In the rivers, billabongs and waterholes of the Top End there is pretty much one simple rule: don’t swim unless you want to become a crocodile snack. Thankfully, the waterfalls and river pools of Litchfield National Park are the exception to this. Here, there are several major freshwater swimming holes fed by beautiful waterfalls, most of which are open for swimming and almost all accessible by conventional 2WD vehicles. You can visit all of the most spectacular ones on a day drive from Darwin.
The first thing you’ll see when you enter the park is a large group of “magnetic” termite mounds – 2m-high blades, all aligned north-south to keep the inside of the mound cool against the heat of the sun.
The road now climbs to the top of the Tabletop escarpment, making access to the waterfalls that plunge over its edge relatively simple. Buley Rockhole is the first turn-off: a chain of spa-like pools linked by small waterfalls. It’s one of the most popular places to swim the park. Next stop is Florence Falls, where you can walk to a platform that looks out over the twin falls and plunge pool, and a few kilometres on is the 4WD-only track to the Lost City, a group of fantastically-shaped eroded sandstone towers.
Continue on, stopping to look out over Tolmer Falls, to Wangi Falls, where two waterfalls cascade into a very large plunge pool set amid rainforest. It is the most accessible (and popular) of the swimming holes, and includes wheelchair access into the water.
From Wangi Falls, head north-west back to Darwin. This road is unsealed and may be inaccessible in the wet season, but it’s very pretty with several shallow creek crossings.
Distance // About 315km return from Darwin.
Getting there // Litchfield is about 100km south-west of Darwin, via Batchelor.