Litchfield National Park is located in the Northern Territory of Australia and is one of the region’s must-sees. Unlike its rival Kakadu, the Litchfield National Park visited less by tourists because still quite unknown to the general public. The main advantages of this national park are that you can swim (safely) and enjoy the park for free! You will find ponds, streams, waterfalls, hiking trails and typical animals of Australia.
Located 114km southwest of Darwin, the site was inhabited by Mak Mak Marranunggu, Werat and Waray aboriginals for nearly 60,000 years. It was discovered in 1864 by Frederick ‘Fred’ Henry Litchfield, whose mission was to explore the Adelaide River. At the time, the British wanted to build forts because they feared the arrival of French and Dutch settlers, but they quickly discovered a new use of the territory: agriculture and livestock.
The Northern Territory was annexed and the aboriginals were chased from their land and relocated in Christian reserves or missions. They were often used as livestock keepers or servants on farms. A group of settlers settled in Litchfield, but the start was very difficult, as they suffered from the inhospitable humid climate.
In 1870, the discovery of tin and copper allowed the settlers to begin an exploitation of the soils, ‘aided’ of the Mak Mak Marranunggu aborigines. This lasted until the 1940s. In 1949 uranium was discovered, offering a new source of revenue from its mining operation, which lasted from 1953 to 1971. The site closed due to bankruptcy, and the Litchfield was abandoned until 1986 when it was declared a National Park.
Sources: Australian Geographic, www.nt.gov.au, Lonely Planet and Wikipedia.
Visiting Litchfield National Park
With its 1,500km², the Park covers an immense plateau of sandstone and cliffs, called Tabletop Range, which owes its particularity to its cliffs, waterfalls and accessible pools. The water is ‘crocodile free’ during the dry season!
Only two roads lead to the Park. The first takes you from the Stuart Highway to the south, the paved and safe Batchelor (provided you do not hit a lost buffalo …), and one to the north via the Cox Peninsula Road which is usually closed during the ‘wet’ season. The second road is not recommended for vehicles unsuitable for ‘dirt roads’.
Fauna and flora of Litchfield National Park
Thanks to the tropical climate, Litchfield has immense wild forests, flowers, and marshes (which turn into ‘bush’ during the ‘dry’ season) that surround the gorges dug by the continuous waterfalls. You will not be able to miss in any case the immense termitières which occupy the places, and which make the 2nd particularity of the Litchfield National Park.
Many species of animals populate the Litchfield, ranging from the cutest: wallabies, geckos, kangaroos, possums, green frogs and flying foxes … at least sympathetic: wild pigs, buffaloes, crocodiles, toads, snakes, and bats.
If you are afraid of spiders: be warned! You will find the Nephila spider and his girlfriend the Huntsman, which, despite their size and name, are completely harmless to humans.
Unfortunately, we cannot escape undesirable animals such as the ‘green ants’ – the green ants – and the plague of all places: mosquitoes! You should bring some good mosquito repellant.
The best spots
To observe the most beautiful termite mounds, RDV Magnetic Termite Mound, drive 17kms after entering the Park via the south Batchelor road.
To swim, the most beautiful pools are those of Florence, Wangi, Tolmer Falls and Buley Rockhole. But they are also the most popular, so to avoid the crowd go early in the morning or weekends, or turn to Greenant Creek, which will take you 1-hour back and forth, but once at the top, breathtaking views are guaranteed!
The ‘Lost City’ is also a must, but only if you have a 4 × 4 to access it.
Activities at Litchfield National Park
You can, of course, enjoy the pools and swim!
You can camp or sleep in your van at Wangi Falls, Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls, but the sites are not free. If you do not want to pay, you will have to walk the bush to Walker Creek, but there is no shower or access to water, only compost toilets.
Speaking of Wangi Falls, this is a place where you can eat, have a coffee, buy souvenirs and visit the aboriginal art shop if you wish. There is also a telephone and do not hesitate to contact the staff if you need any tips on the area or if you have an emergency.
You have the opportunity to take a helicopter to enjoy a breathtaking view of the waterfalls. To do this you must go to the Litchfield Cafe, 4kms from the Wangi Falls.
For the more athletic people, there is a hike through the bush. The so-called ‘Tabletop Track’ is a loop of 39 km that connects Wangi Falls, Greenant Creek, Florence Falls and Walker Creek. Choose your point of departure/arrival and take a lot of water, good shoes and sun protection!. I recommend you go from Wangi Falls to Florence Falls. It is the most interesting walk and you can cool off on arrival!
Entry to the National Park is free
Best season: From April to September – Try to avoid the wet season (from November to February), as there could be many road closures and floods.
Camping fees apply in the National Park. Spots are located in Wangi Falls, Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls
You can compare prices and book online with Motorhome Republic: www.motorhomerepublic.com
Try to avoid week-ends as it can be a bit crowded on waterholes. Enjoy fresh morning walks and spend the afternoons swimming in the fresh water! Don’t forget your suncream and mosquito repellent spray 😉
Written by Marine Garcia.