- The Litchfield National Park – how to get there & some general hints
- Berry Springs Territory Wildlife Park
- Berry Springs Nature Park
- The Litchfield National Park general information
- The Litchfield National Park Sights
- Adelaide River Croc Cruise & how it all started
The Litchfield National Park – how to get there & some general hints
A famous Darwin escape is The Litchfield National Park which is approx. one hour and a half drive from Darwin. Being so close to Darwin we decided to rent a car in order to visit the area at our paste but if you are not keen in renting a car or you simply are running out of time you can check on the internet where you will find plenty of tour companies operating this tour. In a day you do get to see what will definitely take you a couple of days if you do it by your own even though obviously you have to stick to the plan and maybe you won´t be able to visit all the places you really wanted to.
Anyway, we decided spontaneously – in fact we decided at around 5pm to depart the day after at 6am. One moment we were talking about it, the next we were hiring the car. After we booked the car, we went to a convenient store to buy a cheap tend with two sleeping bags and there we were ready for our next adventure. Please be aware that there are many car rentals in Darwin but that the only ones that will be open on Sundays and public holidays are the ones at the airport. We opted for a 2-wheel drive, but you need to consider that you won´t be able to reach all areas without a 4-wheel drive therefore you are probably better off deciding before where you want to go or if you prefer to decide day by day then you are better off hiring a 4-wheel drive. Please be aware that in Australia you can drive with a foreign (English language) license for three months. Longer than that you need to get a license from an Australian state (for further information have a look at the following website: https://austroads.com.au/drivers-and-vehicles/overseas-drivers/applying-for-a-license – from here you just need to choose the state you are staying and you will be redirected to another website in which you will find all the information needed). If your driving license is not in English language you need to apply for an international license. I do not know how long it takes in your country but in Italy it takes quite long therefore try to apply long before your departure.
Before we drove out of Darwin we stopped at a supermarket to buy some food and water. Please consider the heat in the NT while choosing the food to take with you. I would you also recommend stopping at a supermarket before driving out of town – this is not because you won´t find any supermarkets close to Litchfield but only because they will be more expensive.
Berry Springs Territory Wildlife Park
Our first stop was Berry Springs where we first stopped at the 400hectare Territory Wildlife Park. With 6km of walking trails in the natural bushland and a free shuttle train everyone can manage to explore the park. They have presentations and keeper talks (both in the morning and in the afternoon) as well as Wild encounters (please be aware that you need to pay for encounters at admissions only). The morning presentations are not the same as the afternoon once therefore you can also spend an entire day at the park.
We took part at the Flight Deck Training show where we got to see beach stone curlew, emu, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Black-breasted Buzzard, black necked stone and Osprey.
Animals that can be seen are for example wallabies, dingoes, emus and many more. Please be aware that the areas designated for the animals are not small and with shelters – therefore there is no guarantee that you will be seeing the animals. This cannot be said for the crocs and all the animals that can be found in the aquarium as well as the animals in the nocturnal house and some that can be found in the monsoon forest walk as f.e. the venomous snakes.
What I personally found very interesting is that throughout the park you can find fact sheets of all the animals which you can read at you own paste giving you a good introduction of the Australian wildlife. The park has facilities such as a picnic area, toilets, drinking fountains and a café/gift shop.
Berry Springs Nature Park
Our second and last stop of the area was at the Berry Springs Nature Park which with a series of spring fed swimming holes is a perfect stop for a dip. Here you can find facilities such as a kiosk, a picnic area with BBQ´s, toilets and showers.
Probably now the time has come for me to talk about crocs and safety swim or maybe not. Let´s say that you can swim in Berry Springs but in the designated areas only – nowhere else. Let´s leave the crocs part to later – let´s say till we get to the part of the Adelaide River
The Litchfield National Park general information
The Litchfield National Park is a 1500 square km and very important for Aboriginal people. It was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield which was a member of the first European expedition to this area. For about 75years until 1955 it was the center for tin and copper mining, fell then under a pastoral lease before being declared National Park in 1986.
The Litchfield National Park has many attractions such as Magnetic Termite mounds, waterfalls, monsoon forest, Rockhole’s, historic ruins at Blyth Homestead and Bamboo Creek and much more. Please be aware that we went during the dry season and therefore every area/attraction of the Litchfield was accessible. If you happen to be in this area during the wet season many areas could be closed or not accessible. I would suggest you check the following website before departing on which you can find all the information you need. Link below:
Northern Access Route
We entered the Litchfield National park from the northern access route off the Cox Peninsula which has approx. 6km of gravel. By the time we arrived there was a fire going on…we tried to make it through – don´t know exactly why – but we got scared and went back the way we came. We reported the fire but shortly after we kept seeing vehicles driving past and not coming back. Being on the Litchfield Park Road and very close to the gravel section (last section before entering the park) meant that the vehicles made it through and so we decided to give it another go following one car and so we manage to enter the park
The Litchfield National Park Sights
Our first stop was the “Cascades” (toilets and picnic areas can be found here) a wide rock lava flow of around 200 meters in length. There are two walks that you can do: the lower cascades walk (closed in the Wet Season due to flooding and an increased risk of crocodile) and the upper cascades walk. We went for the Upper Cascades walk which takes you up on top of the Tabletop plateau. There is very little shade therefore bring lots of water and sunscreen with you. Please be aware that we did this walk with tongues because by the time we arrived we did not know what to expect – please put some shoes on. The walk starts off flat before starting to become an uphill climb with loose rocks. Once you reach the top you have gorgeous views of the lowlands of Litchfield. By the time we visited the area it was dry therefore we opted for going back the way we came instead of descending to the cascades.
We decided to camp at the Wangi Falls which has facilities as toilets, showers and free gas BBQs – please be aware that you need to bring the correct amount with you since camping fees can only be paid cash and that no change is available. The campground was pretty full, but we were lucky enough to find a spot – some people were not lucky as we were. Please be aware that the campsites cannot be booked in advance. We went for a quick walk to the Wangi Falls viewing platform where we saw a lot of bats. Swimming is allowed here however restrictions may apply during the wet season due to currents and crocs.
The day after started with the Wangi Falls 1.6km track which takes you through a monsoon forest and upstairs to the escarpment.
Our next stop was Tolmer Falls (toilets and picnic area can be found here) which consists of two drops (about 30-40m in height) cascading into a pool. You can decide to just stop at the lookout which is only 400m from the car park away or you can decide to do the 1.5km long Tolmer Creek Loop Track (takes around 45min) which gives you the chance to admire the typical Top End sandstone country. It is home to protected rare species of two types of bats: orange horseshoe & ghost bat). Swimming is not allowed.
Another stop was the Buley Rockhole (toilets and picnic areas can be found here) which with a series of small waterfalls and Rockhole is the perfect place to chill…the water is a bit chilly at least for me it was. There is a 900m Rockhole loop easy walk (takes around 20min) which takes you around the series of rock pools along the creek.
The Florence Falls
The last waterfall we visited was The Florence Falls which was also my favorite one. There is a 600m return walk to the lookout from where you can admire this waterfall. If you wish to get down to the Plunge pool, there is the approx. 2km return Shady Walk which after a series of stairs with approx. 160steps takes you through monsoon forest and open woodland to the plunge pool. If you are keen on taking a bit longer walk you got The Buley Rockhole walk which is around 3.4km return and takes you from the Buley Rockhole to the Florence Falls and vice versa.
Cathedral Termite mounds
We decided to exit the park from the southern access to avoid driving all the way back and specially to see the Cathedral Termite mounds which with its height of 2m is the most famous one throughout the park. The configuration acts as a built-in temperature control mechanism allowing at least surface as possible to be exposed to the heat. The very tip of these termite mounds is used to bury the dead, at the bottom are the king and the queen with workers in between.
There is much more to see in Litchfield National Park such as other falls, creeks, the Lost city, the Tabletop Track and much more. The Lost city is 8km off the main road and accessible only during the dry season and by 4WD only. It consists of a formation of sandstone blocks and pillars formed and weathered by elements that evoke the remains of a lost civilization. The tabletop Track is a 39km long bushwalk through woodlands, along creek lines to waterfalls and pools (closed from October – June). Please be aware that it is only suitable for experienced and well-prepared bushwalkers willing to carry their supplies including water and camp with minimal facilities.
Before heading back towards Darwin, we stopped at the Adelaide River for a Crocs Cruise but not before driving past Batchelor also known as the Gateway to Litchfield National Park. The town started to grow in 1952 when it became home for workers employed at the Rum Jungle Uranium Mine (Australia´s fist Uranium Mine) which closed in 1971. The Uranium had been discovered in 1949 by Jack Michael White.
Adelaide River Croc Cruise & how it all started
There are many tour operators operating crocodile cruises on Adelaide River – I had a look at the many options before choosing. We were told that this tour operator started in the early 70´s when after more than 50 years of croc hunting due to the value of their skin the hunting was banned. As an alternative to hunting a hunter started the jumping croc cruise to earn money. Crocodiles are now protected under the NT, Australian and international laws and have cultural and social significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The cruise, which is probably the closest you will get and would like to get to saltwater crocodiles, takes around two hours during which you get to see many crocs. Even though these animals are still wild they know the sound and sight of the boats and know what they are going to get if they show up. Said that we were told a lot of interesting facts about croc biology, territorial habits and their value to the ecosystem. Below you will find some information
Crocodile general information
They have been around for 200 million years – growing up to 6m it is the largest living reptile species. Saltwater inhabit both salt and fresh waters in the NT. They can reduce their heart rate to two or three beats per minute allowing them to stay underwater for up to an hour – giving them the chance to wait until their prey gets closer. They have a transparent eyelid protection which allow them to see even if completely underwater – eyes are located very closely together and oriented forward which enables them to judge distance very accurately so that they can determine the exact location of their prey prior to attack. Their special nerve endings on their jaws and on the underside of their body help them to detect the movement of the prey in the water. The jaws of crocodiles are designed to generate enormous power when the jaws are closing. This enables them to quickly crush prey. Their sense of hearing and smell is excellent when their head is above the water. This helps to locate prey, especially in poor light or low visibility. The tail of a crocodile is a solid muscle and a major source of power, making it a strong swimmer and able to make sudden lunges out of the water to capture prey. These strong muscles also mean that on a short distance (we were told 10m) crocodiles can move faster than humans on land. They can swim at 19km/hour on the surface and 27km/hour underwater. The crocodile is a cold-blooded animal, they bask in the sun during the cooler months of June, July, and early August. When it´s warm they spend most of the time buried in the mud or/and under the trees in the shade. Female reach sexual maturity at the age of 12 while male at the age of 16 – they lay an average of 50eggs between November and May which hatch after around 75days – we were told that only 1% will survive till maturity in the wild. One thing that I found very interesting is that the temperature determines the gender of the hatchlings – till 30°C they will be female, at 32°C they will be male, and at 33°C to 34°C females will vary between 50% to 100%.
We were also given a statistic on croc attacks: 90% of people who get attacked are locals, 80% men and 70% drunk. Here is the time in which I do tell you to not get close to water and to not swim as not as in the designated areas. It is very important – the croc facts written above should made you understand how dangerous and powerful these animals are – so please BE CROCWISE!
Adelaide River Wildlife
The Adelaide River is also well known for wildlife including white-bellied sea eagles, whistling kites, bull sharks and Black Flying-fox. Waters of this river are also home to endangered spear tooth shark and critically endangered large tooth sawfish. This area in an important area for birds such as magpie geese, wandering whistling ducks, pied herons, red-necked avocets, little curlews, far eastern curlews, and sharp-tailed sandpipers. During the cruise we even white-bellied sea eagles.