SOME TRAVEL-WEARY RVers choose to leave Darwin out of their around-Oz trip, and head either east or west from Katherine. However, the distance to Darwin is only around 317km, and it’s a great place for a few weeks of rest and relaxation.
Denyse and I stay at the four-star Shady Lane Top Tourist Park in Katherine for a few days to top up supplies and fuel, and relax in this green haven, with many different types of palm trees and extensive birdlife. The park is close to town, and the top fishing and yabbying spot of Knotts Crossing is on the way to Katherine Gorge. After walking the gorge, you can soothe tired muscles at the Katherine hot springs.
After some distance with limited fresh food available, it’s a good idea to take the opportunity to stock up in Katherine, which has surprisingly good shopping for a small town, including a Woolworths and fuel. Alcohol retailers do not open until 2pm and quantities of some wines are restricted.
From here you can do a day trip to Edith Falls, just 66km north, or choose to stay a little longer, as we do on our way to Darwin. Edith Falls has a private campground in the national park, and you can now book ahead for your favourite site, which is great because not many sites are suitable for vans. You can look online (www.simplesite.com/edithfalls), but sites 41 and 51 are two of the better ones.
Edith Falls has three main waterfalls, and there is a very scenic walk to the top, where there is also a swimming hole.
Just 110km from Edith Falls, Pine Creek is a great place for a cuppa and to spend some time exploring. Gold was discovered here in 1871, which lead to the establishment of the town. Park your rig beside the pink water lily lagoons, but lookout for flying foxes in the mahogany trees opposite. Walk around to find relics of those historic goldmining days. You can visit the mine lookout, Miners Park, Railway Precinct, Umbrawarra Gorge and Lake Copperfield.
Pine Creek is also where you make the decision to turn right and enter Kakadu National Park, or continue to Darwin. We decided to continue and visit Litchfield National Park on the way to Darwin, planning to pass through Kakadu on the return journey.
Continue for a further 61km and you will arrive at Hayes Creek. This is where you turn off for the Douglas/Daley region with the expansive Douglas and Daley river system, as well as some great barramundi fishing.
You might like to visit Fenton WWII airfield or the Douglas hot springs, where there is a camping ground. There are many interesting spots along here, but that is a story on its own.
About 27km before you reach the Batchelor turn-off you will come to Adelaide River, where there are two roadhouses. Adelaide River has a manicured war cemetery which is home to more than 400 graves of soldiers and some local civilians killed in the Top End and Timor. There are picnic grounds and toilets, and it makes a great place for a lunch break. There is also a Railway Heritage Precinct and a visit to Robin Falls is worthwhile.
When we arrived at Batchelor, all of the 4WD tracks in Litchfield NP had been closed due to a record wet season. In this case, a day trip in was more than sufficient. We know this park well, and love a swim at Buley Rock Holes. The huge magnetic and cathedral termite mounds on the way in are always amazing. And the waterfalls were spectacular after the good wet season.
We prefer to stay two nights in the Batchelor Resort Caravillage on one of the shaded, well-grassed sites with access to the pool, restaurant, bistro, fuel and bird feeding. We do our day trip in to Litchfield NP from there. Denyse and I feel one day is enough to experience the highlights, particularly when the 4WD tracks are closed. The day trip also means you can avoid towing the van 64km to the camping area, and back again.
There is a small supermarket/general store/post office in Batchelor. Mining has re-commenced near the old Rum Jungle uranium mine, which means it is now closed to the public. Nearby Litchfield Dam is also worth a visit.
Darwin is less than 100km north and about halfway along we like to stop for a dip at Berry Springs, which has parking for your RV. The warm, spring-fed pools and cascades are as therapeutic as any spa. Enter at the small waterfall, and let the current take you down into two large natural swimming holes.
To the left is a 1km boardwalk through natural monsoon rainforest. After a swim we had morning tea in the large, shady, grassed picnic area before heading into Shady Glen Top Tourist Park in Darwin.
There is so much to do in Darwin, particularly during the winter and shoulder seasons, that you should stay at least two weeks if you have time. We always try to stay for three weeks – you find that time goes fast in this cosmopolitan holiday city.
An early morning trip to Fogg Dam is a marvellous opportunity for bird watching. You could take breakfast and watch the sun come up, although you will see a multitude of birds at any time of day.
On this trip the causeway was closed to walking, due to at least one huge croc in the dam. A trap had been set, but nothing was caught while we were in Darwin. Visitors could still drive across the causeway, though.
Stokes Hill wharf for dinner is another favourite. Watch the sun go down and moon come up while having a wonderful choice of food at this outdoor setting. The Sunset Restaurant at the casino overlooks the wet edge pool and the ocean, and has a very popular seafood buffet.
The Mindil Beach Markets are a must. Held on Thursday and Sunday evenings, you can choose between about 50 food stalls and more than 200 other stalls, all while watching a magic sunset over the Arafura Sea.
The new Wave Lagoon is close to the Stokes Hill wharf, as are the WWII oil storage tunnels. Denyse and I also love a walk along Casuarina Beach, exploring the coloured cliffs near the surf club, and also visiting the coloured cliffs at Fannie Bay. Shady Glen Tourist Park has brochures and maps available, and can make tour bookings for you.
A SHADY SPOT
Shady Glen Tourist Park is a member of the Top Tourist Parks group and is rated at four stars. The park is the closest tourist park to the city, and has recently undergone a $3.5 million renovation thanks to its new owners, the Aurora Group. This work includes new cabins and camp kitchen, water lines, landscaping, pool tiling and the removal of some large trees. More powered sites have also been added, and further updates are planned.
This is a large caravan park, and includes a pool, three amenities blocks, the usual laundry and shady sites. Some powered sites have concrete slabs, while others are on grass. There is a separate camping area set away from the powered sites. The larger camp kitchen is often used for entertainment in the ever-popular winter months.
There is also plenty of water, so you can wash your car and van, and also keep your site watered if you carry a small sprinkler, as we do. Conveniently, a city bus stops outside, which means you don’t have to take your car to town.
We noticed the sites back from 11th Avenue are more open, which suits us better than the more heavily shaded sites closer to the entrance. This park is very popular, and you need to book in advance in the winter, but shoulder season is not so busy. Management requests an arrival time of after 2pm in order to leave time for sites to be cleaned and watered.
Even if you’re feeling a bit travel weary, don’t sacrifice this wonderful part of the country in order to shorten your journey around the block. This unique part of Australia is sure to leave you with wonderful memories.
Katherine to Darwin is around 317km. Between May and September is the best time to visit. Contact Shady Glen Tourist Park (Darwin) on (08) 8984 3330 or visit www.shadyglen.com.au; and Shady Lane Tourist Park (Katherine) on (08) 8971 0491 or visit www.shadylanetouristpark.com.au
Both of these parks belong to the Top Tourist Group and are rated at four stars. Contact Batchelor Resort Caravillage on (08) 8976 0166 or visit www.batchelor-resort.com
WORDS AND PICS Tony and Denyse Allsop
Source: Caravan World Jan 2012
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