The Northern Territory’s capital city is surrounded by incredible scenery, including some of Australia’s internationally renowned national parks. While Kakadu may be the best known of the Top End’s national parks, there is plenty more to see and do while using Darwin as a base.
If you’re looking to discover these surrounds, there is no better way to do so than by renting a car with VroomVroomVroom and following the Stuart Highway out of Darwin.
Top Attractions: Yellow Water Billabong, Nourlangie, Ubirr Rock Art Site, Mirrai Lookout, and Cahills Crossing.
One of Australia’s most iconic parks, there are plenty of reasons to visit Kakadu National Park. It is one of the best places in the country to learn about Aboriginal culture and see significant cultural sites. If you only have a day to explore Kakadu, make sure you do some research in advance to pick the sights you would most like to see.
The park is home to spectacular waterfalls and diverse Australian wildlife, including impressive birdlife that you can spot at the Mamukala Wetlands. Visitors can also take a cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong where you can search for saltwater crocodiles.
Travel Time: Over three hours.
Directions: Follow the Stuart Highway south from central Darwin. Take the exit for Arnhem Highway which takes you into Kakadu.
Top Attractions: Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge and Leliyn (Edith) Falls.
Nitmiluk Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park is a must-see on any Northern Territory itinerary. Following the hiking trails along the gorge will lead to some truly memorable views. Try to visit between May and September, as during the wet season you are restricted from reaching some areas.
On the way to Nitmiluk Gorge, take a small break at the beautiful Leliyn (Edith) Falls. Follow walking trails to get a great view from the top of the waterfalls, and enjoy a swim afterwards below them. The area has become a popular swimming spot with the locals. Also nearby is the Cutta Cutta Cave systems. These are millions of years old and of great significance to local Aboriginal people.
Travel Time: Three hours and 30 minutes.
Directions: Follow the Stuart Highway south until you reach Katherine. Follow Gorge Road into Nitmiluk National Park.
Top Attractions: Wangi Falls, Florence Falls, Magnetic Termite Mounds, Buley Rockhole, and Lost City.
There is no better place to spend a day swimming beneath stunning waterfalls than at Litchfield National Park, which is home to popular falls like Wangi, Tolmer and Florence waterfalls. If you follow the trail to Florence Creek you’ll reach the busy Buley Rockhole, whose pools form a popular swimming spot.
Waterfalls are not Litchfield’s only tourism drawcard. Stop in and see the huge Magnetic Termite Mounds, or explore the unique rock formations in the Lost City. If you would like an aerial view of the park, helicopter tours are available. These offer a birds’ eye view of Litchfield.
Travel Time: About two hours.
Directions: From Darwin, head south on the Stuart Highway. Exit onto Batchelor Road which will lead into Rum Jungle Road. Follow signs for Litchfield.
Attractions: Fogg Dam and Jumping Crocodile Cruises.
To spot unique Northern Territory wildlife, a great day trip from Darwin is the Mary River National Park. Not only is the area home to saltwater crocodiles, but it is also home to many species of birds. If you’re interested in bird-watching, popular species include the jabiru, brolga, ibis, and many more.
On the way to Mary River stop at the Adelaide River, a great spot for spotting saltwater crocodiles. It is possible to take a Jumping Crocodile Cruise to see the magnificent creatures up close.
Another worthwhile option is to do a cultural tour to learn about the Aboriginal history of the area.
Travel Time: One hour and 30 minutes.
Directions: Leave Darwin on the Stuart Highway, and exit onto the Arnhem Highway to reach Mary River.