Avoid The Crowds In Litchfield National Park
It really isn't that hard to get away from it all in Litchfield National Park.
The situation is the same anywhere in Australia, and even in the supposedly remote Outback:
If you only have time to rush through, and only ever look at all the big and well known attractions, then of course you will find yourself in the midst of a few bus loads of other tourists...
But if you do a bit of research before you leave and if you take enough time...
So how can you find a bit of peace and solitude in Litchfield National Park?
The first two options are pretty obvious.
Avoid the main tourist season. May until September is the busiest time in Australia's north, and Litchfield National Park is no exception. The closer to the beginning or the end of the main tourist season it is the better.
The main road is sealed and Litchfield National Park can be visited any time of the year. Most people come here to swim at the waterfalls, so it doesn't matter if the weather is hot, does it?
The other obvious option is to hire a four wheel drive vehicle. One of Litchfield's main attractions is the fact that it is so accessible by two wheel drive. Most of the visitors and tour buses are conventional vehicles, they have to stick to the main road.
If you have a four wheel drive you can enter or leave Litchfield National Park along the southern access track, which connects to the Daly River Road. There are two waterfalls and campgrounds along that track, Tjaynera (Sandy Creek) Falls and Surprise Creek Falls, and they are a lot quieter than all the others...
But what if you can't afford a four wheel drive, and if you happen to be in the area during the main tourist season? Let's face it, we'd all love to take holidays whenever it suits us, but usually that is not possible. And there are also many good reasons to schedule a visit to Australia's north for the dry season...
Well, you can still find beautiful quiet swimming or camping spots in Litchfield National Park, but it involves some walking. A lot of walking in the case of the Tabletop Track, but only a little bit of walking at Walkers Creek. I'll start with Walker Creek, and then cover the Tabletop Track.
Walker Creek is the best kept secret of Litchfield National Park. This would have to be the best campsites I have seen in any national park so far. If you can get a site here you will have it all to yourself, and that's not all...
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Walker Creek can be found near the northern entrance of Litchfield National Park. The car park is close to the road, and this is where you have to register for a campsite. There is a box to put your (small) fee into, and a book where you can reserve your spot.
Near the car park are a couple of picnic sites with tables and barbecues, and you can hop in the creek to cool down, but you can't camp here. From here you have to walk. And yes, that means carrying all your stuff...
The walk follows the creek although you can't see the creek for most of the way. Every now and then you come to a turn off with a sign saying "Camp Site 1" (or 2, 3...) There are eight sites all up along nearly two kilometres.
Following the sign you get to a clearing near the creek. You find a big table, a big wood fired barbecue and enough flat ground to put up a couple of tents, so you can share a site with friends. You also find...
...your own private little swimming pool with your own private little waterfall! I love it. Every campsite is located at a set of rapids in the creek, with a pool above or below it. Go for a rinse in the evening, listen to the creek as you sit at the fire, listen to the creek as you fall asleep, jump in the pool again to wake up in the morning...
The photo above shows me having my morning splash-around in the pool at campsite 6 (the best!). I was so intrigued with the site that after packing up we wandered up and down the creek to check out all the other sites as well (once the other campers had left). I had to jump in a few more pools, they were just irresistible...
So, if you want to spend a night camping in Litchfield National Park and you are not into crowds, this is the place to go. Good luck with getting a site!
The Tabletop Track
The walk along the whole Litchfield National Park Tabletop Track is for serious bush walkers only.
You need to bring time (about 4 days), and you have to be well prepared and fit. It's a fantastic walk. If you are into bushwalking then this is a must-do.
But you don' t need to do the whole 39 km circuit. The track can be accessed through several link walks, so it's possible to do it a section at a time or even to walk in some distance and then turn around and walk back.
The link walks start from Florence Falls, Greenant Creek, Wangi Falls and Walker Creek.
Two of the sections are even short enough to be done in a day, but you'd need two vehicles, one at either end. Below are the distances and the time it will take.
- Florence Falls - Greenant Creek: 22.5 km / 2 days
- Greenant Creek - Wangi Falls: 8.4 km / 1 day
- Wangi Falls - Walker Creek: 17.5 km / 2 days
- Walker Creek - Florence Falls: 10.7 km / 1 day
Even if you only go on a day walk it's a good idea to let someone know when you intend to be back. You must also carry a topographic map of Litchfield National Park (and you have to buy it before you get there).
If you want to camp you have to stick to one of the three campgrounds on the track. Or you can of course stay at one of the main sites in Litchfield National Park. (I'd camp up the top. After spending a day up there in the wilderness it's too much of a shock to the system to return to the crowded public campgrounds...)
I tried to do at least part of the walk after the big wet season 2006. Unfortunately the track was still closed in late May. (It also usually closes at the end of September.)
I went back in June 2008. Again the track was still officially closed. However, we could get a permit to access it and did the full circuit in four days. I loved every minute of that walk and can highly recommend it, especially that early in the year. As soon as I get a chance to do it again, I will.
(If you are looking for a hiking buddy, for this or other extended walks, let me know!)