Man, have I ever settled into the Northern Territory lifestyle. I’m loving the top end watering holes and wildlife.
And being outdoors most of the day and night has a lot going for it. While staying at my sister and brother-in-law’s place I spent a little time indoors to catch up on Game of Thrones and some Aussie Rules football (the outside TV doesn’t have Foxtel). But most of the time was outdoors.
It’s the dry season in the Northern Territory and I’m told the weather has been a lot warmer than usual. When I dropped the Journo off at Darwin Airport at around 1am a few weeks back, the temperature was 28 degrees (celsius). All this great weather gave me a great opportunity to get out and do a bit of sightseeing, starting with some Top End watering holes and wildlife. Before the Journo left we managed to get out and do a couple of day trips to Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge. I continued the exploring after she left.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is about a one and a half-hour drive from Darwin. You could spend days wandering around looking at the scenery. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time, which didn’t allow us to explore much, but this place is on my list to go back to. Especially Wangi Falls. This area has camping facilities, toilets and a barbecue and I think a full day here, would be a day well spent.
As with all water in the Territory, it is wise to read all the signs posted around and take heed of what they say. Rangers search here at the start of the dry season, looking for saltwater crocs that may have entered the watering hole during the wet. But once the all-clear is posted, get the swimming gear on (or go nude if you’re game – though I’m not sure that’s legal) and go for it.
When we were there the water temperature was perfect, the clarity of the water fantastic and to sit or swim there with the water falling onto the rocks on the far side was just magic.
Then finish the day with a few snags (sausages for the uninitiated) cooking on the barbie (barbecue) and a beer in your hand. It just about sums up a perfect day.
Nitmiluk Gorge (Katherine Gorge)
A couple of days after our trip to Litchfield we headed off to Katherine, some 320 kilometres south of Darwin, on the Stuart Highway — the road to the Red Centre.
As you pass through town on the left, there is a tourist information centre, where you can book a boat trip into Nitmiluk Gorge, commonly known as Katherine Gorge. The 30 kilometre road trip off the main road and into Nitmiluk National Park is definitely worth your time.
During the dry season the the water is low and to see all three gorges you boat up stream then get out and walk a little distance between gorges then get into another boat. The walk isn’t too bad but can get hot, so time your visit to suit the temperature. There are two walks to do if you want to do all three gorges, and of course, the same two on the way back. We only did two gorges on our trip.
This place also has crocs in it, so again, read the signs. We did manage to see a couple of freshies (fresh water crocodiles) here. As with Litchfield, the rangers check for salties and move them out when they find them. No swimming or kayaking is permitted until the area is cleared of salt water crocs.
Our boat skipper was very informative and the commentary well worth a listen.
The beauty here speaks for itself with colourful rock walls lined in different spots with pandanus and other native fauna, as well as crystal clear water. It just doesn’t get any better if you like to travel at a slow pace.
Now, an alternative to the snail pace is a 400 horse power boat ride during the wet, when the river has risen. This has my name written all over it. I’ll be coinciding my next visit to coincide with that time of the year.
These two watering holes are worth the effort to do, so if you are up in the Northern Territory and around Darwin way, do yourself a favour and beg, steal, borrow or hire a car and go for a look.
Shady Camp is another place I visited, situated on the Mary River about 140 kilometres east of Darwin, off the Arnhem Highway.
This area is a camping and fishing spot, with a toilet block the only amenities.
The water here is definitely a no-go zone as it is inhabited by four to five metre salties, with plenty of their smaller friends nearby. The water here is tidal and rises and falls several metres, so to get the full picture plan a minimum 12-hour stay.
On the way in or out of here — also on the Mary River — is a place called the Rock Hole (look out for the sign) and we dropped in for a look.
If it’s quiet there with not too much boat traffic you may see a few more big crocs.
It’s advisable to carry insect repellent in these places as the mozzies here are the size of WWII fighter planes.
On the way out towards the Alice, is a place called Howard Springs Nature Reserve, just a few kilometres off the main drag. If anyone is looking for a day trip with children, here is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.
There’s a children’s playground to keep them occupied, as well as a local billabong alive with turtles, some water snakes and fish — including the mighty barramundi (some up to a metre long). They are protected here, unfortunately for me, as I was desperate to catch a big barra before leaving the NT.
Beer watering holes
Out this way there is another type of watering hole, which usually doesn’t have a lot of water in it, but serves up a nice cold beer. The Humpty Doo Tavern, Bark Hut Inn and Corroboree Park Inn are all places I dropped into — not to have a drink Journo, just to look at the memorabilia on the walls.
The Corroboree Park Inn has a resident four-metre croc, which you’re allowed to pat — said the armless man, who has done it twice.
When out this way keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as there is so much to see. Snakes, goannas, birds, wallabies, bufaloes and brumbies (wild horses).
This olive python was caught in the cat trap in my sister’s chicken coop. And it was released back into the wild, heading up a tree pretty quickly.
In another watering hole it was so hot and the air-conditioning wasn’t working and the wildlife had to serve drinks with their tops off. So I had to sit there with my eyes closed not drinking until a patron who was leaving could walk me out because I couldn’t find the exit.
Now my time in the Top End has come to an end and still no barra, so it means another trip (maybe during the wet) to rectify this. But I will be back without a doubt.
So anyone thinking of going to Oz, do yourselves a favour and spend some time in the Northern Territory.
I also want to say a huge thanks to my sister Jenny and her hubby Ian for allowing me to stay at their house at Humpty Doo.
And for the use of Jenny’s motorbike and the few trips I did with Ian and his bike club to view all the watering holes and billabongs.
So, if you get a chance — head up to the Northern Territory and explore the Top End watering holes and meet the wildlife. As they say in the old ads — “You’ll never, never know if you never, never go”.