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kbob88 May 15th, 2013 12:13 AM

Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine itinerary help
I'm looking for some feedback on my itinerary for the Top End in early August. I've read through a bunch of the posts here, including dottyp's great trip report, and hopefully have incorporated those learnings. I think I've got the overall plan and major sights down fairly solidly. Probably mostly looking for confirmation that we're seeing the right things, and that it's doable in the time we have. I think it's a bit aggressive time-wise, but hopefully quite doable. Let me know what you think.

The goal for this part of the trip is mostly outback scenery and wildlife. So we're deliberately shortchanging Darwin. We're a mid-forties couple, with a six year old son.

Day 0 - arrive Darwin around 5pm, stay at the Paravista Motel (it's race week or something, so everything else was booked up)
Day 1 - drive to Territory Wildlife Park, then drive on to Batchelor, stay at Batchelor Resort (maybe see part of Litchfield NP if time allows?)
Day 2 - see Litchfield NP, then drive to Katherine. This is a long day -- 5.5 hours driving by my calculation (1.25 each into Litchfield from Batchelor, 1.25 back out, 3 hours Batchelor to Katherine). (Lodging TBD - maybe Shady Lane TP or Big 4 caravan park cabins)
Day 3 - See Nitmiluk / Katherine Gorge. Not sure whether to canoe or take a cruise.
Day 4 - Drive to Cooinda in Kakadu (3 hrs 15mins?). Stop at Gunlom on the way in. Stop at visitors center. Do the sunset Yellow Water Cruise. Stay at Gagudju Lodge Cooinda.
Day 5 - Jim Jim and Twin Falls tour
Day 6 - rock art and a walk at Nourlangie. Lunch at Jabiru. Afternoon at Ubirr, including an East Alligator River cruise, maybe some short walks. Lodging at the Holiday Inn Gagudju Crocodile in Jabiru.
Day 7 - Bowali visitors centre. A few walks? Drive to Darwin (3 hrs 15mins?). Northern Territory Museum. Lodging at Paravista Motel.

I'm worried most about day #2. It seems like a lot. Not sure how much time seeing Litchfield will take. An alternative is to move Litchfield to day 1, and move the Territory Wildlife Park to day 7. A

In general, are we trying to fit in too much? What would you cut?

Additional questions:
- Canoe Katherine Gorge or take a cruise?
- How much time to allow for the Territory Wildlife Park?
- How much time to allow for Litchfield? (excluding driving)
- Should we blow off Darwin for the first night and stay somewhere near the airport or on the way to the wildlife park?
- Are we hitting the right sights in Kakadu? Is there enough time to do what we've planned?
- Are we missing anything we really should see?

Thanks in advance!

dottyp May 15th, 2013 01:21 AM

HI, kbob88,

It's a rushed itinerary but I think it could be doable.

My suggestion for Katherine would be a cruise as you get a commentary about the area, and I think it would be relaxing for you.

If you were able to get into Litchfied National Park before the crowds I think you would probably be out of there by midday. Depends on whether you want to visit all the waterfalls, swim, etc. All my information, etc is packed away so I can't check how long but I think we were out for most of the day. If you have a rental car you won't be able to go to Blyth Homestead and the Bamboo Tin Mine, so that would reduce your time by a couple of hours. Probably someone else will be able to help you more accurately.

Kakadu sounds great - I would love to have done the sunset cruise as well as the sunrise cruise - maybe another time . . .


Mohammed May 15th, 2013 04:25 AM

We did a very similar trip last year in July it is a brilliant country, do have a at my trip photos which does cover a lot of the territory you mention

We drove all the way down to Ayers Rock via Alice Springs, then flew to Cairns and Sydney too.

Gunlom - brilliant do take a dip in the crystal clear pool. The drive to Gunlom is an off road track so you will need to take it slow.

Nitmiluk - we did a guided boat tour but if we go again i will take a canoe/kayak.

Nourlangie - best in the morning, catch the ranger talk.

Ubir - go early and see the Alligator river and then get to the ranger talk in Ubir by late afternoon. After this you can climb to the top to take in the amazing sunset.

Sorry - we never went to Litchfield but hear it is very beautiful too. From what I gather your driving plan is very workable.

RalphR May 15th, 2013 04:54 AM

We spent a full day in Litchfield, staying 2 nights in Batchelor. I am glad we did. Cramming it into a morning seems pretty rushed to me. We were there with our kids - they absolutely loved the swimming spots, especially Buley Rockhole.

kbob88 May 15th, 2013 12:34 PM

Thanks for the feedback!

Seriously thinking about push the wildlife park to the last day -- that way we can do Litchfield on day 1 without rushing too much. And maybe stop by Edith Falls on day 2. (Anyone have feedback on Edith Falls?) Plus then we can adjust the amount of time we spend at the wildlife park depending on how much wildlife we've seen at the other places. But doing that might limit the amount of walks we do in before leaving Kakadu on day 7. Anyone done those walks - like Mamukala or Gu-ngarre?

dottyp -- would you recommend the guide at Litchfield, or would it be fine to do by ourselves?

Mohammed - Thanks for the comments. Why would you do a canoe at Nitmiluk next time?

Anyone have any feedback on day 6 -- is it feasible to do Nourlangie and Ubirr properly in one day?

dottyp May 16th, 2013 11:27 PM

Hi again, kbob88. We chose a guide because of where we wanted to go, and where we couldn't take a rental car. (We had to cross the water to go to Blyth Homestead.) We enjoyed the tour with Tessa. Although it was quite expensive (it originated in Darwin) we did get to places that were important to us, and had a tour of places not on the normal routes.

So I guess as I said before it depends on what you want to do. There are many tours that go to Litchfield for the day, and visit all the waterfalls, but you can drive to all those places yourself and save some money, perhaps for your Nitmulik trip!

kbob88 May 17th, 2013 05:28 PM

Thanks, dotty. We'll look into the guide, but since we'll have a car, we may just do our own thing.

Two more questions:

1. Is the Territory Wildlife Park any good, and if so, how many hours should we budget? Have heard that Nothern Territory Museum is a don't-miss; wondering how the wildlife park stacks up against the NT museum, or spending more time in Kakadu in case we have to cut something on the last day.

2. Is there any reason to rent an AWD car vs 2WD with our itinerary? Maybe the Gunlom road? The AWD on offer is a Toyota RAV4.

Silvanello May 24th, 2013 09:51 AM


I have been there about 2 times but unfortunately am now back in Germany :) Anyway - back to the questions:

It depends on how much you want to see and how much time you would like to relax. It is a lot to do but possible. I would recommend to get rid of a few itinaries. Also I would really recommend renting a 4WD!!! Because there are heeps of tracks you can do over there that are 4WD only. I just had a look again at the website I am using for my research and just realised how much there is to see in this region. There is picture gallery of the NT: Just the Kakadu could kee you busy for 2 weeks. Unfortunately I can't tell you anything about the Territory Wildlife Park, because I never go to zoos or wildlife parks. But I am pretty sure that this will be a very good choice.

dottyp May 24th, 2013 11:33 PM

Hi, again, kbob88,

Just remember that rental car companies have quite strict regulations for their cars - e.g. no going off sealed roads. We hired a 2WD/4WD and never once used the 4WD aspect. Personally I would not drive a Rav 4 - I'm not a fan of these lightweight vehicles. - and it could be a struggle as far as fitting everyone and luggage in!

Sorry, can't help with Territory - we had to forgo some activities and that was one of them. However, your son may well enjoy it.

I would lean towards visiting the Museum on the first day and leaving the Wildlife Park till the day you travel back from Kakadu, visiting it on the way to Darwin.
Another thought - what time do you fly out of Darwin when you return home? Maybe you would have time to visit the Museum that morning. You could probably see most of it in 3 hours. I would then go to Litchfield on Day 1, and visit the Territory Wildlife Park as I suggest on the way back to Darwin.

Sorry I have just thought about this. Been pretty busy with school and trip-planning activities, and penny didn't start dropping until today. :(

Not too long for you now.

Images2 May 28th, 2013 08:08 PM

We returned last night from our trip and spent 3 days in kakadu. Don't miss the fogg dam area and Adelaide river croc cruise, on the smaller boat. Both areas are off a side road from the northern road to kakadu, and well worth the time. One of our favorite areas..

Yes ubirr and nourlangie can easily be done on the same day. Jabiru hotel is very nice, but the downfall is the dinner food service. If you don't order the $45 buffet service, they wont serve you a la carte service until the buffet service ends, after 8:30 p.m. We had big issues with this and were shocked at the denial to let guests dine in the dining room, or even bar, until we insisted on at least bar service for dining. It was a very tense situation. The bakery across the road from the hotel serves very good food, and is a good alternative.

Its a long drive to Katherine from jabiru, but not difficult. Road signs don't appear until you are at a junction, so at times we wondered if we had missed turn offs. We rented a 2 wheel drive in darwin and dropped it off in Katherine. There is a $175 drop fee for this service. Did you know that the cyclist cadel evans was born, and lived in Katherine! A thrill for me since i love following the tour de france and took photos of cadel last year at the tour.

It was very humid at kakadu this May.. The seasons are not normal this year, it was still the wet season. Of course we had no rain until we were climbing ubirr for sunset. The skys opened and it poured for our scramble up. No sunset for us, but the view was still beautiful.

We returned our rental car in katherine at knotts landing resort. It looked very nice from the outside. May be something to look into for accommodation. Its on the road to katherine gorge. We took the cruise up the gorge. Canoe,?? What about the crocs, i wouldn't canoe. The boat trip was beautiful, but there was little wildlife besides a couple of crocs. There was a 9:00 a.m. Boat trip, 4 hours, where you had time to swim in a waterfall pool, no crocs there of course.

From katherine we took the ghan to alice springs. Drove yo ulura. Loved it here. We did the base walk and valley of the winds at the olgas. Saw a kangaroo with big joey in its pocket here. Great photos!

The resort at ulura is excellent. We loved every moment here and extremely friendly staff. The base walk takes about 3 1/2 hours. Well worth it in the cool weather of may. Perfect month to visit.

Darwin, the sites are great, loved the art museum, the boats there are superb, thanks for that tip. The east end park road is nice with great views. Darwin was deserted after nightfall though. We didn't care for the walk along empty storefronts to dinner. We were at the travelodge there which was ok, a bit dated.

Have a great tip.

Images2 May 28th, 2013 08:15 PM

One more tip, the drive from the darwin airport to town is short. Stay in town, not at the airport.

We flew from cairns to darwin and it was considered an international flight. Gateway city was the reason they give. It was jetstar airline and did not leave from the domestic terminal, but the international terminal in cairns. High security also, so it took extra time.

kbob88 Jun 1st, 2013 10:56 PM

Thanks for all the info. Will have to look into what the restrictions on the rental are; no sense getting one if they don't let you take off the pavement.

Our flight to Cairns is at 6:30am, so no chance to do anything that morning! I won't be looking forward to that wake-up at all.

We'll see if we get up early enough to do the museum the first day. Might have to save it for the last day. I think Territory WP will probably be our lowest priority, so we'll skip it if we run out of time.

danielc118 Jun 20th, 2013 03:27 PM

Territory wildlife park is good, but not cannot miss good, in my opinion. I spent about 4 hrs there last weekend. If your a tourist though, they have a lot of great wildlife that you just wont really see otherwise, especially the nocturnal house.

Litchfield is great, but more than half a day. Florence falls are my must see / swim at, and they are the closest, so if time is tight I would just do them.

Edith falls is beautiful, do the short walk up to the first pool area. Its very close to the hwy so easy to see.

In katherine I would stay as close to the gorge as possible and out of the town. The locals can get... Interesting.

The total drive darwin to katherine is only 3ish hours, just keep that in mind :-) google is very accurate with their driving times, but leen to the conservative side.

I would try and spend a little more time in Darwin, its beautiful here!

kbob88 Jun 21st, 2013 10:26 AM

Thanks, danielc118. We've pushed the TWP to the last day, so when we do it, we can concentrate on the animals we've missed so far. Or if we'd rather see Darwin that day, we'll skip the TWP altogether.

Good to know about driving times. I had Batchelor to Katherine at 3 hours; sounds like it's a fair bit less. Maybe we'll go back into Litchfield the morning of the second day, before driving to Katherine.

Looking forward to those interesting locals in Katherine! I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so I can imagine. We are staying a bit out of town (Shady Lane Tourist Park); hopefully it's quieter there.

We are definitely shortchanging Darwin itself. We do have the option of spending the last day in Darwin (after driving from Jabiru) if we feel like we've seen enough of Kakadu by then. Part of the problem was that accommodations in Darwin were very hard to find; there's some big horse race going on while we're there.

One more question: is there any reason to book activities in advance, or just wait until the day before? I'm thinking primarily of the Yellow Water cruise, the Jim Jim & Twin Falls tour, and the East Alligator River cruise. Thanks.

dottyp Jun 22nd, 2013 02:06 PM

Hi, kbob88,

Good to see everything is coming together now. It always feels good when you can see exactly what you're doing and when!

I always book in advance for cruises, tours, etc. mainly because we are usually travelling on a time restraint during school holidays and I like to know we can do what we have planned at the time we want. The other point for you is that July/August are quite busy touristy times and there may be some problem getting those tours when you want them if you leave it to the last minute.
As an example: we are going to England in July, travelling around by train and bus in July and early August - I have booked our trains and bus journeys already so we know what time we have to fit in the sightseeing we want to do in each area. Sad but true!

danielc118 Jun 24th, 2013 02:59 AM

Gday Kbob,

Sounds good!

2 - 2.5 hrs batchelor to Katherine. If your happy driving at 130km/h along a single lane windy highway. Everyone up here does it, but you may or may not feel comfortable.

I would limit the side trips into Lichfield, better to do it all in one day imo. The drive from the highway out to Florence falls is still 30 - 45 mins each way.

I don't think you can imagine the locals lol. You will know what I mean. They sit and drink on the median strip in the middle of town causing ruckuses at like 11am.

I would somewhat book in advance. As Dotty said, this is the busy period up here. You should be alright a couple of days in advance, but if you know you will be somewhere at a certain time feel free to book it now.


AndrewDavid Jul 2nd, 2013 08:15 PM

Hi, when we were in the north, a suggestion out of a guide book pointed us to Lord's Tours which had a one day trip into Arnhemland. we were picked up @ our lodging, the very reasonable and comfortable Lakeview( lakeside ?) resort in Jabiru. we went up into a series of overhang caves w/ a local guide and saw the most incredible rock art. not to disparage the art in Kakdu itself, but our understanding is the best is not necessarily viewable. the work we saw in Arnhemland was amazing. we were living in the high southwestern desert in Santa Fe New mexico where there is acres of rock art and i have been to one of the caves ( original not facsimile) in the Dordogne region of France. what we saw in Arnhemland was comparable to all of that


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