Litchfield National Park

An easy hour by car, south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, lies Litchfield National Park. Named after an early explorer, the region has been cared for by the Mak Mak Marranunggu, Werat and Waray Aboriginal people for thousands of years.

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The region was used for grazing and the mining of tin, copper and uranium. There are many falls to explore and some areas that have been developed to encourage tourists and visitors, with carparks, picnic areas, boardwalks and campgrounds. There are still natural trails and 4WD tracks for the adventure-seeking.

Berry Springs has 3 ‘pools’ that join if you want to ride downstream on a noodle. Not too deep and quite safe. The water is very clear near the edge – you can see fish. Wangi Falls is a surprise. You swim out to one of the waterfalls and get pounded by the downpour. The floor of the lagoon (?) begins as sandy and is dark in the centre, with twigs and debris. You would have to be able to tread water or swim maybe 60m unless you stay by the edge, and many do.

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Beautifully maintained, Wangi has unpowered sites but we chose not to stay here, as there was limited shade in the camping area. We stayed at Litchfield Tourist Park instead, on a grassed site amid beautiful flowers and unusual birdsong that defied description.

Rangers check daily to keep an eye on crocodiles and remove them from public swimming holes, but I would ask at the ranger station, too. I have read that you shouldn’t sit on bare ground in Litchfield, as scrub typhus is a possibility. So spread that towel on the ground and dry off in the heat!

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Take a hat, bathers/swimmers, water, first aid kit and shoes, but don’t miss it!

 

Kakadu National Park

 

In early October, with the temperature in the shade reaching 39.2C (approx 103F), we arrived in world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory of Australia. The road in was unremarkable (and very long) due to being near the end of the dry season.

Taking advice from other travellers, we camped at Cooinda Camping Ground and Caravan Park.

The Yellow River Cruise is world-renowned and if you are a bird lover you will be spoilt. You would also get your lens-full of crocodile pictures and some worthy screen savers. Many people do the sunrise and sunset cruise to get the benefit or the varying wildlife and colours. I was surprised at the buffalo and other animals on the banks and watching the interplay of creatures on or near the water was captivating.

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We also completed a walk at Nourlangie Rock that has two tracks from which to choose and saw interesting sandstone rock formations and well-preserved rock art. Apparently it is a part of the Arnhem Land escarpment.  The track is good and well-marked.

Ubirr Rock is a site that has an easy walking track and many examples of Aboriginal rock painting. Tours in other languages are available. If you can climb the steep sides (about 30 degree slope) to the top you can see an amazing 360 degree view of that region of Kakadu. Sunset walks are possible. I won’t include pictures of art, as I haven’t checked if that is permitted. Most rock art is sacred and Aboriginal people do not like it shown on media, without consent.

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Near Cooinda, Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre is very informative and has artifacts and art you can buy. Bowali Visitor Centre was also impressive.

The facilities were very good, with a choice of pools and the visitor information centre had a great range of maps and options. There are good-sized campsites, outdoor BBQ areas, camp kitchens and restaurants. For those wanting more luxury, there are cabins and Cooinda Lodge. There is a wealth of information and they offer tours, transport and advice. There are many other motels and campsites in the National park. We spent 3 nights here.

Safe travels. Don’t swim alone and check with rangers before visiting water holes. Take water, your hat and good walking shoes.

Kalbarri

We only intended to stay 1 night but spent 3 in this hidden treasure of Western Australia.

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There is something for everyone, here, including fishing, as the man on Chinaman’s Point in the picture above shows. Huge waves crashed against his favourite spot and we had been warned about the currents at that opening, so it appeared Kalbarri had its share of adventure-seekers. But let me outline the more sedate experiences we undertook.

Arriving in the afternoon, we made our way to the caravan park then dashed out to see Natural Bridge, Red Bluff, Blue Holes and Shell House Grandstand, all accessible from the main road and then boardwalks. The coastline was dramatic and latticed. You could see why early Dutch explorers thought it uninhabitable.

The next day took us to Nature’s Window and Z-Bend in Kalbarri National Park. Now, there is a very long stretch of corrugated dirt road, so if you have a regular 2-wheel drive like us, you might have the same arguments about how best to get through it. For the record, the best way is to travel about 80km/hr, so you skim over the top of the bumps. If you have a motor home DO NOT ATTEMPT the road unless you have a system for bolting down your crockery. We met people whose crockery lay smashed on the ground, they didn’t know how far it was to go and had to turn back, knowing more destruction was likely.

The views are worth it, even when it is around 35C. You are warned to take 3L of water if you intend walking the loop, as it can get up to 50C in the gorge.

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The latticed rocks and layers of colourful sediment are impressive and while wondering why Z-Bend was called that, we spotted a white dot in the distance and zoomed in as far as we could to catch a goat, perched on the ridge.

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But wait! There’s more. While there, we spotted a goanna and directed a number of international tourists to the creature, that put on quite a display and was about a meter long. We also marvelled at the flowers produced by such barren soil.

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Later that day, we headed back to the coast for a look at Chinaman’s Beach, from the top and the shoreline, and Rainbow Jungle – an exotic bird sanctuary.  There are tales to be read of the Zuytdorp shipwreck, after which the cliffs are named and you’ll see gorgeous birds and flora.

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On our last day, we took in more of the coastal drives and walks, completing Mushroom Rock Loop and visiting Pot Alley and Eagle Gorge. The visitor centre has maps and information detailing the walks and some stops had signs up. The pipe rocks were pretty amazing – I haven’t seen them anywhere else.

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We finished the day with a sunset river cruise, where we learned a great deal about the demise of the cray fishermen and saw some riverbank scenery. It was inexpensive, but a little repetitive.

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A memorable place. There are diving activities, quad bike adventures, canoeing, absailing…something for everyone. Good access to a supermarket, playground, take-away and visitor centre. What are you waiting for?

Take a hat, water bottles and good walking shoes. Let me know if you have any questions about this area or somewhere else in Australia.

Safe travels.