Darwin & Surrounds: What Not to Do

Darwin, Kakadu, and Nitmulik were on our six-week trip around Australia as part of our outback section.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about our whole trip here. We spent the first part near Adelaide, then Margaret River, went up to Exmouth, then made our way to Darwin via Broome and the Kimberleys. It was fantastic and I’ve loved sharing all the great parts and the not-so-great parts.

When I travel, I tend to over plan, it’s just who I am. Please don’t tell me not to over plan, that just doesn’t work for me.  In fact, whenever I don’t books something ahead of time or don’t do the planning on my own, I end up disappointed in at least some part. For me, that was this part of the trip. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was not disappointed in the area at all, we just did it completely wrong.  Thus, today I’m sharing our itinerary of the area and how I think you should change it. It’s rare that I leave and area and think “well I did that completely backwards”, but this time I did. There are some great National parks in this area so to help you see it better, I’m breaking it down.


To start us off, here’s the breakdown of what we did.

6 Days in Darwin & Surrounds: How We Spent it

First Day: We drove 7.5 hours into the Katherine Gorge area, traditionally called Nitmulik.

Nitmulik Gorge
Nitmulik Gorge

Second Day: Around Nitmulik

Third Day: We drove 3.5 hours to Kakadu National Park

Fourth Day: Around Kakadu. We did the Gunlom Falls Walk, the Maguk Walk, the Nawurlandja Lookout Walk at sunset, and the Nourlangie Rock Walk.

Nawurlandja Walk at Sunset
Nawurlandja Walk at Sunset
Gunlom Falls
Gunlom Falls
Aboriginal Rock Art
Aboriginal Rock Art
Maguk Waterfall
Maguk Waterfall

Fifth Day: We drove 4 hours to Darwin via Litchfield National Park

Wangi Falls in Litchfield
Wangi Falls in Litchfield
Buley Rockhole
Buley Rockhole

Sixth Day: Around Darwin. We drove to do jumping croc cruise in the morning, then we went to lunch in Darwin, dove with the Crocs at Crocosaurus Cove, had dinner at the Mindil Beach night market, and watched the sunset over the Mindil Beach to end the day. It sounds like a lot but it really wasn’t too much, it was just right.

Croc in the Adelaide River
Croc in the Adelaide River

So now that you know what we did, I would say we made 5 big mistakes and here they are.

5 Mistakes to Avoid
  1. We spent 2 nights at Nitmulik.  While the gorge is lovely, the only way to really see it is by boat and it only takes a couple of hours. You can definitely do this in half a day. It was nice to have some down time, but we had to rush in other areas, which I don’t recommend. I would say if you’re going to drive in from Lake Argyle (which is what we did), spend one night there, do the cruise the next morning, and then head to Kakadu. You’ll be glad you did.

  2. You need to spend at least 3 nights in Kakadu.  Kakadu is a very special place and I don’t think it gets the love it deserves. There’s so much culture and a lot of great trails to off-road and lovely waterfalls to see.  We did not get to see Jim Jim Falls as we would have needed another day.


  3. Kakadu is rather large and we didn’t know this.  In order to get a brochure and map you have to go to the visitor center which is about an hour into the park. You’ll need to plan the walks you want to do and pay attention to how far apart they are, because it is a large park.


  4. We did not spend the night near Litchfield, we basically drove through it on our way to Darwin. You need more time, I wish we would have stayed a couple of nights here and not at Nitmulik.


  5. Spend another night in Darwin if you can.  I wouldn’t say we missed anything or that I wished we had more time there, but it would have been nice to have another day to relax.


You now know what we did and the mistakes we made, but I also want to share the parts you do not want to miss. So to end, here are my favorites in the area and what I think you should definitely not miss.

10 Places Not to Miss Near Darwin
  1. Gunlom Falls (Kakadu). Be sure to walk up to the top and see natures infinity pool. You can also swim up there because the crocs can’t get up the waterfall. It’s a very serene place. I could have spent the entire day there.

    Gunlom Falls
    Gunlom Falls
  2. Maguk Falls (Kakadu). Maguk is a fun little off-road track that takes about 30-45 minutes and then about a half hour easy hike down to the falls.  It’s a lovely waterfall and usually croc safe, but check with the visitor center to be sure and head the warning signs.

    Maguk Falls
    Maguk Falls
  3. Aboriginal art at Kakadu

    Aboriginal Art at Kakadu
    Aboriginal Art at Kakadu
  4. Tolmer Falls (Litchfield)

    Tolmer Falls
    Tolmer Falls
  5. Florence Falls (Litchfield). 

    Florence Falls
    Florence Falls
  6. Wangi Falls (Litchfield). This is a great place to swim but there’s no need to do the whole walk. You can walk around to the look out and get a great photo of the falls and then swim under the waterfall.

    Wangi Falls
    Wangi Falls
  7. The jumping crocs at Adelaide River. You can’t go to the Darwin area and not see crocs. The jumping croc tours are definitely worth the trip out.

    Jumping Crocs
    Jumping Crocs
  8. Crocosaurus Cove. You don’t need long, but you do need to stop in and dive with the crocs if you’re an adrenaline junkie like me.

    Dive with Crocs
    Dive with Crocs
  9. Mindil Beach Sunset Market in Darwin. I seemed to have not taken any photos at this market, but it’s a great place for food, a little shopping, great atmosphere, and you can walk down to the beach to see the sunset.
  10. Darwin Sunset at Mindil Beach

    Darwin Sunset
    Darwin Sunset

So what do you think? Have you been to this area? If so, let us know in the comments. What was your favorite and least favorite?

Darwin, Kakadu, Litchfield, & Nitmulik: A 6 Day Itinerary & 5 Mistakes to Avoid

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