When the state of the Northern Territory gets mentioned, one thing comes to mind. The heat. God, the unbearable heat! It’s an accurate description of Australia’s northernmost state and it’s a pretty good reason to stay away, especially during the torturous summer months where the mercury feels like its always off the charts.
But don’t let the thought of persistent sweaty armpits and searing heat burning your face off deter you from visiting during the bookend months of the year, particularly if it’s the state’s capital, Darwin and it’s surrounding areas you’re planning on visiting.
Understandably, due to the extreme heat, the peak visiting season for the Northern Territory is during the ‘cooler’ and drier months in the middle of the calendar, but there’s a reason, plenty of reasons they say you haven’t seen Top End until you’ve seen it in the wet season.
Experience The Land Of Flooding Rains.
Perfect weather. Psh. Of course, it’s always lovely to spend a day out on a “bright, bright, bright, sunshiny day.” Unless you’re in the Top End, that is. That shit will cinder fry the top few layers of your epidermis pretty damn crispy if you’re not supporting a hat and an SPF 50+ sunscreen.
But if you visit during the monsoon season the second half of the day usually brings a deluge of rain down upon the earth. In the famous poem “My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar, she doesn’t describe Australia as the land of flooding plains for no reason.
Not only are you able to visit this spectacular part of the world during a period when not many people view it, but you are also viewing it in a way that not many people view because they choose to visit it when the dry season is in full effect.
You not only get to a monsoon weather event but with that also comes special privileges. When you come this time of year, you visit at a time when the land feels alive. The rivers bursting at the seams creating thunderous rapids and epic waterfalls (more on that later), the land is lush, green and blooming, and the animals are on the move. (Except to my chagrin, no crocs were to be seen, but dingos, roos, wallabies, frilled neck lizards, numerous birds of prey and giant jabirus, frogs and geckos were in abundance.)
Even though it would seem that a deluge of that amount every afternoon would ruin one’s plans, venturing out in the rain is just another way to connect and experience an already incredible and varied landscape, because you’re experiencing the Top End at it’s rawest and most authentic, rather than just seeing the sights.
Whenever you head off chasing waterfalls, it’s always advised to seek them out after a deluge for the most impressive view, but the wet season in the Top End is a completely different story. Australia is a land of flooding rains, but most of the time it’s not very evident for a country known as mostly a desert.
Taking a trip out to the Top End during the monsoon season that starts late November and sometimes stretches until April, there’s a hell of a lot of water making its way down from Heaven’s Gate just about every single day of the season.
All waters got to go somewhere and quite often that’s over a cliff, which makes the already spectacular wind-carved escarpments come alive with powerful, thundering waterfalls in full, glorious flow. It’s nothing short of breathtaking, jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring.
Keep in mind, that some of these waterfalls don’t flow year-round, some of them dry up completely, which makes seeing them during the wet seasons even more incredible.
It also helps creates a deeper, spiritual connection to the landscape as it allows you to appreciate the processes that took millions of years to create.
(Note: Some of the roads, walks and waterfalls are closed during the wet season but most Litchfield National Park’s spectacular waterfalls are open, while Kakadu National Park’s waterfalls are mostly closed, however the Rock Hole at the southern end of the park is usually open. Robins Falls near Adelaide River is another spectacular waterfall that is usually open during the wet season. Please check https://nt.gov.au/leisure/parks-reserves/find-a-park/find-a-park-to-visit) to see what is open and what is not)
Wild Swim In Nature’s Spectacular Playground
While the Top End is famous for being a croc country, there are still numerous safe places that you can swim. While the options are a bit slimmer than what you can choose from in the dry season, you’re still spoilt for choice when it comes to taking a refreshing dip from the exhausting humidity that’s bathed you in a thick layer of sweat.
The bonus is the aforementioned. You’ve got thundering waterfalls in full flow as your backdrop to your swimming adventures which makes a dip in natures pools even more rewarding.
You’ve also got added depth from all the rainfall that’s been filling up the basins for a more immersive experience and to cap it all off, you’re visiting in off-peak seasons, so the crowds cooling off in the stunning pools aren’t going to be as prominent.
To make an already extraordinary experience even more special, take with you a snorkel, (I take mine with me a lot now) and you’ll not only be able to experience the incredible beauty above the water but be able to immerse yourself in the spectacular underwater world that lies beneath the surface as well.
See Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls At Their Most Spectacular
Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are undoubtedly Kakadu National Park’s most spectacular features, but they present a bit of a pickle.
In the dry season, you can access the falls and the walks if you have a kitted out 4WD of your own. But if you’re don’t have the wheels or you flew in, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hire car company that’s going to let you roll on down those rough roads as many of them specifically outline that road as a big no-no.
The only other way to get down there is on a tour in someone else’s 4WD, but that’s dry season only, and at that point, the falls are probably still flowing but they won’t be thundering.
Alternatively, if you head for Australia’s largest national park in the wet season, you could skip the bumpy, butt-clenching road down that’s completely closed during this time of year and take to the skies.
Head off on a wet season flight with one of the companies that have a scenic flight over the national park and not only with you be able to appreciate the vastness of the pristine wilderness and the spectacular escarpments that protrude from the landscape, you will also get phenomenal views of Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls in all their full thundering glory.
It’s an epic way to experience Kakadu National Park and get some waterfall action in the wet season when the wet season forces the closure of all of the parks waterfalls. (Except the Rock Hole.)
- My review of Kakadu Air’s Wet Season Flight over Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls coming soon.
The Northern Territory is known for having spectacular sunsets and with much of the second half of the summer days having heavy overcast clouds threatening to drench you in a Noah’s Ark style deluge, it means that if the sun breaks through at days end, you are in for some of the most vibrant and breathtaking sunsets you’ve ever laid you eyeballs on.
It’s undoubtedly an incredible way to end a day exploring the magnificent and jaw-droppingly beautiful Top End.
Off-Peak & Fewer Folks
As mentioned before, the peak period is during the middle of the calendar year when the weather is still hot for most folks, but a lot more bearable than the scorching heat of high summer sun and the high humidity that comes with so much moisture being in the air because of the monsoon season saturating the earth.
But with hotter, more uncomfortable weather means that there are far fewer folks jostling past you as you make your way around the national parks. I don’t know about you, but when I got to national parks, I go for the quiet, to get away from it all and to connect with nature and find inner calm. I prefer it when fewer people are crowding the trail.
Heading off during monsoon season, there are far less folks. On most trails, you’ll likely be alone with the plants and the animals and on the roads, you’ll come across a few cars.
Reading elsewhere, it was stated that during the dry months, the campgrounds were so crowded that people were pitching the tents and spreading themselves out into other peoples designated campgrounds. Whilst I was there during the wet season, only 1 of the 4 places I stayed had another soul sleeping there that night.
The only downside was that the campgrounds facilities at both Litchfield and Kakadu had not been maintained in months. There were spiders, insects and cobwebs everywhere. Take a torch & Thermocell while you’re using the showers or toilets and it makes for a much less horror-movie-type experience.
Lose Weight & Fewer Pee Breaks
The Top End is hot. Always sweat-inducingly hot. There are numerous signs at the beginning of walks warning of the risks of getting heat stress, and the summer months don’t help in any way. It’s not only hot, but it’s humid too. Even though most days have a fair amount of clouds, when the sun isn’t blocked by them, it feels like the literal incarnation of hell.
Ways to avoid heat stress is to cover up, wear sunscreen and chug down plenty of water. You’d think this would make you want to pee until the cows come home, but that’s not the case. The crystal clear watery goodness barely even makes it down to your bladder because like the Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch song goes, you’ve got “sweat coming out your pores.”
Your body constantly shedding water every moment you step outside is not only great if you’re looking to lose some weight while you’re out exploring beautiful new places, but it also results in way fewer pee breaks. And way fewer pee breaks results in more time exploring and losing more weight, and thus the cycle of gulping water, exploring, shedding pounds and not peeing begins, and it’s all good.
With the Northern Territory’s heat, humidity and monsoonal rains sounding like a solid, uninviting reason to not visit the folklorish Top End. But being able to visit the vast pristine wilderness national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield during a season of such immense change and contrast offers up a reward and a connection to nature that the dry season simply can’t replicate and will make an off-peak adventure to the Top End one to remember.
* Based on my visit during February 2021
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