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Couple exploring Ubirr lookout Kakadu

The ultimate Top End self-drive experienceBook this trip with NT Now

 

This 9-day road trip itinerary covers everything you need for a self-drive adventure in the Top End. Stunning sights, peaceful waterholes, art and cultural experience, all bookmarked by beautiful Darwin.

Visit the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, plunge into the pools in Litchfield National Park, and discover the cultural sites of Nitmiluk National Park in Katherine. This trip allows plenty of time to take in the natural wonders of the Northern Territory, consider this the ultimate escape.

Day 1: Darwin

Check in, switch off

Ease into your 9-day adventure and check into the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on the Esplanade.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is both luxurious and convenient. It features ocean views and is close to the CBD, giving you the option to indulge and explore.

For the curious

Treat your inquisitive self to Darwin’s Aboriginal art scene by visiting a range of museums and galleries.

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory showcases an inspiring collection of ongoing exhibitions and an ever-changing schedule of exciting and boundary-pushing exhibitions.

For a step back in time, visit the Defence of Darwin Experience located at Darwin Military Museum at East Point. Learn about life in the Northern Territory during WWII through this powerful, immersive and interactive experience.

 

For a contemporary look at Aboriginal art, visit some of the many local galleries on offer such as the Laundry Gallery in Parap. From modern Aboriginal art, sculptures, experimental and beyond, Darwin has many galleries which will expand your perspective of Aboriginal art.

Unwind into the night

Toast a successful day of sightseeing at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct, located a short walk or drive from the CBD. Enjoy a sundowner by the saltwater lagoon, or head straight out for a sunset drenched dining experience.

From high end restaurants to casual bars and eateries, the Waterfront is a must-do experience to finish off your first night in Darwin. Be sure to check out Snapper Rocks, CHOW! or Hot Tamale for dinner.

Day 2: Darwin to Kakadu National Park (250km)

Inside the world’s biggest croc

Kickstart your trip to Kakadu and head straight to the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel. Your personal retreat, the hotel is located in the middle of the World Heritage park, allowing you to explore all surrounding attractions with ease. A reptile you’ll actually want to meet, the hotel is built to replicate a giant croc.

Bush brush up

Located just minutes from the Mercure, the Bowali Visitor Centre is the place to go to be in the know. Visitors will find important information about Kakadu’s sites, experiences and history. For a deeper understanding of the region, the centre also shows a 25 minute film detailing the different moods and landscapes of Kakadu.

 

Ancient art

Next up, head to Burrungkuy (Nourlangie). Painted by the Bininj people, the rock art site gives travellers a glimpse of what life was like 60,000 years ago. Close by lies Kunwarddewardde Lookout and Anbangbang shelter. Dress for an off-road adventure because shady walking trails and a stunning lookout await.

Stunning sunsets

Finish off your first day in Kakadu with sunset at Ubirr, or Nawurlandja Lookout Walk if you’re travelling during the tropical summer between October to November.

Aside from the sunsets, Ubirr also has famous Aboriginal rock art galleries. The lookout at Ubirr takes around an hour and a half to walk to, so be sure to wear your off-road shoes and pack plenty of water.

Nawurlandja offers visitors a view of the sunset overlooking the culturally significant Anbangbang Billabong and Arnhem Land landscape.

Day 3: Kakadu National Park

A spectacular way to start your day

Before sunrise, make your way to Yellow Water Cruises. Over the next few hours, you’ll be taken back by the natural calmness of the water and feel a deep sense of connection to the land.

On the cruise, you’ll have a chance to see crocodiles, water buffaloes, magpie geese, whistling ducks, eagles and more. All while learning about the significant waterway from the tour guide. The Yellow Water Cruise is a must-do experience, so bookings are essential.

Your own oasis

Next up, pack a lunch, sunscreen and swimmers and make your way to Maguk (accessible by 4WD only). The sparkling hidden gem of Kakadu, Maguk is one the lesser-known waterholes. Here, you’ll be met by a pristine waterfall and refreshing plunge pools.

Maguk is accessed from a 14km track off the Kakadu Highway, followed by a 1km walk through monsoon forests, crossing Barramundi Creek.

 

A cultural jewel

Your final stop is the Marrawuddi Gallery located in Jabiru. Dubbed the ‘cultural jewel of Kakadu National Park’, travellers can meet resident artists and immerse themselves in a rich collection of Aboriginal art. Marrawuddi is a proud member of the Indigenous Art Code, giving you the peace of mind that any art purchased at the gift shop is ethical.

Day 4: Kakadu National Park to Katherine

A stress-free stopover

After 2 adventure-filled days in Kakadu, make your way to Knotts Crossing Resort.

Located in Katherine, Knotts Crossing Resort is the ultimate base for exploring the many lookouts and waterholes hidden within the Katherine region.

Nature’s heated pools

Once settled, head over to Katherine Hot Springs. Situated on the banks of the Katherine River, swimmers can take in the tranquility and wonder at the warmth of the thermal springs.

 

Day 5: Katherine

A sparkling view of Nitmiluk Gorge

Start your day at Baruwei Lookout. Overlooking the Nitmiluk Gorge system, this spot is unmissable when it comes to sunrise. From the viewing platform, visitors witness the rising sun reflecting off the waterfalls, escarpments and across the vibrant landscape.

Don’t just look, explore

Next, head down to the Nitmiluk Gorge cruise. There are many different cruises and experiences throughout the day including a dawn cruise and a sunset dining experience. No matter your choice, each allows you to take in magnificent views of sheer cliffs and gently flowing water.

Alternatively, hire a canoe and paddle peacefully down the gorge, spotting wildlife along the way. Bookings for all experiences with Nitmiluk Tours are essential, so plan your trip in advance.

 

Relax & replenish

Head to Kumbidgee Restaurant to recharge and retell your favourite moments from the day. Found on Gorge Road, this open dining venue serves affordable upmarket food overlooking a lily-pad filled pond. From NT barramundi ceviche to native thyme confit pumpkin, there are dishes for all tastes and flavours.

Day 6: Katherine to Litchfield National Park

An outback oasis

After breakfast, head to Litchfield Outback Resort. Your home for the next 2 nights, the resort is close to all the action of Litchfield and offers its own little luxuries with a pool, café, bar and bistro. Take it slow and kick back by the pool or pack your swimmers and a picnic and dive into the next destination.

Into the wet, into the wild

Make the most of the day at Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls. From the carpark, you’ll first come across Buley Rockhole. Venture down a short walking track, and be met by a series of pristine water holes surrounded by nature and thriving with wildlife.

Wander a little further down and you’ll discover Florence Falls. Once there, you’ll be taken aback by the mighty roar of water falling from the magnificent 15m drop. Most impressive in the wet season or start of the Dry.

 

Wet feet, full bellies

For lunch, head over to Wangi Falls and unpack your picnic. One of the most popular swimming spots in Litchfield, visitors can soak in the calming atmosphere year round.

Wangi is the perfect haven for travellers to sit back and take it all in with shady spots-a-plenty and gas barbecues for use. There’s also a café open for lunch during the dry season.

Falling for sunsets

Dry off and head to Tolmer Falls, one of the most breathtaking falls in all of Litchfield. Tolmer Falls cascades over 2 massive escarpments with water crashing to the plunge pool below. While sunrise is also recommended, the experience of witnessing the sunset at Tolmer Falls cannot be missed.

Day 7: Litchfield National Park

Rise & shine

After a relaxing few days, wake up early and get ready for sunrise atop Tjaetaba Falls. Start your journey at the Greenant Creek Walk and trek along the leafy trail until you reach Tjaetaba Falls lookout. The trail includes some steep inclines, so wear appropriate footwear and pack plenty of water.

At your destination, you’ll find 2 watering holes that flow year round. Like a natural infinity pool, they overlook Litchfield National Park which makes for a spectacular view.

Revisit or explore

If your inner explorer still can’t be tamed, make your way to the Upper Cascades. The hike isn’t for the faint of heart and is rated moderate to difficult. But don’t let that deter you. Quieter than Buley and Florence, consider the Cascades your own patch of paradise.

 

Day 8: Litchfield National Park to Darwin

One last stop

Today is all about taking your time. On your way back to Darwin, stop by Berry Springs Nature Park. Hidden away, this natural swimming hole is surrounded by unspoiled scenery, allowing you to feel more connected than ever to nature. Don’t forget to venture through monsoon forest and woodlands walking trails for the complete experience.

Before you leave, head to the Berry Springs Tavern for lunch. With friendly service, classic pub food, a playground, and animals, it serves up a relaxed atmosphere for families and couples alike.

It’s not over yet

Arrive back in Darwin and check in to where it all began at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on the Esplanade. Spend the last night poolside with a cocktail in hand or head out to wine and dine at one the city’s eateries, bars and restaurants.

Darwin has a vibrant mix of Asian, Mexican, modern Australian and locally inspired cuisine, as well as bars and nightclubs. Check out restaurants like Ella by Minoli, Moorish and The Loading Bay. For bars, Charlie’s of Darwin, Stone House and Hanky Panky Lounge are all great shouts.

 

Day 9: Darwin

A new day in Darwin

Awake, enjoy a buffet breakfast and plan your next adventure. Stay around for the vibrant Mindil Beach Sunset Market, check out Crocosaurus Cove, or head south to epic Red Centre.

This 9-day road trip itinerary covers everything you need for a self-drive adventure in the Top End. Stunning sights, peaceful waterholes, art and cultural experience, all bookmarked by beautiful Darwin.

Visit the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, plunge into the pools in Litchfield National Park, and discover the cultural sites of Nitmiluk National Park in Katherine. This trip allows plenty of time to take in the natural wonders of the Northern Territory, consider this the ultimate escape.

Day 1: Darwin

Check in, switch off

Ease into your 9-day adventure and check into the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on the Esplanade.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is both luxurious and convenient. It features ocean views and is close to the CBD, giving you the option to indulge and explore.

For the curious

Treat your inquisitive self to Darwin’s Aboriginal art scene by visiting a range of museums and galleries.

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory showcases an inspiring collection of ongoing exhibitions and an ever-changing schedule of exciting and boundary-pushing exhibitions.

For a step back in time, visit the Defence of Darwin Experience located at Darwin Military Museum at East Point. Learn about life in the Northern Territory during WWII through this powerful, immersive and interactive experience.

For a contemporary look at Aboriginal art, visit some of the many local galleries on offer such as the Laundry Gallery in Parap. From modern Aboriginal art, sculptures, experimental and beyond, Darwin has many galleries which will expand your perspective of Aboriginal art.

Unwind into the night

Toast a successful day of sightseeing at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct, located a short walk or drive from the CBD. Enjoy a sundowner by the saltwater lagoon, or head straight out for a sunset drenched dining experience.

From high end restaurants to casual bars and eateries, the Waterfront is a must-do experience to finish off your first night in Darwin. Be sure to check out Snapper Rocks, CHOW! or Hot Tamale for dinner.

Day 2: Darwin to Kakadu National Park (250km)

Inside the world’s biggest croc

Kickstart your trip to Kakadu and head straight to the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel. Your personal retreat, the hotel is located in the middle of the World Heritage park, allowing you to explore all surrounding attractions with ease. A reptile you’ll actually want to meet, the hotel is built to replicate a giant croc.

Bush brush up

Located just minutes from the Mercure, the Bowali Visitor Centre is the place to go to be in the know. Visitors will find important information about Kakadu’s sites, experiences and history. For a deeper understanding of the region, the centre also shows a 25 minute film detailing the different moods and landscapes of Kakadu.

Ancient art

Next up, head to Burrungkuy (Nourlangie). Painted by the Bininj people, the rock art site gives travellers a glimpse of what life was like 60,000 years ago. Close by lies Kunwarddewardde Lookout and Anbangbang shelter. Dress for an off-road adventure because shady walking trails and a stunning lookout await.

Stunning sunsets

Finish off your first day in Kakadu with sunset at Ubirr, or Nawurlandja Lookout Walk if you’re travelling during the tropical summer between October to November.

Aside from the sunsets, Ubirr also has famous Aboriginal rock art galleries. The lookout at Ubirr takes around an hour and a half to walk to, so be sure to wear your off-road shoes and pack plenty of water.

Nawurlandja offers visitors a view of the sunset overlooking the culturally significant Anbangbang Billabong and Arnhem Land landscape.

Day 3: Kakadu National Park

A spectacular way to start your day

Before sunrise, make your way to Yellow Water Cruises. Over the next few hours, you’ll be taken back by the natural calmness of the water and feel a deep sense of connection to the land.

On the cruise, you’ll have a chance to see crocodiles, water buffaloes, magpie geese, whistling ducks, eagles and more. All while learning about the significant waterway from the tour guide. The Yellow Water Cruise is a must-do experience, so bookings are essential.

Your own oasis

Next up, pack a lunch, sunscreen and swimmers and make your way to Maguk (accessible by 4WD only). The sparkling hidden gem of Kakadu, Maguk is one the lesser-known waterholes. Here, you’ll be met by a pristine waterfall and refreshing plunge pools.

Maguk is accessed from a 14km track off the Kakadu Highway, followed by a 1km walk through monsoon forests, crossing Barramundi Creek.

A cultural jewel

Your final stop is the Marrawuddi Gallery located in Jabiru. Dubbed the ‘cultural jewel of Kakadu National Park’, travellers can meet resident artists and immerse themselves in a rich collection of Aboriginal art. Marrawuddi is a proud member of the Indigenous Art Code, giving you the peace of mind that any art purchased at the gift shop is ethical.

Day 4: Kakadu National Park to Katherine

A stress-free stopover

After 2 adventure-filled days in Kakadu, make your way to Knotts Crossing Resort.

Located in Katherine, Knotts Crossing Resort is the ultimate base for exploring the many lookouts and waterholes hidden within the Katherine region.

Nature’s heated pools

Once settled, head over to Katherine Hot Springs. Situated on the banks of the Katherine River, swimmers can take in the tranquility and wonder at the warmth of the thermal springs.

Day 5: Katherine

A sparkling view of Nitmiluk Gorge

Start your day at Baruwei Lookout. Overlooking the Nitmiluk Gorge system, this spot is unmissable when it comes to sunrise. From the viewing platform, visitors witness the rising sun reflecting off the waterfalls, escarpments and across the vibrant landscape.

Don’t just look, explore

Next, head down to the Nitmiluk Gorge cruise. There are many different cruises and experiences throughout the day including a dawn cruise and a sunset dining experience. No matter your choice, each allows you to take in magnificent views of sheer cliffs and gently flowing water.

Alternatively, hire a canoe and paddle peacefully down the gorge, spotting wildlife along the way. Bookings for all experiences with Nitmiluk Tours are essential, so plan your trip in advance.

Relax & replenish

Head to Kumbidgee Restaurant to recharge and retell your favourite moments from the day. Found on Gorge Road, this open dining venue serves affordable upmarket food overlooking a lily-pad filled pond. From NT barramundi ceviche to native thyme confit pumpkin, there are dishes for all tastes and flavours.

Day 6: Katherine to Litchfield National Park

An outback oasis

After breakfast, head to Litchfield Outback Resort. Your home for the next 2 nights, the resort is close to all the action of Litchfield and offers its own little luxuries with a pool, café, bar and bistro. Take it slow and kick back by the pool or pack your swimmers and a picnic and dive into the next destination.

Into the wet, into the wild

Make the most of the day at Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls. From the carpark, you’ll first come across Buley Rockhole. Venture down a short walking track, and be met by a series of pristine water holes surrounded by nature and thriving with wildlife.

Wander a little further down and you’ll discover Florence Falls. Once there, you’ll be taken aback by the mighty roar of water falling from the magnificent 15m drop. Most impressive in the wet season or start of the Dry.

Wet feet, full bellies

For lunch, head over to Wangi Falls and unpack your picnic. One of the most popular swimming spots in Litchfield, visitors can soak in the calming atmosphere year round.

Wangi is the perfect haven for travellers to sit back and take it all in with shady spots-a-plenty and gas barbecues for use. There’s also a café open for lunch during the dry season.

Falling for sunsets

Dry off and head to Tolmer Falls, one of the most breathtaking falls in all of Litchfield. Tolmer Falls cascades over 2 massive escarpments with water crashing to the plunge pool below. While sunrise is also recommended, the experience of witnessing the sunset at Tolmer Falls cannot be missed.

Day 7: Litchfield National Park

Rise & shine

After a relaxing few days, wake up early and get ready for sunrise atop Tjaetaba Falls. Start your journey at the Greenant Creek Walk and trek along the leafy trail until you reach Tjaetaba Falls lookout. The trail includes some steep inclines, so wear appropriate footwear and pack plenty of water.

At your destination, you’ll find 2 watering holes that flow year round. Like a natural infinity pool, they overlook Litchfield National Park which makes for a spectacular view.

Revisit or explore

If your inner explorer still can’t be tamed, make your way to the Upper Cascades. The hike isn’t for the faint of heart and is rated moderate to difficult. But don’t let that deter you. Quieter than Buley and Florence, consider the Cascades your own patch of paradise.

Day 8: Litchfield National Park to Darwin

One last stop

Today is all about taking your time. On your way back to Darwin, stop by Berry Springs Nature Park. Hidden away, this natural swimming hole is surrounded by unspoiled scenery, allowing you to feel more connected than ever to nature. Don’t forget to venture through monsoon forest and woodlands walking trails for the complete experience.

Before you leave, head to the Berry Springs Tavern for lunch. With friendly service, classic pub food, a playground, and animals, it serves up a relaxed atmosphere for families and couples alike.

It’s not over yet

Arrive back in Darwin and check in to where it all began at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on the Esplanade. Spend the last night poolside with a cocktail in hand or head out to wine and dine at one the city’s eateries, bars and restaurants.

Darwin has a vibrant mix of Asian, Mexican, modern Australian and locally inspired cuisine, as well as bars and nightclubs. Check out restaurants like Ella by Minoli, Moorish and The Loading Bay. For bars, Charlie’s of Darwin, Stone House and Hanky Panky Lounge are all great shouts.

Day 9: Darwin

A new day in Darwin

Awake, enjoy a buffet breakfast and plan your next adventure. Stay around for the vibrant Mindil Beach Sunset Market, check out Crocosaurus Cove, or head south to epic Red Centre.

Spend a day exploring Darwin, then head off on a road trip that loops through the highlights of the Top End.

Start in Darwin

Explore

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

  • Drive:

    2 hr 54 min
  • Buley Rockhole

    Litchfield National Park
    See & do

    Enjoy a refreshing swim in the cascading pools of Buley Rockhole.

  • Drive:

    5 min
  • Florence Falls

    Litchfield National Park
    See & do

    Located in Litchfield National Park, the spectacular Florence Falls cascade into a plunge pool, set in a pocket of monsoon forest.

  • Drive:

    26 min
  • Wangi Falls

    Litchfield National Park
    See & do

    Wangi Falls is the best-known and most popular attraction in Litchfield National Park - a park renowned for its accessibility and pristine natural beauty.

  • Drive:

    12 min
  • Tolmer Falls

    Litchfield National Park
    See & do

    Tolmer Falls is one of the most spectacular falls in the magnificent Litchfield National Park.

  • Drive:

    43 min

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Finish in Darwin

Explore

Book this trip The ultimate Top End self-drive experience

Instant booking options

  • The ultimate Top End self-drive experience
    8 nights from $1,589 pp*

    T&C’s apply.

Book it yourself

  • Car hire

    Pick-up: day 1
    Return: day 9

  • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

    Entry: day 1

  • 1 night accommodation at Doubletree by Hilton Esplanade Darwin

    Check-in: day 1
    Check-out: day 2

  • Kakadu Parks Pass

    Required for entry to Kakadu National Park. Read about passes & permits

  • 2 nights accommodation at Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel

    Check-in: day 2
    Check-out: day 4

  • Yellow Water cruises

    Departing: day 3

  • 2 nights accommodation at Knotts Crossing Resort

    Check-in: day 4
    Check-out: day 6

  • Nitmiluk Gorge cruise

    Departing: day 5

  • Canoeing in Nitmiluk Gorge

    Departing: day 5

  • 2 nights accommodation at Litchfield Outback Resort

    Check-in: day 6
    Check-out: day 8

  • Crocosaurus Cove

    Entry: day 9

  • 1 night accommodation at Doubletree by Hilton Esplanade Darwin

    Check-in: day 8
    Check-out: day 9

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