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Darwin and beyond

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Shandos Explores Darwin and the Northern Territory

Husband and wife duo, Shandos and Joel, spent six luxurious days exploring Australia's Northern Territory from Darwin. Stopping along the way to check out places like Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. The couple discovered the history and spirit of this beautiful land so full of contradictions.

Travel

6 days


Route

Darwin to Darwin

km


Best Time of the Year

May to October

Highlights

Husband and wife duo, Shandos and Joel, spent six luxurious days exploring Australia's Northern Territory from Darwin. Stopping along the way to check out places like Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. The couple discovered the history and spirit of this beautiful land so full of contradictions.

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5 6

Day 1
Darwin

After having only arrived in Darwin in the early hours of the morning, we spent our first day discovering Darwin's history and spirit. While waiting for our campervan to be ready (the air conditioning wasn't working in our first one, which is kind of a must in the Top End!), we headed out to the Aviation Heritage Centre. Then after a peaceful lunch in the lush surrounds of the botanic gardens at Eva's Café, we headed to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, learning about the impact of Cyclone Tracey and coming face-to-face with Sweetheart. After stocking up on groceries, we then watched the sunset from East Point with a cider in hand and tried the crocodile burgers at The Lost Arc, before bedding down again at the Novotel Darwin Airport again, ready for our road trip first thing in the morning.

Day 2
Darwin to Merle Campground, Kakadu

Driving east into Kakadu along the Arnhem Highway, it's an expanse of wetlands and wide rivers. First stop is at the Adelaide River, for a jumping croc cruise with Spectacular Crocodile Cruises, an all-girl team! We get close up views of three crocodiles jumping up out of the water after hunks of buffalo meat. We also stop at the Window on the Wetlands and Mamukala Wetlands, although this early in the dry season there aren't the huge flocks of magpie geese found there later in the dry. Then just before the Arnhem Land border, we stop at Ubirr. The rock art is magnificent, ranging from works thousands of years old to more recent art since contact with white people, and the sunset view looking over the wetlands is magnificent. Then it's back to Merl Campground for the night, where we stay inside the campervan away from the mosquitoes.

Day 3
Merl to Cooinda, Kakadu

Distance 100km - Driving Time 1 hour

In the morning we head to the other key Aboriginal rock art site in Kakadu accessible on sealed roads, Nourlangie or more properly Burrunggui. The large dreamtime story showing Namarggon, lightning man, is fascinating, as is seeing the huge rock shelters where it is easy to imagine Aboriginal people living for thousands of years.

After a few brief stops at Anbangbang Billabong, the lookout point at Nawurlandja, and the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, it's time to check into Cooinda, our campsite for the next two nights. The powered sites (meaning we can run air-con) and the lagoon-style swimming pool make for a comfortable stay. Late in the afternoon we head out on the Yellow Water Sunset Cruise. After spotting a plethora of birdlife and many crocodiles, it's such a serene moment watching the sun set and the sky change colours out on the billabong.

Day 4
4WD Road Trip from Cooinda, Kakadu

 Some of the best sights within Kakadu are only accessible by 4WD (or along unsealed roads), so we leave the campervan parked for the day and join the Spirit of Kakadu Adventure Day Trip. Driving along the corrugated road to Maguk (Barramundi Gorge), it's great to know that someone else is in the driver's seat. Reached by a short walk, Maguk's plunge pool is the perfect swimming hole, warm and dappled with sunlight, with a short cascade to swim to. After an early lunch we head to Jim Jim Falls, newly opened for the dry season. It's a much more challenging walk in, over huge boulders strewn in the creek bed from the raging torrent the falls become in the wet season. The water is chilly and great for a quick dip, before we return to Cooinda for dinner at the bistro.

Day 5
Cooinda, Kakadu to Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park

Distance 400km - Driving Time 4 hours 30

 If you can't decide which time of day to take a Yellow Water Cruise, there's a special deal to do both a sunset and sunrise cruise, arguably the two most special times of day. Rising before dawn, we head out to watch the sun climb over the horizon, before the focus turns to the wildlife and birdlife. If we thought we saw lots on the sunset cruise, the numbers and variety at sunrise were astounding! We caught sight of buffalo, brumbies and wild pigs, but the highlight was getting up close to a crocodile sunning himself on the bank, and opening his jaw in that wide crocodile smile! After breakfast it was time to hit the road for a long day of driving, before reaching Litchfield mid-afternoon. Florence Falls and its creek-side walk was the perfect place to wind down, before finding a spot for our campervan at Wangi Falls.

Day 6
Wangi Falls to Darwin

Distance 165km - Driving Time 2 hours

It was with sadness that we got up, realising this was the last day of our Top End road trip and our time in our wonderfully comfy campervan. We had planned to go swimming at Wangi Falls first thing in the morning, but it was closed after a crocodile sighting, so we just went for a brief walk. Instead we spent the morning relaxing in the whirlpools and cascades of Buley Rockhole, our favourite swimming spot so far on the trip. Before arriving back in Darwin and heading to the airport, we made one final stop at Berry Springs Nature Park, for lunch surrounded by the greenery and a swim in its pools.