The Mary River National Park (proposed), off the Arnhem Highway, is part of a wetlands network that links eight major rivers of the Top End. Towering escarpments overlook the vast flood plains where picturesque billabongs, paperbark and monsoon rainforests are home to an amazing amount of wildlife. There’s a profusion of waterfowl, wallabies, buffalo, dingoes, lizards, Saltwater and Johnson River crocodiles.
Toward the end of the dry season, thousands of birds flock to the Bird Billabong’s rich waters. It is rare to find wildlife so close and approachable, and it’s just an hour’s drive from Darwin. The best time to visit is during the Dry Season, from May to September.
Hardies and Wildman 4WD Tracks are fantastic drives through the Mary River Wetlands. The tracks connect the roads into two circle loops and access places like Couzen’s Lookout and Rockhole – popular fishing area and wildlife viewing spot, Mistake Billabong with a viewing platform close to the water that’s safe from crocodiles. There is Brian’s Monsoon rainforest – a great place to stretch the legs and Shady Camp, named by Stuart. It’s no longer shady, but there’s a boat ramp, boats for hire and toilet facilities.
John McDouall Stuart’s party passed through the area on the last leg of their epic journey to the northern coast. They had to skirt billabongs and cross rivers. It was such a contrast to the desert country. A monument in the rainforest near Point Stuart marks the spot where they raised the flag to celebrate the success of the expedition. The country is inaccessible and can be reached only by special permit.
Mary River National Park Fact Sheet