KAKADU – THE AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER GUIDE
Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, covering over 19,000 square kilometres. A number of different Aboriginal clans, who now share joint management with Parks Australia, an Australian Federal Government body, have called Kakadu home for some 50,000 years. Evidence of their culture can be seen in many rock art galleries.
Kakadu is a landscape of contrasts. Beneath waters dotted with delicate pink lotus flowers lurks the crocodile. Jagged peaks of towering escarpments hide pockets of lush rainforest. Roaring waterfalls thunder down rocky gorges to serene pools fringed with paperbarks, pandanus and cycads. It is also teeming with life. About 1000 plant species, a quarter of all the freshwater fish species found in Australia, and over one third of all the bird species live here. This diverse and fascinating wildlife, along with the exceptional Aboriginal art sites, gained Kakadu its World Heritage listing in 1984.
How to get there
World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is situated 250 kilometres from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway. There are two entry points into the park: from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway or via Pine Creek on the Kakadu Highway.
Best time to go
December to March – the “wet”, or all other months – the “dry”.
Useful websites include:
This is the official Northern Territory Tourism site, and contains lots of tips and hints about travelling to and staying in Kakadu.
This website is a commercial site, promoting the Guluyambi Cruise. This is an informative Aboriginal cultural tour of one of Kakadu National Park’s most spectacular waterways, the East Alligator River which borders Western Arnhemland.
This website is a commercial site promoting scenic flights over Kakadu.
“What a special place. We camped through Kakadu and the entire family was blown away by the birds, the crocs, Aboriginal culture, swimming holes and the brightest stars you’ve ever seen.”
- David Koch
Score: 8.92 Back in 2006, when we published the world-first list of 100 Things To Do In Australia Before You Die, Kakadu was #1. Eight years later, we’re happy to say that it’s still as magical as it was, even if the Kimberley has seduced us all since then. Just as we said back then, there are really two ways you need to see it: in the wet (December to March), when the incredible colours (and even more incredible weather) make for an empirical overload; and in the dry, when you can swim the waterholes (like this one, known as...
I took this shot in August at sunrise, just a few minutes before stepping on board a cruise on Yellow Water Billabong in the Kakadu National Park. I knew I would see many animal species during the cruise and I was also aware that there were plenty of crocodiles in the water… however, at this moment, I was only contemplating the calm of the misty scene. I really wanted to capture the contrast between the landscape and the wildlife that was about to wake up soon! The colours were spectacular and I loved the perfect reflection.” Delphine Denans, Sydney, NSW Calling...
Northern Territory photographer Tracy Ryan has a knack of capturing the majesty of Kakadu, in all its seasons and moods. Here are her top photography spots in the 20,000 square kilometre national park. Kakadu’s ancient wetlands, escarpment, outliers, woodlands, and monsoon rainforests - home to our earliest Australians for more than 50,000 years - are a photographic and cultural adventure. The national park recognises the local indigenous calendar of six seasons, where throughout the year the landscapes undergo spectacular changes. The favourite time of year for photography enthusiasts to visit the park is 'Wurreng', in June and July (height of...
The Top End’s wet season has come to an end, meaning it is time to consider booking accommodation in Kakadu National Park, if you want to beat the dry-season crowds. As the more accessible dry season begins (around the beginning of May), much of the in-park accommodation, such as the tented Hawk Dreaming, reopens to take visitors. The luxury wilderness lodge, near Ubirr, in a restricted part of Kakadu, features 12 tented cabins with ensuites, and activities including East Alligator River cruises and access to Aboriginal rock art ($265 per person, twin-share). Kakadu is open all year round but many...
Sandstone secret in Kakadu Jarrangbarnmi (or Koolpin Gorge), Kakadu National Park, NT Jarrangbarnmi (or Koolpin Gorge), is as rugged as it is remote in Kakadu National Park. Located in a culturally-sensitive area, only 40 people can access it at any one time, making it a key destination to learn about the local Jawoyn culture.
Where is it? Waterfall Creek in Kakadu National Park, 315km south-east of Darwin How to see it for yourself? Gunlom Falls are accessible by 4WD vehicles along the Gunlom Track, near the southern entrance to Kakadu National Park. Drive carefully as the track is unsealed, subject to flooding and sandy in areas. It is impassable in the wet season but open between May and October. Once there, visitors can swim at the base of the falls or take the walking track to the top where there are more swimming holes – and where this view was taken. The walking track is steep, uneven and suitable for people with a medium level of...
Where is it? Kakadu National Park, NT How to see it for yourself? Drive 117km east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway. From the Ubirr Arts Centre, walk 1km to view Indigenous rock art and access the lookout via signed paths. Why I love it “I’ll never forget my first sunset at Ubirr. I’d spent the afternoon enjoying the rock art, then made my way to the stone escarpment. It was beautiful looking out over the Nadab floodplain and surrounding stone country as the sun sank below the horizon. Wisps of bushfire smoke played with the pink and purple hues of the sunset.” – Nelson Hall, Tourism NT Image by...
Where is it? 300km east of Darwin in Kakadu National Park, Gagudju Lodge Cooinda (near Yellow Waters) How to see it for yourself? See flocks of magpie geese taking off on a tour with Kakadu Animal Tracks Safaris, costing from $205 for adults and $135 for children. Safaris leave from Gagudju Lodge Cooinda. Why I love it “This is one of the largest annual bird gatherings in the world. The best bit is the deafening roar as the sky fills with tens of thousands of wetland birds evading a hungry crocodile, sea eagle or dingo. It is the sight that every Kakadu visitor hopes to see.” – Rachael Arnold, Kakadu Animal...
Where is it? Kakadu National Park How to see it for yourself? In dry season, Twin Falls can be accessed by 4WD (preferably with a snorkel) down a signed track off the Kakadu Highway. Day tours can be taken from Wildman Wilderness Lodge in the Mary River Wetlands. See the falls from the air any time of year with Skytours or Kakadu Air. Why I love it “See Jim Jim and Twin Falls at their thundering best during the wet season. Kakadu National Park comes alive during the wet and a bird’s eye view is the best way to witness the spectacular World Heritage-listed National Park.” – Sally Cope,...
Heidi Gill gets back to basics in Kakadu and finds there's nothings better... I wake up covered in sweat and engulfed in humid tent air. Ah, this feels good – like being on a health retreat but cheaper. The air is not so muggy outside, instead I am greeted by the sparkling orange yellow sun and the beautiful orange sand that Australia’s Outback is known for. A slight breeze tickles the sparse eucalypts - I breathe it in. I head to the ‘shower’, which is water I bucket over myself from a single bore water tap. Nothing has ever felt...
There are really two things you have to do before you die regarding Australia’s largest national park: see Kakadu in the wet (December to March) and see it in the dry (all other months). In either case, the place has a reputation for overloading the senses. “A pre-Noah’s Ark, not to mention the pre-Noah art. Walk, drive, swim, watch the wildlife and be reminded of the World Heritage worthiness of this beautiful realm.” - John Borthwick In the wet the park drowns in water, heat, humidity, bright tropical colours, nature in the raw – all the fundamental elements that make...
Where is it? 170km south-east of Darwin, NT. Where better to get back to nature than in Australia’s largest national park – covering almost two million hectares of wilderness? Enter the unique World Heritage-listed landscapes, and discover outdoor galleries of ancient art (and a few interesting creepy crawlies). Swim under postcard-perfect waterfalls, hike through the deep red gorges, cruise the Yellow Water wetlands and learn from Indigenous people about how their ancestors related to this land “This tropical national park is the best wetlands wilderness in the world and a World Heritage site.” Bill Peach There are no towns, crowds or commercial...
Where is it? Only an hour’s drive from Darwin, the Mary River Catchment area is roughly halfway between the NT capital and Kakadu Welcome to the land of jumping crocodiles, flocks of rare birds and wetlands for as far as the eye can see. The Mary River Wetlands is one of the rarest land systems in the world, covering about 8000-square kilometers. You’ll find excellent fishing spots and spot water buffalo, birds of prey, red-tailed black cockatoos, dingoes and salt-water crocs. Lily-covered billabongs abound, as does eco-tourism. This is where Anthology recently opened Wildman Lodge, but there are more affordable...
Kakadu is an almost mystical travel destination. Australia’s largest national park, with Jabiru at its heart, not only has an incredible level of biodiversity but also the highest concentrated areas of Aboriginal rock art sites in the world. One of the most popular examples can be found at nearby Ubirr, a rock formation with sweeping views over Arnhem Land – especially popular and spectacular at sunset when tourists from all over the world perch on Ubirr’s outcrop. Jabiru itself is in the middle of nowhere, yet the 1100 people who call it home are right in the middle of everywhere...
Australian Traveller looks at the remote camping outpost of West Alligator Head in NT's Kakadu National Park. A West Alligator Head Adventure When it comes to camping, we’ve tried to find one site that’s as off-the-beaten-track as possible. Hardened travellers Steve and Alison Kruger reckon it’s hard to go past this remote area of Kakadu. West Alligator Head is a fishing and birdwatching paradise. Getting there is a short but challenging 4WD trek on the Waldak Irrmbal Track southeast of Darwin. The track leaves the Arnhem Highway just 2km inside the North Western Entrance to the World Heritage-Listed Kakadu National...
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