Submit to the powerful pull of nature during the Top End’s tropical summer, which lasts from December to early March. Your electronic calendar becomes redundant in this season of dazzling thunderstorms, overflowing creeks and blossoming vegetation. Wander Darwin’s lush parks and watch lightning dance over waterfalls in Litchfield National Park. Experience the magic of the monsoon in Kakadu National Park and fly over spectacular Katherine Gorge when water levels are at their highest.
There’s something liberating about being on nature’s timeline. Darwin always has an easygoing pace, but it slows even more during summer to match the regular rhythm of sunshine and showers. Locals love the ‘wet’ after the long dry months. Storms surge in over the Arafura Sea and the parks and gardens turn a deep green after spectacular, short-lived downpours. Wander past monsoon flora in George Brown Botanic Gardens and swim in the clear waterholes of Berry Springs Nature Park next to flocks of tropical birds. You can experience Darwin’s outdoor lifestyle all throughout the sultry summer. Sample a fabulous smorgasbord of food in the weekend open-air markets and see nature’s pyrotechnics light the sky from a beachside pub.
The waterfalls of nearby Litchfield National Park make a dramatic resurgence during summer. See the twin torrents of Florence Falls tumble over terraced monsoon forest and follow 160 steps down to the deep, cool plunge pool below. Do the short walk to Buley Rockhole, a series of cascading waterfalls and waterholes, which teem with life after the tropical storms. Watch orange-footed scrubfowl, honeyeaters, figbirds and Torres Strait pigeons foraging for fruit and berries. Swim and picnic alongside thundering Wangi Falls, where marsupial mice, frogs and frill-neck lizards dart around the water’s edge.
In Kakadu National Park, the local Bininj people have charted nature’s cycle over six different seasons. Late December to late March is the Gudjewg monsoon season, when heavy rains coax the landscape back to life. Native birds flock across the wetlands, tropical flowers fringe the rivers and spear grass sprouts across the flood plains. Follow the Yurmikmik Walks to waterfalls surging over rugged escarpments into deep swimming holes. The Boulder Creek Walk, Yurmikmik Lookout Walk, Motor Car Falls and Kurrundie Creek Walk are open all year round. Cruise down the East Alligator River past abundant native birds and animals or take in the scope and scale of this lush landscape on a scenic helicopter flight.
You won’t forget the aerial view of Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park, which sits just north-east of Katherine. These 13 interconnected gorges are particularly spectacular during tropical summer, when the Katherine River is brimming with water. Survey the powerful waterfalls and maze of ancient sandstone from a helicopter or cruise through the gorge’s towering walls. Depending on the weather, you can swim in pandanus-fringed plunge pools beneath Edith Falls, in Butterfly Gorge or Sweetwater Pool. Walk sections of the Jatbula Trail past monsoon rainforest to Crystal Falls or the single drop waterfall of 17 Mile Falls. Follow the Windolf Walk to Pat’s lookout for sweeping views over Nitmiluk Gorge and the summer waterfall of Southern Rockhole.
Leave your daily routine behind for the volatile beauty of summer in Australia’s tropical Top End. This season of brilliant sunshine and drenching rains will leave you feeling as vibrant as the landscapes.