Overview, we had an amazing trip to the Top End in June (2012) thanks to all the generous info we received prior on this great website. So I thought I needed to repay the kindness with our trip report. We only had 7 days and were very wary of doing too much and failing to really enjoy our time. We really wanted to see Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine Gorge and Litchfield Park and knew this would be a push but if we planned it well and didn’t try and see everything along the way we could pick out some highlights and really enjoy our time. Guess what it worked!! At no time did we feel rushed, we stopped when we wanted, added bits in along the way because they looked amazing. Sure we didn’t see every bit of Kakadu or every waterfall at Litchfield but we were able to pick out a few and really enjoy. The distances travelled were no bother, great roads and plenty to see and do along the way. If interested I have done a report on each of the places we stayed separately under the accommodation section.
We arrived around midday at Darwin Airport then with some trepidation went out to collect our hire car. The trepidation was due to the fab deal (<$400 for 7 days) we had arranged through Bargain Car Rentals via Top End Tourism for a mid size car with unlimited kilometres. We got such a great deal compared to others with restricted Ks that I was a little nervous. But, no reason at all to be concerned as there was our brand new vehicle waiting as promised. We headed straight off to Kakadu stopped at the Jumping Crocs at Adelaide River. Then onto Aurora Kakadu arriving late afternoon well before before dusk. We made the decision to stay here knowing it was the Darwin side of the Kakadu entrance and therefore not too much travelling on the first day. Plenty of time to look around area before dinner in the pub within the resort.
Up early checked out of Aurora then onto to the Bowali Visitor Centre just out of Jabiru. Great place to start with so much information and advice available. Then we headed off exploring for the day Taking in Ubirr and Nourlangie. At one stage we hoped to end off Day 1 with sunset at Ubirr but so glad we didn’t push ourselves as it would of been just a bit too far for that first day. Still an amazing site during the day, fantastic views and incredible rock art as was Nourlangie, once again amazing views across the escarpment. We ended our day early afternoon at Gagadju Lodge Cooinda, through our bags in the room then headed out exploring around the resort as well as a walk down by Yellow Waters Lagoon. Dinner at the restaurant in the resort was lovely, great atmosphere eating alfresco talking with other travellers.
Early, early morning rise for the Yellow Waters Sunrise Billabong Tour, 6.15am at reception. Fabulous that we didn’t have to drive anywhere at that time of the morning. We were picked up at reception by bus and then taken down to the billabong. This is probably one of the most beautiful boat trips I have ever taken. Amazing tranquillity, scenery and wildlife. Fantastic guide. I think we were on the billabong for about 2 hours, just magic then on return we were collected by the bus back to Cooinda for a lovely inclusive leisurely breakfast. Time for us to hit the road again, we packed up and headed off to Katherine. Stopping along the way where and when needed. We reached Katherine mid afternoon. Checked into our accommodation at the Katherine Motel, went for a walk around town and to the supermarket for supplies then back to hotel for a freshen up and then off to Katherine Gorge for a Sunset Dinner Cruise. I was worried that this might be all too much in one day but it certainly wasn’t. It was such a great day. Arrived at Katherine Gorge, boarded flat boat for cruise up the gorge. Just beautiful, definitely more than any of the photos or films I had seen previously. Transferred via easy walk to 2nd Gorge where second boat met us to go further up the Gorge. On return to first Gorge we were met by our Dinner Boat, beautiful white table cloths and silver service 3 course meal. All very traditional, local foods cooked on board the boat by our own chef as about 20 of us guests sat back and enjoyed the amazing sunset with a sip or two of bubbles!! Again, just an amazing boat trip. Trip back to Katherine was the only time of the day that i felt a little tired but it was definitely worth the effort. In hindsight we should of stayed closer to the Gorge and not in Katherine.
Left Katherine earlyish and started our easy drive to Litchfield National Park On the way we visited Adelaide River War Cemetery, very moving spot as the resting place for 434 Australian, British and Canadian service men and women who lost their lives in the top end during WW11. Then onto Robin Falls, lovely spot but don’t believe the easy 300m walk, it does take a bit of effort and i am sure it’s a lot further than 300 m but still definitely worth the visit. Very quiet, nowhere near as busy as the other falls we would see later in the day. We arrived at our Batchelor accommodation, Rum Jungle Bungalows (Fantastic Place, great value) quite early in the morning, hoping to just drop off our bags so we could start exploring the park. Lovely hosts were able to let us into our room. So we popped our cossies on and started off. Now this is where again we chose to forgo (?) seeing all of the falls and chose some highlights so that we could take our time and really enjoy. We decided to make our last visit of the day at Buley Rockhole as we were advised it would be quiter at that time of the day. So we started off at the farthest end from Batchelor visiting Walker Creek, Wangi and Tolmer Falls and then finally to Buley for a glorious swim in one of the lower billabongs. We enjoyed the walks at both Wangi and Tolmer and they were both such different fall so well worth the visit. I am sure a swim at Wangi would be lovely if you enjoy the crowds but we were happy just to sit and watch then walk to the lookout and then really enjoy our time at Buley at the end of the day. So refreshing. That left a very, very easy trip back to Batchelor, where we walked to the pub for another great Barramundi meal.
Easy drive to Darwin in the morning. Again lucky with Holiday Inn accommodation on the foreshore that they let us into our room. So we could drop our belongings off four our 2 night stay. First Day walked via city down to Waterfront. Great place, lots of activity had a look at the manmade surf area and beach had a late lunch and then onto the oil storage underground tunnels. Back along foreshore to our hotel, enjoyed sitting on our balcony having a refreshing drink before heading off to Mindle Markets. Loved it, all the food and goodies and then down onto the beach for an amazing sunset. What is not to love about the Mindle Markets? Well perhaps the crowds!!
We visited a friend in the morning and then went to lunch at the Sailing Club. Lovely, lovely setting, very relaxed alfresco atmosphere with great view over Fanny Bay. Right on the beach front with uninterrupted views. Spent our last afternoon back in the Darwin city area again down at the Waterfront for leisurely coffees and people watching. Back to hotel quick change then off on our Sunset Cruise of Darwin Harbour. There are lots of different, dinner and drinks, cruise packages but we chose the fully licensed BYO option of the Streeter Pearling Lugger. Great Choice, we had an amazing time with the great hosts cruising the Harbour from 5.30 to 7.30 heading out past Mindle Beach to watch another amazing sunset. Had dinner on our way home at a fabulous Italian Restaurant on the foreshore, was a little pricey but a lovely spot (sorry can’t remember its name) was a perfect way to end our last day in Darwin and the Top End.
Easy Drive to the airport in the morning for our flight home after an amazing 6 days in this glorious part of our incredible Country. Easy instructions of how to drop off our car then walk to airport. We ended up doing about 1300K so unlimited Ks was a great saving for us. Would highly recommend Bargain Car Rentals but don’t forget to book via Top End Tourism as that I think is the only way you can get the unlimited Ks. Thanks again to all of the great contributors to this site that made our planning so much easier..