Three and a half years ago I came to Australia for the first time. Like most backpackers, I started with a tour in the East Coast, checking out Cairns, the Gold Coast, Whitsundays, Sydney and even ventured down to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup. It was incredible! I was in love!
I was perfectly content to spend the rest of my time in Australia in and around Sydney, the idea of visiting the Northern Territory didn’t even cross my mind. But then, I met my current boyfriend who convinced me to move to Darwin (the capital city of the Northern Territory or the “Top End.”) It wasn’t until I was camping under the stars, in the red dirt, next to a waterfall that I felt like I experienced the “real Australia.” I loved it so much in the NT that I stayed there for the remainder of my two-year visa!
Why did I like the Northern Territory so much? The great outdoors is where it is at in the NT! Camping, fishing, and hiking just to name a few. I have visited so many magical places it would be nearly impossible to name them all, I’ll have to focus on some of my absolute favourite places to check out in Australia’s “Top End.”
Image thanks to NT News
Litchfield is only a short one hour drive from the Northern Territory’s capital city of Darwin and has some spectacular waterfalls, all within only a couple minutes driving from each other! Due to its close distance to Darwin, a day trip is very easy. However, for those with a tent, great camping grounds right next to the waterfalls are available for only a couple dollars per person.
Some of the best places to check out in Litchfield National Park are:
Image thanks to Photoart
Several small natural swimming pools connected by little waterfalls and natural slides. It’s a great place to relax after you’ve done a bit of exploring around the park. Go for a swim in the cool water while being surrounded by stunning scenic bush surrounds.
Image thanks to Daniel Courtney
Wangi Falls is one of Litchfield's most popular attractions and the biggest of the falls. In the dry season, it is possible to swim here and you dare, swim to the waterfall and climb the cliff up to a little natural pool. There is also a short hike to the top of the falls for an amazing view of the park!
Image thanks to The Nomadic Explorers
You won’t see any waterfalls here, but if you’ve never seen massive termite mounds in Australia before then this is the place to be. The termite mounds are huge and can be as tall as 4 meters high. It’s the kind of thing you’ll have to see to believe.
Image thanks to Northern Territory Indigenous Tours
Kakadu National Park is a fair bit more remote than Litchfield and much bigger. If you want some breathtaking lookouts, waterfalls, and a peek back in time at Australia’s aboriginal history, then Kakadu is the place! It is world famous, and for good reason. It could take weeks to properly explore the entire park, but within a couple days (especially with a guide) it is possible to check out the highlights.
My highlights of Kakadu National Park are:
Image thanks to Daniel Courtney
Rising over 200m high Jim Jim Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park. There is a bit of a hike to get to this one, but it is worth it! The waterfall hangs over the edge of a deep cliff and falls into a round swimming hole which is a great place to chill out after hiking all the way there. Do be aware that during the wet season (or when there’s any heavy rain) the area becomes submerged and can only be seen by air, so plan your trip beforehand!
Image thanks to Journey Era
Here is where visitors can see traditional artwork that dates back thousands of years. There is tons of information available here to learn about the traditional ways of the Aboriginal people who once lived here. In addition, there is a small hike to a lookout over the valley where you can see amazing views while getting a mysterious selfie of you staring off into the sunset.
Image thanks to AAT Kings
Gunlom Falls is great because it is two experiences in one place. There is a swimming area at the bottom of the falls which is a nice place to relax. But there is also a hike to the top of the waterfall with an amazing view! It is possible to swim here as well in the pool known as “nature’s infinity pool.” You won’t want to miss this one.
Image thanks to ABC
Katherine is a small town about 3 hours driving from Darwin. The town of Katherine doesn’t have too much to offer, but it is a great place to spend a couple of nights to explore the surrounding nature areas. The places you cannot miss when visiting Katherine are:
Image thanks to Venture North Safaris
This gorge is world-famous and featured in tons of movies! You can take a boat ride along the gorge or rent kayaks and spot crocodiles for yourself. The boat stops off at a waterfall which is a really great place to swim. There are also many different hikes in and around the gorge.
Image thanks to Katherine Times
Another amazing waterfall! This waterfall has several levels to explore. There is a nice campground here too with great facilities so it makes for a nice place to spend the night.
Image thanks to We Are Explorers
This is essentially a slow-moving river through the greenery. The river is warm and has a sandy bottom. Visitors start at one point and then float down a few minutes to another area. I have never seen anywhere else like it before.
For many, Australia’s top end is the real Australia. Sparse sandy deserts broken up by rusty red rocks combined with stunningly beautiful gorges and waterfalls. These are only a couple of the amazing places I explored while in the Northern Territory. There is so much to do outdoors, and so much adventure! I will forever recommend travelling to the Top End to everyone. I can’t believe I almost didn’t go! But, I’m sure glad I did.
About the Author
After her two years in Australia, Bailey has set off travelling around the world. She has been to over 40 countries and is always in the search for her next adventure. Bailey writes about her experience on her travel blog, Destinationless Travel.