Once called Edith Falls, but known to the Jawoyne people as Leliyn, this is one walk I’d encourage everyone to do.
Situated about 1 hour from Katherine, it is part of Nitmiluk National Park. You can get a campsite if you’re very, very lucky, by asking at the kiosk, first thing.
There is a relatively short and easy walk from the start of the carpark, by which you can return or a longer return, 2.6km, affording views of the falls and the gorge, giving a ‘bigger’ view of the whole.
The top falls provide a refreshing swimming opportunity that is usually less crowded, as many don’t take the walk. You can sit under that short (4m?) fall, or swim nearby, and there are several access points, not all being slimy!
The different return trip, while providing views, can be slippery in parts, with dusty rocks or rubble.
Once you’re at the base, you cross the bridge that looks out onto the major gorge, with the 12m falls in the distance.
A few people had noodles to assist them in the swim there, but it’s less than a km, with little current.
Be aware of water pythons, as my husband had one swim against his legs as he was approaching the ladder to get out. I don’t think they have us on the menu, and it was pretty small, but it can be a trifle unexpected.
Enjoy a relaxing stretch in the sun or shade while you have lunch, buy something from the kiosk, or walk back to the carpark, reading the information boards as you go.
There are several famous thermal springs in the region, in fact in the Northern Territory. Approximately 15km off the main highway, Mataranka has a reputation and well-designed pool for up to about 30 people, or 50 at a squeeze. The house from an author has also been recreated on the grounds and a campsite is available, as well as a restaurant and some entertainment.
But just off the highway, with room for perhaps 100, is Bitter Springs, where you all get in the water by platform or riverbank, and most float down the stream in their swim noodles. Out you get at the other end and walk back up the path to do it all again. There are rocks close to the surface, or tree roots and trunks that enable you to get a hold if you need to rest on your journey. Both the spring mentioned are in Elsie National Park.
In half an hour you would be in Katherine and the hot springs run through the town. So accessible. Try to get there at the quiet times – early in the morning, to feel the bubbles frothing up from underneath somewhere, and the current taking you downstream, the salts soaking into your skin and a faint cloud of steam settling over the water.
Now let me take you some many 130km up the Stuart Highway, into Litchfield National Park, and Berry Springs. Now that is the monster spring! The sign at the start of the carpark says if the carpark is full then the springs are full. We went on a day when there were maybe another 10 parks and 5 bus spaces. There were plenty of people but plenty of room to swim and I think 3 levels of pools from which to choose, or start at the top and float or swim your way down. The water was cool and refreshing, and on a hot day with a gentle breeze, when you got out of the water it was very pleasant. Not that floating in it wasn’t great. Turquoise pool, draped at the edges with palms and trees, birds chirping and chattering or hooting at you until, on every brave or thirsty hombre dives into the pool, grabs a drink and dashes out again. I truly think I found paradise.
Take a hat, sunscreen and water. A noodle is definitely the fashion. Keep an eye on your gear and an eye out for hanging spiders.
Professing to be the oldest pub in the Northern Territory, the Daly Waters Pub gained some iconic status for travelers at least 40 years ago. Strewn across a line above the front bar is a wide selection of bras, with messages on them. Out the back are collections of thongs (the footwear) and hats and other paraphernalia, also with messages. But this hotel started life as a trading post and played a significant role in WWII.
Explorer, John McDouall Stuart, named the area Daly Waters in 1861, on one of his many expeditions from South to North. Ten years later, the overland telegraph made its way following the same path and connected Australia to the rest of the world. The Pearce family, in 1920, opened up a Drover’s Store, which forms part of the current pub. The indigenous people in the area helped to build the store, but are no longer in the area.
The Pearce family fed passengers and refuelled aircraft when the Daly Waters Airfield opened up to the England to Australia Air Race. The same airfield was the rear guard base in WWII when the Japanese bombed Darwin from Feb 1942 to Nov 1943.
Now, its quirky and a place to get a cool drink and a bite to eat, with great entertainment on offer most nights. When we were there, Lou Bradley and Phil were playing and they were well-received.
There is a park behind the pub, with amenities, and one across the road for unpowered sites. Cabins are also available if you’re looking to break the long drive from Alice to Katherine.
Quirky planes, helicopters and animals are also in residence.
You could be based at one of the accommodation options in town, or just passing through and see the’hot springs’ turnoff from Victoria Highway, which will take you about 100m to a carpark and reserve. There’s currently a popular coffee popup,too. From here, there’s a moderately steep, but short, zip zagging stairway to the springs.
They are unbelievable and warm and soothing. Very popular, we found that early in the morning around 7, maybe one other person was there and you could delight in the faint steam, the effervescence of the bubbles from the mini waterfall. Unmissable. People take noodles upon which to float, but we had no trouble floating or standing up.
Grab your towel and take the path back along the Springs up to the back of a caravan park, where another sign says ‘lower level nature reserve 1km’.
This is a very easy bitumen path that leads to the other crossing of Nitmiluk/Katherine River. It’s the original one and now has a lovely area for recreation. There were birds, lizard tracks, snake tracks, fish and who knows what else. Up the steep hill is another caravan park and public toilets.
You could possibly swim here, I didn’t see any warning signs, but as it’s crocodile territory, I’d be mighty cautious.
Head back to the Springs for another dip and you’ll feel like a new person.
Take your hat, water and sunscreen and keep an eye on your towel and gear.
We are travelling from the Winter of the South to the warmth of the Northern Territory and have landed in Darwin, the capital, only to experience a 3-day lockdown. I thought it was a great opportunity to recount some of the walks we have done and iconic stops we made, between the border and here. When we are free to move on, there are more walks awaiting, but they can be added at another rest stop.
#1 Baruwei Loop, Nitmiluk National Park
This walk is the shortest in the park, and you could just go to the lookout and back for an even shorter one. The direction we took, at the advice of the ranger, was back out through the entrance to the Visitor Centre, where all walks can begin, and along the flat, dry sandstone path, following the clearly marked yellow tags.
After about 1km the vegetation changes and the track commences an uphill gradient. It is moderately steep, with long flats and tyres(?) on the edges, to create what I find are pleasant steps. The path was well-shaded at about 10 in the morning and palms and grasses, called ‘transition woodland’ create a beautiful frame.
At the top of the 2km climb it flattens out and there is a turnoff to the other southern walks. My pre-reading led me to believe these were for the ‘well-prepared’ walkers, intending to spend the day(s) trekking. However, when we got back, I overheard a couple being directed this way to the Butterfly Gorge Walk where, at the destination, you can swim. It’s 4.5 km return, and we’d have started out earlier in the day to do that, but it would definitely be on our ‘next time’ list.
Onward we went and the vegetation changed again, with Kapok trees everywhere, in flower and fruit and plateau sandstone creating some interesting rock formations and gullies. Information boards appear at each change of environment, explaining the landforms, creatures, plants and importance to the Aboriginal custodians. Many of the plants have medicinal properties, such as spinifex.
Actually, I’d seen kapok flowers and fruit before and had forgotten their name, so when I got back I asked the ranger and she told me, along with the fact that the Jawoyn people used it to tell the seasons. When the flowers appear, the fresh water crocs start mating, the green fruit, which can be eaten, signifies that the crocs will be burying their eggs and when the fruit is brown and dry and starts opening to release white fibre, the young crocs are hatching and getting in the water. Brilliant, right?
The path is level or with a downward trend for about 1km and we passed water tanks where we caught a glimpse of the river, before heading down to the lookout. Nothing really captures the majesty and beauty of the Gorge. Having done the cruise before, I’d highly recommend that people do that to get the full extent of the variation and size of it, as well as a swim at the end in this timeless location. We could see a boat, below, and looked down the long valley.
To return to the Visitor Centre from here, there are many narrow, steep stairs. If you took this way as your approach, even if you returned, it would take some time due to the climb. An easy downhill way, though and we passed by about 300m of bat-laden trees, marveling at their attempts to fan themselves cool, while not choosing shady spots in the trees.
The Visitor Centre is gorgeous and a bird ( I think it was a blue-faced honey eater) fluttered around in the rafters while we sat on the deck, in the breeze, eating our fruit. You can book tours or do your own and there is plenty of information and some souvenirs, too.
The path is wide and relatively flat most of the way, until you get to the lookout. The walk took us the predicted 2 hours and we were not hurrying or brisk.
Absolutely carry water, wear a hat and apply sunscreen. Have an experience.
It was an easy drive from Alice Springs to Yulara, but long, with 2×2.5 hour stretches each.
The section between Erldunda and Yulara have long scenic views, with red sand dunes and different coloured spinifex. The desert oak, resembling sheoak, are in two forms , either bushy or thin and I learned in later days that this was either mature or juvenile. They sway gently in the breeze, no matter their age, and add that touch of green to the soft colours already there.
We passed Mt Ebenezer and saw that the rest area was dilapidated and both felt sad that it had come to disrepair. We also passed a couple of viable rest stops, but couldn’t think of a situation where we’d need to stop overnight at that distance.
The campsite was busy, but only every second site was occupied. We bought tickets for the Field of Lights at $44/ea and had to catch the shuttle at 7.15 outside the campground. Although we both felt a little tired, we were glad we did this in the end, as the luxurious coach trip and very beautiful light show was soothing.
Apparently the artist set these up with about 20 helpers over a few months and, in 2016, intended them to be there for a few months. They are now intended to remain until 2027. The area is the same as 7 football ovals and you just get a sea of lights, in various colours that change, sweeping before you.
It was hard to photograph, which was a shame as I wanted to share the experience with my family and friends.
We spent a day making use of the free shuttle on the campground and attending some free events that included collecting bush foods, cooking with bush tucker, astrology and playing the didgeridoo.
We visited Uluru once more, walking the 10km around the base, but I’ve shared photos on that before, so I’ll finish with the classic sunrise and sunset shots from the highest point in Yulara.
It was the first time we had entered Alice from the north and it was pretty, with the MacDonnell Ranges in the background.
We chose our usual caravan park – Big4 MacDonnell Range and were able to use the afternoon to plan an exploration of the East MacDonnells and then relax.
Our first day took us to N’Dhala Gorge which involved magnificent scenery on the way there and some 4WD work from the main road. It was quite a short hike and although pretty, not worth the tough drive out, with lots of corrugations and sand, unless you planned to camp there. The gorge is the site of a large collection of Aboriginal petroglyphs, but as the track has lots of rocky sections I wouldn’t think a wheelchair would get very far.
Heading back towards Alice, the next stop was Trephina Gorge and this was really beautiful.
We also stopped at the ghost gum, a 300+ yr old tree. The walk was moderate/easy with the climbing at the start and sand at the end. It is quite majestic.
It seemed like a short stop to visit Corroboree Rock, so we took the turnoff. It is a startling structure in the middle of other rock formations, so easy to see why it was used as a meeting place.
We headed back to Alice and registered online for the Parrtjima light show, that another traveller had told us about. A shuttle from near the park took us there in the early evening and, surprisingly, we saw a couple we knew from SA on the shuttle.
Parrtjima is the only Aboriginal lightshow of its kind in the world and started in 2016. It is free to enter and the displays are beautiful, but nothing can describe the stunning projection on the West MacDonnell Ranges, accompanied by a narration that explains the relationship between the people and the land. I don’t think my photos will do it justice and we watched it twice, it was so moving.
I’d definitely recommend the event as it is free, spectacular but quite small, so it’s an early night. There are plenty of activities for children to take part in.
The following day, Ellery Creek Big Hole was gorgeous and had a large body of water suitable for swimming if it had been hot enough. We saw a girl going in and her partner was filming her with a drone. The water was icy cold so sooner her than me.
An easy, short walk.
Next we stopped at Serpentine Gorge which had an easy walk in, with a still pool of water at the end and a demanding, steep lookout walk.
The pool of water in the gorge is so cold that it has kept people and animals from going beyond it, for thousands of years. This has meant the ecology is preserved and both life forms can get a cool drink in summer when they need it.
Close to Alice Springs, we stopped at the original Telegraph Station, which is a well-preserved station with indoor and outdoor displays, showing life from as early as 1871. It is one of the first European settlements in Stuart, later named Alice Springs. There are short walks, bike trails and a walk to/from Alice township. We walked to the top of a nearby hill to take photos of the settlement.
We were back in time to watch the sun set over the West MacDonnell Ranges.
It’s a sign of the times we live in, that our next stretch was mapped according to where we could get a border pass. Covid-19 had meant that travel in Australia had introduced people to where the State borders actually are, and who could cross them.
From Gregory Downs there are three possible roads, or tracks, but only one is bitumen. We stopped at Burke and Wills Roadhouse for fuel (both the car and us) after encountering those tall grey birds again. I’ll include a zoomed shot, just to give you an idea, but it’s pixelated. Diesel was predictably expensive so we didn’t fill.
It might be worth mentioning that Burke and Wills were explorers who, with John King and Charles Gray, became the first Europeans to cross Australia from south to north. It was on their return journey that Burke, Wills and Gray died of malnutrition.
We took the Cloncurry Road, hoping to get NT border passes before Camooweal, and had to drive about 300km to Mt Isa for printing facilities. The Overlanders Way from Cloncurry to Mt Isa is through the Selwyn Ranges and is very pretty, if winding.
Corella Dam camp was recommended along the way, but reviews on WIKICAMPS suggested that we might have trouble with our van, so we ended up making our way to a free campsite just out of Isa, WW2 Memorial. Its a very spacious site, with many toilets, a BBQ and a shelter. Several other campers were there, mostly within a 20m radius, but some were off in the bush somewhere and I could catch a glimpse of van or hear a distant peel of laughter. The guy in the next car was strumming a guitar before dinner which was very civilized. No phone service and intermittent wifi.
The next morning we crossed the border without incident and made it to Barkley Homestead around midday. We’d stopped here briefly in the past, and this time we thought it was a good way to break up the long, straight drives, and decide what direction we’d take, next. We felt due for a bit of luxury, by way of a pool and a laundry – oh the simple pleasures. More tips were gleaned about where to go next – Banga Banga, Daly Waters, Alice Springs.
The Homestead includes some old mining and farming machinery on display out the front, and provides a distraction while you stop.
The facilities are a bit old and tired but there is a restaurant, café, cabins and the break was good. As a last minute decision when we woke we headed along the termite-lined highway the next day to Tennant Creek.
Tennant Creek is a town that you will hear a lot about and generally with warnings and trepidation. We had been through quite a few times and thought it was time we had a tourist view of this large outback town.
The town’s importance probably started in 1874 when the Overland Telegraph Station was built and was an integral part of communication between Barrow Creek and Powell Creek. Mining of gold began in the 1930s and some of the mines later became successful copper mines. The Battery Hill Mining Centre is a good source of information and tours and there is a walk you can do to Battery Hill.
A visit to the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre was remarkable. Some indigenous women were working on their current pieces and we chatted a little with them before walking through the gallery where, we were told, orders are sent through from all over the world. We weren’t surprised.
For lunch, it was a short drive to Lake Mary Ann where there are many facilities, opportunities for water sport, play equipment, but no camping.
I think the concerns about Tennant Creek are with staying there overnight, but we have stayed in the Outback Caravan Park in the past and been very happy. There are a couple of free camps not far out of town on the Barkley Highway. I wouldn’t walk around at night as there is a bit of drinking in the town and it can get rowdy. We weren’t stopping yet, so made our way to a very exciting spot.
Karlu Karlu, named Devil’s Marbles by Europeans, is definitely a bucket list place to camp.
This was the fourth time we had been there and yet we hadn’t realised it was so expansive or understood how the rocks were formed.
About 1700 million years ago, magma squeezed up from under the Earth’s surface and as it cooled, cracks formed. Over time, water and wind did its work and columns, then boulders formed.
We had arrived uncertain whether to stay but quickly made up our mind as there were only 3 others there. We could access free wifi if we were close to the day centre and did 3 of the walks as they were easy.
There were toilets and we paid $3.30 each to camp, using honesty envelopes. We didn’t have the right money so gave a bit extra.
Three hours after we had arrived, at 5.30pm, the place was just about full. Three or four tents went up and the rest were caravans and campers. We were very surprised, but I can’t deny that we were also pretty chuffed that we were part of another great Australian sunset event. As shadows lengthened, it was time to appreciate the colours and textures of this place.
And in the morning, the parade of colour began, again.
It really is worth the stop if you have your own accommodation. As a sacred site of the Kaytetye, Warumungu and Warlpiri peoples of the area, you are asked to keep to the walking tracks and not photograph in certain areas. It is made pretty clear, with signage.
I hope that I have respected the signs and wishes of the traditional owners and have not included any sensitive sites in my photos. Please let me know if I have and I will remove them.
North of Alice Springs and South of Tennant Creek is Karlu Karlu, which means round boulders in the language of the first nation’s people of the area. They’re my entry to Becky’s squares.
Once anglicized as Devil’s marbles, most people are changing to the traditional name.
Despite their appearance of having been dropped or hurled there, the boulders have been formed by wind, heat and water erosion over millions of years.
It is believed that a large granite mass, of which they are a part, was formed by volcanic activity, 1700 million years ago. Fissures in the mass allowed the erosion and the rounding of the blocks occurred.
Stunning at sunrise and sunset, I’ve tried to select photos that are not culturally sensitive to the Arrernte people. If you come this way, do stay overnight for a small fee (it was $3.30pp) and do walks, enjoy the vibe, learn some stuff.
Still looking to the trees, for Becky’s ‘kind’ squares, but this time it’s in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
The red-tailed, black cockatoo is found only in Australia. In some regions it’s uncommon, but from the numbers, here, this must have been a common sight. The birds are nomadic, so they probably follow water and foliage, and were definitely on the move this day.