So you want to explore the Top End?
Do the Top End with our favourite 6 day Darwin to Kakadu road trip itinerary. Jam-pack your short stay in the Top End and take home a swag of memories.
In the north of Australia, the Top End is famed for its balmy tropical weather, saltwater crocodiles, Indigenous culture, pristine National Parks, friendly locals and their laid-back lifestyle.
Darwin, the Territory’s multicultural capital is the perfect hub from which to explore the Top End, including the World Heritage-listed Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks.
Darwin to Kakadu – your 6 day Itinerary
The Top End really does have the best winters in Australia!
Slow down, dress down. The pace in the Top End winds back and has a ‘no rush’ feel about it.
The dress code is decidedly casual. Shorts, Tshirts, thongs (of the footwear kind) will not be out of place. You won’t need winter wear but a light sweater might be useful if the breezes pick up once the sun goes down.
Where to stay in the Darwin
Darwin often gets busy so make sure you pre book your accommodation in advance. Start with these suggestions but if you’re looking for something different, check out the Booking.com links here.
- Camping & Caravan: Club Tropical Resort Darwin
- Mid-budget: Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront
- Luxury: Mindil Beach Casino & Resort
Things to see and do in Darwin
There are plenty of things to see and do in Darwin city so read up on these few posts before you arrive to get a head start.
Day 1 – 3: Explore Darwin City & Litchfield National Park
You’ve arrived. Slow down and wind back the pace a little.
Start your not-so-busy day off with a walk to the Darwin Waterfront. Just 5 minutes walk from the city centre, the Darwin Waterfront is a great place to start relaxing by lazing the morning away.
Explore the Waterfront
For your first stop we recommend you walk down to Stokes Hill Wharf. The Wharf is home to two iconic Territory stories which tell the Northern Territory’s history.
- The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) showcases the tale of how the RFDS was started, and the challenges it has endured over the years to maintain the service.
- The Bombing of Darwin Experience is a modern new display using the latest virtual reality technology to transport you right into a war zone. The bombing of Darwin is an exceptional experience and one that shouldn’t be missed.
Walk back to the Waterfront Precinct to enjoy lunch at one of the great restaurants, pubs & cafes or take a lazy swim in the Lagoon. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a dip in the Wave Pool. It’s croc free!
Do the East Point Museum Trail
After lunch, head out to East Point to spend some time in one of Darwin’s war-time attractions.
- The East Point War Museum tells the human story of the devastation and horror experienced by the during the bombing of Darwin in 1942.
- A significant military installation during the World War II, many of the fortifications remain for you to wander through.
East Point is also a wildlife sanctuary. Don’t be surprised to see agile wallabies, goannas, frilled neck lizards and some beautiful bird life at East Point.
Experience a Top End sunset
Thursday & Sunday evenings, April to October
Finish up your day in the tropics by catching one of our famous Top End sunsets at Mindil Markets.
Mindil Beach markets are famous in Darwin and popular with locals and visitors alike. Be sure to sample the range of exotic market foods, enjoy live music and relax on the beach to watch the sun sink beneath the horizon.
Get out and about in Darwin city for some Top End sightseeing. There are plenty of tours available or take a walk through the city.
- Breakfast at the Boatshed Cafe at Cullen Bay
- Take an early morning walk along the Esplanade in the City
- Check out the Street Art in Darwin City
Crocosaurus Cove is always an interesting place to visit. Showcasing live crocodiles, hatchlings and the Cage of Death. Crocosaurus Cove is full of interesting fun facts about this prehistoric creature and other aquatic life.
The Saturday morning ritual for locals is to visit Parap Markets for Mary’s Laksa, Sari Rasa Sates and a fresh fruit juice.
People have flocked to Parap Markets for over 20 years for a bowl of Mary’s Laksa. A spicy Malaysian soup made from Asian spices, chilli, candlenuts, and coconut milk, served over homemade rice noodles and your choice of toppings. Divine! You really must try it!
Chill out at the Deckchair Cinema
One of Darwin’s favourite cinema experiences is to take in a movie at the Darwin Deckchair Cinema. It is without doubt, one of the most unique experiences to be had in the Top End. A unique outdoor cinema experience you won’t want to miss.
Dine out at one of our favourite restaurants
- Darwin Sailing Club: Enjoy our balmy tropical weather as you watch the sun go down over the horizon with an icy cold beverage.
- Hanuman: Darwin’s best Thai restaurant. Try the crispy whole snapper!
- The Cav: Best pub meal ever! Start with Nam Jim Shots and follow it up with a fantastic Beef Wellington.
- 20 top Restaurants in Darwin
- Pubs to spend Beer O’Clock in Darwin
- Trend setting bars and eateries you must try in Darwin
Day 3: Take a Day trip to Litchfield National Park
Just over an hour’s drive from central Darwin you will find Litchfield National Park. Drive yourself or take one of the many day tours and see some of the Top End’s most unique scenery.
Litchfield National Park is a fine example of monsoon rain-forest, stunning waterfalls, termite mounds, sandstone outcrops and historic ruins attracting thousands of visitors each year. Swim in the crystal clear swimming holes or venture into some of the most stunning bush-walking tracks in the Top End.
You won’t ever think of dipping your toes in the water after taking a Jumping Crocodile cruise!
If you have enough energy after a day at Litchfield, the Jumping Crocodile Cruises at Adelaide River is always good value.
Read about Why you should visit Litchfield National Park in our recent post.
Day 4 – 6: Road trip from Darwin to Kakadu
Leave Darwin early for your Top End road trip to Kakadu. The journey will take approximately 3 hours. Our recommended stay is for 2 nights, so pre book your accommodation to check out on Day 3 for your return to Darwin.
The ‘must see’ experience of the Top End! Renowned internationally for its natural and cultural wonders, Kakadu has one of the highest concentrated areas of Aboriginal rock art sites in the world.
Where to stay in Kakadu
Pre-book your accommodation and get ready for the adventure of your life! Alternate accommodation options can be found on Booking.com.
- Camping & Caravan: Cooinda Lodge Kakadu
- Mid-budget: Aurora kakadu Lodge
- Luxury: Mercure Kakadu Lodge
What to do in Kakadu
World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park covers almost 20,000 square miles and contrasting habitats. The Arnhem Land escarpment hides the deep sandstone gorges and monsoon rainforest. Waterfalls cascade into freshwater swimming pools and the country is alive with unique birds and wildlife.
These vast wetlands and billabongs are a perfect location to spot crocodiles. Explore the escarpments nearby, swim in the freshwater pools and learn about the culture of this amazing country.
- Stop in at Warradjan Cultural Centre
- Walk Noarilangie Rock
- Book yourself in for a Yellow Waters Cruise at sunrise or sunset – or both.
- Visit Ubirr Rock at Sunrise for the sunset experience.
- Join a ranger guided walk through ancient rock art galleries to learn about Kakadu’s rich 65,000 year old culture.
Day 6: Catch your breath
Visit Darwin Museum and take in a few of the exhibits before lunching at Saltwater Cafe along the beach front.
Don’t miss these feature exhibits:
- Cyclone Tracy display
- Check out the Sweetheart (the crocodile) display
- Aboriginal art and culture displays
Relax the afternoon away or catch up with anything you may have missed before heading to the airport on your way home!
5 Essential Items to get set for your Darwin to Kakadu adventure
- A Good Camera: There will be plenty of great photo moments in the Top End so bring along a good camera. I highly recommend the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00I8BICB2″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Sony A6000[/easyazon_link]. It’s light, compact and takes amazing photos!
- Beach Shoes: The outdoor lifestyle in Top End means you will need specially designed beach shoes (commonly called thongs)! Be comfortable, and treat yourself to a pair [easyazon_link identifier=”B07H6RM42W” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]here[/easyazon_link]. Perfect to for long walks on our beautiful beaches.
- An Australian Guidebook: There is nothing like Lonely Planet Guidebooks so get yourself a copy of their [easyazon_link identifier=”178701388X” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Australia Travel Guide[/easyazon_link] to take you to all the best spots to visit.
- A Stainless Steel Water Bottle: Stay hydrated in the harsh Territory sun. Get yourself a [easyazon_link identifier=”B07B9T8C3N” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Yeti stainless water bottle[/easyazon_link] and refill as you go. Australian tap water is drinkable … and free!
- Good Sun Hat: You will need a good sun hat for protection. In my opinion you can’t go past this packable and foldable [easyazon_link identifier=”B07BMY7FJX” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Furtalk Womens Beach Hat[/easyazon_link]. Don’t ruin your holiday with sunburn!
Pin this Darwin to Kakadu Itinerary for later …
There’s so much more to do in the Top End – be tempted to stay a little longer.
- Darwin boasts the Best Lifestyle in Australia
- Discover the Best Top End National Parks
- Turtle Tracks on Bare Sand Island
- Darwin’s Beer Can Regatta
Enjoy your time visiting the Northern Territory; relax, chill out and unwind to get the most out of your stay with us.
There’s so much to see and do while you’re here and we’re sure you’re going away with some fabulous stories. Want to share? Why not comment below and let everyone know how much fun you had.