Top End… Darwin, Litchfield National Park, Reynolds Track, Adelaide River, Pine Creek… and back to Katherine!

Having already experienced the amazing Litchfield National Park on a previous trip, we were really looking forward to a return visit, only this time we would be exiting via the Reynolds 4WD Track.

Continuing along the ‘Natures Way Drive’ we followed the Stuart Highway turning off onto Batchelor Road and winding our way to the small township of Batchelor, approximately 92- kilometres from the city of Darwin, and just outside the park boundary.

Batchelor came into existence with the discovery of uranium at Rum Jungle, which drew miners to the town and saw the building of houses and facilities for 600 workers.

It was named after Lee Batchelor, who was responsible for the Northern Territory when it was given over to the Government of Australia by South Australia in 1908 and came to prominence in 1949 when Jack White discovered uranium at Rum Jungle.

This area is steeped in history from its early Chinese market gardens, to pastoral and mining development to its use as a large air-force base that was set up to defend the northern part of Australia during WWII.

Today the town thrives on employment mainly at the Batchelor Institute and tourism and its boundaries include Rum Jungle and the entrance to the beautiful Litchfield National Park.

Rum Jungle, 11-kilometres to the north of Batchelor, came into existence in 1872 when the Overland Telegraph construction party found gold at Yam Creek and it was then that miners began arriving in the district by walking down the track beside the telegraph poles.

In 1874 a man by the name of Mr Lithgow built the ‘Rum Jungle Hotel’ out of rough timber and sheets of stringy bark but this pub was short lived, closing its doors in 1889 with the completion of the telegraph line.

In its short life it became a popular watering hole for teamster and it was here in 1884 that teamsters massacred a number of local Aboriginal men, women and children as revenge for the deaths of four white prospectors at the Daly River copper mine.

No one is really sure how Rum Jungle got its name but legend has it that in 1871 a bullock cart carrying provisions (including rum barrels) to construction workers became bogged in a jungle near the East Finniss River. A week passed before rescue and as you can imagine, within that time, the 80-gallon barrel of rum they carried was consumed, hence the rather merry bunch decided to call the area, ‘Rum Jungle’.

Wikipedia tells us the area derives its name from an incident when a thief stole 750 ounces of gold from miners after getting them drunk with rum.

The ‘Northern Territory Historical Society’ claims that the local hotelkeeper once ran out of all liquor apart from rum and a camper remarked ‘This is a rum place to camp at’… and writer Jessie Litchfield, in her ‘Far-North Memories’, argues it was named ‘because a party of government officials once went there on important departmental business. They were lost among their empty bottles, and a relief party was sent out to show the way to go home’.

One thing is for sure though… it certainly involved a large consumption of rum by someone!

Leaving Batchelor we headed for Litchfield National Park where only a few kilometres from the entrance we came across what appeared to be a graveyard of very intriguing termite mounds.img_1703.jpg

Impressive flat, narrow termite mounds stood on both sides of the road amongst the woodlands and certainly added to the Litchfield vibe! 

These tiny insects had obviously inherited an amazing wisdom as they had all aligned themselves with their thin edges pointing north south and their broad backs east west like enormous magnetic compasses… obviously to absorb the maximum amount of heat!

Termite mounds were scattered throughout the National Park, some standing as tall as a house, others relatively young and small in size with some very impressive clusters clearly marked on our map and surrounded by viewing platforms and information boards that provided a fascinating insight into these remarkable formations and their inhabitants.IMG_1705

We were travelling through beautiful country and in many ways it reminded us of the Gulf country…  ancient landscapes shaped by water, numerous waterfalls, barren dry land, lots of wallabies, kites, emus, goannas, the good old kookaburra and many other birds we couldn’t name!

Litchfield National Park was the home of the Wagait people for tens of thousands of years and these people believe their ancestral spirits formed the landscape, plants and animals and are still present in the landscape today.

The Finniss exploration was the first European connection to the area with the park named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, a member of the expedition that passed through the area in 1864, led by the Government Resident, Boyle Travers Finniss.

For 75 years until 1955, the area was the centre for tin and copper mining. It then fell under a pastoral lease until it was designated a National Park in 1986.

Our first stop was Buley Rockholes, a chain of rocky swimming holes with gently flowing water that cascaded down towards Florence Falls. We certainly wanted to escape the heat of the day and although these rockholes are fantastic, they were just a little too crowded for us, so crowded in fact that we could find only one spot in the large car park!

Litchfield National Park is tour bus heaven and of course being only a short distance from Darwin, a very popular day trip for locals and tourists alike. You can spend as little as one day in this park visiting all the plunge pools and rockholes or to really experience its true beauty we recommend staying at least a couple of days.

Be prepared though… if you are planning on visiting this part of the ‘Top End’ on your travels we highly recommend getting here early to escape the crowds and tour buses, especially if you want to enjoy the peacefulness and tranquillity of these rock pools and waterfalls and if the car park looks full it’s probably a good time to head on to the next waterfall and come back later!

Florence Falls is not far from Buley Rockholes and although there was a 2-kilometre walk between both that we could have taken, with the sun burning and the humidity extreme, all we could think of was a nice cool dip.

Heading down the road a kilometre or so we pulled into another somewhat crowded car park and after a quick pit stop at the viewing platform to catch our first glimpse of the cascading Florence Falls and to take the obligatory photos we headed down the 135 steps that would lead us to the waterhole. The number of steps were clearly stated at the start of this walk obviously to warn people (perhaps those who were not quite as agile as they used to be) that it was a long trek down to the falls and a long haul back up again… but don’t let this put you off, it’s really not too difficult!

As we descended the stairs we could hear water crashing into the rocky pool below and after crossing a small creek and stumbling over and around a few boulders we finally arrived at the breathtaking Florence Falls.

Pictures were taken and clothes and shoes removed then we made our way into the refreshing water. This pool is not a big one, but it is very deep and very, very slippery getting in off the rocks, so be prepared if you travel with little ones or you can’t swim.

At the waterfalls, we had panoramic views high above of the spectacular falls as they cascaded into the plunge pool below. It was amazing and definitely my idea of a cool outback shower on a steamy ‘Top End’ day… even if we were pelted by the water falling down on top of us!

This very popular swimming hole was just a little crowded also, mostly with people floating around on pool noodles, so after cooling off we set off to explore a bit further and find a campground for the night.

Close by were 2 campgrounds, one for 2WDs and just 1-kilometre further up the track another for 4WD camping. At $13.20 a night this great spot had flushing toilets and solar showers and around 20 sites to choose from and although not very busy when we first arrived it was soon apparent it was just as popular as the swimming holes. Each morning the sites would empty, and from noon until after dark they would all fill up again.IMG_1709

From the campground we could wander back down to the plunge pool along a sandy track that followed Florence Creek so after setting up camp we set off to make our way back to Buley Rockholes via the 2-kilometre track that passed Florence Falls and meandered through a tranquil and fascinating pocket of cool monsoon rainforest.

The sun was low in the sky when we arrived and the crowds had drifted back to their cars and buses so we enjoyed a cool dip, pool hopping from one pool to the next, following the small waterfalls as they cascaded from one into another… some quite shallow, others quite deep. We were now guaranteed the pick of our own cascading pool to soak in and lay back on the rocks surrounded by the peaceful bush and beautiful birdlife.

Back at camp we relaxed around a lovely campfire as our evening meal cooked away… a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other, and as night descended upon us we succumbed to the peacefulness that surrounded us then woke to a beautiful morning… and to our surprise quite a few other campers who had obviously snuck in under the cover of darkness.

It was time to move on again but not without another dip, so with towels and goggles in hand, we headed back along the sandy track to the swimming hole where, in the early morning, it was a good place to spend an hour before the crowds arrived to interrupt our peace.

Leaving the campground, the beautiful Florence Falls and Buley Rockholes, we set off to explore some more of the waterfalls within the park, with our next stop Tolmar Falls.

The incredible Tolmar Falls are set amongst impressive red cliffs and cascade over two high escarpments into a distant, deep, plunge pool. It was an easy 400-metre walk down a path to the viewing platform overlooking the falls and the view was certainly a spectacular sight.

Tolmar Falls are home to several colonies of rare Ghost Bats and Orange Horseshoe Bats and to protect these colonies, access to the falls and gorge has been closed. Apparently this species of bat is very bad at regulating its body temperature when at rest, and therefore only a few caves in northern Australia are just the right temperature and humidity for them. They are also very sensitive to disturbances from humans and will often abandon a roost once disturbed.

From here we headed to the Cascades, which required a bit of a walk to get to… so out came our hiking boot.

With 2 walks to choose from, the lower Cascades walk and upper Cascades walk, we set off along the lower 2.6 return walk that would take us through Cascades Creek to Curtain Falls. By the time we set off the temperature had again reached 34 degrees and what started as a pleasant shady walk through a beautiful rainforest soon had us clambering over rocks and dodging massive spiders that hung on silky webs between them… much to Guys disgust.

These waterholes were not unlike Buley Rockhole and we were wishing we had brought a towels as there were lots of places that looked a lovely safe place to be in the water… had it not been for those dreaded, somewhat intimidating signs warning of the increased risk of crocodiles in this particular area!

For those who don’t know anything about crocodiles there are two types living in the top end of Australia, freshwater crocodiles and saltwater crocodiles. Freshwater crocs are quite small and usually very shy whereas saltwater crocodiles are much bigger and…. very dangerous… and best avoided!

Hitting the road again we headed to Wangi Falls, our last stop for the morning where we hoped to set up camp.

Wangi Falls is an important area to the Koongurrukun, Marranunggu, Werat and Warray Aboriginal people and a sacred site used by the local Aboriginal women.

The name Wangi is as recent as 1961 when a family by the name of Townsend took over the lease then an outstation was built approximately 4-kilometres to the west of the falls and named Wangi, the local aboriginal name for the area. Hence the name stuck and visitors to the outstation soon began to call the falls ‘Wangi Falls‘.

Wangi Falls is probably Litchfield’s most popular attraction with a large swimming hole and a beautiful green picnic area… and this one is an easy walk to the water, no slippery stones like Florence Falls and only a couple of steps.

It consists of a year round waterfall with a large swimming pool below it and like all the other swimming holes in Litchfield, this one was just as crowded.

We arrived at Wangi Falls mid morning and the campground was a busy hive of activity with many caravans and trailers rolling in to camp for the night.

We had been warned to arrive as early as possible as we would find it is very hard to secure a campsite and at first sight we were quite doubtful and thought we would be moving on had it not been for someone pulling out as we were doing a second lap of the campground!

As there are no formal bookings for this campground it was ‘ first come, first served’… although there was a very officious camp host. The Rangers and campground hosts we had come across during our travels do a great job of managing these facilities, and are often up for a chat… but not these ones, they took their job very seriously!

Apparently the Campground Host Program pilot at Litchfield National Park is a relatively new program to the Northern Territory and the current hosts, who were veteran campground hosts in WA, were assisting with sharing their knowledge and experience in this particular park!

We had camped at this campground on our previous trip and it was a great campground with unpowered sites, great toilets and showers, bbq facilities, a large fire pit for 5 o’clock hour and a kiosk… and an impressive waterfall that cascaded down from a great height into a magnificent crystal clear swimming hole below, just perfect to escape the heat of the day.

For the next couple of days we lounged around camp, read our books and swam in the pool and especially loved laying on the surrounding rock walls of the falls where we enjoyed light mist falling around us and the peacefulness and tranquillity of another piece of paradise.

On the first day, feeling refreshed and quite energetic, we embarked on the 1.6-kilometre Wangi Falls walk. Crossing Wangi Creek we followed a short side path through monsoon forest to a viewing platform at the base of the falls then continuing on we climbed steps (65 in total), to another viewing platform, then the remaining steps to the top of the escarpment. From here we had clear views over the woodlands and the campground below and the rooftops of Wangi Station as they shone on the edge of cleared land. Crossing another creek we then wound our way back down through the forest where foot sore, hot and tired and desperately in need of some relief from the heat and our long hike we retreated to the cool waters of the plunge pool and enjoyed another refreshing swim.

Just north of Wangi was an old ‘Bamboo Creek Tin Mine‘ where we wandered among the ruins and inspected some of the original machinery but unfortunately, with souveniring having been rife here over time, many of the relics have been stolen so there really wasn’t a lot to see!

We love camping in the outdoors, but unfortunately it also means we are not always alone. The outdoors can be a bit tricky at times, especially when it comes to its smallest inhabitants – FLIES… irritating, annoying flies! Be warned, the flies were quite horrendous here and our Aussie flies are a terrible pest… they went straight for our ears, eyes, nostrils and mouth and they would not let up, buzzing around our faces constantly until late afternoon each day when they would suddenly disappear.

On our last evening thunder heads rolled overhead and the weather didn’t look too promising to be travelling the Reynolds Track the next day but as the evening engulfed us the clouds soon moved away with nothing eventuating except a sweltering night.

Packed up and ready to move on, it was now time to hit the 4WD tracks again, with our first stop the ‘Lost City‘.

Following an extremely rocky, corrugated track that obviously got plenty of use, we eventually arrived at the Lost City, and we were surprised to find we were the only ones there.images-4

These formations are estimated to be over 500 million years old and could only be appreciated after a lovely stroll so following a very easy loop walk we wandered through rock formations that really did look like a Lost City with mini sky scrapers and buildings toppled over. This wonderland of eroded towers excited our imaginations and I could easily see deserted buildings, animals, statues and people amongst the columns!

From here we started our journey along the Reynolds Track. We were really looking forward to this trip and one of the first highlights was the well-preserved Blyth Homestead, which was built as an outstation some 25-miles from the main house, Stapleton Station.

The Reynolds Track is only 44 kilometres long and although it can be crossed in around 3.5 hours (that’s not including the sites) it can be a bit hazardous as the rivers and creeks can remain quite deep and impassable for quite a few months after the ‘Wet’, especially the Reynolds River, which we were told we would need a snorkel to cross.IMG_1733

We had heard differing comments on the condition of this track (and the crocs) and the Ranger at Wangi Falls was very helpful advising of the crossings to take care on, and stressing he thought the Reynolds River might be a bit tricky.

If you are planning on taking this path we strongly recommend you check the track conditions at the Rangers Headquarters or the nearest Tourist Information Centre and keep a watchful eye for crocs when crossing the creeks and rivers.IMG_1786 There is also a huge sign at each end of the track advising of the conditions, distances and what is and isn’t open.

Turning on to the track we pulled over to deflate our tyres then not 600 metres down the track we encountered our first river crossing.

This section of the track sees a lot of traffic to and from the Blyth Homestead and becomes corrugated very early in the season and although the crossing did not have steep banks it was quite deep and a good 80 metres in length and impossible to see where it finished because of a bend in the track ahead.  Lucky for us we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way, as one would have to reverse to let the other through!

Pushing Harry through in 4WD we passed a water marker that told us the depth of the water was 700mm, not quite deep enough for our snorkel… but with Old Man Emu suspension and the extra height in our Hilux, all was good. We even had a great bow wave!!

Taking a quick detour we turned on to a track that led to the Blyth Homestead… and a second water crossing. This one a tad deeper than the first but still not a problem.

Shortly after we arrived at the Blyth Homestead, and parked Harry outside a tiny little tin hut, barely tall enough for me to walk in to and hardly what you would call a homestead.

We had read about this homestead, which was a small outstation of the bigger Stapleton Station, and of the tough times endured by those involved in the early pastoral and mining industries up this way, but this was an incredible story of a self-sufficient family in the time of the great depression and war years!

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The homestead, originally built in 1928 was built by the Sarjeant family who had fourteen children, all who worked hard from dawn to dusk, planting and harvesting crops, building and repairing miles of fencing, digging post holes, stringing barbed wire fences and mustering and branding cattle to name a few of their many jobs.

This particular homestead was mostly inhabited by the older children of this family although we read that a child as young as 7 would cook the meals for the older siblings. They looked after the cattle in the ‘Dry’ and the adjacent small tin mine in the ‘Wet’ and a family album on display portrayed how tough this family really was and how self-sufficient they needed to be and it was a somewhat humbling experience to read about the hardships these children endured.

The shell of this outstation, is still standing and made up of two rooms with wide verandas on each side to keep the house cool in the hot Northern Territory conditions and the tin mine was just across the stream with lots of signage telling of the history and although now closed, what was left was well worth a look.

To add to their hardship, this family also had to contend with an influx of soldiers during the WWII years and both the main station and the outstation were subject to a significant degree of pilfering and destruction with soldiers running vehicles through fences and killing cattle. The air force was not without fault either and used the cattle for target practice and although there were various articles in the homestead showing how the father had attempted to claim compensation for his loss, there was no evidence they ever received any, and the government and armed forces refused to accept any responsibility!

Again we were inundated with flies constantly buzzing around our faces and any chance of a nice cuppa at the picnic tables outside the homestead were soon dashed.  Swatting had become a sport for us of late and no matter how much we swiped, slapped or swished our hands around at these annoying pests we always seemed to miss and they would be back in mass… so in the confines of our car, we headed back across the water crossing to the main track.

7- kilometres down the track we turned-off to the beautiful Tjaynera Falls otherwise known as Sandy Creek then another 2 kilometres on we came to a small campground and car park that marked the start of the walk to Sandy Creek Falls.

This was another great camping ground with toilet and shower facilities and about 15 designated sites separated by a strip of woodland. Each campsite had its own fire pit and camp fees applied with an honesty box located at the camp entrance, once again ‘first come first camp’.

Setting off we followed a 1.7-kilometre walk negotiating uneven rocky terrain that followed a creek bed and crossed riverbeds before emerging from the forest to deep, crystal clear rock pools fed by a small waterfall.

Towering red-brown cliffs surrounded these beautiful pools on one side while on the other green ferns clung to the ledges as small-tiered waterfalls plunged into the large pool below.  Nestled in this tranquil valley, lush with paperbarks, we relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful plunge pool and the breathtaking falls with only a handful of people.

This was yet another spectacular swimming spot just perfect to cool down from the heat of the day and although signs indicated low risk of crocodiles we were forever watchful and swam close to the edge of this un-crowded paradise.

This campground and the falls didn’t attract the crowds like the other swimming holes in Litchfield National Park, obviously due to 4WD access and probably the long walk to this waterfall and swimming hole but for us, it was well worth the effort to visit!

With still a few daylight hours left we decided to continue on to Surprise Creek and just 2-kilometres south of the Sandy Creek Falls turn off we came to our next big river crossing, the East Reynolds River that can be deep even in the early ‘Dry’… up to the bonnet of most standard four-wheel drives at times, and there was definitely no walking this creek to check the depth!east reynolds crossing sign

We pulled over at the beginning of the crossing to wait for a 4WD coming in the other direction and it was good to watch as another car crossed. You soon learn which track to take… or rather, which track not to take! There were 2 tracks on this river crossing, with 1 section we were told by the Ranger at Wangi Falls to avoid as it could be deep, but as it turned out that area was taped-off in an attempt to limit traffic over that section of the river!

After negotiating a 5 metre drop into the riverbed we manovoured our way along the riverbed bypassing a small sand island before finally returning to the riverbed and then up over the riverbank and back out on to the track.

Continuing on through sections of bull dust and along the corrugated track we travelled across vast floodplains passing hundreds more magnetic termite mounds that again looked like an eerie graveyard!

These little creatures are actually blind but they sure know how to use their inbuilt compass and build cool structures. There were rows and rows of these mounds that stretched on forever as if marked out on a map exactly where they were to be constructed… nature at its best!

Mistake Creek was our next creek crossing before travelling through more savannah woodland and flood plains with more termite mounds.

This small creek was only a couple of metres wide with a drop of about 2 metres into the water but then came our next surprise… Surprise Creek, a relatively wide, deep crossing with a sandy creek bed and crocodile risk warning signs just to make things interesting.

After driving a short distance further on through another soft sandy section of track we came to the Surprise Creek Falls turn-off then a few kilometres later on we arrived at Surprise Creek campground.

This was another great campground with only a very basic toilet (a pit toilet in a tin shed) and roughly designation sites with fire pits and plenty of firewood. We were surrounded by lots of trees and apart from the birdlife we practically had the campground to ourselves, only one other couple camping. Welcome to our blog John and Lyn from Narrabeen in NSW.

A short rainforest walk (about 300 metres) from the campground soon revealed what this area is famous for, Surprise Creek swimming hole… no surprise there!

This lovely tranquil pool set in the middle of nowhere was carved out of the solid rock that forms the side of the surrounding hill and after negotiating a rather precarious, steep rock face. Yet another surprise awaited us!

We came to 2 perfectly shaped cauldron like swimming holes where water flowed down the hill into one then spilled over into another forming really deep bottomless swimming holes surrounded by sheer cliff walls… and it certainly lived up to its name.

This is one of the more remote swimming holes in the park and to our surprise we didn’t have these pools to ourselves. Apparently these swimming holes are a very popular picnic spot for the locals.

As the sun began to fall, we extracted ourselves away from these beautiful rock holes and made our way back to camp where we cooked our evening meal then relaxed around a lovely campfire under the night stars. The night sky in the Top End really has to be seen to be believed… and we couldn’t think of a more wonderful way to finish off our last night in Litchfield National Park.

Surprise Creek Falls are the southern most waterfalls on this 4WD track so this was to be our last night on the Reynolds Track. Tomorrow we would head to the Daly River Road then on to Adelaide River Township before heading to Katherine and the road west.

Leaving Surprise Creek next morning we travelled another 5-kilometres to our final river crossing, the Reynolds River.

We had been warned about this crossing numerous times and the Ranger at Wangi Falls warned it could be a major hazard and this was the crossing where we might be thankful of our snorkel. We knew it was deeper than most and we would have to negotiate a bend in the creek and a steep exit but we didn’t expect to come across a vehicle already stuck in the mud!

As we approached the river and descended down a gradual slope we were surprised to see a crew of men from the National Parks contemplating their latest disaster… their bobcat was bogged up to the cabin!

Consequently our crossing was relatively easy as we had a crew who had marked out an easy path… but we couldn’t help but chuckle to ourselves and thank our lucky stars it was them and not us!!

Continuing on we travelled through more savannah woodland before joining the Daly River Road and after re-inflating our tyres we headed for the Township of Adelaide River.

Not long after leaving one dirt track we were back on another as we headed along a bumpy 2WD track into Robin Falls just south of Adelaide River.

Robin falls was a beautiful waterfall albeit a very rough and rocky walking track to get to it and the swimming holes.

Eventually parking the car in the small amount of shade available in a very tight parking area we set off to stretch our leg before another day of driving.

At the beginning of the track we were greeted with a walking trail sign made from a polystyrene meat tray saying ‘Falls 300m’ so we headed off reaching the falls along a trail that climbed over large rocks beside the creek bed in a steep sided valley…. and a distance that seemed quite a bit further than the 300-metres indicated.

Cascading down, a two-tiered waterfall spilled down a sheer rock face into small rock pools and crystal clear water, which then flowed over another edge forming rapids and descending to the creek.  This hidden gem was just beautiful and with no other people around it was certainly worthy of a brief skinny dip and well worth the walk to get to them.

Back near the car park there was a free camping area by the creek with lots of tents and vans literally set up right on the banks, and although no facilities except for bins, it was very picturesque and would be a great place to relax in or near the refreshing clear water for those campers who are fully self contained.

Next stop was the Adelaide River Township, not to be confused with the Adelaide River where we stopped for the ‘Jumping Crocodiles Cruise’, although it does flow through the town!IMG_1791

Adelaide River is a small town on the Stuart Highway located near the headwaters of that river, 201-kilometres northwest of Katherine and 114-kilometres south of Darwin and is probably best known for the War Cemetery on the banks of its river. It only has a population of about 200 and was established after completion of the Overland Telegraph Line.

It became a popular overnight stopover for travellers and prospectors heading to the Pine Creek goldfields in the late 1800s and during WWII became the Australian and United States military headquarters and a large base to which allied troops retreated to after the bombing of Darwin by Japanese warplanes.

The War Cemetery was created especially for the burial of service personnel who died in this part of Australia during WWII and there are 432 servicemen and 63 civilians buried here, all who died as a result of the bombing raids.

These beautifully kept gardens certainly showed great respect and dignity for these servicemen and women who fought for our country and is a true monument to those people, and was a very moving experience to visit!

This small town is also well known for how disgusting the colour of the river is that flow through it… and it truly was a horrible dirty brown colour and a great camouflage for its high concentration of saltwater crocodiles.

This river starts in Litchfield National Park and flows northwards where the Stuart Highway at the Adelaide River Township and the Arnhem Highway near Humpty Doo crosses it on its way to Van Diemens Gulf.

Heading on along the Stuart Highway we turned off just south of Adelaide River and headed to the historic Grove Hill Hotel, another outback pub on a road to nowhere.img_1813.jpg

The Stuart Highway used to pass by the front door of this hotel but now the new highway is 16-kilometres away and the hotel is mostly bypassed by travellers.

Grove Hill was an area rich in mining and a settlement began after the discovery of gold by prospector Harry Roberts in 1872.  During construction of the Overland Telegraph Line the site was formerly a siding on the North Australia Railway. Prior to 1935, a township and miners camp had thrived approximately 2.5 miles south of the railway line but as the gold rush was ending, this settlement was abandoned and a hotel constructed near the railway sidings to take advantage of new business opportunities brought by travellers passing through the area.IMG_1815

Bill and Mary Lucy built it in 1934 from materials scavenged from abandoned mining sites in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Bill was a gold prospector himself at the time and many locals would come to the pub for a chat and drink a ‘coldie’ in the beer garden, whilst Mary and her daughter provided meals. It was also the local post office.

Later Stan and Mary Hacusler took over the pub and it continued to run as a hotel. Stan and his late wife, Mary, turned this place into a destination in itself where pieces of territory memorabilia literally filled the bar as well as its grounds and it looked more like a dumping ground full of rusty wrecks scavenged from the paddocks and old gold mines in the middle of the bush, rather than a campground.

Several rooms as well as all the walls, floors, ceilings and even the doors were littered with dusty old antiques, many associated with the mining history of the region. There were literally hundreds of different collectibles including old photographs and equipment from eras now past and there was even one table dedicated to Elvis Presley by someone who must have been a very devoted fan!

In its day, this now rundown pub was an extremely popular outback hotel with people travelling long distances to meet up with the colourful locals but all that remains of the former mining town now is the white, corrugated iron shed which is the original hotel, a few outbuildings and a couple of concrete slabs and it has operated as a hotel for most of its lifetime except for the period during the war and between 1976-1990.

These good old pubs are what you would call true blue Aussie establishments and are steeped in history. There are still some gems dotted around this country, mostly in the outback, that will serve you up nothing other than some good ol’ hospitality, a pot or schooner of lager and a good dose of Aussie friendship.

We had visited a few on our travels around Australia so the remnant of another outback pub was worth a night of camping for us just to see the museum, experience the locals and spend some time around the ‘table of knowledge. We watched the Ghan travel past and had our evening silence broken by the loud ‘toot’ of the iron ore freight train as it travelled past our door… what more could you want!

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Don’t be misled though, we were told it was free camping here and free camping was mostly the drawcard for us but when we arrived we were charged $10 each for the night! For those that are interested though, there is apparently ‘FREE’ camping Saturday nights with a small charge for power and live music, dancing and free bbqs are held on the last Saturday of each month.

Pine Creek was just down the road and having only passed through on our way up we decided to stop in to check out the many heritage buildings and mining sites still standing around the tiny town.

Established in the 1800s when gold was discovered by workers on the Overland Telegraph Line and famed for its gold mining and railway heritage, Pine Creek was the only original mining town of the gold rush era in Northern Australia that continued to operate as a gold mining town until 1995.

Heading on Katherine was only a 90-kilometre drive south so it was a nice easy drive down the Stuart Highway before we headed west! We had arrived back to where we had started our ‘Top End’ experience and our journey from here would now take us toward the Western Australian border.

Litchfield National Park is really beautiful and so different from Kakadu in so many ways. There were so many fabulous waterfalls and gorges to explore and it wasn’t hard to hop from one location, have a swim and then go onto the next. We really enjoyed our time, but be aware, if you go in peak season it will be very crowded.

The scenery along the one-way Reynolds Track was so interesting, changing from grasslands to lush tropical pandanus and paperbark forests. We passed billabongs full of waterlilies and amazing birds, hundreds of termite mounds and we had heaps of fun tackling some challenging creek crossings.

Camping in the wilderness can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but the amazing experiences and sights more than make up for it and there’s nothing better than sitting around a campfire and seeing more stars than you thought existed or waking to the sight of the sun rising over the dry earth each morning.

Come join us on the next leg of our journey as we head across the Western Australian border to tackle the Kimberley’s and famous Gibb River Road… just make sure you bring along your sense of adventure and an open mind!

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