Discovering the beauty of Litchfield National Park Termite Mounds – A day trip from Darwin
The Northern Territory is full of unique natural wonders at every turn. Not many compare to the Litchfield National Park Termite Mounds though. Built by tiny termites, these structures are not to be missed while exploring Australia’s North and give you a different perspective on life, and how amazing nature really is. Don’t worry though, whether you choose to do a day trip from Darwin, or camp for the weekend, there’s plenty to see and do at Litchfield National Park once you’ve seen the fields of giant Termite Mounds.
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How to get to the Litchfield National Park Termite Mounds:
Litchfield National Park is roughly an hour away from Darwin, making it a great day trip option or an extra stop on your way North/South. Getting there is pretty easy too as it’s along the Stuart Highway. Coming from the North you’ll need to turn on to the B34 at Livingstone. Coming up from the South on the way to Darwin, you’ll turn off for Bachelor just before Bennet River. This is one loop road, so no matter where you’ll start, you’ll not miss anything. If you have a 4wd there are alternative routes you can take, they can be found here.
All throughout Litchfield National Park you’ll see fields of termite mounds, the most spectacular can be found at the Southern end of the National Park road, so if that’s all you want to see you can by-pass the North section by staying on the Stuart highway and going through Bennet River, then exiting on the same route…. doing this though you will miss all the waterfalls and croc-free swimming holes.
The Termite mounds are fairly well signposted but be sure not to miss the roadside photo opportunities too!! There is ample parking near the Litchfield National Park termite mounds and toilets too – not that there were many people there when we visited (Although I imagine it can be busy during peak season)
Is Litchfield National Park 2wd accessible?
Yes! This loop road from Livingstone to Bennet river is 2wd accessible, however, there are sections that will flood after heavy rainfalls so this is something to be mindful of. On the northern section of the track, there is also a 20km stretch that is levelled dirt road, this appeared to be getting some maintenance so in years to come it may all be sealed.
We managed ok in our Mazda E 2000 during the summer, you just have to be mindful of the conditions. Drive slow on unsealed roads and don’t drive through fast-moving floodways. You can check the road conditions for this stretch of road here and there’s often updates posted on WikiCamps too.
What makes the Termite Mounds so special?
Litchfield National Park giant Termite Mounds aren’t just a must-see attraction because of their size or because there’s so many of them… it’s the fact they can only be found in Australia’s Far North. You won’t see a sight like this anywhere else in the world.
While Termite Mounds as a whole are found all over the world, Litchfield National Park is home to a field of ‘magnetic’ Termite Mounds. A special collection that can only be found in Australia.
These termites have adapted to the extreme weather conditions by aligning their tall thin mounds to face North/South in swamplands… you’ll never find one pointing in the opposite direction… why? because this means they have one half in the shade, and one half in the sun, keeping them at the perfect temp all day. It’s not just one or two here either, there are fields full of them.
Their appearance is pretty impressive too, tall and thin like a sheet of paper, but solid as a rock. When you stand looking out over 100’s of them, it’s easy to imagine you’re stood looking at a graveyard or a micro city with thin skyscrapers.
Want to check out more of The NT? Find more posts here
Next to the Magnetic mounds, you’ll find Cathedral Mounds. these are incredible for their own reasons. Built by a different type of termite, the Cathedral Mounds are found on hard dry land as opposed to the swampy ground where you’ll find Magnetic Mounds.
The Cathedral Termite Mounds tower over the everything around them, including a lot of tree/plant species in the area. At 5ft4”, I measured at half the height of some of the biggest and it would have easily taken 3 people to measure the circumference.
These continuously growing mounds are estimated to be over 50 years old and home to millions upon millions of tiny Termites, all working together to build their giant home. If you look carefully at some of the holes, you can even see them going about their business.
Mounds in fancy dress
Ok, so you’ll have already seen plenty of these if you’ve driven through the outback to get here. If you haven’t and this is your first time hearing about these then you’re in for a treat.
I’m still not 100% why people do this, or if I even agree with it as I’m not sure how it affects the termites living inside the mounds, but anyway, these are often miniature termite mounds that have acquired clothing.
Due to the way they’re built, some look really comical. We’ve seen ones that look like they’re waving, ones holding hands and even some that have ‘outgrown’ their clothes. It certainly adds an entertainment value to long drives but as I said, I’m not sure it’s something to encourage.
Waterfalls in Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park isn’t just full of Termite Mounds though. There’s a lot of other natural beauty around this area, and that’s just what’s accessible on the sealed tracks! If you’re heading to Litchfield National Park you’ll 100% want to bring your swimming gear with you, here’s why!
Cascades is the first lot of waterfalls we came to in LNP. There’s a campsite here but surprisingly it was one of the quieter spots along the route, maybe because it’s a rocky 1-hour walk from the carpark to get there.
The Cascades aren’t the most impressive in this national park, some would argue they’re not worth the walk BUT we’re big believers in going to see things for yourself… not everyone likes the same things after all.
Once you get there, you’ll find that they’re split into lower and upper sections which are often closed for a multitude of reasons; salt-croc sightings being one of them. While when they’re open, they’re ‘safe’, we’ve always been really cautious. If you want to check the situation for your visit, you can do so here.
Don’t worry though, there’s a couple of safe swimming spots further along the track.
If you don’t have you’re on vehical, but still want to visit Litchfield National Park, check out these day tours from Darwin!
Wangi Falls and plunge pool
This was one of our favourites in the National Park. Again, it was very quiet but we’re putting it down to the time of year. The big car park, ample amount of BBQ’s and a big toilet/changing block suggest that in the peak season this gets packed. And we’re not surprised by that.
What we loved about Wangi falls was their approach to crocs. During the dry season (which is when we were there) there is little – no chance of finding saltwater crocodiles in this area, however, they do still check regularly and will close it if they so much as suspect one to have moved in.
BUT, there is often freshwater crocodiles inhabiting the plunge pools. For these docile creatures, they simply tell you to stay away from them and they’ll not harm you. Which is sound advice. There’s still something about sharing the water with a crocodile – no matter how ‘harmless’ – that makes my hairs stand on end. So you won’t be surprised to hear we didn’t swim here either, but there were a few others who did.
Next to Wangi Falls, you’ll find the forest canopy walk that takes you through a flying fox bat colony, up to a lookout and then you can either turn back (like we did) or continue on the 2 hours walk back the car park via the top of the waterfalls. I imagine in the cooler weather it’s a beautiful walk, in 42’c it wasn’t something we planned to do.
Tjaeteba Falls is probably the most disappointing on the list but that’s just our opinion. You can’t really see the falls from the lookout, and the plunge pool at the top is the only place accessible for a swim – although it’s croc safe.
It’s a 2.7km return walk on rocky, slightly uphill terrain, but if you have it to yourself when you get there, the serenity is beautiful and definitely worth it. If you’re on a tight schedule though and need to skip something; this would be it.
This is without a doubt the most impressive of them all. NT Parks and Wildlife have clearly spent heaps of money upgrading the lookouts here and levelling the paths – not that that’s what we look for at places like this!
Tolmer Falls lookout not only has great views of the beautiful waterfall, but it’s in the perfect location to look out over the valley too. There’s also a long hike from here but again, 41’c heat put us off doing it.
If you’re wanting to swim, this is the place to go – although I’m not gonna lie… we still had that spine-tingling feeling that we were being watched.
This was the busiest waterfall within Litchfield National Park but with two campsites nearby and a great swimming hole, it was understandable why.
The lookout at Florence Falls is easy to get to from the car park, just a 500m walk. From here you get a good look at the waterfalls and the valley below. If you want to take a closer look or swim in the pool under the falls you’ll need to take a 40 minutes trek down a lot of steps. It’s worth it though.
At the bottom of the steps, you’ll be met with a mini jungle walk, crossing a small creek before it opens up to the pool below the waterfalls. It’s such a serene place that we just sat an listened to the water for a bit before joining the fish for a bit of a swim – not joking… there’s some huge fish here and if you sit/stand still for long enough they’ll offer to give you a pedicure.
Of course, after you’ve tired yourself out swimming you’ll have to make the 40 minute walk back up the stairs to get to the car but hey, at least you’ll have managed to have a safe wild swim in the Northern Territory!
Also don’t miss these:
Bamboo Creek Tin Mine
This old Tin Mine is a nice look back at some of the histories of the area. This whole site used to be a functioning Tin Mine in the 1940s and has been left pretty much as it was, with the exception of the entrances now being blocked off.
As you walk around the outside of the area, signs tell you more about what went on here and how local Aboriginals were included in the running of the Mine.
If you get to Bamboo Creek Tin Mine later in the day, towards dusk, you might even get to see the microbats come out from the caves to feed – or a carpet python/tree snake appear to feed on these bats.
If you’re visiting Litchfield National Park during the dry season, there won’t be much to see other than a dried up swamp and a few bush turkeys (or at least that was our experience). In the wet season we hear it’s full of water birds enjoying the swamplands. It’s still a really pretty area so if you want somewhere to stop for lunch, this would be the perfect place.
Litchfield National Park camping options
There are several options for camping in Litchfield National Park so if you decide you want to extend your day trip to a couple of days, it’s easy to do.
National Park sites
Every state in Australia has National Park camping, NT Litchfield National Park is no different. At LNP it’s $6.60 per person, per night, which is pretty standard for National Park camping.
There are 6 NP campsites at Litchfield National Park so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from
Litchfield Safari Camp
This campsite has really good reviews on WikiCamps but as we were only passing through we haven’t actually stayed here. From what we’ve seen though, it’s worth the money and provides an oasis to base yourself at while you explore more. Prices are $25 for an unpowered site, which defiantly isn’t expensive when you consider where you are.
Don’t forget to bring:
Litchfield National Park is definitely a must see if you’re heading to/from Darwin. The termite mounds alone are an impressive site and of course, who doesn’t love a good waterfall? We hope this post has been enough inspiration for you to add it to your Northern Australia itinerary! If you’ve been, what did you think to Australia’s natural wonders?
Don’t have your own transport? You don’t have to miss out! Check out one of these tours to Litchfield National Park instead
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