Turns out we end up spending the longest time in one place in Darwin whilst staying at my second cousins property in McMinns Lagoon. On an acre or so and only 30 minutes south of Darwin city it is in a great spot for us to make base camp and explore what the top end has to offer. At the very beginning of our trip we didn’t intend on really staying in Darwin for long at all, maybe a day or two to see some friends. Once we decided to extend our trip and fly back to Brisbane from Darwin for Hollys nannas 70th it meant we were going to be there for a couple of days either side of our trip and that was it.
On our way to Darwin in Pine Creek we spot signs for Fireworks at the small roadside shops, I was instantly in the first store trying to buy some and figured out that just over a week away was Territory Day and the one day a year in the NT you can buy fireworks and let them off. As we drive closer to Darwin we pass the Noonamah Pub and it has a sign for a rodeo the day before Territory Day! This is a remote pub with a permanent rodeo arena, a real deal outback rodeo. Holly and I look at each other in excitement and start to re-calculate how we can stay longer in Darwin to experience these two massive days in the NT calendar as well. So now we have arrived in Darwin on Tues 19th June and Fly back to Brisbane on the Thursday Morning red eye flight, before returning real late Monday Night the 25th. We have our crazy, jam packed weekend back home with family and friends and had an awesome time celebrating Holly’s Nannas 70th at the Southport Yacht Club.
We now we have the whole week in Darwin with the Rodeo (30th June) and Territory Day (1st June) held over the weekend. We then realised we underestimated how much more we could see and do around Darwin, but also take the time to relax before our last busy leg of the trip.
Our only real reason originally for stopping in Darwin was to see Rob, Holly’s family friend. He is street performing at the Mindil markets twice a week so we were super keen to see this. Rob has given us the heads up on some things to see and do around Darwin. We take his advice check out Litchfield national park, only 1 and half hours from our base camp, pack the troopy to stay overnight at Robs place . We had picked out 3 spots to see in Litchfield NP and it was easily accessible to all vehicles, bitchumen roads up to car parks and short walks to each swimming spot.
Beautiful clear fresh water to swim in under a ripper waterfall, it was a great way to cool off after our little hike around the top of the waterfall. Probably wouldn’t do the loop hike again though wasn’t really worth it the climb.
Had lunch at this spot but it was pretty busy so we decided not to swim here and to walk around and check it out. This place would be awesome if you came real early and had it to yourself, a number of pools and small falls winding down the stream.
Another great swimming spot below a waterfall, the water is not cool here but it definitely not warm either just a nice refreshing temperate which has been a good change as recently all the freshwater has been freezing on our swims through Karijini and The Kimberleys. As we are getting out a bloke is feeding the fish in the water.
So we have smashed out Litchfield in a day, you could spend more time here, take it slower and or see more things but we reckon we got a good enough idea and were satisfied with what we saw.
We end the day at Robs place at the Coomalie creek RV Park which backs onto Coomalie creek. Rob takes us for a paddle in a little tinny down the river before we have a few beers and laughs into the night.
On the way back from Robs place we stop into Berry Springs. Real easy to get to on the way home so we thought we may as well stop in for a swim. A big swimming hole fed from lukewarm spring water.
Thursday night we hit up the Mindil Markets to see Robs act and many of the other live performers. These markets are right on the beach and are packed with awesome street food, to top it off you are allowed to bring in your own esky, have some beers while walking around the markets, before finding a spot on the beach to watch a perfect sunset over the ocean.
Holly gets some inspiration from the markets and decides to face paint at the Friday night markets in Palmerston City. Palmerston is the next biggest town up this way after Darwin and even closer to our base camp in Mcminns Lagoon.
Saturday Night is rodeo night and we end up getting a lift with Warren & Joan, a couple which are also staying at the property in their van. Turns out they are from Buccan as well, seriously!! The rodeo is awesome, packed with people and full of energy.
Territory day has arrived so we head to the shops to buy some fireworks to let off tonight.
After Holly’s success at the Friday night markets she is keen to face paint on the Sunday night markets at Mindil, they will be having a massive Territory day celebration there. I just end up walking around the markets, trying my hardest not to spend all holly’s earning on street food and listening to live music they have on a purpose built stage on the beach.
Home town rising star Baker Boy gets the crowd pumped while the sun sets, Neil Finn and his band hit the stage later on.
After all the live music there is a professional fireworks finale setoff over the water, with the beach packed with people the atmosphere is unreal and the fireworks show seems to go on forever. Well I guess that is true really as by this time of the night as far as the eye can see people are setting off their own fireworks and it is starting to get crazy!!
Holly has done a great job and we pack up her little stall before walking the beach with some beers and joining the crazy crowd letting of fireworks on the beach out the front of the star casino.
Monday morning comes; we pack up and hook up the van to head off south. We have had a great time at this spot and cannot thank Colin and Jane enough for having us at their place (even though they weren’t really there, they were living it up in Europe). Warren and Joan have been great company and were kind enough to drop us off and pick us up from the airport (even a stupid times), we look forward to catching up with them once we get back home – side note Warren bloody caught a 1m+ Barra at Timber Creek only weeks before we arrived in Darwin, they have a sick setup with their boat on the back of a small truck that tows their van!
Now we have left Darwin but have one more stop to explore before making a beeline to Uluru. One of the tough calls for us was if we were going to do Kakadu OR Litchfield National park. Litchfield is close enough to where we were based to do a day trip but Kakadu was a few hours away and bloody huge. You could easy spend a week in Kakadu no dramas. We decide that we have to see both but didn’t have that much time so could only afford to do one jam packed day in each. You can entre Kakadu from the north via the Arnhem Highway which starts actually right near Collins place at Humpty Doo, or via the south entrance near Pine Creek. If we had time we would have entered from the north and made our way through the National park before exiting at the southern entrance but due to our tight schedule we just duck in from the southern entrance, drop the van off at a free roadside stop before shooting into the National Park. It’s about an hour drive on the bitumen before we pull off the main drag and hit the dirt. Unless you are in a hire car and don’t care about destroying it you probably want a 4WD to explore Kakadu as the dirt roads are pretty corrugated. We drop the pressure in our tires 10 PSI in the front and rear to help smooth the ride before flying down 36km of dirt road to the first stop Gunlom falls.
From the bottom of the falls it doesn’t blow you away but once you tackle the short but steep climb to the top of the falls it is a pretty epic sight with a natural infinity pool perched on the edge of the cliff.
We explore further and further up the stream and it just keeps getting better.
Gunlom is pretty cool and it is hard for us to leave but we know we still have one more spot we want to see today. Back down the dirt road and onto the bitumen we head further into the national park. Again you have to duck off the bitumen this time only about 10kms. There is a 1km hike to get to the bottom of the waterfalls with a pretty spectacular swimming hole but we had seen some pictures taken from the top of these falls so up we head again to climb to the top. It is getting late in the day now and we have the top of the falls all to ourselves and this place is seriously cool, I think one of the best we have been to yet.
We stretch out our time here as long as we possibly can, probably a little too long now as we just making it back to the car as the sun is going down and have a 1.5hr drive back to the van in the dark. We have our eyes peeled checking for wildlife of the road in the dark and luckily we were on the ball as we come over a ridge to see dark shape in the middle of the road ahead, a wild water buffalo that doesn’t want to move, luckily we saw him in time as he would of made a mess of everything.
Kakadu is on this list to visit again for next time that is for sure, this place is right up our alley. Because it is more remote and requires a 4WD it wasn’t as busy as Litchfield and there were short, more difficult hikes which we enjoy tackling before cooling off in the fresh water pools. There are plenty of places to camp in the National park as well as caravan parks but there are fees attached for park entry and camping (not cheap). This free spot we have picked to stay is only really good if you are doing a quick trip in, you wouldn’t want to drive in and out from here every day but it serves its purpose for us just fine.
Camp Location: Harriet Creek Rest Area, Burrundie
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: McMinns Lagoon
Distance Travelled: 218 kilometres
We then start to make our way to Alice Springs; it will take us about 3 days from here with a couple of attractions to stop off at but most of our time being spent behind the wheel driving big days.
Just wanted to thank Uncle Dave & Aunty Barb for putting in the good word for us and sorting out our stay at Collins in Mcminns Lagoon. Aunty Barb is in the midst of a tough battle with cancer, we are thinking of you and sending love and prayers your way. Hope you are well enough soon to get back up and enjoy Darwin.