is too far away or you’re planning to do both parks, there are a few different ways to enjoy a day there. The first, and perhaps most simple but expensive way, is to join a tour. These vary in price depending on what is included. If you use this option pay a little extra and take a tour in a 4×4. Many of the roads around the park aren’t sealed and require a 4×4 to navigate them. The next option, which we took, is to hire a car. We did some research online and booked with Budget at the airport. This seemed to be the cheapest option but when it comes to paying there are a lot of hidden charges. Make sure you do your research about these and find what the actual cost will be before booking. We hired a Toyota Yaris, which was the cheapest option, but you may want to consider a 4×4 if you want to see anything on an unsealed road. The last option is to find someone with a car that is planning a day there, pop a notice up in your hostel and ask around. Loads of backpackers staying in Australia buy cars to use for the year and most wouldn’t say no to splitting the petrol.
Litchfield is one of the most beautiful places I visited in Australia. If the stories that is doesn’t have a patch on Kakadu are true then I can only imagine Kakadu is little short of heaven. Litchfield was a perfect day out and offers a fantastic alternative to Kakadu.