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If you’re visiting Darwin but find yourself wanting to get out of the city and see the ‘real’ Australian outback, a visit to Litchfield National Park is just what you need!
Located just 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Darwin, this national park makes for a great day trip from the city. In fact, visiting Litchfield is one of the best things to do in Darwin!
And the best part? It’s super easy to get from Darwin to Litchfield – simply drive yourself or join one of the many affordable day tours.
Litchfield National Park covers a huge expanse of land, a whopping 1,500km2 in total, and it’s packed with natural beauty and fun things to do.
But that’s part of the problem. With so many things to do and see, where do you even start?
Well, that’s why I’ve written this blog! It is your complete guide to visiting Litchfield from Darwin! I’ve included info on getting from Darwin to Litchfield and how to best enjoy the park in just one day. It’s your ultimate 1-day itinerary for visiting Litchfield from Darwin.
About Visiting Litchfield National Park from Darwin
How To Get from Darwin to Litchfield National Park
There are two different ways you can get from Darwin to Litchfield National Park: 1) join a guided tour, or 2) drive yourself. Below I have included details on both so that you can make the right choice for your adventure.
Join a Guided Tour
Guided tours are super convenient if you’re on holiday in Darwin and don’t have your own car. No need to rent a car and get insurance and all of that “fun” stuff. All you have to do is sign-up and be ready to go when the tour operator picks you up from your Darwin accommodation in the morning.
Besides that, on a guided tour you will offer lots of inside info, and in some cases, even include lunch!
The downside to tours is that you’re on a tight time crunch and following the tour’s itinerary. You don’t have the freedom that comes with going on your own. Plus, tours can be somewhat pricey (especially if you’re traveling in a family) at around $150-200 AUD per person.
If a tour to Litchfield National Park from Darwin sounds right for you, then I highly recommend booking this specific tour. It includes a jumping croc cruise (with my personal favorite company) as well as stops at the most popular swimming spots in Litchfield that you definitely don’t want to miss. Oh, and lunch is included too – always a bonus if you ask me!
If a guided tour isn’t your thing, then no worries. Just keep reading and you’ll get the most detailed 1-day road trip itinerary for visiting Litchfield form Darwin.
Assuming that you aren’t doing a commercial tour of Litchfield (in which case your itinerary will already be decided!) you’ll be needing some wheels. Being over 100 kilometers from the city and not accessible by public transport, the best way to get to the park is by car.
If you’re visiting the Territory and don’t have your own car, pick up a rental car from the city or the airport. You can browse all rental cars available in advance here and secure the best price too.
If you want to visit some of the more remote attractions in Litchfield (such as the Lost City), you’ll need a 4WD, so keep this in mind when choosing your vehicle.
Directions from Darwin to Litchfield
Once you’ve got your car, head out of Darwin city and proceed south on the Stuart Highway.
A few kilometers past the Noonamah Tavern, heading south towards Litchfield, you’ll notice that the speed limit starts to steadily increase. 110 kilometres per hour becomes 130, and then finally 150 km/h. Thankfully, the highway is well maintained and good enough to handle these high speeds.
You’ll cover plenty of distance in no time at all, but you’ve got to be careful to not miss the turn off to Batchelor Road, otherwise you’ll end up halfway to Katherine!
After the turn-off, you’ll need to continue for another 30 kilometers or so before you reach the edge of the national park. You’ll pass through the small town of Batchelor along the way.
All up, expect the drive from Darwin to take about an hour and a half if you drive straight there without any stops. The total journey is a bit over 100 kilometers in total.
Darwin to Litchfield Road Trip: The BEST Stops
There are a few places you could consider stopping at on your road trip from Darwin to Litchfield. These are both points of interest and practical stops to ensure you’re set for the best day in Litchfield possible.
After leaving Darwin, you’ll soon pass through Palmerston, a reasonably sized town about 15 kilometers outside of Darwin. This is a great place to visit the supermarket and pick up any food or other supplies that you’ll need for your day out.
Make sure that you bring plenty of water with you, at least twice as much as you think you’ll need. There are limited points where you can refill your water within the park and the Northern Territory heat can be brutal. Dehydration is a serious risk at any time of the year.
If you want to grab some lunch at a restaurant along the way, the Virginia Tavern (about 25 minutes out from Darwin) is a great place to enjoy some typical pub food, like chicken parmigiana, steak, chips, and ice-cold beer.
The nearby and recently opened Coolalinga Shopping Centre also has plenty of restaurants, plus a large supermarket.
UPDATE: The Virginia Tavern is closed and it’s future is unknown at this time.
The Noonamah Tavern and Rodeo
If you want to experience the ‘real’ Northern Territory, take a break at the Noonamah Tavern, located about a third of the way down to Litchfield. This is a typical outback establishment, famous in the area for the monthly rodeos that are held in the dry season.
The rodeos consist of bull riding by professional riders, who do their best to stay on the bucking broncos for as long as possible. This is followed by motorbike stunt shows and other entertainment.
If you happen to be in the area when one of these rodeos are on, I highly recommend that you check it out. It’s a unique experience that I’m sure you won’t forget any time soon!
Batchelor is a super tiny town just on the outskirts of Litchfeild National Park. This is your last stop for fuel, snack, or anything else you might need before entering the park.
Batchelor is also a great place to spend a night or two if you want to spend more time in the area and aren’t keen on camping. Within Litchfield National Park camping is your only option for spending the night, whereas there are a few cute places to stay in Batchelor including The Litchfield Outback Resort that has a pool and budget-friendly rooms.
What To Do in Litchfield – A 1-Day Itinerary
Once you’ve arrived in Litchfield National Park, the fun isn’t over yet. There are plenty more things to do and see on this Litchfield itinerary!
If you only had time to do one thing in the national park, I would recommend that you visit one of the many waterfalls. These waterfalls are some of the most beautiful near Darwin and are very popular amongst the locals – partly thanks to their natural beauty, and partly due to the fact that jellyfish and crocodiles make it difficult to swim anywhere else!
My personal favorite is Florence Falls, a set of two waterfalls with a large swimming hole at the base. Unlike some of the other falls, these are easily accessed by a 500-meter walk from the nearby car park.
There’s a lookout at the top by the car park where you can get a great view of the falls and beyond, but you’ll have to descend the 100+ step staircase to get to the swimming hole itself.
Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, you’ll have to clamber over a few rocks before you get to the water.
On a hot, dry Northern Territory day, a dip in the cool water at the falls feels incredibly refreshing. It might even feel too cold at first, but if you work up the courage and dive straight in, you’ll get used to it quickly!
If you bring a few drinks or some food, you can take a seat on one of the many rocks surrounding the pools and enjoy a picnic (just no glass allowed.)
It’s easy to spend a couple of hours here, enjoying the refreshing water and lazing on the rocks in the shade.
Once you’ve had enough at the falls, it’s time to move on to the next stop!
Magnetic Termite Mounds
The Top End is famous for a few things: the wet season, crocodiles, and surprisingly, termites.
On the drive down from Darwin, you will have probably seen a few termite mounds. These towering structures easily reach 3 to 4 metres in height and are made entirely from soil plus termite saliva and excrement!
However, not all termites are the same! In addition to the regular termites that build the mounds you often see from the road, there is another type, commonly known as magnetic termites.
Just a few kilometres down the road from Florence Falls, there is an open plain with a huge number of these magnetic termite mounds.
These termites are unique as they construct their mounds in a very peculiar manner. Rather than building regular mounds that are more or less cylindrically shaped, they build very long, thin mounds that are invariably oriented with their axis running north-south.
Building the mounds like this allows them to maximize the eastern and western sun they receive in the morning and evenings, while minimizing the intense northern sun during the middle of the day. In this way, they can regulate the temperature in their mounds very well!
When grouped together, these mounds take on the appearance of tombstones in a cemetery!
Experiments done on these termites have shown that they have a built-in sense of the Earth’s natural magnetic fields. Placing magnets near existing mounds throws off this sense and actually causes the termites to abandon them. How fascinating!
The Lost City
Continuing further west towards the center of the park, you will come across a track which leads to the Lost City, a set of natural sandstone blocks that conjure up images of a forgotten civilization.
Pretty impressive for a rock formation that is estimated to be around 500 million years old!
The Lost City can only be accessed by those with a 4WD and a bit of experience with off road driving. It is only accessible in the dry season.
Tolmer Falls and Lookout
Next up is the Tolmer Falls lookout, situated along the western border of Litchfield National Park. Continue a little further west from the Lost City and you will come across a road leading to a lookout over these falls.
From the car park, take a short walk out to the lookout, which gives you 270° views over the western part of the national park and beyond. You’ll see rock formations and trees extending all the way out to the horizon.
From the left side of the lookout, you’ll get a view of the spectacular Tolmer Falls, where water plunges 40 metres from a cliff to the shallows below.
This is a nice place to soak in the views of truly pristine, untouched wilderness.
If you still have time and you want to get up close to the falls, you can take a short 1.6-kilometer loop walk to the falls and back. Swimming is unfortunately prohibited here, but the walk itself is very pleasant.
Again, take plenty of water with you!
Returning to Darwin
By now, you will have experienced a good taste of what Litchfield has to offer. There’s still plenty of other great things to see, like the Buley Falls, Wangi Falls, and the Bamboo Creek Tin Mine – but this is a 1 day Litchfield itinerary after all!
There are no street lamps in the national park, and with so much wildlife around at night, you have to take care if you drive in the park at night.
You’ll probably want to start heading home before the sun goes down. You can return back the way you came, or if you are feeling more adventurous and have a 4WD, you can try heading north on Litchfield Park Road to get back.
This is a shorter route which pops out at Berry Springs, but it is unsealed for the most part. I gave this road a go when I visited Litchfield and it was a lot of fun!
Just be aware that it is quite gravelly, and that you should keep plenty of distance between you and any other cars, due to the bulldust which reduces visibility.
Related Read: Want to visit Kakadu National Park? Read about the 6 different types of Kakadu tours available from Darwin!
What If I Want To Stay In Litchfield Overnight?
The vast majority of people who visit Litchfield return to Darwin for the evening, but you don’t have to.
There are campgrounds at a number of the waterfalls in Litchfield National Park, including Florence Falls. It only costs $6.60 AUD per adult to camp here, so it’s much more affordable than a hotel in Darwin and great for those on a budget.
If you want to get a truly Australian experience, try camping here in a swag, a traditional, 1 person canvas shelter used by Australia’s early settlers!
Make sure that you have enough food, water, petrol and appropriate equipment for camping here, as the nearest supermarket is quite far away.
If camping isn’t your cup of tea, the Litchfield Outback Resort is located just outside the park boundary in Batchelor. It’s a pleasant spot with an on-site restaurant. The rooms are fairly old and dated, but it gets the job done.
In the dry season, it’s worth booking ahead to secure a room.
Litchfield National Park is a great way to experience the beauty that outback Australia has to offer. From cool, refreshing waterfalls to fascinating termite mounds to sandstone blocks that look like structures from an ancient civilization, there is plenty to see and do in Litchfield.
This 1-day itinerary represents the best of what this park has to offer and how you can best visit Litchfield from Darwin. I hope you find it useful and enjoy your trip to the Northern Territory!
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