Roadtrip through the Top End National Parks. Considered one of Australia’s great roadtrips, Nature’s Way is a loop taking in Kakadu, Nitmiluk and Litchfield National Parks and recognised as the best of the Top End National Parks.
The round trip is approximately 1,000 kilometres suitable for 2WD vehicles.
With so many amazing National Parks in the Top End, it’s no wonder they designed a road-trip to take in the best of the best.
Have you come to the Top End to experience our culture, our wildlife and our extraordinary scenery?
Take Nature’s Way to tour the Top End National Parks
Drive yourself on a holiday of a lifetime. Nature’s Way takes you on a road trip loop taking in some of the best scenery in the Top End National Parks.
Your roadtrip will start by driving east to world-famous Kakadu National Park before heading south to Katherine to explore the stunning Nitmiluk National Park. The last leg of your roadtrip will take you through Litchfield National Park on the way.
We recommend you take at least a week to truly enjoy the loop so have included our 7 day itinerary recommendations to enjoy Nature’s Way.
Arrive into Darwin
- Fly into Darwin on your favourite airline. Qantas, Virgin and Ryan air fly into Darwin daily
- Arrive on the Ghan, the rail train from Adelaide.
- Hire a car or drive your own on this Territory adventure..
Day 1 – 3: Darwin to Jabiru – Kakadu National Park
Accommodation in Jabiru:
Start your roadtrip from Darwin, the Northern Territory’s multicultural capital by taking the Arnhem Highway towards World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
There are a number of things to do and places to explore so check out our post Escape to Kakadu National Park for what to do and the not-to-miss sights in Kakadu.
One of my favourite things to do is to climb Ubirr Rock (it’s an easy climb). Expect an extraordinary sunset over this Arnhem Land escarpment. If you’re an early morning person, sunrise is just as spectacular and likely to be less crowded. Allow time to exlore the ancient Aboriginal Art around Ubirr Rock.
Start with a visit the Bowali Cultural Centre and take the cultural discovery tour to learn about the custodians of this land and it’s importance to the Bowali people.
Explore ancient Aboriginal rock art at Nourlangie Rock, to see an abundance of wildlife including the stunning Rainbow Bee Eaters.
Take one of the walking trails to Gunwarddehwarde Lookout overlooking the escarpment and visit the magnificent Anbangbang Billabong.
Take a Yellow Water billabong cruise on a billabong fringed by pandanus, paperbark swamps and monsoon rainforest. The cruise will take you through wetland waterways where you’ll see a range of wild buffalo, saltwater crocodiles and thousands of unique birds as the sun sets in the distance.
For the more adventurous – take a tour to magnificent Gunlom Falls, Maguk Gorge, Jim Jim Falls or Twin Falls.
A reminder: if you’re swimming in the Top End, always ‘be crocwise’ and check the signs before swimming to make sure it is safe to take a dip.
Read more: The 6 seasons of Kakadu
Day 4 – 6: Drive to Katherine via Pine Creek
Accommodation in Katherine
Drive south approximately 3 hours towards Pine Creek en-route to Katherine and Nitmiluk National Park.
Historic Pine Creek is still an active gold mine. The township is slightly off the Stuart Highway but is a good place to stop for lunch and visit the Railway Museum, the Old Repeater Station and the Mining exhibition.
Stop in for a swim at Leliyn – Edith Falls is on the western side of Nitmiluk National Park. The lush, grassy campsites make Edith Falls an idyllic spot for camping and a great place to stay a few days.
The large pandanus-fringed natural swimming hole is perfect to relax in at the base of the falls. Walking trails take you up to the swimming holes above Edith Falls which are well worth the walk.
Katherine is a short 60 kilometres drive further south along the Stuart Highway.
Katherine township is the gateway to Nitmiluk National Park. Nitmiluk National Park is on the lands of the Jawoyn people and has some of Australia’s most stunning scenery and bush walks throughout the gorge.
Stop in for a swim in Katherine’s Hot Springs in the centre of town. These crystal clear water pools are at the tepid temperature of 32 degrees all year round.
Read more: Things to do while visiting Katherine.
Visit the Nitmiluk Cultural Centre for an excellent presentation of early settlement history in the Katherine region and cultural artifacts and souvenirs.
Nitmiluk Gorge is also known as Katherine Gorge and is laced with cascading waterfalls and imposing sheer rock cliff faces towering some 70 metres above. Here you will find some of the Territory’s best adventure activities such as canoeing, bushwalking, gorge cruises, swimming and camping out under the stars.
Take a sunset cruise up the gorge to see the vivid colours on the sandstone walls of the gorge reflecting the intensity of the setting sun. The colours will literally take your breath away!
Cutta Cutta Caves
About 20 minutes drive south of Katherine town is Cutta Cutta Caves. Inside the caves you’ll see sparkling limestone formations of stalactites and stalagmites and several species of bats including the rare ghost and leaf-nosed bats.
Day 7: Drive from Katherine to Litchfield National Park
The drive to Darwin is approximately 3 hours from Katherine.
Stop into the Adelaide River Hotel for an early lunch on your way to Litchfield Park. Charlie the buffalo from the Crocodile Dundee movie is behind the bar – stuffed of course!
This is a great little roadside pub with great value steaks, barra and buffalo burgers served with loads of friendly, outback hospitality.
Litchfield National Park waterholes are generally crocodile free but monitored closely – just in case!
Exploring Litchfield National Park
Several major freshwater swimming holes are scattered through Litchfield National Park fed by beautiful waterfalls. Most will be open for swimming year round.
You can visit all of the most spectacular ones on a day drive from Darwin and most are 2WD accessible.
The first thing you’ll see when you enter the park is a large group of “magnetic” termite mounds – 2m-high blades, all aligned north-south to keep the inside of the mound cool against the heat of the sun.
Enjoy a refreshing swim in the cascading pools of Buley Rockhole. A chain of spa-like pools linked by small waterfalls. It’s one of the most popular places to swim the park. Wade through the pools, absorb the scenic bush surrounds or sit and relax, as the cool water rolls over your shoulders. Open for most of the year.
Take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters of the pool and enjoy the scenic walk to the viewing platform high above the falls for panoramic views of the open valley and the waterhole below.
One of the most spectacular falls in Litchfield National Park. It cascades over two high escarpments into one deep plunge pool. A short walk takes you to a viewing platform at the top of the waterfall. From here you can take the 800 metre walk – an easy walk that takes about 45 minutes. Swimming is not permitted above the falls.
Where two waterfalls cascade into a very large plunge pool set amid the rainforest. It is the most popular of the swimming holes, and includes wheelchair access into the water.
4WD-only track to the Lost City a group of fantastically-shaped eroded sandstone towers.
Litchfield to Darwin – 1.5 hours drive time
Accommodation in Darwin city
Travel back the way you came into Litchfield for the easiest way back to Darwin, or take the unsealed loop back to the city (recommended 4×4 only). Its unsealed and may be inaccessible in the wet season, but it’s very pretty with several shallow creek crossings.
Don’t miss another magical sunset … pin this for later.
The national parks in the Top End are accessible, pristine and spectacular. You will see rare native plants and spot unique birds and animals in the wild. Swim in the natural swimming holes or take an Aboriginal cultural tour to learn more about this land.
You will love your Nature’s Way road-trip though the best Top End National Parks!