Found: the outback’s best waterholes
Take the plunge in this under-the-radar national park.
Words by Ute Junker
There is no better place to go chasing waterfalls than Litchfield National Park. Just 90 minutes from Darwin, Litchfield is just as spectacular as the better-known Kakadu National Park but gets far fewer visitors. Sprawling over 1500 square km, Litchfield is a place of soaring sandstone escarpments and steep gorges, studded with waterfalls and croc-free swimming spots.
What you should add to your itinerary will depend on your vehicle. Some of the best-loved spots, including Wangi Falls and Buley Rockhole, can be accessed by two-wheel drive, and you will also be able to reach many of the scenic walking trails.
If you are travelling by four-wheel drive, more options open up, including the little-visited Surprise Creek Falls and the otherworldly rock formations known as The Lost City. You may also want to tackle a section of the mighty Tabletop Track, a 39km hike that includes a number of secret waterfalls.
Simply hanging for a swim? Our favourite places to take the plunge are listed below.
Dive in: On a steamy Top End day, Florence Falls is the waterhole you are dreaming of. Set on a valley floor, ringed by a lush monsoon forest and fed by twin waterfalls, this ever-inviting pool is the perfect place to cool off. You will hear the roaring cascades well before you see the water: just go slow as you enter, watching for the rocks that sit just below the water’s surface.
Family favourite: Children of all ages love the Buley Rockhole, where the run-off from a series of rapids gathers in shallow depressions. You can find the spot that suits your level of comfort – there are even places where toddlers can safely play while the water ripples over their feet. You will find a few deeper holes towards one end of the rapids. Unsurprisingly, this is one of Litchfield’s most popular destinations.
Take a hike: It’s a bit of a walk to Tjaetaba Falls – 1.5km straight uphill from Greenant Creek – but the upside is that you when you finally get there, you may have the place to yourself. And if you do, it’s pure magic. Atop a high plateau, a series of cascading pools set beneath a waterfall offers one of the best views in the park. Skip the top pool, which is filled with riverweed, and settle yourself into the second one instead. Give this one a miss after heavy rains, when high water volumes make it a dangerous place for a dip.