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“3 Day Kakadu Tour with Territory Expeditions”

Kakadu Gorge and Waterfall Tours
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed October 21, 2013

Just got back from my trip around Oz and had to review about my time in the Top End. I have always wanted to see Kakadu and I was not disappointed with this 3 day Tour with Territory Expeditions! I honestly can't talk highly enough of my Tour Guide Anthony. He was so knowledgable about the area and different fauna and wildlife...I learnt so much about the National Park and history of Aboriginal Culture which was one of my main reasons for travelling.
When we arrived at Jim Jim and Twin falls, the walks were both worth the effort, they are truely hidden gems in the Territory! We have plenty of time for swimming and cooling off.
The camping was awesome, I had never slept in a swag so was a little nervous at first but it was surprisingly comfy. We all cooked together as a group both nights of the trip and it was a real team effort to preparing the meals, collecting wood for the camp fire and doing the dishes after each meal. It gave us all a good chance to get to know each other and I was blessed with such a lovely group, we were like a little family at the end of the trip...even heading out together when we got back to Darwin!
I absolutely loved this tour and highly recommend booking with Territory Expeditions! They are so friendly, and everything was so easy with them. I felt in capable hands the whole time, and the small groups make it more personal a trip!! Thanks Guys, I will remember my trip to Kakadu for years to come...Keep up the great effort!!

4  Thank Sami_a_1986
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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57 - 61 of 94 reviews

Reviewed September 22, 2013

Our family of four spent nine days in July 2013 touring Kakadu and the Top End of Australia in a small campervan, swimming, bushwalking, sightseeing and swimming some more. I hadn't expected a holiday in the Top End of Australia to be so aquatic, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Our trip took us in a loop from Darwin to Kakadu, Kakadu to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls, then to Litchfield National Park and back to Darwin.

It is possible to do the same trip in 7 days or less, but we wanted to be able to stay an extra day or two if we found a location we liked, and relax a little, rather than spend all our time on the road from one place to another. So we used 9 days (and we could easily have used ten.)

But first, the practicalities.

THE VAN

We chose the smallest van available that would sleep a family of 4 (two parents, two children aged 12 and 14). It had two double beds, a handbasin with running water, gas cooker, microwave and refrigerator, interior and exterior lights, and came equipped with bedding, plates and cutlery. You can see a schematic here:

http://www.apollocamper.com/campervan-hire-endeavour-camper.aspx

Important to know, is that the refrigerator, microwave, and water pump only run when the van is connected to external power. The fridge will keep cool on battery power when you are on the road, but will not be really cold or able to freeze items in the freezer. But even if you do not have external electricity, you can always boil water and cook meals on the gas stove.

TIP: Buy some freezer blocks at a supermarket and freeze them when you have power. When you don't, they will help keep your food cold, and you can also use them when you are out walking if you are taking fresh food for a picnic.

Our kids are experienced campers, and used to roughing it in tents, but they did find the sleeping conditions in the van quite challenging at first. Children sleep up top in the roof extension, and have about 20cm of space above their heads when they lie in the 'upstairs' bed. In Top End warm weather (the nights are about 20C or 70F), even with a small window on either side that they can open, it can be quite stuffy up there and if any mosquitos or insects get into the van, that's where they tend to gather. After a couple of days though everyone got used to the small sleeping space.

TIP: Save time by leaving the 'upstairs bed' set up. It is a great place to store luggage and dry goods while you are driving, and even with it up, there is ample headroom for children in the back. Otherwise you might be a bit tight for luggage space - there isn't really space for more than two large suitcases and few small day packs, unless you use the suggestion above. Most van rental companies will however let you store luggage at their premises while you are on the road.

The van was easy to drive and park with good visibility and handling. Because it is quite tall you have to be aware of the vehicle height in car parks and under bridges (2.6m or 8'6") and strong winds tend to give it a bit of a shove. The big driving challenge on Top End highways, as you will learn, is overtaking the 'road trains', which are huge semi-trailers (heavy haulers/articulated lorries) pulling between three and four wagons. They can be up to fifty metres or 160 feet long and overtaking in a campervan takes some patience as you need to wait for a nice long stretch of straight road with an overtaking lane to do it. But the road trains are limited to 100km/h or 60 mph, and the truck drivers are often helpful and will indicate to you when it is safe to overtake. The van we hired had enough power to be able to safely overtake these road trains.

We stuck to well made roads most of the trip, always marked as suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles, and all of the sites we visited were easily accessible in the van.

There are several campervan companies which hire out these vans, among them Britz and Apollo. Budget versions without the same interior fittings, but suitable for backpackers sharing costs, are available from Wicked.

TIP: if you are renting from Apollo as we did, allow a good amount of time (30 minutes or more) for check in and out. Staff are friendly, but rather 'relaxed'. And taxis in Darwin can take a long time to arrive, so you want to have at least 45 minutes to an hour if you are dropping off the van and trying to make a flight at the airport.

We rented from Apollo based on recent Tripadvisor recommendations and the process was trouble free, though of course there are always hidden costs in the small print. The van hire was $x per day, for unlimited kilometers or miles. On top of this however was the cost of insurance against damage both to your own vehicle or to other vehicles, and at Apollo this damage could include stone chips on paintwork, windscreens or tire damage. We took the top level of insurance which reduced our 'damage waiver' or deductible to about 200 AUD in the event of an accident and covered us against all types of damage, for about 35AUD a day. If you are happy to assume a higher level of deductible on the damage waiver, you can pay less.

But in the Top End, getting a stone chip on your paintwork or windscreen from a flying stone thrown up by another car or road train is not unusual, and could be costly if you don't insure against it. Apollo has a roadside service arrangement you can use at no cost if your vehicle breaks down, but if you need to use the service because you do something dumb (lose your keys, drive into a ditch) you will be charged. This could be up to a 150 AUD fee. You are given a mandatory first aid kit, but if you use it at all, you will be charged the 50 AUD cost, so take your own - you can buy them at camping stores or large supermarkets. The van has a small table inside suitable for two people, but if you are four, you will need to hire a folding table and chairs, which cost a one time fee of about 150 AUD. A GPS or sat nav unit (not really necessary, we found) costs about 50 AUD.

TIP: our standard camping 'first aid kit' is made up of the following - suntan lotion, insect repellent, cream for insect bites or sunburn, pain killers, plasters for small cuts, gauze and bandages for larger cuts, small scissors, spare matches or cigarette lighter, tweezers for splinters and a small first aid guide book. You should also make sure you have water bottles of at least a half litre, preferrably a litre, when you go walking. Everyone should have their own water bottle, including children or elderly, and make sure you hydrate regularly. Always bring more water than you think you will need when you are out walking, and a handful of energy bars - some places are so beautiful you might want to stay out longer than you planned. And bring hats, good hats that keep the sun off all round, not just baseball style caps.

Gasoline in the Top End is expensive. We were paying 175 to 177c a litre (in capital cities at the time it was about 160c a litre). In all we drove about 1500km and paid 400 AUD for gas.

TIP: If you are planning to go deeper into the park, take a spare gasoline container with you and keep it full, it is easy to underestimate how quickly the gas will be used driving on rough roads. Also, if you are going off the beaten track for a couple of days, make sure you have large containers for water. Your water pump runs on the car battery and will only work for a limited time. After this, if you wanted to pull water out of the van's water tank you would have to siphon it.

So, in total we paid $1500 for van rental for 9 days including full insurance, table and chairs and GPS. Oddly enough, it worked out to be almost exactly $1 per kilometer. With the 400AUD for fuel, this meant our total cost for van and accessory hire for 9 days was $1900 AUD. On top of this you need to add food for four, cost of tours and campgrounds, and of course souvenirs bought along the way.

TIP: You don't need a van, you could do this trip in a car and stay at cabins at most camping grounds, but these are limited so you would need definitely need to book ahead, and what you save by hiring a car instead of a van, you would need to factor in as extra accomodation and meal costs. But if you want the greater comfort of a car and don't plan to make your own meals, a car - station wagon or SUV - is an easy option too. And a Four Wheel Drive vehicle would enable you to go places a van can't.

CAMPING IN THE TOP END

There are great camp grounds at all tourist locations, but here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of the experience.

Book ahead if you can: if you have a good idea of your planned schedule, and where you want to stay, book at least a few days ahead if you want to secure a campsite with power. Most campgrounds, especially the larger commercial ones, take bookings. In the peak season (dry season, during school holidays) some of them don't, and some of the smaller ones will be booked out. The closer you are to Darwin, the higher the chance a campground will be 'sold out' if you just turn up and hope for a powered site. That said, it is usually possible to get an unpowered campsite without booking.

'Resort' does not mean luxury: A few of the campgrounds label themselves 'Resorts' which usually means they do have a pool and kiosk or shop...but read the reviews on Tripadvisor, because some will just have a small pool and sell canned food, while others will have a large, beautiful pool area and cafe or restaurant. We paid between 40AUD and 60AUD a night for powered campsites, and 30 - 40 AUD for unpowered sites. The highest fee was in Darwin, and did not equate to the best campground of our trip.

Get groceries that won't spoil: It is warm in the Top End and your fridge will keep things cool, but not chill foods on battery power. So if you are going to prepare your own meals here is a good shopping list of foods that don't require refrigeration: instant noodles, pasta, dried fruit, canned tomatoes, canned tuna, 'longlife' (ultra heat treated) milk and or sweetened condensed milk, cordial instead of fresh juice, cracker breads, pasteurised eggs, red wine or port. Get a cardboard box from the supermarket to keep it all together because the van has very limited cupboard space. Most campgrounds are near a grocery store or mini-market where you can buy fresh or frozen meat, vegetables and bread so you can buy these as you need them.

Be prepared for getting the most out of the landscape and wildlife: if you like looking at birds or crocodiles close up, take some small binoculars. There are literally dozens of opportunities for short (1 or 2 hour) or longer bush-walks throughout the Top End and as you'll see, the rewards if you are willing to burn a bit of shoe leather, are huge. So bring comfortable outdoor walking shoes, not just sandals. (That said, on one walk we were overtaken by a young couple who were barefoot...they looked pretty hard core though!)

Now, onto to the tour details:

DAY 1: DARWIN to JABIRU via Arnhem Highway (2.5 hours)

We flew into Darwin from Singapore at 6 am, had breakfast at the airport (there really is nowhere in arrivals but a very small cafe in the airport to buy food, so it is a boring place to kill time but we didn't want to waste money on a taxi into town and out again) and at 8 am picked up the campervan from Apollo when their office opened for the day. We were on the road to Jabiru by 8.45 am.

I recommend you do your grocery and tour supplies shopping at Casuarina Square on the way out of Darwin, and break up the trip to Jabiru with coffee or a snack break halfway at Mary River. This is a modern shopping center with easy parking where you can get groceries, but also any clothes and camping supplies you need.

Look for: on the highway out of Darwin, the huge termite mounds along the roadside, and black kites (big hawks) circling in the skies. Mary River has the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world, and has organised crocodile spotting tours if you have a couple of hours to spare.

Stay at: Aurora Kakadu campground, telephone 088 9790166. This is a commercial campground with good facilities including powered sites, free gas BBQs, clean toilets and hot showers, nice shady swimming pool and restaurant/bar. It has cabins but book ahead at peak times if you want one of these. You can pay your Kakadu Park visitor fee at the campground office (25 AUD for adults).

It was mid afternoon by the time we set up at the campground, and the kids spent the late afternoon at the swimming pool, then we made a barbecue dinner. If you wanted, and had time, you could also go into Jabiru and visit the Bowali information center.

DAY 2: JABIRU to COOINDA (Yellow Water) via Nourlangie Rock Art Site and Gubara rock pool.

At Jabiru, we visited the Bowali visitor center and got good advice about what to visit in Kakadu. We wanted to see some aboriginal rock art, and have a swim at a nice waterhole on the way to Cooinda.

Look for: rock art at Nourlangi, thousands of years old. Ask at the visitor center about times for ranger guided tours of the site and be sure to take the walk up to the escarpment for fantastic views. Also, if you are bushwalkers, enjoy a good bushwalk to the rockpool at Gubara. This was a 3 hour round trip walk, quite hot and dry for a lot of the walk, but flat and well marked, with many shady patches for resting up and having a drink of water. Not for very small children but easy walking for older children or adults. The walk is rewarded by a cool, isolated rock pool at the base of a small creek where you can swim and eat your packed lunch. This walk was a nice introduction to the landscape of Kakadu. Finish the day with a sunset cruise on the Yellow Water wetlands, looking at crocodiles, birds and other wildlife (call them and book your tour while you are driving...number below.) Our tour guide for the sunset cruise was mature, friendly, extremely knowledgeable and expert at spotting the wildlife.

Stay at: Gagadju Lodge, Cooinda (1800 500 401). A beautiful camping ground right next to Yellow Water which has it all - powered sites in shady well maintained grounds, nice toilets and showers, and a fantastic pool and cafe area where kids can spend hours swimming, and you can enjoy a freshly cooked meal and glass of wine or beer at the cafe. The Lodge can organise your cruise, day tours and other sightseeing trips for you. Great place to enjoy a freshly grilled Top End steak, or barramundi.

You could easily stay an extra day here, relax and enjoy the campground facilities, or take another cruise or sightseeing trip - we did!

DAY 3: COOINDA to KATHERINE GORGE via Gunlom Plunge Pool

Gunlom is one of the Kakadu locations you often see in tourist brochures, showing people frolicking in a still pool at the top of a waterfall overlooking the Kakadu landscape. It is definitely worth seeing, but they don't show you the road you need to take to get there! It was quite a teeth chattering ride.

Look for: the rock pool at Gunlom, which has a nice swimming hole at the base of its waterfall, and another at the top of the falls, which is worth the hike up the side of the falls to enjoy, and which gives you the iconic Kakadu view. Quite busy in the middle of the day when we were there, quieter early morning or late afternoon.

But, as I said, be prepared for a rough ride on the way in. The falls are about 30km off the main highway, and there is a patch of the unsealed road which is more like the bottom of a dried out creek bed, than a road, and the 30km took us about an hour to negotiate in our campervan as much of the journey was done at 20 km/h. We underestimated how slowly we would have to drive on this road, and also broke a few plates and glasses on the way in. It's not a dangerous road at all, just be sure you allow enough time to take it slowly!

Stay at: Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) caravan park (088 9710877). Although the town of Katherine itself has little charm, it is a good place to restock with groceries and gasoline before you go out to the Gorge, as there are a couple of large supermarkets in town.

Nitmiluk has a relaxed campground, with good facilities and especially nice swimming pool and cafe area where the house chef will prepare a BBQ meat or fish meal for you from fresh ingredients for a very reasonable price, right next to the swimming pool. I still remember my meal of freshly barbecued prawns with sweet chilli sauce, salad and nice glass of white wine, enjoyed on a beautiful warm evening watching the children chase each other around in the pool. Small wallabies hop between the campsites, kookaburas line the branches, and bower birds swoop between the trees looking for shiny treasures to decorate their nests, so don't leave your rings or baubles lying around in the open!

DAY 4: NITMILUK or KATHERINE GORGE AREA

You can easily spend a full day or more in the Nitmiluk park, walking, swimming, canoeing or joining an organised tour, including aerial tours of the beautiful gorge (canyon).

Look for: good advice and friendly Kookaburras at the Nitmiluk Visitor Center BUT BEWARE, ask for a Parks and Wildlife staff member to advise you. This visitor center has two desks, one staffed by the private 'Nitmiluk Tours' company, which seems to use foreign students or backpackers to staff the visitor center and their knowledge of the area is not as good as the Parks and Wildlife staff. In fact, we found it downright atrocious. One Nitmiluk Tours 'backpacker' employee in particular could not answer our questions about bushwalking in the area with any authority, as she had not done any of the walks herself. She also sent some acquaintances of ours off on a full day boat trip up the Gorge, without telling them they would need to bring their own lunch, and swimming gear.

We wanted to do a canoe trip in the morning, but these were booked out. Numbers are limited and book up quickly so if you can, call ahead and book your canoes if you want to do this (088 9711022).

TIP: You don't have to book at the visitor center, you can also book down at the tour office by the river, and they seem to know much better what they are talking about!

After being told by the Nitmiluk tours staff member that there were no short 1-2 hour walks to waterholes from the campground area, we spoke with some other guests and found out about a fantastic short walk to a beautiful waterhole called the 'Northern Rockpool'. Again, if you want authoritive information about walking in the Gorge area, ask a Parks and Wildlife staff member, or ask the staff down at the tour office by the river.

In the morning, we did the Northern Rockpool walk. This was one of the best experiences of the entire trip. For 7AUD a person, the tour boat staff will take you across the Katherine River to the north bank. From here, there is an easy 1 hour walk which leads through rainforest and then drier Kakadu country along an escarpment, into a small but very beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. We met virtually no one on this walk, and only had to share the waterhole with one other very nice couple, some curious fish and a large lazy water monitor (lizard). This walk is also the start of a much longer trail if you are more adventurous and want to camp out overnight.

Closer to the campground, there is also a small easy walk up about 100 steps, to a lookout near the visitor center, which you can turn into a longer 1 hour return walk by taking a 'loop' along the cliffs.

TIP: if you do the loop walk, go clockwise - left to right. This takes you up to the top of the cliffs via the steps, and then downhill by a long sloping path to the river again. If you go the other way, counterclockwise, instead of the steps, you have a long slow slog uphill which is not much fun on a hot day - and every day is a hot day in the Top End! But either way, at the top of the cliffs, be sure to look for the watertanks and have a nice drink of ice cold water.

In the afternoon we did a '2 Gorge' (2 hour) cruise of the Gorge. Though not cheap (75AUD adults, 40 AUD children), this cruise was worth it not just for the fantastic views of the canyon and river, but also for the running commentary given by the Aboriginal guide, who should have his own comedy show. An example of his humour: "People will tell you you can tell the difference between a saltwater crocodile and a freshwater crocodile by looking at their jaw. But actually the easiest way to tell the difference between a freshwater crocodile, and a saltwater crocodile, is to jump in the water. The freshie will be the one swimming away from you, while the salty will be the one coming at you."

We finished the day with a swim in the Gorge in the designated swimming area by the visitor center. While you should always be careful swimming in the Top End, the crocodile population in this part of the river is controlled by the Parks and Wildlife staff so that swimming is possible without having to worry about Saltwater Crocodiles.

TIP: A word on crocodiles and swimming in rock pools and rivers in the Top End: If you swim during the day, at the popular waterholes like the ones described in this guide, which are frequented by dozens or hundreds of tourists a day, and checked regularly by parks officers, you do not need to worry unduly. Don't be paranoid, just take the swimming signs seriously and don't swim in isolated areas which aren't patrolled.

But don't be stupid. Not long after we visited Kakadu, a young man and his friend camping at Mary River - remember, this is the area with the largest concentration of Saltwater Crocodiles in the world - dared each other to take a swim in the river at night. Sure enough, one of them was tragically attacked by a crocodile, and killed.

DAY 5 KATHERINE GORGE TO LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK via Edith Falls (Leilyn).

This is a long drive of about 300km which is nice to break up with a visit to Edith Falls, just north of Katherine, which is one of the most beautiful (but popular and busy) tourist sites in the Top End.

Look for: easy access to the beautiful falls and swimming hole at Edith Falls, without any strenuous walking. Just park within sight of the falls, swim, picnic and enjoy. We saw literally dozens of big black kites (hawks) circling the air above the falls, no doubt waiting for people to leave so they could check out the picnic grounds for leftovers.

We did have an idea that we might stay at the public camping ground at Edith Falls if there was a vacancy, but there wasn't. It is a rather small camping ground and talking to those who were there, I was told it fills up very quickly with 'regulars' in peak periods who come down from Darwin and surrounds. If you want to stay here, try to book, and book early.

If you wanted to further break the long drive from Katherine to Litchfield, you could take a side trip from Pine Creek (about halfway) to the Umbrawarra Gorge for a swim. Not being able to stay at Edith Falls put a little kink in our plans, but keen to get as close to Litchfield that day as we could, we drove until dusk and stayed overnight at a roadside motel at Pine Creek, enjoying the sinful luxury of sprung matresses and en-suite bathrooms...and drove to Litchfield early the next morning.

AT LITCHFIELD STAY AT: There are many camping grounds to choose from in the Litchfield park area - either commercial camping grounds near the town of Batchelor at the entrance to the park, or within the park itself. We chose to stay at one of the commercial campgrounds in Batchelor, both due to the time we arrived there (middle of the day) but also for convenience because Batchelor is a good place to stock up on food and other essentials. The General Store and gas station sells freshly baked bread rolls in the mornings but get there early, the sell out quickly! Most of the attractions in the Litchfield national park are within 1.5-2 hours drive of Batchelor so easy to reach for day trips.

DAY 6 AND 7: LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK

We spent two days in this fabulous park, and could have spent longer if we had the time. If you were visiting Darwin and had only one Park you could visit, for me it would be a toss up between Litchfield and Kakadu.

While Kakadu offers unparalleled wildlife and rock art experiences, Litchfield offers equally stunning natural beauty in a more compact and easy to traverse park.

Look for: Waterfalls, waterholes, picnic spots, walking and swimming. For example we went to Buley Rock Pools not once, but twice, because the family enjoyed it so much. The best way to describe Buley is this: if Walt Disney had created a fantasy wilderness swimming experience, it would look like Buley. The Rock Pools are a 200 metre long series of small cascading waterfalls which tumble down a tiny valley lined with shade trees where people sit, picnic, sun themselves and swim. For the adventurous there are rock ledges where the children can 'bomb' into deep water, and for those looking for relaxation, you can park yourself by a small waterfall or in a warm shallow pool with a magazine or book and just chill out. It gets busy in the middle of the day, but early in the morning, or by late afternoon, there were fewer people to contend with, even when we were there at the peak of the local school holidays.

Another thing to look for are the magnetic termite mounds. You will see the huge 5-
6 metre tall termite minds all over the Top End, but here they are a different kind, and there is a great interpretive information stop at one site just inside the park where you can learn about these natural wonders, and take your photo beside them.

Litchfield park is all about bush walking and waterfalls, and the two other great sites were visited were the Florence and Wangi falls. At Florence Falls we enjoyed a nice walk which takes you down a valley to the base of the double falls and back up again, with a refreshing swim along the way. It was here we had a close encounter with a pair of beautiful black tailed rock wallabies and it was a real joy to watch them jumping up a sheer cliff face with the grace and agility of Olympic gymnasts.

At Wangi we also did a nice easy 1 hour walk which takes you first through a patch of tropical rainforest, where we startled a wild boar who dashed off in a huff, then up an escarpment to the river feeding the falls, and back down again to the rainforest. It was an easy walk, well marked with good stairs and well suited to older walkers or those with young children, though not for wheeled strollers or prams. There is a good picnic ground here for lunch, and although they are attracted by the chance to scavenge, there was a stunning number of big Black Kites here and if you have a camera, this is a great place to take close up pictures of them diving and swooping through the air. The falls here are also double falls, with a huge pool at their base and the pool has a sandy bottom so you can wade out quite a long way. From midway out it is easy to swim right up to the falls and dive underneath them to enjoy the thrill of having the fresh cool water cascade around you. Our kids loved that.

DAY 8 and 9: DARWIN

Day 8 was spent driving back to Darwin, which is only about 2 hours away including a 'biological/coffee break', and if you had no more time, you could finish your trip here with a quick visit to some of the attractions in Darwin before you hand in your hire car and head to the airport. But we had timed our arrival so that we would be back in Darwin on one of the two nights when the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets are open (Thursdays and Saturdays).

Look for: great museum and gallery, Leanyer recreation park - a fantastic and free water fun park, Sunset Market and the Wave Pool.

We arrived in Darwin middle of the morning, and booked a spot in a commercial caravan park near the airport, which was fine.

Stay at: The caravan park all the locals recommend is actually the 'Freespirit' park, but this was booked out, so again, if you can book early, book this one. We found a spot at one of the other large commercial caravan parks, Discovery, which was functional and close to the city center, but nothing special, and the only powered spot available was a large caravan slot, so it was the most expensive fee on the whole trip at 60 AUD for the night.

We drove to the coast and had lunch at the Cornucopia cafe at the Darwin Museum and Art Gallery, and it was fantastic - fresh, delicious food served on a balcony overlooking the coast just up from Mindil Beach. The gallery has a lot to look at both in terms of local history, and especially aboriginal art, and we happily spent a few hours there before driving up the road to the Sunset Markets. The markets are in fact walking distance from the Museum, along a scenic coastal path.

The sunset market is always busy and during peak tourist period when we were there, it was humming. A brilliant blend of handcrafts, food stalls, entertainers and performers; you can spend the entire evening there, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset on the beach, right on queue, straight out of the tourist brochures. A highlight for us was watching a group of local aboriginal teens who had their own stall, and were creating and selling small artworks right on the spot. Fascinating to watch them at work, and the smaller works make an inexpensive authentic top end souvenir (35 AUD). Plus you have the satisfaction of knowing your money is going straight into the pocket of the artist, with no 'middleman.'

The next day we spent at the YMCA Leanyer Recreation Park at 215 Vanderlin Drive. This free park with splashpools and amusements for small children, swimming pools and three exciting waterslides is a unique collaboration between the Darwin local government and the YMCA, that local governments all over the world could learn from. Even during school holiday time, and though it was busy, it was well organised by on duty life guards so waiting times for the water slides were only a few minutes at a time. There is a large shaded area with picnic tables, and big grassed area for children to run around on. A cafe serves good coffee, cold drinks, ice creams and light meals.

After a couple of hours here we went to the new waterfront district, which is another easy place to while away a few hours. There is a swimming beach and grassy park with shady trees, but more importantly for the kids, a wavepool which generates artificial surf. For an entry fee of a few dollars, the kids can grab a knee board or a surf ring and ride the waves, which come in sets every fifteen minutes, with a nice break in between so the kids can get their breath back. The wavepool has professional lifeguards on duty both by the side of the pool, and in the water. While the kids were swimming, my wife and I enjoyed a cocktail and watched the sun go down, at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the pool.

We took a room at the nearby Vibe Hotel for convenience, and after freshening up, we went out to eat. (It was nice to be able to take a civilised shower after all that camping, and we napped in the room to prepare ourselves for our mid-night flight.)

The waterfront has several modern restaurants to choose from and all of them were buzzing with customers, but we didn't have to book. We got a nice table outside in the cool evening air by the beach, and had a lovely meal - a great way to cap off the trip and be ready for the overnight flight out of Darwin.

Conclusion

We took our time doing this Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine, Litchfield loop trip and you could certainly do it in less time if you were happy to do more driving, and sacrifice the ability to stay an extra day along the way, as we did.

You could also spend more time - there were dozens of locations along the way we didn't visit which offer alternative sites for rock art, organised tours, bushwalking and swimming.

It was a fantastic trip I would recommend to any outdoors loving family.

42  Thank Fred W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 19, 2013

We stayed at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat for our trip to Kakadu. We couldn't have been happier. The staff go beyond customer service and made our stay so much more that we expected. The relaxed atmosphere and spacious grounds and facilities, the wildlife; all we could say was wow!!! We will be back there to finish the sights in that area. Rogan and team,,,10 stars.

Thank Julrich1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 17, 2013

We travelled with Kings and in their advertising is shows you travelling in a large tour bus but on the day of our trip they arrived in small Toyota Bus ans we were crammed into the back corner seat with no room for your legs ( and I am short ) this trip was 13 hours so this was not acceptable at all. We were very tired and annoyed at the end of of and did not enjiy thr ride at all and felkt we were "cheated" in some way.
The park itself, fabulous and inlcuded a crusie on yellow river to see the crocs and bird life and sthe lunch was very good and the only bright thing of the tour was the driver, fantastic, really hadthe knowledge of just about any subject and was great.

4  Thank Neil D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 5, 2013

In March of 2013 we visited NZ and Australia. While staying in Darwin, we took a two day excursion through AAT Kings. Absolutely incredible tour. There were many options available but we only had 2 days so we picked the Kakadu and East Alligator River tour. The park is huge, 20,000 sq Kilometers. You could spend a week there. We had one overnight and stayed at the Aurora Kakadu, sort of a "wilderness accomodation experience". Nothing special, but spacious, neat, clean, pool, cold beer, wine and small but nice menu. Wallabies in the wild are plentiful at dawn and dusk. Hiking was great, a lot of culture to soak in but the highlight for me was the Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the Adelaide River. I figured this to be a tourist trap but anything but !!! An hour and a half boat trip (30') in the wild with 14' crocs 1/2 out of the water 10' from the side of the boat. No zoom lens needed. Very safe and VERY entertaining.

In short, just fantastic !

3  Thank Jack B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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