CONTINUING our Aussie adventure, we headed to another epic Northern Territory National Park: Litchfield. Litchfield National Park is amazing and a great family camping destination, with plenty of great campgrounds within a short drive from one another.
We decided to base ourselves at Florence Falls Campground. This area is nestled on top of a hill, which gave us a nice outlook and breeze on most days. It was only a short stroll from the campground to Florence Falls, with about 130 steps the only challenge to access the stunning waterfall and deep pool to swim beneath the falls. It really is a stunning waterfall but unfortunately was very crowded while we were there. If you continued past Florence Falls you’d find a lovely walking trail that took you up to Buley Rockhole, which is really the creek that runs back over Florence Falls. Buley Rockhole was also very crowded, so we walked downstream from Buley towards Florence Falls along the creek where you could find your own piece of paradise, with numerous spa pools you could sit in and enjoy the cool flowing water and tranquil surroundings.
About 40km to the west of Florence Falls is another very popular waterfall, Wangi Falls. This is much grander in scale because the waterhole below the fall is simply massive. It pays to be at these more popular falls early in the day to try to avoid the day trippers coming out of Darwin and of course the tour buses that operate in these areas. A nice walk takes you through a tropical rainforest section with plenty of bird life and flying foxes among the canopy. This leads to the top of Wangi Falls and offers a nice lookout over Litchfield and below into the plunge pool, but unfortunately you cannot swim at the top.
One of our favourite parts of Litchfield was Sandy Creek Falls (Tjaynera Falls). This is a bit of a drive, not so much in distance (about 35km from the turn-off), but it was a real four-wheel-drive track to access the area, with numerous creek crossings over hard rock bottoms. You need a vehicle with a bit of ground clearance to get in and out of the creeks and navigating rocky outcrops. Along the drive we saw some amazing termite mounds the size of the car and in some areas they looked like cemetery headstones.
We also passed numerous billabongs. Because Sandy Creek was a bit harder to access, it didn’t have as many people there, which is why I think we found it more beautiful than the other falls. We pretty much had it to ourselves, with just one or two others around while there. The water was a lovely cool temperature and to swim across the plunge pool and sit under the waterfalls looking across and up the escarpment later in the afternoon really was beautiful. A little slice of Litchfield paradise to ourselves.
Another of our favourite spots was Greenant Creek (Tjaetaba Falls), which is a sacred bit of waterway for the traditional owners. If you follow the track to the end you’ll find a viewing platform that looks over to the falls. But if you make the effort and walk another 150m you can stand and look over the top of this waterfall and Litchfield. This very special place felt like it had a bit of magic about it.
Another spectacular outlook later in the afternoon was Tolmer Falls. You couldn’t swim here because the rock pools were 50-75m straight down in a gorge, but it really was a beautiful place on sunset just to look across at the falls and gorge and watch all the colours slowly change as the sun went down. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the disappointing places for us was Surprise Creek Falls. I think the surprise was there weren’t any falls, and when we arrived after travelling quite a rough bit of road, the rock pools were quite stagnant and green. I am sure earlier in the wet season this place would be absolutely amazing.
Litchfield National Park has had a lot of money spent on it, with fantastic man-made walking paths and staircases to access the waterfalls and great camping facilities. Because of this, some people rate Litchfield higher than Kakadu. The additions are great to allow people of all ages and fitness levels to access these areas but I think this has taken away a little of the beauty of the place. It is not so natural in places anymore and has a high number of tourists and tour operators frequenting the area on a daily basis from Darwin. Please don’t get me wrong, it is still a simply beautiful place and must-see for everyone. Being so close to Darwin, you can see quite a bit of it in just one day.
But I do love the national parks that have been kept natural and are a little harder to get in and out of because this gives you that genuine feeling of being out in nature and seeing it in its raw natural beauty with less human impact. This is probably why Sandy Creek Falls was our favourite, as it was left untouched. So if you are ever in Darwin, do yourself a favour and hire a car to get out there. Do a day trip to Litchfield and see some of these beautiful falls yourself. The most popular ones are accessible by 2WD car but if you have the time, take three days and a 4WD to allow you to get into the more remote areas and enjoy the natural beauty the park has to offer. There are no national park fees to access Litchfield, only camping fees to stay there, which can be paid to the campground caretakers. You can get an idea of pricing through Wikicamps or the NT National Parks website. You cannot book online, so it’s best to get in early prior to lunchtime.