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Top End

6 day Australia Trip » Darwin to Darwin

Start: Darwin
Finish: Darwin
Duration: 6 days
Total Distance: 935 km

Day 1 – Darwin

Take delivery of your rental vehicle and then start your journey by exploring the capital city of the Northern Territory at your leisure. The tropical city of Darwin is the gateway to the Top End and a cultural destination in its own right; it is said that migrants from about 80 different countries around the globe have made this their hometown. There are many things to see and do; visit the city’s bustling Mindil Beach Sunset Markets or wander along the lush Esplanade, visit Aquascene at Doctor’s Gully where hundreds of fish come to the shore at high tide to be fed by hand. The daily fish feeding ritual began over 40 years ago when a nearby resident started throwing bread scraps to a few small mullet at high tide. Don’t forget to finish the day off with one of Darwin’s world famous sunsets over Darwin Harbour before enjoying a sumptuous dinner at one of the many restaurants around town.

Day 2 – Darwin to Kakadu National Park [approximately 250 km]

Early today, depart Darwin and head south along the famous Stuart Highway and near Humpty Doo turn East onto Arnhem Highway. En route, you might like to take a short detour to Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, the site of an ill-fated rice growing venture. Today though this is a very important place for migratory birds and at all times of the year, hundreds and thousands of swarming birds can be seen here. Time is also available to visit the fantastic “Window on the Wetlands” Visitor Centre, or, a bit further down the highway you might like to take one of the spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruises at Adelaide River. The Adelaide River is one of eight rivers in the Top End which have large floodplains in their catchments. Together, their floodplains create a great expanse of coastal wetlands, one of the rarest and most threatened land systems in the world. They are collectively known as the northern coastal wetlands. The Arnhem Highway takes you across five of the eight rivers as you travel between Darwin and Jabiru. The catchments of these rivers are not seperate from one another, especially those east of Darwin. Their lower reaches almost join up in the wet season. Large native animals such as wallabies move between the catchments. Unfortunately so do weeds and feral animals, like pigs and buffalo. Soon after, you will be entering what is one of the world’s most amazing national parks, Kakadu. The park has been entered on UNESCO’s World Heritage list not once, but twice; on the one hand for its natural assets and on the other for its immense cultural significance. Aboriginal people have been living in this area for many thousands of years and have left behind invaluable rock art sites, many of which are accessible to visitors.

Day 3 Kakadu National Park  [approximately 140 km]

Early this morning, continue along Arnhem Highway and shortly before Jabiru, the main town within the national park, turn north-east and head for Ubirr Rock, one of the most incredible rock art sites in Kakadu. There are fantastic vantage points high above the lagoons and wetlands and on a clear day, it is quite possible to view areas of the far north coast and the Van Diemen Gulf near Darwin. Enjoy these views and take in the serene and magical beauty of this place before driving to Jabiru, where you should check out the sensational Bowali Visitor Centre and National Park Headquarters. Here you will discover just how much there is to see and do in the Kakadu National Park. En route to Cooinda, it is worthwhile taking a little detour to Nourlangie Rock, another rock art site, but a totally different one in style. Near Cooinda, a visit of the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre provides you with a lot of insight into the immensely complex cultural life of the local Aboriginal people.

Day 4 Kakadu National Park to Katherine [approximately 220 km]

It is advisable to book in for the first available boat cruise on the world-famous Yellow Water Lagoon in Cooinda as this offers a spectacular experience; during the cooler hours of the early morning, you will almost guaranteed see the most fearsome Northern Territory resident, the famous saltwater crocodiles. These reptiles have so perfectly adapted to their environment over the millions of years that they clearly stand at the very top of the food chain. In fact, their perfect physical abilities have resulted in practically no genetic change for about 600 million years! Come up close and personal with other residents of the wetlands, too: See lazy goannas and lizards warming themselves in the rising morning sun, view millions of birds taking to the skies and watch water buffalos walk into the cooling mud pools. The lagoon is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River, and next to your hotel. The South Alligator river system, which is the largest in the park, contains extensive wetlands that include river channels, floodplains and backwater swamps. About one third of Australia's bird species are represented in Kakadu National Park, with at least 60 species found in the wetlands. Whistling ducks and Magpie Geese are the most abundant. Yellow Water Cruises provides you with a unique opportunity to experience this diverse and sublimely beautiful area and it's associated wildlife. The canopied cruise boats operate year round and are skippered by experienced guides. Later in the morning, follow Kakadu Highway to Mary River Roadhouse and Pine Creek, where the road joins Stuart Highway once again. About an hours drive from here is Katherine, a main centre at the junction of Stuart Highway and Victoria Highway, which takes travellers to North-Western Australia and the Kimberley region of WA.

Day 5 – Katherine – Batchelor [175 km]

Rise early this morning as you will have the opportunity to experience another unforgettable wilderness cruise: Before heading back to Darwin, time is available for a cruise through parts of the impressive Nitmiluk [Katherine] Gorge; there are excursions of various durations on offer, two, four or eight hours. Depending on the length of your tour, you will see a number of quite differing parts of one of the country’s most impressive gorges, which is carved up to 70 m deep into the surrounding escarpment. The area is also of very high significance to the local Aboriginal people. The local visitor centre provides excellent information on their culture as well as on the unique flora and fauna of the national park. Whet your appetite to the awe inspiring Nitmiluk Gorge with this enjoyable cruise. From the comfort of the cruise launch our guides will provide knowledgeable commentary as the cruise passes through the first two gorges, past the Southern Rock hole and that famous cliff faceJedda’s Rock. You can visit up to 13 other gorges on extended cruises. There is a short 800 metre walk between gorges, where under the overhanging gallery you will be able to view some of the ancient rock art paintings. Later on travel to Batchelor along Stuart Highway; Batchelor is the ideal gateway for Litchfield National Park, one of the Northern Territory’s most accessible national parks.

Day 6 - Batchelor to Darwin [approximately 150 km]

On your journey back to Darwin, you could pay a visit to Litchfield National Park. The park protects extensive examples of Top End habitats. It also features numerous waterfalls which cascade from a sandstone plateau called the Tabletop Range, intriguing magnetic termite mounds, historical sites, and the weathered sandstone pillars of the Lost City. Later on, travel further north and head back towards Darwin. En route, and time permitting, you might wish to visit Territory Wildlife Park near Berry Springs, approximately 70 km south of the city. This excellent facility provides visitors with wonderful experiences and displays that explain in detail the fascinating co-existence of plants, animals and the first settlers, the Aboriginal people of the region. Later in the afternoon, arrive back in Darwin, where you will drop-off your rental vehicle.