Litchfield National Park, located 120kms south of Darwin, is noted for its waterfalls cascading from escarpments into plunge pools, deep prehistoric-looking forests and thousands of six-foot-high termite mounds. During the wet season, four major waterfalls thunder from the cliffs into tropical rock pools many metres below. During the dry season, the waterfalls flow more gently, making the waterholes perfect spots for a cool dip.

I visited Litchfield National Park on a campervanning holiday with my family a few years ago and couldn’t wait to return during this trip to Darwin. My previous visit took place at the end of the wet season and Wangi Falls were still closed for swimming. Although we were able to walk down to the waterfall and take a look, it wasn’t safe to go into the water. This time I am determined to finally go for a swim here.

Our driver and guide pulls up in front of the Hilton Darwin at 7.15am, and invites us to take a seat in the flash AAT Kings 4WD bus. While the bus can take around 30 passengers, we end up having just five which makes it feel as if we are on a fancy, private tour.

AAT Kings 4WD bus

We leave Darwin and follow the Stuart Highway to Litchfield National Park via the township of Batchelor, with a stop along the way to buy a cool drink at a cafe and meet the friendly olive python who lives there. It takes around an hour and 20 minutes to reach the National Park from Darwin but interesting commentary makes the time fly by. This is one major advantage of doing a tour. On my last visit, I read up on Litchfield National Park before we visited, but this was nowhere near as enjoyable or informative as having a knowledgeable guide who shares interesting facts and stories along the way.

Meeting a friendly local near Batchelor

Our first stop is the famous termite mounds where walking trails have been built so visitors can get a great look (and some great photos) of this intriguing natural phenomena. Termites build the towering mounds so they can stay above the water when the National Park floods each year. The north-south alignment of the mounds act as a temperature regulator, allowing the temperature inside the mounds to remain stable throughout the day.

Viewing platforms at the termite mounds

Looking out at the termite mounds

Many of the termite mounds are larger than this one

Next we stop at Florence Falls. Visitors can usually go a refreshing swim by making their way down the stairs (there are a lot of them!) to the plunge pool at the base of the falls. I did this with my family on our last visit but this time the stairs are closed for maintenance work. Instead, our guide takes us to another nearby swimming hole where we climb into crystal clear, cool water and giggle as tiny fish tickle our legs.

Looking down at Florence Falls

Swimming at the waterhole near Florence Falls

Lunch is a help-yourself buffet of cold meat, salads and fruit at the Wangi Falls kiosk. After lunch, my wish comes true and I finally get to swim here. There is a small sandbar, around half way towards the smaller falls, where you can stand up and take photographs. There has been some rain prior to our visit and the falls are magnificent. Definitely a case of good things come to those who wait.

Wangi Falls

I finally got to swim at Wangi Falls!

When we arrive at our last stop, Tolmer Falls, the sweeping view shows how the National Park is enclosed by the Tabletop Range, a wide sandstone plateau mostly surrounded by cliffs. Tolmer Falls lookout offers magnificent views of water cascading down to the deep waterhole at the base of the falls which is closed to the public as this area is home to a colony of rare, tiny bats. Litchfield National Park is full of surprises.

View of the Tabletop Range from Tolmer Falls lookout

Tolmer Falls

Disclosure: The writer visited Litchfield National Park as a guest of AAT Kings.