After a night at Cooinda Lodge (and a super great Thai-inspired fish curry in their on-site restaurant) we drove our trusty hire car out of Kakadu and south to Nitmiluk National Park, where we’d be spending the next couple of nights. To break up a the 3-hour drive we took a 20km detour off the Stuart Highway to Leliyn Falls, a series of beautiful tiered waterfalls and tranquil pools linked by a 2.6km loop track. A huge sign on the road in declared Leliyn’s Upper Pool croc-free and open for business, which was great news considering the customary “swim here and die” warning signs posted by the Lower Pool, a stone’s throw from the car park and dry season campgrounds. With a picturesque swimming hole in our sites, we set off on the first leg of the track up a rocky, steep, and sweaty escarpment, catching the odd peek at the falls from various vantage points along the way.
The main falls and the fabled Upper Pool sit about halfway along the circuit and were blissfully deserted on our visit, something we’d become accustomed to during the Top End wet season (along with blue skies and 0% sign of rain), although the lack of other humans may be attributed to us foolishly starting our trek in peak midday heat. Diving straight into a deep, cold, and waterfall-fringed swimming hole was just the ticket after the uncomfortably warm scramble up the hill, and we made the most of the tranquility before heading off on the second half of the walk.
We stopped a few times to marvel at some stunning views of the falls from the southern escarpment along the way (full disclosure: this usually involved collapsing in a heat-stricken heap in the nearest sliver of shade and chugging water), before finally looping back around to the beautiful pandanus-fringed Lower Pool and carpark, and hitting the road to Katherine Gorge.