4 days - Darwin and Top End

Old Mar 14th, 2009, 03:04 PM
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4 days - Darwin and Top End

My friend and I plan to spend 4 days based in Darwin but visiting the national parks of the Top End. The tentative plan is to do day trips from Darwin to Kakadu, Kathryn Gorge and Litchfield National Park.

So far, the hotels that we have investigated in central Darwin are VERY expensive. Way over our price range. The cheaper places tend to be in the suburbs or out of town. Assuming that the day tours depart from and return to a central location in downtown Darwin and given that they depart very early and return very late each day, is it feasible to stay outside of Darwin and use taxis or busses to get to and from the tour start and end points each day?

The alternative would be to do a four day, accommodation inclusive, tour that covers all those places, but that would cost over AU$1000 each, which is a huge amount of money to us. If we can do it cheaper, that is what we would rather do.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Yelpir is offline  
Old Mar 14th, 2009, 04:59 PM
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It sort of depends on what you consider to be expensive. You don't save money by living out of town and then paying for a taxi each way to get where you want to go. Look at wotif.com.au to see what sort of things are available, and then either wait for your preferred time to come available, or contact the hotel direct and see what they offer.

Al alternative is to look for backpacker places - I'm out of my depth here.
margo_oz is offline  
Old Mar 14th, 2009, 05:36 PM
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Some if not all the multi day tours do pickups all over Darwin and even in outer suburban areas and they may do it for single day tours too but I would definitely advise on a multi day tour that takes in Kakadu, Katherine and Litchfield rather than single day tours for you'll be doubling up on a whole lot of driving along highways and minimising your time where you want to be while still creating long long days with some pre dawn and post dusk driving depending on what time of year you go - just explaining a bit

It is about 300 km. into Kakadu to see Ubirr Rock and then quite a bit more to then get around to any waterfall gorges, country, further still to Yellow Waters for croc sighting or still other distance add on for Mary river boat cruises, and so all up it can be more like 800-900 km. to be covered in one day.
Katherine Gorge is going to be like another 700 km. return drive and Litchfield the only reasonable short one to be tackled on a single day.

If you go for a combined one, even three days you'll still do an early start, possibly a short croc cruise on way into Kakadu and then more time in there without the rush to get back to Darwin, probably staying over somewhere in Kakadu covering about 500km., maybe a gorge trip or Yellow Waters [ best in mornings or late afternoons] early in morning and then off to be down at Katherine by lunch time and the afternoon there, about 300 km.distance covered and either overnight there or up near Litchfield, about 200 km. back towards Darwin.
Third day would be Litchfield and then back to Darwin, alternately the trip could be done in reverse but all up you would travel about 1200km. as against 1700 - 1800 km. doing three separate day trips.

There are many different operators for three day, four day, five day trips and you're looking at budget camping out meal inclusive trips starting at around $175/d and more if you want a higher standard overnight accommodation/meals provision rather than the camping/pitch in for meal preparation etc.

I sense from your writing style and budget seeking you're possibly younger and you'll enjoy camping style trips that often have a wide age range, one last year having people of ages from twenties into fifties.

http://www.ntstandby.com.au/index.cgi?act=search&cb=1 gives an indication of the wide range of trips available and just check on some sites like http://www.kakadudreams.com.au/ and http://www.topendescapes.com.au/ , the four day top end explorer being of a more generous timeframe.

And though not necessarily that one, I'd advise for time wise a combo 4 day tour will give you best value.

The other thing you could look at if you're drivers is to hire a vehicle for three/four days and make use of youth hostels, there being some off bitumen roads you're not supposed to take hire vehicles onto unless they are a 4wd [much more expensive] but you'll be able to get into most areas bar the Kakadu gorges but Litchfield has some great gorges to be more easily accessed.

www.yha.com.au and www.bugaustralia.com will give you a good indication of hostels and twin rooms at many are reasonably priced, there being one hostel in Darwin run by YWCA [ profits go to homeless funds] which has a reasonable rating.

Check out the jelly wrestling at the Old Vic hotel in Darwin if there of a Tuesday night, or otherwise the main pier or yacht club for sunset dining.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Mar 15th, 2009, 06:51 AM
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I mostly agree. With the exception of Litchfield I would forget the "day trip from Darwin idea" - possible yes, practical definitely not. If you want to see all three parks, you'll have to combine into one big loop as the multi-night tours surely do.

In my opinion, even if you do a tour, cramming Litchfield, Katherine Gorge and Kakadu into 4 days is stretching it - quantity over quality. I'd either extend your stay in the Top End a couple of days or be more selective. Kakadu offers the most to see and do - I'd focus my time and energy there.
RalphR is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2009, 05:37 PM
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why not hire a car in darwin and do a loop. start with kakadu, overnight there then drop down to katherine and overnight back up just outside lichtfield and then 'do" lichetfield the last day. we only had 4 nights and felt rushed. see if you can add time to really enjoy these special places.

there are also longer itineraries people do that include stopping in katherine and going a bit further. it's very special there and you don't want to be rushing around it. when will you hike or take boat trips?

kerikeri is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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Hi All, thanks for your kind replies

To give you all a clearer picture:
The visit to the Top End is part of a bigger trip that starts in Brisbane, moves on to Cairns, then Darwin and then the Red Centre before heading back to Brisbane. Travel between the main centres will be by air.
I am 68 and my friend is 67. We are not really backpacker types. We like a nice, comfortable twin bedded room with en suite. I was sort of budgetting on about $70 per person per night for accommodation. At Cairns and Alice Springs it was relatively easy to come in under that mark. I have now found a way to come in under the mark in Darwin as well, though it wasn't easy. Ayers Rock Resort was the challenge. One simply doesn't have that many options there. Fortunately, by scratching around, I have managed to bring that almost within the budget such that, overall, the accommodation budget is intact.
I live in South Africa and will be operating on a tight schedule, so I need to make all my bookings well in advance. The trip sort of needs to run like clockwork so I don't have the luxury of trying to pick up late bargains.
The timing for the trip, which I forgot to mention, is August 2009.

Following up on the excellent advise that I have received here, I have been researching multi-day tours of Kakadu, Kathryn and Litchfield. My original schedule called for 4 nights in Darwin with day trips to Kakadu, Kathryn Gorge and Litchfield. I had hoped to find a circular tour that would take us to Kakadu, Kathryn Gorge and Litchfield in 3 days so that I could do it in the same timeframe but spend less time travelling and more time sightseeing. Unfortunately I have so far had no luck with that. The closest I have come is a 4 day tour, which adds $500 to the cost, so for the moment I am stuck with the original plan of day trips.

I wouldn't mind hiring a car and driving, despite the long distances involved. However, my friend has dug her heels in and says no way are we driving all that way. She wants to sit and chat while someone else does all the driving.

I compared the content of the 4 day tour (2 days in Kakadu, 1 in Kathryn Gorge and 1 in Litchfield)with the content of the 1 day tours. Litchfield is identical both ways. Kathryn is the same both ways but involves an extra 2 1/2 hours driving to reach Kathryn from Darwin instead of from Kakadu, making for a very long day. Doing the 1 day trip to Kakadu instead of the 2 day means losing the jumping crocodiles and not visiting Ubirr Rock. One does the Yellow Water cruise and some other things both ways.

I would be interested in hearing comments on RalphR's suggestion of dropping Kathryn and Litchfield and focussing solely on Kakadu.
Yelpir is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2009, 03:58 PM
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Kakadu is a lot of travelling through asrubby plains country to get to a few places of significance.

I do not quite understand:
" I compared the content of the 4 day tour (2 days in Kakadu, 1 in Kathryn Gorge and 1 in Litchfield)with the content of the 1 day tours. Litchfield is identical both ways. Kathryn is the same both ways but involves an extra 2 1/2 hours driving to reach Kathryn from Darwin instead of from Kakadu, making for a very long day. "

Re-reading, I think you are meaning to imply a one day tour to Katherine entails the extra travelling from Darwin on a one day trip, and yes as I responded earlier exactly the reason to consider a loop trip.

And yes, all the cheaper trips are with budget orientated companies that cater to the backpacker markets so you're caught between a rock and a hard place to some extent with the dollars.
Bushranger is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2009, 02:07 AM
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Bushranger: Thanks for your always helpful reply

I am definitely getting the message that "Kakadu is a lot of travelling through scrubby plains country to get to a few places of significance"

For someone whose main interest is in photographing beautiful/dramatic scenery, what are the 'must sees' in Kakadu in the dry season? Is Kakadu the right place for that sort of scenery?

So far I have established that Ubirr Rock at sunset is pretty spectacular and that a Yellow Water cruise at sunrise is magical. Is there anything else to compare with these two?
Yelpir is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2009, 04:18 AM
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Ubirr Rock is spectacular any time and as far as an easier to get location with rock art and views of surrounding plains giving a somewhat mystical feel possibly more so than anywhere else, even with numbers there you'll likely find, it is hard to beat.

I've been to Yellow Waters but did not have a cruise, there being a walkway and viewing platform near the adjacent boat ramp and you'll likely be able to see crocs from there, there being a bit of birdlife about late afternoon when there and I've heard the cruises can be good.

Ubirr will give you some great landscapes to photograph but you really need to get into some gorges for the more dramatic, a two day trip likely to give you that opportunity as they ought to take you to Twin and/or Jim Jim falls, Twin[might have them mixed] involving a small boat trip and then some walking/rock hopping that can stretch the ligaments.
I also did a walk up to the top of Twin Falls, quite arduous and testing of lungs, not for any with heart weaknesses - but some great photographic opportunities.
Jim Jim likewise has some great photographic opportunities but involves some even more strenuous rock hopping.

A two day tour may also take you to Nourlangie Rock, less visited than Ubirr and a lot more of a hike than Ubirr with a lot less Rock Art and not as good a perspective over the surrounding terrain, there being a half way up lookout which is easy to miss if you are heading for the top and the top again is a bit of a climb in places.

So depending on where you get to, there'll be the dramatic opportunities - http://s44.photobucket.com/albums/f2...rent=NT048.jpg , going up TF gorge on boat as an example, and Ubirr landscape - http://s44.photobucket.com/albums/f2...rent=NT068.jpg and more off the beaten track day hiking - http://s44.photobucket.com/albums/f2...rent=NT068.jpg

btw, if not yet booked in Darwin, BanyanView Lodge - http://www.banyanviewlodge.com.au/index.php/rates is the place run by YWCA and a ensuite room available.
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Old Mar 21st, 2009, 09:53 AM
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My husband and I spent 6 days in and around Darwin in early June as part of a 5-week visit to Australia. Though we enjoyed Litchfield, we agreed after we were there that it wasn't different enough from Kakadu to rank as a "must do." (It's a great option if you don't have the time for Kakadu, which requires more effort.) Though your traveling partner says no, I highly recommend renting a car. It saves money, driving is easy there, and it lets you stop and move on on your own schedule.

Here are my brief notes from the trip, which summarize our route, in case they are helpful. We chose low-cost accommodations, as noted.

6/1 Flew to Darwin, a totally different environment on Tasman Sea. Nice, low-key small city. Checked into the Quality Frontier hotel, which I found on wotif.com. Decent, if a bit out of the way. Strolled on the wharf, then down to Mindil Beach for the Sunday afternoon market (tourist goods and lots of food choices), and sunset on the beach. Dinner at Hanuman, an excellent pan-Asian restaurant.

6/2 Drove to Kakadu National Park, Jabiru. On the way, stopped for the Jumping Alligator Cruise, which was a hoot. Interesting vegetation for awhile, then it all looked kind of the same for 300 km. Stayed in Lakeview Tourist Park in Jabiru--nice cabins with private bedroom, shared kitchen/dining facilities, and shared bathroom. Our cabin mates were two sets of interesting people from eastern Australia, and the setup of the cabin common areas was conducive to socializing.

6/3 Morning cruise up East Alligator River with Guluyambi Tours, featuring an aboriginal guide who talked about the trees, vegetation, crocs, and aboriginal tools (spears, etc.). This interesting tour had a different focus from the bird-focused Yellow Waters cruise we would take later. Then a couple of beautiful walks through sandstone cliffs and along the river. Went to Ubirr, the rock-painting site, which was excellent--wished we could have been there at sunset, but it was nice nonetheless. Cooked dinner at the cabin.

6/4 Nourlangie art site - awesome aboriginal rock paintings. Listened to a ranger talk and learned more about how the paintings were made. Took a small walk, then drove to Majugal billabong for a lovely walk and picnic. Checked into Cooinda Gagudju Lodge, where we stayed in a box with a bed and, fortunately, an air conditioner. But it was cheap! The lodge had a nice pool and a pleasant open-air bistro. Visited the cultural center. Evening at Yellow Waters - boardwalk, beautiful birds, sunset, crocodile, amazing. Spent the night in The Box hoping we would awake for the 6:25 a.m. departure of the Yellow Waters dawn cruise.

6/5 Awoke on time! Awesome 2-hour dawn cruise. Dozens of bird types, beautiful wetland setting. Priceless. Spent the rest of the day by the pool--quite relaxing--since the falls we wanted to see weren’t open yet (road was too wet, even for 4-wheel drives). Evening sunset walk and photos at Yellow Waters.

6/6 Drove to Litchfield National Park--about 300 km. Litchfield is nice but more of the same, except for more tourists (on daytrips from Darwin) and several waterfalls, which are beautiful. Waded in gorgeous Florence Falls, where we enjoyed watching those prepared with bathing suits swimming in the pool at the base of the falls. Stayed overnight in a neat Aussie tourist park--Litchfield Tourist and Van Park. Very cute cabin, good meal in the outdoor dining room (complete with a massive fly attack when the meal was served), seemed “local.” Nice place.

6/7 Morning drive back to Darwin, where we visited the excellent Art Museum (very nice aboriginal art as well as other paintings and a good cyclone exhibit). Then down to Cullen Bay for a stroll on the harbor and outdoor lunch at Buzz Café. Nice view of the harbor boats. Then to the Esplanade for the local Greek Festival. Checked into the Darwin Airport Resort (very convenient to the airport--walking distance, but also has a convenient shuttle). Ate downtown at the Noodle House on Mitchell Street. Excellent. Dropped our car at the airport and flew out to Cairns early the next morning.
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