This easy 250 km drive across the Arnhem Highway is jam packed with so much to do that you might want to split the journey and stop overnight in your campervan hire from Darwin.
If you are following our Top End series of blogs, this one covers the last part of the loop from Jabiru and back towards Darwin, via Humpty Doo. If you want to read our other blogs to explore in your motorhome through the Top End route, check out Litchfield National Park here, Mt Bundy Station here, Katherine and Nitmiluk National Park here and Kakadu National Park here. So many wonderful places to explore in a campervan hire from Darwin.
There are plenty more highlights for you to explore in your motorhome, on this last stretch heading towards Darwin. To complete the loop, we’ve detailed these highlights, travelling from Jabiru. Before you leave the eastern corner of the Kakadu National Park however, if you haven’t already, make sure you drive out to Ubirr and spend some time at Cahills Crossing. This is one of the access roads into Arnhem Land as you cross the mighty East Alligator River, and definitely not suitable for a 2WD camper. In fact, a permit is required to enter Arnhem Land generally, and very few rental vehicles are allowed into Arnhem Land. However, the crossing itself is worth visiting, and it can make for interesting viewing as you may see some locals and travellers fishing down by the river; sometimes quite frighteningly, not too far away from a croc or two! Depending when you are visiting, the water levels of the crossing can be quite high and impossible for vehicles to cross at all, or very low. Different seasons and tidal movements will also affect what you will see while at the crossing.
Grab yourself an ice-cream from the Border Store and perch yourself on the shady viewing platform next to the river crossing and quietly watch the action unfold on the East Alligator River at Cahills Crossing. Late in the dry season (around August) crocs famously congregate around the crossing to catch the wave of mullet swimming upstream on certain tides. Other times your heart will be in your mouth as you watch travellers attempting to cross the river – or perhaps you’ll see an upturned vehicle where someone was not so lucky.
Heading back to return your campervan hire to Darwin, you’ll find plenty more areas to explore. About 30 km west of Jabiru is Mamukala wetlands which is a great place to stretch your legs. There’s an observation platform near the car park as well as a 3 km loop walk, which can take around 1 to 2 hours to do. There’s a good chance to spot egrets, black necked storks, sea eagles, magpie geese and many other bird species. The volume of birds seen will depend what time of the year you are passing, but usually is worth a stop.
Heading on from Mamukala wetlands, you’ll cross over the South Alligator River. If its time for a cuppa, there’s a picnic area just after the bridge, which is perfect for motorhome parking. Make sure you don’t get too close to the water’s edge as it’s not uncommon to spot a pair of eyes floating in the river here! You’ll also come across Gungarre Walk near here too – if you fancy another walk this is a gentle 3.6 km loop (will take around 2 hours to walk) through monsoon forest and woodlands. This is a good spot to have some mozzie repellent handy. This walk can also be closed during the wet season or early dry as the area can become flooded.
If you were planning on staying in your motorhome at a campground overnight, one of our favourites is the Mary River Wilderness Retreat which is about 100 km on from Gungarre and is an incredible spot to spend some time on its tranquil 900-acre property with plenty of available walks in the Mary River National Park. There is also a popular campground for motorhomes at Corroboree Park Tavern which might suit you too.
Continuing west on the Arnhem Highway, you’ll come across the Window on the Wetlands. The visitor centre is perched on Beatrice Hill, one of the highest points on the Adelaide River floodplain providing stunning panoramic views of the beautiful wetlands in this area. The Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre has an interactive display about the ecological processes that occur here and details the seasonal changes this area goes through and its abundant wildlife. Entry is free here and the visitor centre is open from 08:00 to 17:30 daily. At certain times of the year, they do run free nature talks too.
While you are in this area and fancy going on a jumping croc tour, there are a couple of tour operators, they run very similar tours. They take you out on a boat and suspend chunks of tasty treats for the crocs who usually will jump up providing you with an up-close view and spectacular photography moment! One operator is located further along the road from the Window on the Wetlands visitor centre and the other is located beside the Adelaide River bridge.
Near the Window on the Wetlands, is the turn off to the Fogg Dam Conservation Area. This is one of the more accessible places in the NT to experience spectacular wetlands and wildlife throughout the year. What you see will depend on what time of year you go – in the build up to the wet season you’ll see lots of birds migrating from the northern hemisphere; in the rainy season many of the water birds will head for other wetlands to breed; and during the dry season, the birds will arrive to escape the winter in other parts of Australia.
Parts of the access roads can sometimes be closed due to flooding, however it’s still a pretty drive into the dam. You will generally see more birds if you visit early in the morning and later in the afternoon and allow time to enjoy a couple of the walks or viewing platforms if you are visiting in the dry season. There is motorhome parking here.
After Fogg Dam you’ll drive through a town called Humpty Doo – a town with a lot of character and home to the boxing crocodile! You can grab some supplies from here including fuel, although it’s just a short jaunt north up the Stuart Highway, to return your campervan hire to Darwin.
If you are planning on starting or finishing in Darwin, we have a blog on the Top 5 Things to do when you are in Darwin, which you can read that here.
If you are still in the planning stages of doing the Top End route, or any other route around Australia, you can check out our Travel Routes here for heaps more information on places to stop off at and things to do as you go round.
If you are ready to hire a campervan or motorhome for your trip or would like to get an idea on costs, get in touch and find out how we can help you make you plans come to life!