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patiricia Jul 5th, 2009 09:34 PM

3 days in Darwin area dilemma - Kakadu essential?
Hubby and I are planning a trip taking the Ghan to Darwin and have 3 or so days there. I don't know if it would be better to just do Litchfield (self drive) or take a quick tour to Kakadu or try to do both. I don't want to drive to/from Kakadu, and also don't want to miss it if it is essential! Any thoughts experts? Also, any thoughts on "Feathers Sanctuary" in Darwin?

Bushranger Jul 5th, 2009 10:22 PM

Litchfield is a great NP, more easily accessed and yes easier to do as a self drive.

You can also self drive into Kakadu, a much longer drive and as you say something you do not want to do and unless you hired a 4WD there would be a few places you would have to miss off the bitumen that standard hire vehicles are restricted to.

Kakadu is as much about gaining knowledge of and feeling [if that is possible] something for the indigenous culture, there being some magnificent rock art at Ubirr and then climbing to the vantage points for viewing out over the surrounding plains you can sort of sense just what it may have been like, even though you may be among dozens.

Couple of photos, first of some Ubirr art, doesn't show so well with my photographic skill and second of an off the beaten track gorge, sort of place you hike into.

My connection has just decided to slow and I'll see if I have some more Ubirr ones to put up later.

You would need a three day tour to do a trip in justice and be prepared for some serious rock hopping to even get into the more touristy gorges and when you go can make a big difference too.
I was there about this time last year and the countryside was already very dry and getting to places of interest, there's a lot of scrubby type forested land and not much else until you get somewhere.

Bushranger Jul 5th, 2009 10:28 PM

Satellite just kicked back in.
main rock art location under overhang
around Ubirr

patiricia Jul 5th, 2009 11:16 PM

Thanks, Bushranger, we are going in mid-September, if that makes any difference. Nice photos.

Bushranger Jul 6th, 2009 12:49 AM

You'll find the countryside pretty dry then patiricia and though weatherwise you could strike it still about 30C [seems to be the top end temp nearly all year round] you could find it getting a bit warmer by then, into low thirties and though you're getting close to the transition into wet season [ period they call build-up], you may escape it not being so bad.

But waterfalls will be flowing less if at all and there'll be less water in gorges and waterways that could affect any cruise operations.

It's hard to give a recommendation and you'll likely get some to say 'what a great place, you must go etc.' whereas for me it was a reasonable experience to go on an off road camping trip over five days but maybe because I have lived in and seen a fair bit of Australian country areas, I was not overly awed.

Personally, knowing what I know now, if I was going in September [and I wouldn't], for three days I'd be enjoying Litchfield and taking my time about Darwin.
Don't know the Feathers but there's a few wildlife places about the outskirts.

Another trip I've heard of people enjoying is heading over to the Tiwi Islands.

RalphR Jul 6th, 2009 10:20 AM

Kakadu is generally regarded as one of Australia's premier national parks, and maybe top of that list. Does that make it essential? Depends on your interests. I personally loved Kakadu - we were there in August 2000 and spent 3 full days and 2 half days in the park. Highlights for us were sunset at Ubirr (!!!), the Yellow Waters cruise, a 4WD expedition to Jim Jim and Twin Falls, and Nourlangie Rock. Litchfield was great too - great swimming opportunities, and we loved seeing the magnetic termite mounds and waterfalls - but it doesn't measure up to Kakadu in terms of scale and variety, in my opinion.

To me it seems silly to take the train all the way up to Darwin only to spend 3 days in the Top End. Don't know what the rest of your itinerary looks like but I'd consider extending your stay(s) elsewhere (e.g., Alice and the Red Center?) so as not to spread yourself too thin.

Saltuarius Jul 6th, 2009 05:14 PM

If you are not in a position to take RalphR's advice then just do Litchfield. Do Kakadu when you can come back and spend at least a week there. From memory and without resorting to my diaries I spent four days, eight days and about 24 days there in three visits. You might be able to see a pattern there in the numbers and make your own decuction on how much there is to see and do in Kakadu.

patiricia Jul 6th, 2009 05:22 PM

Thanks for the replies. My husband loves trains (and I am lukewarm) so the train is the draw for him. We allocated 2 weeks to this trip (start in Adelaide) on our way to New Zealand where we have a home. So it is a short visit, but one of hopefully many more to Oz. We are committed to the Gold Coast for a few days to see friends so that is the other end of the trip. I am leaning toward 3 days in Darwin which would allow one to Litchfield, one in Darwin and one maybe to the Tiwi Islands?

LynAK Jul 7th, 2009 01:48 AM

I expect you have already done a search of the many threads on Fodors with advice about Darwin and surrounding areas. If not you should definitely do that. There is a lot of info on here.

I agree with Saltuarius...if you can't give Kakadu more time then go another time. I personally do consider Kakadu "essential" (as our time there ranks very highly on my list of favorite trips), but to really get the feel of it you need 2 nights and 3 days minimum (IMHO) and you could easily spend more time there. On the other hand, some people call it "Kakadon't" so it doesn't resonate with everyone.

It is a long way to Kakadu. I know some people take the bus from Darwin for a day trip, but that would make me absolutely crazy and probably turn me into a Kadadon't. Bushranger gets it right. Kakadu is about gaining knowledge and feeling..and you need time to let Kakadu sink in.

Litchfield is GREAT. You can definitely do that with only 3 days in the area, but it will take a full day of your time.

Are you riding the Ghan from Adelaide straight through to Darwin? I presume you'll be stopping off in Alice for some time. But even if you stop in Alice...Just a caution if you haven't ridden the train much in Australia...especially through the middle...the scenery is going to be very, very, very much the same hour after hour after hour and you will be spending so many hours on the train.

I once took a train from Townsville to Cairns and met up with some people who had been on it since Sydney. They were pretty loopy on that last leg and I think they'd had it with being on the train for quite some time before I met them. The trip was so long and it was driving them crazy. They could not wait to get off the train in Cairns.

I like trains too...have quite enjoyed trips on trains through Europe, but riding them across such a vast land as Australia is a different experience. Maybe it would be great for you and your husband, so just throwing this out for you to think about.

Bushranger Jul 7th, 2009 03:10 AM

Using Darwin as a base for Litchfield and Tiwi sounds good to me patiricia and even three days for Kakadu can be a bit of a rush, certainly agree with Salty in that it's the kind of place best visited at right time for a longer stay.

With the train, as Lyn mentions it is a long trip that'll seem much longer at times and so be well equipped with a novel, crossword book, music, pack of cards or whatever to help pass some of the time.

In addition to stopping at Alice Springs, the train also stops at Katherine for about 5-6 hrs and that's to allow people to do a trip to Katherine Gorge, well worth doing and a cruise in the gorge will give you something of an idea of gorge country in Kakadu.
On you'll find info about the train and also booking a Katherine trip, think it's also possible to do a helicopter flight to give you an even better idea of the northern NT countryside.

On a lot of advertising for the top end, there's often gorges/waterways and wetlands featured but in reality those faetures are few and far apart.
From Katherine on you should start to get a reasonable impression of the plains type country [I only say should because I haven't actually done the train trip].

nrosebrock Jul 15th, 2009 08:37 AM

Before you decide on the Tiwis, I would get some first-hand knowledge about visiting the islands.

When in Darwin, don't forget the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. I imagine it was much more Australian years ago, but it is still interesting.

patiricia Oct 29th, 2009 02:52 PM

We ended up doing a scenic flight from Darwin to Kakadu. It was wonderful! We left from Darwin airport about 9am and flew for about 75 minutes over the terrain and rivers and saw so much more than could be seen from a bus. We landed and did the Yellow Waters cruise, had lunch at the resort and flew back to Darwin -- we were home by 3pm and the people on the one day bus tour still had 5 hours to go. Would recommend the trip to anyone.

patiricia Oct 29th, 2009 02:56 PM

Also, we loved staying at Feathers Sanctuary. It is a very quiet small B&B near the airport, but a true sanctuary from busy Darwin and also for an amazing experience with local birds. The owners have collected some amazing birds that are very tame and provide endless entertainment while you have your breakfast or wine on your patio. Very nice.

stormbird Oct 29th, 2009 03:29 PM

Hi P,

That flight sounds like a fantastic alternative for anyone who is short of time. What a great perspective for Kakadu.

Did you get the Litchfield and what did you think of the Ghan trip?

Bokhara2 Oct 29th, 2009 03:35 PM

Hi Patiricia,
The flight does sound fabulous - may I ask what company you used?
And, was it fixed wing or helicopter?

patiricia Nov 2nd, 2009 02:57 PM

It was a great alternative. I didn't want to go that far and not see Kakadu, but didn't really have time to go and stay there. We went with Barrier Air Charters. It was a Cessna 210 with 4 passengers.
We did a self drive tour to Litchfield and really enjoyed it. It is quite an easy drive and easy to do on your own. We visited all the waterfalls and enjoyed the wetlands/swamp area where there were lots of birds and virtually no people.
We did enjoy the Ghan, it was a long 3 days for me, but very relaxing and fun to meet people over meals. I highly recommend the Platinum service -- a huge step up from Gold and don't even consider the Red class unless you are a true backpacker adventurer. We stopped in Alice Springs for their whistlestop tour (the train stops anyway and everyone must get off, so you may as well do a tour). We wanted to see the Desert Park, but no one else was going so they canceled it. We did the Alice Springs tour and it was ok, but nothing to rave about. Enjoyed seeing the Flying Doctors location and their operation. The tour at Katherine Gorges was very good and well worth the time. Beautiful location and fun to take the boats thru the gorges. You get out and walk between canyons and there is some wall art as well. Very nice.

Bokhara2 Nov 2nd, 2009 05:53 PM

Thanks Patiricia. I have some friends going up next month and I'll refer them to Barrier Air Charters.

I think 3 days on a train, unless it was a private car on the Orient Express, would be a bit much for me, too.

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