Perched on the northern coast of the Northern Territories of Australia, miles and miles and miles away from any other city, is Darwin. The humidity might kill you before the crocodiles do, but there’s a good backpacker scene and it’s a perfect base for exploring the national parks of the Northern Territories.
All I really did while in Darwin was hide in my air-conditioned hotel room in the Darwin Central Hotel and occasionally venture outside to eat all the food. In the city center, you’ll find the usual supply of pubs and restaurants, most have live music in the evenings.
Towards to waterfront, you’ll find a great Mexican restaurant, Hot Tamale, that does $5 tacos and $5 Corona’s which is all you need in life really. Behind the Darwin Convention Center is a good but pricey all-you-can-eat buffet at The Jetty, you can eat seafood, steak and every other kind of food until you puke.
If you want cheap food right on the water then walk along the jetty to Stokes Hill Wharf. You’ll find a huge food hall with a great choice and almost unlimited seating right on the water as you watch the sunset.
When the heat becomes too much for you, and you don’t feel like battling crocs for your life, then head to the Darwin Waterfront Lagoon, a safely walled off area perfect for swimming. There’s even a little beach to relax on. If you want a little more excitement the Wave Lagoon is right next to it.
It wouldn’t be a visit to the Northern Territories without seeing a crocodile, and while it’s not too difficult to see one in the wild… it’s a much safer (and more impressive) option to visit the salties at Crocosaurus Cove, home to the famous Cage of Death, the only crocodile cage dive in Australia. While I’m torn about the ethics of that, it’s still incredible to see these terrifying creatures up close.
Litchfield National Park
After spending two weeks along the coast of WA and being able to swim where I wanted, when I wanted, I suddenly found myself in unbearable heat and unable to cool off in the ocean, thanks to the Australian wildlife.
That’s why people escape to the (mostly) crocodile-free swimming holes of Litchfield National Park. It takes around an hour and a half to drive the 116km south to the park, and it’s well worth the trip, even if you have to rent a car for the day.
The first things you’ll notice as you enter the park are the humongous and slightly terrifying termite mounds. I mean they are MASSIVE. Most are easily twice as tall as a normal man, and four times as wide at the base. There are so many creeping up out of the jungle, it looks like another planet.
The first swimming hole you’ll come to is Buley Rockhole. These gentle cascades are an ideal place to set up a picnic, grab a beer out of the eski and relax in the sun with a waterfall to massage your shoulders. There are plenty of pools running along the river so it should be easy to find your own space.
Right next door and a short but sweaty hike down to the river is Florence Falls. Two waterfalls plunge from the cliffs above, creating enough spray to cool you down without swimming. The pool is full of rocks that will bruise your shins but is deep enough to cliff jump from certain places if you’re brave enough.
Further into the park, past more termite mounds, you’ll find the turnoff for Wangi Falls. It’s safe to swim in for most of the year, but while I was there it was closed off in case some crocodiles decide to show up. You can still sit and enjoy this massive waterfall, or hike into the jungle to find the bats and birds that live there.
If you can handle the humidity (I’m sure it’s a million times better during the dry season) then it’s well worth taking the time out of your amazing Australian adventure to visit the Northern Territories.
Darwin and Litchfield are the only two things I had the chance to do before I started work but I’d love to go back and visit more of this flat, hot and humid place full of crocodiles, and no that’s not sarcasm!
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