Time-poor Top End travellers can now tick two of the territory's most beautiful national parks off their list with a scenic flight that links Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks.
Operated by NT Air, its Cessna 206 – seating five passengers and the pilot – departs the town of Batchelor, an hour south of Darwin, at 6.30am as the sun is rising over the Mary River floodplains.
Don't let the early hour frighten you off – the flying is smoother in the mornings, says Geoff Morton, owner of the helicopter and fixed-wing scenic flight company.
The early hour is also timed to touch down at Cooinda airport in Kakadu National Park for the 9am departure of the renowned boat cruise through the tropical Yellow Water Billabong. Here, visitors can take the two-hour sailing, then breakfast in the Cooinda Resort.
The second half of the flight sees the aircraft skirting over two of Kakadu's most dramatic waterfalls, Jim Jim and Twin Falls.
"Jin Jin falls is phenomenal at this time," says pilot Jye Highfield. "It's been a good Wet and the only way to see the falls at the moment is by air." He adds that in this shoulder season, the tourism scene is quieter before the busy Dry season sets in from June.
With commentary from the pilots, you'll spy Mount Bundy Station and its cattle and buffalo herds on the Adelaide River below, and the iconic Bark Hut Inn on the Arnhem Highway. There's also a chance to see the abandoned World War II airfield near Coomalie, part of this region's rich military history.
Circling back to Batchelor, the Cessna can skim Litchfield's clusters of sandstone outcrops, dubbed Lost City, and snap yet more photogenic waterfalls.
Originally devised as a Wet-season tour to lure visitors in what is traditionally regarded as the Territory's off-season, Geoff Morton confirms the flights will continue through the busy Dry season. "But the best time to visit up here is still just after the Wet," he says. "The waterfalls are cranking, it looks unreal."
The Litchfield and Kakadu tours cost $675 per person, minimum two people. Includes the Yellow Waters cruise and snacks. See ntair.com.au