The Top End is Northern Territory’s most accessible region, and no trip to this glorious place is complete without adventuring out bush into the wild and isolated landscapes famed for red dirt and blazing sunsets.


Make the most of beautiful dry season days and explore the Territory’s Top End with these five easy day trips from Darwin. From red cliff beaches to lush swimming spots, here are some of my favourite Top End adventures that make for a great day trip or overnighter.

1. Gunn Point – For Beach Driving & Camping

Travel time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Distance from Darwin: 73km

Gunn Point is a great place to set up by the water for an afternoon cook-up, sunset beers, and beach camping for a night or two. An easy hour drive out of Darwin, Gunn Point is a popular spot for locals after a weekend away.

Most of the Gunn Point Peninsula is held by NT Land Corporation which allows free public use of the area for recreation. It’s also dog friendly! Just be mindful of your footprint as there are a few restrictions in place such as designated camping zones to protect the area’s natural environment.

The final section of road down to the beach is unsealed and can be pretty gnarly after wet season rains erode the track, so I recommend taking a 4WD. There are no amenities like toilets or drinking water out this way, so pack everything you need to stay safe and comfortable for your time out there.

Unfortunately, swimming at Gunn Point isn’t recommended due to the likely presence of Saltwater crocodiles. So look but don’t touch!

Read more: How To Stay Safe in Croc Country


5 Day Trips From Darwin to Make the Most of Dry Season, Vanessa Eagles, Gunn Point, NT

2. Dundee and Finnis River Station – For Red Cliff Beaches & Sunset Beers

Travel time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Distance from Darwin: 138km

It’s hard not to fall in love with the endless skies and blue-turquoise water as take in the view on any Top End beach, and Dundee Beach is no different.

It’s a bit of a stretch to call Dundee a town, but this laid-back place makes for a great springboard for fishing and 4WDing adventures.

Dundee Beach Markets grace this small seaside village every Saturday during the dry season (May – October) setting up right on the shoreline across the road from The Lodge – the local post office, convenience store, petrol station, bait shop, restaurant, and watering hole rolled into one.

The Holiday Park behind The Lodge offers a range of accommodation options that make Dundee a great spot for an overnight trip. There’s even a pool, so you can cool off on those balmy blue sky days without fear of crocs or stingers (this is another spot where you should avoid swimming in the ocean!).

Drive a little further out of Dundee and you’ll find yourself on Finnis River Station. Open to the public for day use, this 200km2 cattle station is a great place to explore the stunning red-cliff coastline and incredible magnetic termite mounds.

3. Wagait Beach and Mandorah – For Darwin Harbour Views & Country Pubs

Travel time: Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes by car / 15 minutes by ferry
Distance from Darwin: 121km

Catch Darwin city views from across the harbour at Wagait Beach and Mandorah. You can take the 15 minute Sealink Ferry from Cullen Bay and enjoy the ride across the shimmering Darwin Harbour or drive the whole way around to the Cox Peninsula – it’s an easy drive from Darwin with sealed roads the whole way. If you’ve got a 4WD, park up on the beach and BYO lunch or if you’ve taken the ferry, jump aboard the Cox Country Club shuttle bus at the wharf and enjoy a cool bevy or pub feed.

Combined ferry and shuttle tickets are available on the Sealink website.


5 Day Trips From Darwin to Make the Most of Dry Season, Vanessa Eagles, Wagait Beach, NT

4. Robin Falls – For Shaded Hikes to a Hidden Waterfall

Travel time: Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes
Distance from Darwin: 126km

For an easy hike and waterfall adventure, drive down the Stuart Highway to Robin Falls.

Meander up the riverbed (which may or may not be flowing depending on the time of year you visit) toward the falls. Head early to avoid the crowds as it’s a small spot and you’ll want to experience its quiet seclusion before anyone else turns up for the day.

There’s even a small, free camping area at the beginning of the trailhead where you can pull up for the night if you want to extend your stay. This can’t be booked ahead of time, so first in best camped!

Read more: Robin Falls is a Northern Territory Hidden Gem – We Are Explorers


5 Day Trips From Darwin to Make the Most of Dry Season, Vanessa Eagles, Robin Falls, Waterfall, NT

5. Cascades (Litchfield National Park) – For Exploring Hidden Gems

Travel time: Approx. 1 hour 35 minutes
Distance from Darwin: 124km

Skip Buley Rockholes and Florence Falls to spend a day exploring a hidden gem of Litchfield National Park. Cascades is less prominent than some of the other Litchy swimming spots so sees fewer crowds. It’s easy to feel like you have the place all to yourself which is a magic feeling in the Australian Outback.

Cascades is a chain of shallow pools made of red rock which make for a stunning backdrop for a day out picnicking and sunbathing. There are two sections – upper and lower. It’s a decent hike up and over the ridge (about 1.5km one way) to get to the upper pools.

You can clamber down the rock holes from the top to get to the small falls which shade a deeper swimming hole and the lower pools. Alternatively, walk to the falls from the bottom. A shady walk back through rugged rainforest will complete your round trip back to the car park.

NT Parks rate both walks to Upper and Lower Cascades as Grade 4 – moderate to difficult so be prepared, pack water, and walk outside of the peak heat periods of the day.

Don’t forget to purchase your Parks Pass which you need to visit any of the sites in Litchfield National Park.

Read more: Litchfield National Park Road Trip


5 Day Trips From Darwin to Make the Most of Dry Season, Vanessa Eagles, Cascades, NT, Person in water

Sneaky Bonus Trips

The Northern Territory’s Top End region is an epic place to reconnect and immerse yourself in wild, isolated places without having to venture too far off the beaten track. With a little planning, it’s easy to take on a trip that’s doable in a short time frame.

If you’re looking for more adventures in the Territory check out 9 Top End Waterholes That Are Perfect For Wild Swimming.

Day Trips From Darwin FAQs

What kinds of amenities are there?

If you’re outside of a national park area, it’s likely there won’t be any amenities including toilets, drinking water, or rubbish collection. Most national park sites will have basic toilet facilities but no potable water. Check the NT National Parks website before you go if you’re unsure. It’s always a good idea to pack extra drinking water and snacks and to be prepared to take all your rubbish with you.

Read more: How To Survive Hiking in Hot Weather

Is it safe to swim at the beaches?

It’s not always safe to swim at the beach due to the danger of Saltwater crocodiles and Irukandji during stinger season which typically spans from October – May. Some beaches are signed for the risks, so keep an eye out and obey any signage in place.

Will I see a crocodile?

The Northern Territory is croc country so always be aware when adventuring around waterways.

When is the best time of year to visit Darwin?

The best time of year to visit Darwin and the Top End is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. Although still hot, there is less humidity and wet weather, making it ideal for hiking, camping, and wild swimming.

How far is Litchfield from Darwin?

Litchfield National Park is around 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Darwin city and around 110km on sealed road.

Can you do a day trip to Kakadu from Darwin?

Technically yes, however it’s not recommended as it’s a three-hour drive each way. Some tour companies offer day trips to Kakadu, leaving early and arriving back late, however as the driving is taken care of for you, it’s much easier than driving yourself.

We recommend spending at least one night in Kakadu (ideally more!) to make it worthwhile.

How many days in Darwin is enough?

Three days in Darwin is enough to see the city, however if you’re keen to explore some of the national parks, especially Kakadu or Nitmiluk National Parks, we recommend around a week.

Can you do a day trip to Katherine from Darwin?

Like Kakadu, Katherine is a three hour drive from Darwin, so a day trip is technically possible, but it would be extremely rushed! We recommend spending two to three days in Katherine.


Photos thanks to @monikabolton_