Darwin is packed full of history, art, great-tasting food, laid-back locals, markets, warm weather, plenty of places for a drink and up-close encounters with crocs – either in the harbour or at Crocosaurus Cove. You’d be forgiven for wanting to stick around the Northern Territory capital, but don’t miss out on these outstanding day trips when you’re in the Top End.
Your heart will leap into your mouth when one of these leaps out of the water. Image: Getty
Known for its jumping croc cruises, which take place just over an hour’s drive from Darwin, the Adelaide River is home to all manner of wildlife, including water birds, salt and freshwater crocs, bull sharks, wild buffalo and pigs, plus some nice barramundi. The jumping crocs, who launch themselves out of the water to catch meat, include the likes of 5.5-metre, three-legged Brutus. Be aware that the cruises stop during the wet season, which can be between November and April, when the river swells with monsoonal rains.
Kakadu National Park
The top of Gunlom waterfalls in Kakadu forms nature's own infinity pool. Image: Getty
The World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, about 1.5 hours’ drive south-west of Darwin, is the largest national park in Australia, covering almost 20,000 square kilometres. It has been inhabited continuously for more than 50,000 years, with Aboriginal rock art up to 20,000 years old recording its history. Its complex ecosystem includes tidal flats, floodplains, lowlands and plateaux, and more than 280 bird and 2,000 plant species. Keep an eye out for one of the 10,000 resident crocs, or take a ranger-guided walk. More than half the park is Aboriginal land, and traditional owners manage it in partnership with Parks Australia.
Corroboree Billabong has the highest concentration of saltwater crocs. Image: Getty
The beautiful Corroboree Billabong has the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world. Part of the Mary River wetlands, it’s about 1.5 hours’ drive west of Darwin. You can cruise the billabong and wetlands, spotting crocs and an enormous variety of birds such as jabiru, ibis, brolga, egret, kite, sea eagle and magpie geese. The vibrant greens of the water lilies will surprise you, and the sunsets are nothing short of extraordinary.
Litchfield National Park
Termite mounds get rather big in Litchfield National Park. Image: Getty
This national park a 1.5-hour drive south of Darwin is a must-see if you’re in the Top End. From huge, magnetic termite mounds to monsoon rainforest, crystal-clear waterholes, cascading waterfalls and sandstone escarpments, it’s the Aussie Outback at its best. It has several short walks for day-trippers, plus the more challenging 39-kilometre Tabletop Track if you have more time, along with four-wheel-driving trails. Stop in the township of Batchelor on the way.
Artwork is an important part of an Aboriginal burial site on Melville Island. Image: Getty
Nicknamed the ‘Islands of Smiles’, the Tiwi Islands sit 80 kilometres north of Darwin, about a 2.5-hour ferry ride across the Arafura Sea. Get a fascinating glimpse of the traditional lifestyle and art of the two main islands – Bathurst and Melville. Meet artists and watch them paint, weave and sculpt at an art centre; throw in a line for some world-class fishing; or take a tour with an Indigenous guide to explore the islands’ rainforests, cliffs, beaches and waterholes. AFL is also huge here, and the grand footy final is something special.
* Featured image: The luminous Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park. Image: Getty