Litchfield National Park Guide to Waterfalls and Swimming Holes. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved. Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park.

Litchfield National Park Guide to Waterfalls, Swimming Holes and Bush Walks

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Our Litchfield National Park guide gives you the lowdown on the many things to do at Litchfield National Park, from swimming in cooling waterholes and gawking at breathtaking waterfalls to bushwalking, birdwatching, wildlife spotting, and camping. We also cover how to get there, and where to stay, eat and drink. Do the direct drive from Darwin or add it onto a Kakadu road trip.

Only 100 kilometres south of Darwin in Australia’s Top End, Litchfield National Park is where Darwin’s residents retreat for a refreshing dip in a cooling waterhole when things get hot and sticky in the Northern Territory capital. Litchfield was a favourite spot on our guidebook research trips, and, decades earlier, when I lived in the NT with my family as a teen.

Like Kakadu National Park, the allure of Litchfield National Park is its ruggedly beautiful landscapes, stunning waterfalls, pristine swimming holes, bush walks, brilliant birdwatching, four-wheel drive adventures (dry season only), and lush campsites and caravan parks and other welcoming lodgings with manicured lawns, tropical gardens and swimming pools.

Added bonuses for Litchfield are its enormous magnetic termite mounds, shorter bush walks than at Kakadu, more accessible swimming holes and waterfalls, plenty of shady picnic grounds, and friendly locals in Batchelor, where you’ll find a few sights, a general store for supplies, and good pub grub and icy cold beer at the Rum Jungle Tavern.

Litchfield’s compact area of just 1,500 square kilometres compared to colossal Kakadu National Park’s 20,000 square-kilometres, its close proximity to the capital, and accessibility to its sights – there’s just one sealed road through Litchfield from which each waterfall or swimming hole lies a mere few kilometres – makes it a more popular choice than Kakadu for locals.

That means there is a downside. Litchfield National Park can get crowded with Darwin residents on weekends, whereas Kakadu National Park is so massive it never feels busy. Our advice: if you’re an interstate or overseas traveller, go mid-week if you can and stay a night or two so you’re the first in for a dip in a waterhole.

Now is a fantastic time to plan a visit Litchfield National Park. With the first of the wet season rains falling next month, when the waterholes will start to fill up, the waterfalls are even more dramatic, and everything is incredibly lush and green.

Our tips to visiting Litchfield National Park and the information below was gathered first-hand on various research trips to the Northern Territory over the years to update travel guidebooks, as well as for a first edition driving guide to Australia which we authored.

Litchfield National Park Guide – When to Go, Where to Stay, Where to Eat and Drink, and Things to Do at Litchfield National Park

Our Litchfield National Park guide covers everything you need to know to plan a trip to Litchfield National Park – when to go and how long to spend at Litchfield National Park, should you self-drive or do a tour to Litchfield National Park, should you stay in Batchelor or in the park itself, where to stay, eat and drink, and things to do at Litchfield National Park.

Planning a Trip to Litchfield National Park

Darwin residents do very little at all for a weekend escape to Litchfield National Park, often treating it as a day trip. However, if you’re visiting the Top End from interstate or overseas and including Litchfield on a longer road trip, you need to do some planning.

After deciding when to go to Litchfield National Park and how much time to spend at Litchfield, you need to book accommodation at Litchfield National Park, because there are actually very few options to where to stay and accommodation in Batchelor and Litchfield National Park can get booked up during high season and school holidays.

When to Go to Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park is best visited now and over coming months, at the start of the wet season or during the early dry season when the waterfalls are still flowing. You would have heard the seasons talked about as ‘the wet’ and ‘the dry’, however, the indigenous Australians of the Top End use a calendar with six seasons.

At the time of publishing this guide, it’s nearing the end of Gunumeleng, the pre-monsoon season (mid-October to late December), which comes before Gudjewg (monsoon season, from January to March). April is Banggerreng, the “knock ’em down storm season”, before Yegge, the cooler but still humid season starts in May and runs until mid-June, when the cold weather season called Wurrgeng begins.

Getting to Litchfield National Park – Tour or Self-Drive

When it comes to getting to Litchfield National Park, you have two choices: either joining a tour to Litchfield National Park or self-driving and doing a road trip to Litchfield National Park, either direct from Darwin or added onto a Kakadu road trip.

Doing a Tour to Litchfield National Park

If you’re short on time, you don’t drive, or you simply prefer to experience places with expert local guides, then a tour to Litchfield National Park from Darwin or a tour to Kakadu National Park that takes in both Litchfield and Kakadu are a great option. We’ve tested out both, we’ve done road trips and joined tours.

Various companies offer small-group 3-day, 4-day and 5-day 4WD camping safaris and tours from Darwin, some of which include Mary River, Kakadu and Arnhem Land, and a stop at the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruises on the way. Both Klook and Get Your Guide have a good range of Darwin to Litchfield National Park tours and safaris.

Self Driving on a Road Trip to Litchfield National Park

For us the best way to experience Litchfield National Park is by rental a vehicle in Darwin, whether it’s a 2WD, AWD or 4WD campervan. Book well ahead for weekends and holidays. While you could stick to sealed bitumen roads, there are some fab sites that are only accessible on dirt 4WD-only tracks and a 4WD is a must if you’re including Kakadu National Park on your Litchfield National Park road trip.

Having said that, many of the 4WD-only tracks at Litchfield National Park close during the wettest months of the year. Before setting out on a road trip, check the Northern Territory Government website for road conditions and park access or call the Litchfield National Park Ranger Station on 08 8999 3947.

In the dry season, you’ll need a 4WD to explore the rugged 4WD-only tracks to places such as The Lost City and Reynolds River. Although these are also closed during the wet season when the roads are impassable, which is when we definitely recommend you hire a 4WD campervan so you can self-cater and enjoy outdoor picnics overlooking waterfalls and sunset barbecues to the bush soundtrack of birdsong.

How Long to Spend at Litchfield National Park

You could visit Litchfield National Park direct from Darwin on a day trip if you had to (eg. if you were on a tight schedule), however, if you enjoy bushwalking, swimming, picnicking, and birdwatching, or you simply prefer a more leisurely pace of travel, you’ll get much more out of Litchfield if you stay overnight (at the very least) or stay two or three days.

You could add Litchfield to a Darwin to Kakadu National Park road trip to hike rocky escarpments, admire ancient Aboriginal rock art, cruise crocodile-filled rivers, and gawp at gobsmacking waterfalls. After Kakadu, drive via Pine Creek and Adelaide River to Litchfield National Park and you’re doing what we consider to be one of the best Australian road trips.

While you could do that road trip in a rushed few days, you’re better off taking five days to a week if you want to do some cruises and tours.

Alternatively, with a lot more time, you could spend a couple of days at Litchfield National Park, then on your way to Kakadu National Park, call into Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, Windows on the Wetlands, Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruises, and Mary River National Park.

After 2-3 days at Kakadu continue south to Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine, Mataranka, and Tennant Creek to Alice Springs and Uluru, an epic drive but easily one of Australia’s best road trips.

Your next decision will be whether to stay in Batchelor or in Litchfield National Park itself.

Where to Stay, Eat and Drink and in Batchelor and Litchfield National Park

The closest township to Litchfield National Park is Batchelor, regarded as the gateway to Litchfield National Park, a village some 8 kilometres west of the Stuart Highway. It was originally established to serve the old uranium mine at nearby Rum Jungle, which closed in the early 1970s. It has a service station, general store, and spots to eat and drink (see below).

Where to Stay in Batchelor

For most travellers, Batchelor is little more than a stopover to guarantee an early start on the park, yet its leafy streets and lush gardens make it a very pleasant one, so many travellers choose to base themselves in Batchelor, then get up early to explore the national park.

On the outskirts of Batchelor, Litchfield Motel has clean spacious rooms in a range of configurations set around lawns and a green swimming pool. There’s free WiFi and free private parking, along with a bar, casual eatery (seasonal), shop, and petrol station. If the restaurant is closed it’s a 10-minute walk to Rum Jungle Tavern, which offers the best food in town. More on that below.

Where to Eat and Drink in Batchelor

The Rum Jungle Tavern is the place to eat and drink in Batchelor, as well as a good spot to meet the locals. Ran by the friendly McElwee family, who have renovated the place since we were last in Batchelor, there’s an award-winning pub grub menu that includes locally caught wild barramundi and big steaks with salads and chips, burgers with the lot, a popular Guinness pie, Coffin Bay oysters flown in during season, and a kids’ menu.

There is no supermarket in Batchelor, however, along with fuel, an ATM and a post office, the Batchelor General Store has plenty to offer if you’re self-catering, including groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, cold drinks, water, and ice. They also do takeaway food and you can pick up snacks, picnic gear, insect repellent, sun-block, hats, and the like. The owners here are also good source of local information.

Where to Stay in Litchfield National Park

Around 8 kilometres out of Batchelor near the entrance to Litchfield National Park, Litchfield Tourist Park has a variety of thoughtfully decorated cabins and bungalows set in lush gardens. They have microwave ovens and small fridges, and verandas with barbecues, dining table and chairs. If travelling with family or friends, book the Homestead, which has a well-equipped kitchen with proper stove, a big fridge and plenty of space.

There’s also a caravan and campsite and swimming pool. Their excellent little café is only open for breakfast and lunch, so you’ll need to take your own supplies from Darwin or Batchelor or book a BBQ kit for dinner when you book your accommodation. They’ll give you a time to pick it up or arrange to leave it at your lodgings.

At the far western end of the park at Rakula, Hideaway Litchfield consists of two stunning contemporary villas with timber decks with a barbecue and outdoor dining, kitchenettes with microwave, and floor to ceiling windows with bush views. Take supplies and prepare to self-cater as the closest eatery, Litchfield Café, 3kms away, however, is currently closed. The nearest swimming spot is at Wangi Falls.

There are camping sites with facilities scattered around Litchfield National Park that vary from no-frills to good. You will need to be self-sufficient and take enough food and drinks, including drinking water, for the duration of your stay. Litchfield Safari Camp has ensuite safari cabins and budget tents. See this link for more information on camping in Litchfield National Park.

Things to Do in Batchelor

There are a few things to do in Batchelor if you choose to stay a night or two. The diminutive Batchelor Museum has a permanent exhibition on the Aboriginal heritage of the area and the traditional owners, the Kungarakan and the Warrai peoples, the Batchelor Demonstration Farm that was established in 1911 to explore the economic potential of the area, and Batchelor’s role during World War II. Its aerodrome was a base for allied air operations.

Check to see if the Coomalie Cultural Centre is open. Part of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE), it showcases art works by students, so expect to find stunning Aboriginal art, crafts and design products, from vibrant ceramics and metalwork to hand-painted jewellery and accessories. It was also good spot to pick up delicious edible souvenirs made from native Australian ingredients.

At the Batchelor Butterfly Farm, Christopher Horne offers tours of the indoor rainforest that is home to spectacular Australian butterflies, where you can learn about their lives as you admire their incredible patterns and colours. There’s also a small animal farm where kids can pet rabbits, goats and ducks, a licensed café and budget accommodation.

Litchfield National Park Road Trip

If you’re self-driving and doing a road trip to Litchfield National Park, here are some tips to what to pack, as well as driving routes, whether you’re driving direct from Darwin to Litchfield or adding Litchfield to a Kakadu road trip, and returning to Darwin from Litchfield. We’ll cover heading south from Litchfield and Kakadu to Katherine and Alice Springs in another post.

What to Pack for Litchfield National Park

Start with a copy of Dr Marcia Langton’s Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia for insights into Aboriginal Australia’s 50,000-year-old culture, history, languages, customs, religion, ceremonies, dance, and arts, as well as invaluable tips on etiquette and cultural awareness, and a directory of Aboriginal tourism experiences.

Along with the swimwear, flip flops, sunhat and high-factor sun-block, mosquito repellent and mosquito coils are essential. Also pack some walking shoes or hiking boots, and refillable water bottles.

You’ll need binoculars for bird-watching. Some 169 bird species have been recorded at the park and most of them during the wet season. Print off this list of birds and check boxes before you go.

You can’t sit on the grass or bare ground due to Scrub Typhus, which can be transmitted by microscopic bush mites, so take a fold-up table, chairs and sun-bed. (See our cute fold-up palm tree stools in our online shop on Society6 with products featuring Terence’s photography).

If you’re renting a campervan, take some things to eat and drink. Eating options are limited in Litchfield although the General Store has some supplies and it’s always good to support local businesses.

However, we recommend stocking up on picnic food, tropical fruit, gourmet snacks, barbecue ingredients, and beer and wine in Darwin, if you’re planning on preparing some of your own meals or at the very least enjoying outdoor barbecues.

Driving to Litchfield National Park

There are a couple of ways to get to Litchfield National Park, the most direct being from Darwin to Batchelor, gateway to Litchfield National Park. However, if you’re combining visits to Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park on the one road trip and returning to Darwin, you can travel via Pine Creek and Adelaide River.

Darwin Direct to Batchelor and Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park is around 120 kms south of Darwin off the Stuart Highway. Follow the signs, which will take you via the township of Batchelor, 95 kilometres south on a sealed road. With a 4WD, during dry season only, you can drive via the Cox Peninsula Road, which is unsealed in parts, or via the 4WD-only Reynolds Track if you were coming from Daly River in the south.

Kakadu via Pine Creek and Adelaide River to Litchfield National Park

If you’re driving from Kakadu via Pine Creek and Adelaide River to Litchfield National Park, from Gunlom or Waterfall Creek you’ll need to return to Kakadu Highway and continue southwest to the park’s southern exit at Mary River roadhouse where you can refuel. It’s 68 kms to the Stuart Highway junction at Pine Creek, where you’ll head northwest for 118 kms in the direction of Adelaide River.

Pine Creek

Pine Creek was the location of the Northern Territory’s first Gold Rush after gold was discovered in 1871, making Pine Creek one of its oldest towns. There are a handful of atmospheric heritage buildings around town including the 1889 Old Playford Hotel and Old Bakery. Miners Park has century-old mining equipment scattered across its dry grass and there’s a tiny museum on Railway Terrace with an old locomotive parked at the old station.

Few travellers stay at Pine Creek, however, if you have reason to spend a night, Pine Creek Hotel, the local pub, has basic rooms and serves the Best Chicken Parmi as voted by 900 Territorians. Mayse’s Café was your best bet for a meat pie.

From Pine Creek, drive 118 kms northwest to Adelaide River on the Stuart Highway.

Adelaide River

Adelaide River was first settled while the Overland Telegraph Line was being installed but it didn’t boom until it became the supply centre to support the defence of Darwin during World War II, suffering bombing from 1942-43 by the Japanese as a result.

Adelaide River’s sobering war cemetery is where victims of eighteen months of air raids are buried. A picturesque place with shady picnic tables and peacocks, it makes a pleasant spot to stretch your legs or enjoy lunch.

From Adelaide River, continue 17 kms north along the Stuart Highway then turn left to Batchelor Road for the 8km-drive to Batchelor, gateway to Litchfield National Park.

Litchfield National Park Guide

From Batchelor, follow the dog-legged Rum Jungle Road 15kms northwest then southwest to the park entrance.

Where to Buy a Litchfield National Park Pass

Surprise! While where to buy a Litchfield National Park Pass is a common question, unlike Kakadu National Park, for which you do need a national park pass, there is no park entry fee for Litchfield National Park, which is free. You only need to pay for accommodation and camping site fees.

Before leaving Darwin, download a national park map and information on camping sites, bush walks, birdwatching, and swimming. You should also find this and other tourist information at the Batchelor General Store on the corner of Tarkarri Road and Nurdina Street.

We’ve got more tips to visiting Litchfield National Park, below, which are important to read ahead of your trip.

Tips to Visiting Litchfield National Park

Make sure to heed the crocodile warning signs as crocs can be found from time to time in Litchfield’s waterholes, even after the wet season ends. See this guide to swimming in Litchfield National Park and the kinds of warning signs to look out for and what they mean.

When picnicking near the waterfalls and swimming holes, only sit on the raised wooden platforms provided or on your own fold-up furniture, not on the bare ground or grass as Scrub Typhus can be transmitted by microscopic bush mites.

The Litchfield National Park information sheet has lots more information on safety, park rules, and what you can and cannot do.

Things to Do and See in Litchfield National Park

See this excellent guide to all the Litchfield National Park bush walks with a map and information on the walks, including durations and distances to waterfalls and important information such as whether swimming is permitted. Below are our picks of the highlights of Litchfield National Park.

Magnetic Termite Mounds

Soon after you enter the park, you’ll notice colossal 2-metre high magnetic termite mounds on dusty plains, looking like tombstones in a cemetery. Standing in a north-south orientation, their clever configuration prevents their total surface from being exposed to the sun at any one time, thereby acting as a temperature control mechanism. The mounds change with the light, appearing golden red in the morning and late afternoon, and a dull grey in the middle of the day.

Continue driving southwest to the next turn-off for Buley Rockhole, 3 kms off the main road.

Buley Rockhole

Consisting of an easily accessible series of small natural swimming holes through which mini waterfalls flow, Buley Rockhole makes a wonderful spot for a swim for children and non-swimmers especially. An easy 3 kms (1.5hr) walking trail follows Buley Creek to Florence Falls. There’s camping close by.

Continue driving along this road for another 5 kms to Florence Falls.

Florence Falls

The twin 20m-high Florence Falls are two of the most spectacular waterfalls in the park. They can be enjoyed from the lookout above or you can take the stairs – all 160 of them – down to a natural swimming hole at the base of the falls. An alternative 1km (30-minute) walking track passes through cool monsoon forest and more open woodland.

Return to Litchfield Park Road, turn right, and continue 15 kms to Tolmer Falls.

Tolmer Falls

Plunging down from two lofty rocky escarpments to pools far below, the magnificent Tolmer Falls, a mere 500m from the main road, must be the park’s most photographed cascades. The falls can be appreciated from the cliff-top lookout opposite due to the rare orange horseshoe bats and ghost bats that inhabit the area. With a professional guide, you can do the 30-minute cliff-top walk along the top of the falls to take in ancient cycads but swimming is not possible.

Continue along Litchfield Park Road for another 11 kms to the turn-off to Wangi Falls on your right.

Wangi Falls

Only 1.5 kms from the main road, beautiful Wangi Falls are the most accessible for swimming with stairs and ladders into the enormous waterhole. There’s a café, barbecues and wooden platforms for spreading out your picnic blanket (remember not to sit on the ground; see above) so naturally its gets crowded on weekends and holidays.

Note the swimming warning signs. The pool is closed during the wet season due to strong undertows and the usual crocodile threat. A 1.6 km (1.5 hour) walk winds along a boardwalk around the base before stairs climb up the escarpment above the falls. (Swimming not allowed).

Driving from Litchfield National Park and Bachelor to Darwin

From the Batchelor Road and Stuart Highway junction, drive north along the Stuart Highway for 40 kms to Cox Peninsula Road then turn left (west) in the direction of Berry Springs for 11 kms to the Territory Wildlife Park, which we highly recommend you see on your way back to Darwin.

Territory Wildlife Park

The sprawling Territory Wildlife Park is one of Australia’s best, with miles and miles of walking tracks running through a range of different habitats found in the Territory and an abundance of fauna and flora typically found in those environs.

There are walk-in aviaries, aquariums, a nocturnal exhibit, and birds-of-prey display, and when you find it too hot to stroll you can hop on a free train that continually circles the park.

From the Stuart Highway and Cox Peninsula Road junction, it’s 47 kms northeast along the highway to Darwin.

Last Update 13 Dec 2020/Most Recent Update: 14 Nov 2023


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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

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