Top End Explorer
Self Drive Tour
Take a journey of discovery through the Northern Territory’s Top End, visiting tropical wetlands teaming with wildlife, waterfalls and swimming holes, remote towns and pulsating Darwin.
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Top End Explorer
Day 1 : Arrive Darwin
On arrival in Darwin collect you rental car and make your way to your downtown hotel for a three night stay.
Day 2&3 : Darwin
Two days to relax and explore the city.
Enjoy a half day city sights tour that is the perfect introduction to Darwin. See the lush Botanic Gardens and the Chinese Temple, which was re-built after it was totally demolished by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Tour the historic sites of the city including the East Point Military Precinct. See the Stokes Hill Wharf area, the Mooring Basin and Darwin Aviation Museum. There is also time available to explore the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, whose collections encompass Aboriginal art, visual arts and Northern Territory history and natural sciences.
From the sparkling harbour and WWII history to the city’s Asian-influenced food and tropical outdoor lifestyle, Darwin is an adventurer’s paradise. At the famous Mindil beach Sunset Markets, sample international cuisine from over 60 food stalls, including Indonesian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Turkish, Greek, Cambodian, and Japanese. Immerse yourself in the history of Darwin. From ancient Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and the pioneering spirit of the early settlers to survival stories of WWII, the bombing of Darwin and Cyclone Tracy, Darwin’s history and heritage is vast, diverse and captivating in every way.
Day 4 : Darwin – Kakadu National Park (254km)
Leave Darwin and head for the Kakadu National Park for a two night stay. Perhaps make a stop at Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre or the Adelaide River for an optional Jumping Crocodile cruise. The scenery on the way is dramatic and colourful with bird life, wet lands and high escarpments. A visit to the Bowali Visitor Centre is a must to learn more about this unique environment.
The 500km long Arnhem Land escarpment, formed over two billion years ago, towers over the Kakadu park’s wetlands. This ancient landscape with its rock formations, powerful waterways, towering cliffs, spectacular waterfalls and cool lagoons, as well as diverse wildlife and unique plant life, together with some of the country’s best Aboriginal art galleries, add up to a truly magnificent area recognised in the park’s World Heritage listing, awarded for both cultural and natural significance.
Day 5 : Kakadu National Park
First enjoy an included Yellow Water Cruise that will provide you with an intimate adventure tour that you will never forget. Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu's most famous wetland, is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River. The river system, which is the largest in Kakadu, contains extensive wetlands that include river channels, floodplains and backwater swamps. About one third of Australia's bird species are represented in Kakadu National Park, with at least 60 species found in the wetlands. The guides on the cruise run a competition between themselves on who can find "the big five" on one cruise - all five species of kingfisher that can be found in Kakadu. There are plenty of crocodiles in their natural habitat and buffalo on the floodplains.
After the cruise explore more on your own. The Aboriginal rock art in the region is well preserved and accessible, so perhaps take an optional tour. Ubirr Rock is only 45km from Jabiru and is one of the main accessible art sites in the park.
Day 6 : Kakadu – Katherine (300km)
Head south today, joining the Stuart Highway as you head for Katherine and a two night stay. Be sure to make a stop at Edith Falls on the way and the old mining town of Pine creek.
Katherine is the heart of the real Outback. Attractions in the area include places of historic interest, birds and wildlife in their natural surroundings, caves, gorges, Aboriginal lore and art, and for the adventurers, magnificent waterfalls, canyons and billabongs that are still unspoiled.
Day 7 : Nitmiluk National Park
The highlight of the Nitmiluk National park is Katherine Gorge. Millions of years of torrential rains in Arnhem land during the summer wet season have caused the waters of the Katherine river to cut a series of thirteen spectacular gorges where the canyon walls rise steeply from the cool waters below where bird, fish and animal life is abundant, including fresh water crocodiles. The Katherine Gorge system is best seen from the water and you’ll enjoy an included two hour cruise that will allow you to discover the cultural significance of two gorges to the traditional landowners, the Jawoyn people. You will be enlightened by the history and traditions of the Indigenous inhabitants. Later perhaps make a visit to Elsey National Park and Matakana and swim in the thermal pool where the water is constantly around 34 degrees Celsius.
Day 8 : Katherine – Batchelor (240km)
Time to head north again today to Batchelor on the edge of the Lichfield National Park for a two night stay.
Day 9 : Litchfield National Park (60km)
A full day to explore the delights of Litchfield National Park, the Top End’s most accessible natural attraction with spectacular waterfalls and safe swimming pools year round. The park is filled with stunning waterfalls and waterholes that are surrounded by monsoonal vine forests – all of which offer a cool respite on warm summer days. Swim in the clear waterholes beneath magnificent spring-fed waterfalls. Take the boardwalk to a ‘graveyard’ of 2m tall headstones. These are magnetic termite mounds; feats of insect architecture oriented with the sun to keep the termites cool in baking conditions. Keep your eyes peeled for hundreds of species of fauna. Wallabies, sugar gliders, quolls and flying foxes are all common, as is the dragon-like water monitor that can often be spotted basking on rocks. Twitchers should keep their binoculars handy to spot the Yellow Oriole, Figbird, Pacific Koel, Spangled Drongo, Dollarbird and Rainbow Bee-eater that inhabit sheltered areas close to waterfalls.
Day 10 : Batchelor – Darwin Departure (100km)
Head north today to Darwin to drop off your car in time to check in for your homeward flight.