Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the main event, Litchfield vs Kakadu. We are pitting two of the Northern Territory’s heavy-weight attractions against one another to help decide once and for all, is Litchfield or Kakadu better.
In the blue corner, we have the poster child for Northern Territory tourism the undisputed champion of national parks, the sprawling and ancient Kakadu. A natural and cultural world heritage listed area and Australia’s largest national park, it will take a lot to beat this impressive contender!
In the red corner, the underdog, the smaller and less well-known, Litchfield National Park. The underdog status and smaller size could be the key to a surprise victory in this battle for supremacy.
Formidable opponents, both of these incredible national parks in the Northern Territory have a lot going for them. If you have the time, we can highly recommend visiting both! But, ultimately, there can be only one winner, let’s get down to business and ring the bell on the first round of this epic battle, Litchfield vs Kakadu!
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Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 1: Waterfalls
You’ve seen the hero shots, a bikini-clad model gazes up at a thundering waterfall cascading over a red stone wall into an emerald green pool surrounded by a tropical oasis. It is this iconic image that draws many to the Top End. But which park has the goods and which is all sizzle no steak? Let’s find out in the first round of Litchfield vs Kakadu.
+ Kakadu has a number of very impressive falls including Jim Jim Falls, one of the Territory’s tallest at over 200 meters, other notable falls include Maguk, Gunlom, and Motor Car Falls.
– The falls are more difficult to access than the falls in Litchfield with many accessible only by 4-wheel drive tracks, long walks, or tour boats.
– Many of the most impressive falls are closed during the wet season.
– Many of the best falls are not conveniently located and are separated by long distances.
+ Litchfield is home to a number of the Top End’s best waterfalls including Wangi, Tolmer, Tjaynera, and Florence Falls.
+ Most of the major falls are accessible with 2wd and easy to moderate walks.
+ The waterfalls in Litchfield are mostly accessible and all the more spectacular during the wet season.
+ The falls in Litchfield are all conveniently located close to one another and can be found along Litchfield Park Road which winds through the National Park.
– To reach the impressive Tjaynera Waterfall at Sandy Creek, you must have a 4WD.
Litchfield is a giant natural water theme park featuring stunning waterfall after stunning waterfall. Most of the main attractions not only remain open but are all the more impressive in the wet season. The falls are easily accessible and are located close to one another along Litchfield Park Road, making visiting the falls extremely straightforward. Whilst Kakadu has some seriously impressive waterfalls, the difficulty accessing them hurts its score. Litchfield takes the cake as the best national park for waterfalls!
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 2: History and Culture
The Top End is steeped in the culture and history of Australia’s first people. Areas like Litchfield and Kakadu are of particular significance. But if you have to choose one or the other, which park should you go to take in the ancient history and incredible culture of the Top End?
+ Kakadu is home to some of the most well-preserved and impressive ancient rock art in the world
+ The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Yellow Water shares in detail the vast and fascinating culture of the Bininj/Mungguy traditional owners.
+ Indigenous demonstrations and cultural experiences and ranger lead cultural activities are included with park entry.
+ A range of commercial cultural tours available.
+ Annual cultural events and celebrations held within Kakadu.
+ Commercial indigenous tours are available.
+ You can view historic pastoral ruins at Blyth Homestead and Bamboo Creek.
– Ruins are accessible only by 4WD and require several creek crossings.
– Limited cultural displays or information throughout the park.
– No free guided cultural activities or tours available.
If it’s culture and history you came for then it’s a knock-out for Kakadu. Kakadu is home to some of the most impressive and important indigenous cultural sites anywhere in Australia. There are also a number of impressive displays, immersive demonstrations, guided tours, and thorough information available throughout the park.
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 3: Walks
Walking in the national parks is one of the best ways to get a sense of the environments that make the Northern Territory such an amazing place. But which park you should choose if you’re looking for the Top Ends’ best bushwalking experiences?
+ Walks provide access to the incredible rock art of Kakadu.
– Many of the walks in Kakadu provide little to no shade and can be hot and dusty in the dry season.
-As with other attractions in Kakadu, many of the walks are only open for a few months a year.
– Kakadu doesn’t offer any official overnight walks though it is possible to apply for a permit to walk your own proposed trail.
+ Most walks within Litchfield are under 3.5 km round trip making them easily accessible for most.
+ Most trails in Litchfield end at a waterfall or plunge pool providing a great opportunity to cool down after your walk.
+ As with the other attractions in Litchfield, the walking tracks are easily accessible.
+ The Tabletop Track allows walkers to tackle a longer, 39-kilometer walk.
-The Tabletop Track is closed during the wet season.
Kakadu and Litchfield both have a number of great walking experiences. It’s true that Kakadu might have the edge when it comes to its variety of walks and experiences. However, Litchfield just beats Kakadu for ease of access, quality of walks, and the fact that most of Litchfield’s walks end at beautiful waterfalls where you can have a swim.
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 4: Wildlife
A monsoonal wet season, tropical temperatures, and a wide range of habitats have given rise to a spectacularly diverse range of wildlife in the Top End. If you came to see animals, which national park should you visit to scratch that itch?
+ With more than one-third of Australia’s bird species, Kakadu is considered one of Australia’s premier bird-watching destinations.
+ Spot saltwater crocodiles in the billabongs, cut off from the sea.
+ Within Kakadu a huge variety of different environments exist creating incredible diversity in the types of wildlife that call Kakadu home. Examples of the wildlife within Kakadu include wallabies, cockatoos, snakes, quolls, bandicoots, turtles, flying foxes, river sharks, and termites.
+ Ranger lead activities such as guided wildlife walks.
+The Park offers ranger lead activities such as guided wildlife walks.
Earning a place on the World Heritage List for its incredible biodiversity and environment, Kakadu is truly an animal lovers’ paradise. With borders that stretch from the arid interior to the coast taking in numerous environments that change dramatically from season to season, Kakadu is home to a remarkable variety of species. From bird watching in the wetlands to finding giant saltwater crocodiles in the billabongs, Kakadu takes out the round as the Top End’s best national park for wildlife!
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 5: Camping
+ There are plenty of fantastic campsites throughout the park offering different levels of facilities, access to different attractions, and different environments to choose from.
+There are ample campsites available so you don’t have to worry about where you are going to sleep each night.
– Camping in Kakadu National Park is not included in your national park pass and can cost between $6 – $15 per person each night.
-Mozzies can be a big problem in some of the campsites at certain times of the year.
+ There are a number of fantastic campsites throughout the park with good facilities and access to different attractions.
-Due to its popularity and close proximity to Darwin, campsites in Litchfield fill up early on the weekends and can be full by the afternoon.
-You can’t reserve campsites in advance, meaning on a busy weekend you need to establish a campsite before setting off to see the attractions.
It’s a close call with both parks having top-notch facilities, but on a busy weekend Litchfield quickly fills up and you might end up needing to shack up on someone else’s site like we had to. Kakadu has a huge number of different campsites conveniently located near the numerous attractions of the park.
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 6: Short Trips
If you only have a day or two to discover the best national park in the Top End, where should you head?
– Three hours from Darwin getting to Kakadu for a one-day trip is near impossible and daunting even as a weekend trip.
– It takes around three hours to drive through the park.
– Not possible to see all the park has to offer in just one or two days.
– No daily park pass available making shorter trips more expensive.
+ Only one hour from Darwin, you can complete a return trip to Litchfield in a day.
+ It only takes 45 minutes to drive through the park.
+ Most attractions in the park can be found along Litchfield Park Road.
+ It’s possible to see all the attractions in Litchfield in a day or two.
+ Free to enter.
Litchfield easily wins out as the best national park for a shorter trip. Litchfield can be reached in a little over one hour. You can drive through the park in around 45 minutes and most attractions are conveniently located along Litchfield Park Road.
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 7: Longer Trips
+ More attractions
+ Variety of campsites
+ Variety of types of experiences and environments to explore.
+ The town of Jabiru within the park provides fuel, supplies, accommodation, and dining to help create a more comfortable experience for longer stays.
– With fewer attractions, you may run out of things to do on a longer trip to Litchfield National Park.
At almost 20,000km2 and featuring a wide range of habitats and environments including coastal mangrove forests, floodplains, stone country, lowland hills, and woodlands, it probably comes as no surprise that Kakadu has more things to do and see to keep you busy for longer. In fact, it’s not really possible to visit the major attractions in Kakadu in anything less than a full three days. And, you could easily spend weeks here. Litchfield on the other hand, while beautiful, can be seen over a busy weekend.
Litchfield vs Kakadu Round 8: Value
+ Kakadu has fantastic displays, cultural centers such as the Warradjan Culture Centre and the Bowali Visitor Centre as well as information boards and bird hides are available throughout the park and included with the price of admission.
+ Kakadu has lots of day-use areas.
+ Cheap camping between $6 – $15 per person per night.
– 7-Day Park Entry costs $40 per person.
– Long distances between attractions throughout the park mean that you need a larger budget for fuel.
– With many experiences only accessible via 4-wheel drive, this could represent an extra cost if you don’t live locally or have access to four-wheel drive.
-To experience everything the park has to offer you may need to fork over for additional paid tours such as the Yellow Water (Ngurrungurrudjba) Cruise.
+ Litchfield is free to enter.
+ The park has multiple day-use areas.
+ Cheap camping between $6 – $15 per person per night
+ All attractions are accessible without extra tours.
+ You don’t need a 4wd.
+ Shorter distances mean a lower fuel bill.
– There aren’t as many activities, displays, or demonstrations within Litchfield.
When it comes to bang for your buck Litchfield is your best bet for a cheaper more budget conscious holiday. Although there may be less in the way of displays, activities, and information it is 100% free to access all the attractions within the park. Another advantage is that a trip to Litchfield doesn’t require additional paid tours, four-wheel drives, or big fuel budgets to access everything on offer. For the budget-conscious Litchfield is the place to visit!
There you have it folks after 8 brutal rounds the judge’s decisions are in. A tie. I guess it will depend on what you are looking for in a national park. For those looking for a short, cheap weekend filled with walking and waterfalls Litchfield probably looks like the better park. For those interested in a longer immersive experience of wildlife, natural history, and indigenous culture, you’ll surely think Kakadu is the winner.
One thing’s for certain the heavy-weight attractions of the Top End have proved themselves to be two of the Northern Territory, and indeed Australia’s, best national parks!
What did you think of the Litchfield vs Kakadu match-up? Did the judges get it right? Do you think some of the calls should have gone the other way? Got a question about Litchfield or Kakadu? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more information on Kakadu? Check out our list of 6 reasons NOT to visit Kakadu.
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