The big thing about the wet season in the Top End is … drum roll please … all that water.
Rivers, creeks, and water holes are full. Millions of litres of water pours over waterfalls.
But it doesn’t rain all the time. The general pattern is clear mornings, with afternoon/evening rain. That’s not guaranteed of course, sometimes it does rain in the morning, sometimes you get showers throughout the day. And sometimes you get amazing thunderstorms.
But even when you get showers throughout the day they don’t last long. And it’s warm, so you don’t mind getting wet. Locals don’t even bother getting out of the rain. It won’t last long, and you dry quickly. The water also cools things down so is quite welcome.
And it means that some of the best things to see are only there in the wet. All of these things are a day trip from Darwin
Top things to do near Darwin in wet season
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield is about 120k south of Darwin via the Stuart Highway. In the dry you can enter the park via Berry Springs or via Bachelor, though in the wet the entry via Berry Springs is usually closed. It is tar all the way to the park, and through at least as far as the Cascades so it’s accessible all year round, and with a 2WD vehicle.
There are a few places in Litchfield where you can swim, though not all are open in the wet. During the wet season some of the swimming places are closed either because of crocodiles, or because of the sheer amount of water rushing down the waterfalls.
I have swum at three places during the wet : Florence Falls, Buley Rock Hole, and Upper Cascades. All are beautiful, but Upper Cascades is particularly special.
To get to the swimming hole is a 1.8km walk from the car park, up and over the hill, scrabbling over rocks in places. The walk itself is beautiful in the wet, with amazing wildflowers, long almost iridescent green grass, magnificent vistas from the lookouts, and a creek crossing.
Once you reach the swimming hole, fed by cascading waterfalls and emptying over more cascades to the lower pool, you are likely to have it almost, if not completely, to yourself. Not many people make the walk up there as other swimming is more accessible.
And if all swimming in the park is closed, the waterfalls are amazing.
What can I say about Kakadu that hasn’t already been said? It is amazing in all seasons. While you can’t walk into the waterfalls in the wet, flying over them is something I’d really recommend. The sheer amount of water has to be seen to be believed. The Yellow Waters cruise operates all year round, the rock art sites are accessible and you can usually still get to Ubirr to watch the sunset over the wetlands. And of course, there is water over the wetlands.
Locals will tell you to skip Kakadu in favour of Litchfield, but for me nothing beats Kakadu. It is stunningly beautiful.
Sadly, you can’t swim at Howard Springs, which is a shame because it’s a beautiful, clear pool with no crocodiles. What it does have is a bat colony near the head of the spring, and all the bat shit means that the water carries unsafe bacteria. There is a nice walk through the rainforest, you can watch or feed huge barramundi and tortoises in the pool, and there is a cascading set of shallow pools for kids to play in, and where adults can get wet.
Charles Darwin National Park
Now here’s a sentence I never thought I would write: If you’re into mountain biking in Darwin, Charles Darwin National Park is the place to go.
There are also some lovely bush walks, concrete munitions bunkers from WWII, great views over the wetlands to Darwin City, and a picnic area with barbecues.
And beautiful birds
Humpty Doo Hotel
No trip to Darwin is complete without lunch at the Humpty Doo pub. A short drive from Darwin, on the road to Kakadu, it even has vegetarian food on the menu!