The Northern Territory is the home of two world-renowned national parks; Litchfield and Kakadu. We’ve been fortunate enough to explore both and absolutely loved them. Here we take a closer look at Litchfield National Park and why this area, which is significant to the Marranuggu, Koongurrukun, Werat, and Warray Aboriginal people, is worth adding to your list!
We visited Kakadu National Park before heading to Litchfield, as part of the same Northern Territory trip. At more than 19,816km2, it’s bigger than you’d ever expect! It’s also rugged and quite time-consuming to get to the different attractions. Litchfield, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite – everything is close, easy to get to, and there are more safe places to swim.
With effective management practices in place, Litchfield has more places that are safe for swimming.
Where is Litchfield National Park?
Located just over an hour’s drive, or 100km south of Darwin’s CBD, it’s no wonder locals head there all the time! Even just for a day trip, it’s quick and easy, with access from either the northern end via Berry Springs or from the eastern side through Batchelor.
Do you have to pay to enter?
No, Litchfield National Park is completely free to visit. The only money you’ll have to pay is if you choose to camp or dine at a café or restaurant. This is a stark contrast to Kakadu, which costs a chunk of money just to drive in through the gates!
When can you visit?
The peak season for Litchfield, and for the entire northern part of Australia, is from May through to November. This is the dry season and the time when you should expect warm, sunny days with almost no chance of rain. As you get closer to November the likelihood of wet weather increases, however, even in the wet season you can visit some attractions in Litchfield. As you might imagine the water holes and falls are completely different throughout the seasons, and it’s well worth planning a return visit to experience the changes.
Florence Falls is centred at the northern end of Litchfield National Park which is approx. 1500 km².
What about the 4WD tracks?
We always love the fact that you can access more places with a 4WD, and the same rings true at Litchfield. That said, a large portion of the park and the majority of the attractions are accessible via bitumen roads.
If you are keen to get off the blacktop and try out some 4WDing, here are a couple of options.
Reynold River 4WD track is 44km and involves some creek crossing.
Reynold River 4WD track
The Reynold River 4WD track is the most well-known track and cannot be attempted without a 4WD. The track starts off Litchfield Park Road and ends on Daly River Road, covering 44km of stunning scenery, water holes, muddy sections, and a couple of amazing attractions (which aren’t always open). It is well set up for water crossings and recoveries, so make sure your gear is easily accessible.
Starting on Litchfield Park Road, we stopped at Blyth Homestead – which is well and truly worth a visit – and then went on to Tjaynera Falls on Sandy Creek. We couldn’t go to Mistake Creek or Surprise Creek Falls, or do the rest of the Reynolds River track as it was closed due to high water levels.
Some of the crossings can be deep and should not be attempted without a snorkel attachment.
As it was, we drove through a couple of crossings with reasonably firm bases. But with the water level nearly reaching the car bonnet, you’d want to have some experience and know what to do when things go wrong. The worst water crossings are down towards Daly River Road, and when the track has only recently opened after being flooded, it can be very easy to get stuck!
With those precautions in mind, this 4WD track is amazing! It takes you away from the incredibly busy attractions that are accessible by every man and his dog, to the more remote and quieter parts of the National Park.
Reynold River 4WD track is not recommended for inexperienced 4WDers!
Lost City 4WD track
Different terrain to the Reynold River track is the Lost City 4WD track. This one is relatively easy, but still requires skilled handling of rocks and rough surfaces. It can get closed off during the wet season, so it’s best to check conditions ahead of time.
Turning off Litchfield Park Road and down to the Lost City, this track is really only wide enough for one vehicle. You can find yourself having to hop off – or reverse backwards – into a nook to let others pass.
The Lost City is quite spectacular, though. It is a series of sandstone rock formations resembling an ancient ruined city. But, there’s nowhere to swim so go there early, or late in the day. Off this same road is the newly opened Central Valley campground. Access here is by 4WD only and you need a camping permit.
The Lost City is at the end of a very rough and rocky, 10km 4WD track that is usually only open in the dry season.
Walks & other attractions in Litchfield National Park
As mentioned, Litchfield’s attractions are all closely situated and you can quickly hop between them. It’s barely an hour’s drive along the bitumen from one end of the park to the farthest end, and given the spoils in between, it’s a win-win for everyone!
Some of the walks can be more challenging and require a basic hiking setup, including good footwear and a day pack with water, snacks, and a first aid kit – but many other walks are quick and easy to achieve.
Distances when heading south on Reynold River 4WD track.
Magnetic Termite Mounds
As you approach the national park it’s well worth stopping to check out the giant termite mounds. There’s a short, easy walk where you can learn a lot about the tiny termites.
Buley Rock Hole
One of our favourite attractions was Buley Rock Pools. This is a loop walk that takes you up a stream and has multiple rock pools, both small and large. There are also a lot of waterfalls and great places to kick back and relax.
Buley Rock Hole is especially good for young kids, with amazing places to sit in shallow water and splash around.
Relaxing at Buley Rockholes.
One of Litchfield’s most popular attractions, Florence Falls is relatively easy to access. There’s a walking trail from the old 4WD camp or, if your knees are up to the challenge, you can take the 160 stair staircase. Either way, the falls are a beautiful place to swim and relax.
If you want somewhere to stop for lunch, Tabletop Swamp is in the middle of the park and an easy place to pull up and watch the wildlife.
The swimming hole at Florence Falls is really popular and can get very crowded!
If you want to see a big waterfall from an easy to access lookout, Tolmer is for you. You can do a couple of walks here, but swimming is not permitted.
Greenant Creek and Tjaetaba Falls
Judging from the pictures, Greenant Creek and Tjaetaba Falls look stunning. Access involves a steeper and longer walk than some of the other spots, so we didn’t actually go there with the kids.
Aside from Florence Falls, Wangi Falls is the park’s other major attraction. It’s well set up with a café, free wifi, a huge grassy area, and plenty of room to swim, kick back, and relax.
You can do a lovely walk up the side of the falls, stopping at the lookout, and either returning from there or continuing in a loop back to the car park.
Together with Florence, Wangi Falls is the other really popular spot and is open all year round.
The Cascades is the most difficult area to access, and as a result, was another spot in which we didn’t visit. The walk is apparently quite tricky and requires very sturdy footwear, but they look to be spectacular.
A unique campsite, Walker Creek is set up for walk-in campers only. It’s a series of rock holes with camping sites scattered among them. Whether you are camping or day-tripping, the boardwalks are spectacular, and you see some beautiful little waterfalls and pools. We really enjoyed this spot, especially with an 18-month-old!
Bamboo Creek Tin Mine
Another spot missed on our trip was the Tin Mine. It provides an interesting history of the mining activities (along with Blythe Homestead) that took place in years gone by.
The crystal clear water of Walker Creek, where campsites are nestled among the banks of the rock holes.
Camping at Litchfield National Park
Expect it to be busy! Being so easily accessible, Litchfield is incredibly popular. It can be hard to secure a campsite and even find a car park at some of the bigger attractions. I’ve never seen so many people in a water hole than at Florence Falls, with families and everyone in the area bringing food and drinks down for the day.
There were literally people set up in hammocks over the little creeks, and swimming in the pool was crowded. If you want to enjoy it during a quieter time, go outside of peak season, or get up really early. I arrived not long after sunrise one day and basically had it to myself. It was a stark contrast.
Early mornings are the best at Florence Falls.
There are a couple of caravan parks, private properties, and safari camps close to Litchfield National Park, at which you can stay.
Alternatively, if you’re eager to stay within the National Park, you have four options:
- Florence Falls – there are two campsites here. One is situated higher up, and one is down the bottom where there was once a 4WD campsite. We stayed at the old 4WD campsite and loved it!
- Wangi Falls – this is a big campsite, located on the other side of the National Park, and is hugely popular.
- Walker Creek – for those with minimal gear, this is a walk-in camp and is mainly set up for overnight hikers.
- Sandy Creek, Surprise Creek Falls, and Central Valley – these 3 campsites require a 4WD for access. They are more off the beaten track and well worth the effort.
Camped at Surprise Creek Falls where toilet facilities are available.
Which is better – Litchfield or Kakadu? Have you been to either or both?
About the writer...
If it involves four-wheel driving, Aaron loves it. When he isn’t writing for his blog, 4WDing Australia or the Snowys Blog, you’ll find him camping and driving around Western Australia.