Road Tripping the Top End

“So what brings you to Darwin?”
“I’m on my honeymoon.”
“….”

When you think of traditional romantic escapes, the Northern Territory of Australia probably isn’t the first place you think of. However if dirt, heat and magic are what you’re after, there is no better place you could visit. This is how we spent five days exploring the Top End.

Day One: Kakadu
The first stop on our trip was Kakadu national park. We drove from Darwin straight to Ubirr to experience the famous Aboriginal rock art site. The drive itself was worth the trip; the landscape of the Top End is like nothing you can experience on the East coast. There are countless amazing rock formations, and the early wet season meant that the usually dry landscape had been replaced with lush bushland and fields that contrasted dramatically against the red earth. After experiencing the ancient Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, we hiked to the top of the rocks for a breathtaking 360 degree view of Kakadu. We spent the rest of the day exploring the various hiking trails of Kakadu National Park – including Nourlangie rock art site where you can find more stunning imprints of Aboriginal Australian history.

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Day Two: Edith Falls
The next day, we ventured South West towards Edith Falls. On the way we were able to have some fun with the 4WD, exploring a few paths off the beaten track. We planned to have a swim in Copperfield Resevoir, but were warned off by sightings of a salty nearby. We then ventured further afield to Umbrawarra Gorge. I would highly recommend this detour, as the high set red rocks are a stunning representation of what the Northern Territory has to offer. We then made our way South to Edith Falls, where we were finally able to beat the heat with a relaxing swim after hiking to the upper watefall.

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Day Three: Katherine Gorge
On the third day of our adventure it was time to hit one of Australia’s most well known icons, Katherine Gorge. We had orignally booked a canoe for the day, but in the NT rain = crocodiles and crocodiles = a bad time. We were instead put onto a boat tour, where we were blown away by the intensity of the first and second gorges. The incredible size and harsh landscape of Katherine Gorge will have even the most egotistic of people feeling weighted under the significance of this landmark. Feeling amazed and rather unimportant, we then headed back into the township of Katherine and spent the afternoon paddling about the gorgeous blue-green pools that make up Katherine Hot Springs.

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Day Four: Hot Springs and Litchfield National Park
Because the ridiculous NT heat is not quite enough for us, on the fourth day of our adventure we decided to spice things up. We started with a drive down to Mataranka Bitter Springs, where the steamy blue pools appear like an oasis amidst a forest of jurassic ferns. The next stop was the shallow, bath-like springs of Douglas camp ground. These springs have a real outback feel to them, with the bush meeting the sandy orange shores of the heated creek. After this it was time to head back up North to our final stop – Litchfield national park. Unfortunately, many of the waterfalls were closed for swimming (these crocodiles really messed up my travel plans). However, we were able to sneak a dip at Buley Rockhole before heading back into Darwin.

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Day Five: Darwin
Covered in dirt and sunburn, hungry for a shower, we finally made our way back to Darwin and the end of our journey. Darwin itself was surprisingly beautiful. I feel that the city is often overlooked. But with it’s waterfront boardwalk and beach sunsets, Darwin is a place that I would happily visit again.

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Overall, our road trip was a great success. We had our fair share of troubles along the way – from broken tents and plagues of flies, to extreme storms and frogs in our motel rooms – but it is certainly an adventure that I’ll never forget. Although the early wet season meant that we were not able to experience everything that we had planned to, it certainly made for a unique experience of the Northern Territory. There is no doubt that we will be back in the dry season to chase some of those waterfalls.

 

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