Review: Litchfield National Park Eco Day Tour from Darwin with Ethical Adventures
No visit to the Northern Territory capital would be complete without spending a day in sublime Litchfield National Park. This engaging tour will introduce you to the park's cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear swimming holes, towering termite mounds, and fascinating ecology.
It’s an early start from Darwin and the cool air makes me wonder if I’ll be ready for a dip at Berry Springs Nature Park in less than an hour’s time.
Welcomed aboard a comfortable eleven-seat mini bus by Ethical Adventures owner and tour guide Rob Woods, I ride shotgun to pick up today’s group from their accommodation. There’s a couple from New Zealand, another from China, and the rest are southern-dwelling Aussies.
Ethical Adventures’ Litchfield National Park Eco Day Tour offers guests the chance to enjoy one of the Top End’s most famous landscapes in a responsible way. Heading out of town Rob tells us more about the company’s ethos and explains the plan for the day. He also recounts stories from Darwin’s history, including the bombing of Darwin Harbour in World War II and Cyclone Tracy in 1974. We hear about local historic notables such as Amy Johnson, the first female to fly solo from London to Darwin.
Watch our video of ten top things to do in Darwin:
Situated in Australia’s remote Top End, Darwin is a travel destination like no other! With its rich Indigenous cultural scene, diverse culinary offering, a turbulent history to explore, and epic natural landscapes within easy reach, you’re in for the holiday of a lifetime.
Before long we pull into the Berry Springs Nature Park car park (on the wet season version of this tour guests visit the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve instead). Rob points out the amenities and invites us all to meet him at ‘Rob’s swim up café’ for a coffee and freshly homemade mango muffin.
I hold back from entering the water, always wary of the presence of the Top End’s feared saltwater crocodile. However, Rob assures us that Berry Springs has been cleared for swimming by the authorities. The geothermally heated water is heavenly and we have the place all to ourselves.
When it’s time to re-board the bus, Rob announces that we need to change seats. ‘Company policy and everyone gets to know everyone’, he says. ‘And who knows, you might learn something new!’
After much chin-wagging, punctuated by Rob’s interesting commentary, we arrive in the sleepy town of Batchelor. Rob says most tourists don’t give it a second glance on their way through to Litchfield. It’s their loss. Aside from being a major staging point for allied activities during World War II, Batchelor was put on the map during the heyday of the nearby Rum Jungle uranium mine. The mine closed in 1971, but we learn more about it and the town’s war history at the two-building community museum. I would love to have time to read all the exhibit information and watch the 45-minute The Battle for Australia video, but the smell of lunch beckons.
While we’ve been perusing the exhibits, Rob has cooked up a storm: a BBQ of tender locally-caught barramundi fillets, accompanied by fresh salads and sourdough rolls. Local bush food condiments round out the menu, along with a juicy mandarin for dessert.
Tummies full, we swap seats again and continue on to Litchfield National Park. Our first stop is the park’s famous termite mounds. Litchfield, and indeed much of the Northern Territory, is full of termite mounds (look for some comically dressed like people along the roadside!). Rob introduces us to two varieties: the ‘cathedral’, on account of its cathedral-like resemblance; and the ‘magnetic’, skinny and flat structures running in a north-south direction (hence their name). These were initially mistaken for tombstones by early explorers.
With the early morning chill long gone, the sun’s heat bites and we seek refuge under shady trees while wandering between the mounds. Rob produces some thirst-quenching icy poles to enjoy before we do another seat change and make a beeline to Wangi Falls.
Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Northern Territory day tours, guided experiences, and attraction tickets and passes. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book through us, and you'll have access to the widest choice of activities and most competitive prices.
It’s much busier here than at our previous stops and we’re relieved when Rob says the other tour buses will leave shortly. Then, on cue, tour guides starting rounding up their large groups. I zip off for a quick hike to the top of the twin waterfalls before cooling off in the refreshing waters below. There is something mesmerising about floating beneath the cascading waters. I could stay here for hours!
In yet another seat, we munch frozen orange pieces for the quick drive to our afternoon-tea stop. ‘Who likes swamps?’ queries Rob. Uncertain how to respond, we remain silent. Rob tries again, ‘who likes wetlands?’ This time everyone nods. ‘Great — well, we’re going to Tabletop Swamp. Think of it as wetlands!’ He believes ‘wetlands’ is just a fancy name for a swamp and that this Litchfield favourite will provide opportunities to spot birds, listen to their calls and unwind in the tranquil setting. We head off to explore while he prepares iced tea and wattle seed homemade cookies.
We clamber back on board for the last seat change of the day and the final stop on this Litchfield National Park eco day tour — stunning Florence Falls. It’s an easy walk to the falls lookout, and Rob pauses along the way to explain the traditional Aboriginal uses for various plants. We’re shown edible berries, lemon myrtle, a tree with leaves that act like soap and another with leaves like sandpaper to help smooth spears and other wooden implements.
After our 11-hour adventure, we return to Darwin much wiser about the park’s environment. Rob’s knowledge, personal engagement and tour design are all amazing. Each tour is tailored to the group on the day, so you might enjoy rock hopping between Buley Rockholes and Florence Falls, or a cooling dip in other waterholes. Whatever you see and do, this tour will enhance your appreciation of the region’s unique character and ecology.
Remember to be ‘croc-wise’ wherever you choose to swim in the Top End. Obey all safety signs and directions.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Monica McInnes is a keen traveller and is always on the lookout for her next big adventure — even before the current one has concluded! Having recently returned from a three-month road trip with her young family through the Red Centre, the Kimberley, the Pilbara, and along the Coral Coast, Monica is convinced that Australia is the most beautiful country on earth. She blogs about her travel exploits at Jiggety Jog.