DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
The best way to appreciate this relatively unspoilt National Park is to enter at the southern end and drive on interesting and sometimes challenging tracks to the more popular and easily visited northern sections.
At the southern entrance to Litchfield National Park there’s a space on the information board for people to write their comments.
Last time we visited there was also a foreign-language note (thank heaven for schoolboy French) that revealed the writer had spotted a croc ‘in the wild’.
Crocodiles are an ever-present danger and you should swim only in those areas designated as croc-safe, in the northern sections of the Park. Fortunately, there are several splendid swimming areas.
The sign at the southern entrance to Litchfield National Park, just off the Daly River Road from Hayes Creek, is quite clear about excluding caravans, but if you have experience towing camper trailers it’s possible to get through.
Less than half an hour’s drive into Litchfield is the first creek crossing. It isn’t deep, in the Dry Season, but the sandy bottom is soft and the creek splits into several channels, separated by steep, sandy banks with trees growing out of them. Getting over becomes a slalom course through the obstacles, with only a few millimetres between bark and bodywork in some places.
There’s normally no need to do any radiator protection for water only thigh-deep, but progress is a lot easier if you drop tyre pressures on vehicles and trailers, to give better flotation through the soft stuff.
There are several more crossings that are usually longer and deeper, with firm sandy and stony bottoms. The deepest is the Reynolds, where you’re likely to have water over the door sills.
Once clear of the major creek crossings the track leads through open woodland, studded with two different styles of termite mounds.
Termites and tin
Litchfield National Park is famous for its termite mounds, of which there are two types.
The bulkier, more familiar style is known as a cathedral mound and has distinct mouldings, but the so-called ‘magnetic mounds’ are quite different.
Like the cathedral mounds these hills have internal arches, tunnels, chimneys, insulation and nursery chambers, but all these are contained within blade-like structures that are quite thin in section and almost flat on both sides.
They’re called magnetic because they’re aligned north-south to minimise exposure to the sun during the hottest time of day.
One of the highlights in Litchfield is the well-preserved and presented Blyth Homestead, which was built as an outstation some 25 miles from the main house on Stapleton Station.
It was located near a tin mine, which was worked by the owner’s kids! They were tough back then.
The Lost City rock formations in Litchfield are a great attraction, so the rutted track into this location gets plenty of use and is corrugated most of the way.
These sandstone formations can be appreciated during an easy stroll through this castle-like wonderland
of eroded towers and columns.
At the northern end of the 4WD track the surface improves and then joins the bitumen near Tolmer Falls. From there it’s only relatively short bitumen drive
With bitumen road access from Darwin only an hour and a half away the spectacular swimming hole at Wangi is virtually in the city’s back yard.
North of Wangi is the old Bamboo Creek Tin Mine and it’s possible to wander among the ruins and inspect some of the original machinery. Unfortunately, souveniring has been rife and many of the relics have been stolen.
There are designated campsites at Surprise Creek (4WD), Tjaynera Falls (4WD), Wangi Falls, Florence Falls, Buley Rockhole, Walker Creek
Handy contacts are: Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT (08) 8999 4555, www.nt.gov.au/nretas/parks; Tourism Top End 1300 138 886, www.tourismtopend.com.au.