Litchfield National Park is a popular stop on any Northern Territory’s Top End road trip. Home to stunning waterfalls and incredible swimming holes, Litchfield is a must-see national park outside of Darwin. The park covers 1500 square kilometres and is characterised by the sandstone plateau of the Tabletop Range.
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You can technically explore Litchfield on a day trip from Darwin, but it’s best to spend a bit more time camping, swimming and hiking amongst this ancient landscape. Aboriginal people have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years, and Litchfield is significant for the Mak Mak Marranunggu, Koongurrukun, Werat and Warray people.
We visited Litchfield during our time in the Top End spending a few days exploring its main attractions and off-the-beaten-path spots. If you’re planning a trip to Litchfield National Park, then this guide will outline everything that you need to know about visiting this popular place in the Northern Territory.
How to get there
The boundary of Litchfield National Park is just over 100km (62 miles) southwest from Darwin on the Litchfield Park Road, just off the Stuart Highway. Only the northern half of the park is accessible by vehicles. Luckily, most of the park’s waterfalls and campgrounds are located there.
If you’re coming from Katherine further south, then Litchfield is just over 250km (155 miles) away, passing through Pine Creek and Adelaide River before turning off into the park. The Litchfield Park Road is the main road that runs through the park following an almost-full circuit route connecting major attractions including Florence Falls, Wangi Falls, Buley Rockhole and more.
Getting around Litchfield National Park
You might be wondering if you need a 4WD to explore Litchfield and the answer is technically no. The main road running through the park off the Stuart Highway is now sealed. So it is possible to access the main attractions, such as Wangi Falls and Florence Falls, with a 2WD.
However, if you really want to explore more of the park, a 4WD is required to visit some of the more secluded waterfalls, swimming spots and campgrounds.
If you fly into Darwin, you can hire a 4WD to get you to Litchfield from the city. We recommend reserving car rental in advance as 4WD cars are in short supply in the Top End and availability is often limited.
Not keen on driving? Consider joining a Litchfield Day Tour from Darwin. The tour visits the main attractions in the park, like Florence Falls, Wangi Falls, Tolmer Falls and more, and often includes a meal and some relaxing time at the falls.
Litchfield National Park entry and opening times
Unlike Kakadu National Park, you don’t need a Park Pass to visit Litchfield. The national park is completely free to explore, although there are camping fees payable onsite if you decide to stay the night inside the park boundary.
Litchfield National Park is open all year round although there are seasonal closures of some roads and waterfalls depending on the wet season and rainfall.
Best time to visit Litchfield National Park
You can visit Litchfield in either the wet or dry season in the Top End. However, for most people, the dry season is the best time to explore the park as this is when the waterfalls are open for swimming and the dry weather makes camping and hiking more enjoyable.
However, the wet season is definitely a unique time to explore the Northern Territory. You’ll get to see the waterfalls in full force with next to no crowds. Be aware that road closures are common at this time, so it’s best to check ahead and obey any signs.
Other FAQs about Litchfield
Which is better, Kakadu or Litchfield?
While there is a debate amongst visitors which is better between the two popular national parks near Darwin, you shouldn’t compare them too much. Kakadu covers a huge area and commands a much more spiritual presence, with plenty of Aboriginal rock art and the incredible escarpments of Arnhem Land.
On the other hand, Litchfield is more compact, with plenty of accessible waterfalls and swimming holes located in a small area. For many people, Litchfield is an ideal destination for shorter trips, while Kakadu is a destination that requires at least 3-5 nights to fully appreciate.
For the best experience, plan to visit both Kakadu and Litchfield and spend a couple of nights in each park to really experience the best of what the Top End in Australia has to offer.
READ NEXT: Guide To Visiting Kakadu National Park
Does Litchfield National Park have crocodiles?
Yes! As with any place in the Top End with extensive waterways, Litchfield has both saltwater and freshwater crocs. It’s best to be croc safe when deciding to swim within the park and obey the signs and warnings. In the dry season, most of the waterfalls and swimming holes are considered croc safe, although they can be closed at any time if a sighting occurs.
In the wet season, it’s particularly unsafe to swim in Litchfield. The high water levels bring in crocs from the rivers and ocean around the Northern Territory, making the watering holes unsafe for swimming.
Best things to do in Litchfield National Park
There are lots of things to do in Litchfield National Park, so we’ve rounded up the list of the highlights within the park to help you plan ahead.
Magnetic Termite Mounds
One of the most popular tourist sights in Litchfield are the magnetic termite mounds. Up to 100 years old and almost 2 metres high across a flat plain, they’re quite impressive to see.
There is a purpose-built boardwalk and viewing area for these mounds on Litchfield Park Road just before Florence Falls. However, you can spot the giant termite mounds around the entire park area. In fact, we recommend admiring them without the crowds along the 4WD Sandy Creek Road.
Set in a secluded part of the monsoon forest, Florence Falls consists of two cascading waterfalls that drop into a plunge pool in Litchfield National Park. It’s by far the most popular attraction in Litchfield and a must-do while in the Top End.
The falls are popular because of the swimming hole below the falls, which is usually croc-free in the dry season. During our visit (which happened to fall on a school holiday weekend), the swimming hole was overcrowded and did not looks like a peaceful spot for a swim. So plan accordingly and if you are traveling during a busy time, consider arriving in the morning to beat the crowds
There are also some nice walking trails near the falls, including the Florence Creek track connecting the falls to nearby Buley Rockhole.
The area is accessible by 2WD. A large day-use area with toilets and a car park is available on site. If you want to spend more time enjoying the falls when the day-trippers have gone, you can also stay at the Florence Falls Campground. It’s one of the two main campgrounds in Litchfield National Park and is accessible to all vehicles.
Just down from Florence Falls, Buley Rockhole is definitely one of our favourite swimming holes in Litchfield. Open for most of the year, the cascading pools are a more relaxing place to be in the heat of the day. The rockhole is actually a series of natural pools. So, you can easily wander around to find your own spot amongst the surrounding monsoon forest.
There is limited parking here and public toilets. For more parking and camping, head to Florence Falls further up the road and then you can walk the trail to Buley Rockhole from there.
For bird watchers, a visit to Tabletop Swamp is a must. The swap is located just off the main road between Florence Falls and Tolmer Falls. This is a sanctuary for many different native bird species. There’s a gentle walk here from the car park so you can admire the local wildlife and enjoy the chorus of birds.
Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek)
For a more secluded spot away from the crowds, Tjaynera Falls (aka Sandy Creek Falls) is definitely a top choice.
Accessible only by 4WD just south of Tolmer Falls, it’s definitely a much quieter alternative than some of the other top attractions in Litchfield. There is also a campground there at Sandy Creek which is perfect for those looking for a bush camping setting. The drive to Tjaynera Falls can be rough and during our visit. There was a deep (400mm) water crossing, which in and of itself helps to keep the crowds away.
This beautiful waterfall can be reached via a 3.4km return walking track from the day-use car park. The trail runs through the forest to the base of the falls. Here you’ll find a shaded swimming pool and a perfect place to spend the afternoon.
Surprise Creek Falls
If you continue down the same 4WD track past Tjaynera Falls for around 30 minutes, you’ll come to this hidden gem of a spot in Litchfield. After a short walk through the forest from the car park, you’ll reach crystal clear rock pools and a small waterfall which is usually very quiet compared to other sites in the park.
The road to get into this area requires a couple of river crossings, so a 4WD is a must. Once you arrive, you can choose to camp the night there if you like. You’ll get to enjoy the campsite almost all to yourself.
Tolmer Falls is another popular attraction just off the main road in the park, accessible by all vehicles. The towering single-drop waterfall plunges into a deep rock pool at the bottom. While swimming is not allowed at these falls, it’s still worth visiting for the beautiful sight and wonderful walking tracks.
A short 1.6km loop walk takes you to two viewing platforms at the top of the gorge with beautiful views of the waterfall and then back along the creek to the car park. It’s an easy to moderate walk suitable for most fitness levels.
Arguably the most popular attraction in Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls is located near the western boundary of the park just off the main sealed road. There is a beautiful picnic area near the falls where you can watch the two cascades of water fall into the large plunge pool.
It’s one of the most famous swimming spots in the Top End. So, it’s often very busy from morning until afternoon. If you want to enjoy the area with fewer people, it’s possible to stay overnight at the Wangi Falls Campground. The campground has toilets, hot showers and a kiosk open during the dry season.
If you prefer to stay out of the water, you can opt for the 3km loop walking track up and over the falls for beautiful views.
Note: During our visit, Wangi Falls was closed for swimming due to a recent estuarine (saltwater) croc sighting, so be sure to check with the visitors centre about recent closures and to enquire about croc safe swimming spots.
The Cascades, located not far from Wangi Falls, is one of the local favourites for a swim without the crowds. It’s a series of rock pools with a running stream and small waterfalls. The challenge in reaching the cascades is certainly why not many people visit. The first 20 minutes along the trail are relatively easy and flat before you can either head to the lower or upper cascades.
The steep climb over slippery rocks to the upper cascades is worth it!. It’s best if you wear sturdy footwear rather than sandals to make the hike safer and more comfortable. Otherwise, there’s plenty of room to find your own spot to have a dip in the crystal clear pools in the lower section.
Walker Creek is a completely overlooked camping and bushwalking spot in Litchfield National Park. Walker Creek is located just off the main road as you enter the park boundary. This beautiful spot offers a number of swimming holes along the Walker Creek walk. The walk is around 3.5km return.
The camping here is tent only and walk-in only. So, you need to be prepared to carry your gear over a short distance. Then, pick your spot by the creek. Many of the tent sites have their own private swimming spots, so it’s definitely a treat on a hot day. The area is closed in the wet season.
Bamboo Creek Tin Mine
The Bamboo Creek mine is the first stop inside the national park if you’re coming from Darwin to Litchfield. There is a nice easy walk amongst the historic ruins with information boards to explain the history of the area. It’s worth the quick stop off the main road, before making a beeline to the Litchfield waterfalls.
Where to Stay in Litchfield National Park
Accommodation at Litchfield National Park is limited to designated campgrounds inside the park boundary. Campgrounds available are as follows:
- Wangi Falls Campground: 2WD accessible, opened year round. Good facilities including toilets, showers, and BBQ facilities. Has nonpowered caravan sites.
- Florence Falls Campground: 2WD accessible, opened year round. Facilities include toilets, showers, and BBQ facilities.
- Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek): 4WD only. Basic facilities only.
- Walker Creek: walk-in camping sites only. Closed during the Wet Season.
Otherwise, there is the Litchfield Tourist Park and a few other caravan parks located just on the outskirts, if you prefer more facilities.
How Long to Spend in Litchfield National Park
The benefit of Litchfield being just over an hour’s drive south of Darwin, is that you can explore it on one long day trip. However, this would limit you to only seeing the highlights. Such as, Florence Falls and Wangi Falls before having to head back.
It’s best to spend around 2-3 nights or even longer in Litchfield National Park. This means that you’ll be able to take your time and enjoy some of the spots a little longer.