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Florence Falls: A Magical Wild Swimming Experience in Litchfield NP

Tucked away on Litchfield National Park’s spectacular tabletop plateau, Florence Falls is a breathtaking 64-metre dual waterfall that thunders over rugged cliffs into a stunning dark plunge pool.

Not only is it a beautiful sight to see from the lookout at the top of the gorge, but the basin at the bottom of the falls also provides an incredible opportunity to wild swim in an unforgettably majestic place.

Florence Falls
Florence Falls

Excerpt of Florence Falls from Day 4 of my 14-day Northern Territory Top End (Wet Season) Road Trip.

Florence Falls Scenic Lookout

Rising early from the Florence Falls 2WD campground with what sleep managed to be gained after the “eventful” night before, I quickly made my way to the lookout for the waterfall of the same name.

The view from the constructed lookout of Florence Falls was beautiful. Dominating the left side of the visible landscape, the falls thundered down into a deep, dark plunge pool distinctly split in two as a protruding segment of rock above the cliff face blocked the gushing water from cascading as a singular waterfall.

Further upstream of the falls were smaller cascades before the big crescendo happened, while to the right of the waterfall stood a large dome-shaped exposed cliff.

Despite there being few clouds in the sky for the rising sun to vibrantly colour, the view of the falls was a perfect scene to start the day.

Florence Falls
View from the lookout

Florence Falls Plunge Pool

After photographing the stunning waterfall from the top, I headed down to the plunge pool to see what this beauty was like from base level. There were numerous steep steps and a picturesque little creek crossing, but it wasn’t a difficult walk.

Florence Creek
Crossing Florence Creek

Crocodile Concerns

Walking along the bottom of the gorge by the waterway, the nerves were creeping up. Litchfield National Park is crocodile country. And I was walking through it. EEK!

Even with all the research in the world saying Florence Falls was a safe place to be, I had read that crocodiles are on the move during the wet season and sometimes end up in areas they aren’t usually. Which possibly meant here. Cue enlarged eyeballs!

With this being my first trip to this kind of territory and being not well versed in the behaviours and migratory patterns of the modern-day dinosaurs, “paranoia, paranoia, every croc’s coming to get me” was getting the best of me.

Eyeballing the landscape with eagle eyes and preying that none of the rocks protruding from the waters were man-eating, belly-crawling reptiles or were laying camouflaged amongst the rocks. Making it to the plunge pool unscathed, I breathed a sigh of relief.

But the scariest part was yet to come: the plunge pool.

Timelapsing The Falls

The creek leading out from the waterfall looked shallow. The plunge pool did not. That shit looked deep. The kind of deep that would harbour modern dinosaurs in stealth mode under the water, ready to rip the limps off any psychopaths who dared enter their streams.

From the pathway, you couldn’t see the falls in their entirety. The right branch of the waterfall was entirely blocked by the cliff face, while the left side was a bit obscured.

The only way to see the falls in their gushing glory was to stroll down the small set of steps and dice with paranoid death.

Quickly setting the camera haphazardly on the stairs hoping it wouldn’t fall into the drink, I scampered back to a safe distance before anyone could utter, “CROC-BAIT!”.

Treading back and forth carefully to the camera whilst still observing the water for things that wanted to make a meal of me, I slowly became more relaxed. I figured that if crocodiles were patrolling the deep, they would have already made mincemeat of me one of the several times I came back to check on my photos.

Presumably, they hadn’t because they weren’t there.

With the threat of being consumed alive becoming seemingly invalid, I finally got a chance to gaze upon the waterfall in all its unhinged glory.

Florence Falls from the bottom was spectacular. Fuelled by the heavy rains caused by the El Nina, in addition to the usual monsoon downpours, the water crashing over the cliffs was thunderous. Combined with the sheer cliffs surrounding the falls and the deep, dark plunge pool, the sound and energy of the waters raging through the natural amphitheatre was nothing short of spiritual and spellbinding.

Wild Swimming

After taking a few moments to appreciate the stunning landscape above water and being somewhat satisfied that the Northern Territory’s “hungry, hungry hippos” weren’t present in the waterways, it was time to dice with death and see what lurked beneath.

While the waters seemed safe until this point, remembering crocodiles can hold their breath from 15 minutes up to an hour was at the forefront of my mind. Perhaps they’re practising for the animal Olympics? I don’t know.

With the fear of getting torn to shreds by stealthy, scaled behemoths passing, I stopped chumming the water and went about appreciating this incredible location.

From the towering cliffs surrounding the rapidly flowing falls to the thunderous roar of the water crashing down the rockface to the small cave hidden from the path, the view of the world above was magical.

Underneath the surface level, the landscape was just as enchanting. Rocks and boulders of varying sizes peppered the plunge pool floor. (One of which I briefly mistook as a sleeping croc! EEK!) Small fish swam around the shallower ends near the stairs while the current from the thunderous fall prevented further exploration of the waters as the base of the falls.

In the small cave in the right cliff face, more small fish had also gathered in there as light beams trickled through, lighting up the dark waters and making them glisten.

Reflection

After a few breaks, a lovely chat with some ladies who turned up later, more above and below water explorations, I set off from the breathtaking Florence Falls just as a few more groups arrived to enjoy this pristine wilderness.

Leaving the falls in the rearview mirror, I felt fortunate that the powers-that-be reopened the bottom of the falls a few days prior. Being able to swim in an ancient paradise with a landscape above and below the water like that was a magical privilege that won’t be forgotten.

Florence Falls is a breathtaking waterfall system that is beautiful to look upon, but dipping into its clean, mountain fresh waters takes the experience to a whole other level. You are no longer just looking at the landscape anymore but experiencing it in a more transcendent way.

*Florence Falls isn’t usually closed during the wet season, but the El Nina meant there was a lot more water here than usual.


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