Exploring

Kakadu

Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, but describing Kakadu as a park does not do it justice. This vast swathe of land encompasses more than 20,000 square kilometres of World Heritage-listed wilderness.

It’s a jaw-dropping landscape of gorges decorated with ancient rock art, waterfalls that thunder over the edge of the escarpment and floodplains that stretch from horizon to horizon.

The countryside changes with the seasons and what you see depends on when you go. During the monsoon or wet season (December through to March or April), the wetlands swell with water and millions of migratory birds, including jabirus and dancing brolgas swoop across the floodplains, in the drier months you can swim in plunge pools above waterfalls and explore the park by vehicle and on hiking trails.

If you’re planning a road trip to Kakadu, check out our tips on what roads to drive when and follow one of our dream road trip itineraries.

Things to do in Kakadu National Park

Cruises

Drifting silently through rivers and lily-covered wetlands on a guided cruise, spotting saltwater crocodiles – leathery-skinned, prehistoric predators – peering from the water is a highlight of any visit to Kakadu. The most popular is the Yellow Water Cruise at Cooinda, but the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise on East Alligator River with an aboriginal guide is really special too – not only will you spot wildlife but you’ll get the chance to disembark on the Arnhem Land side where you’ll be shown traditional hunting methods.

Tours

4WD safaris through the park are a great way to see all the must-see spots and include waterfalls, hikes, Aboriginal bush tucker education sessions and ancient rock art. Choose from full-day cultural trips with an Aboriginal guide, adventure tours or overnight and multi-day tours that combine Kakadu with other wonders around the area such as the Cobourg Peninsula and Arnhem Land.

Hikes & Walks

If you like walking and hiking you’ll love Kakadu. There are good short walks at most of the major sites. One of the best things about Kakadu is that its most popular walking trails are staffed by park rangers who, during the dry season, give guided tours for free. But there are plenty of longer full-day trails as well as the guided six-day walks run by trekking companies.

Scenic Flights

You get a whole new perspective of Kakadu’s extraordinary floodplains and escarpments from the air, especially in the wet, when the only way to see the famous waterfalls are on a scenic flight or helicopter trip. If you’re a photographer, a helicopter flight offers the ultimate in flexibility with doors-off flights.

Fishing

Big game anglers get a glint in their eye when the word “barramundi” is mentioned, and the warm, shallow waters of the Mary River flood plains and billabongs of Kakadu National Park are one of the best places in the world to fish for this prized catch. Join a Kakadu fishing tour or book into Bamurru Plains, which has exclusive access to a 100-sqare kilometre portion of the wetlands, and during the peak barra season of February-April, there’s even a dedicated fishing lodge. While most ’mundi are “catch and release”, the occasional fish can be handed over to the camp’s chef and cooked up for dinner.

Best things to see in Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is home to one of the greatest concentrations of rock art sites in the world and archaeologists have found evidence of aboriginal life dating back 50,000 years. The three main sites are Ubirr (where you’ll find a painting of a Tasmanian tiger, said to be extinct on the mainland 2000 to 3000 years ago), Nourlangie (home to Dreamtime figure Lightning Man) and Nanguluwur (with representations of Namandi spirits).

The famous resort-style infinity pool at the top of Gunlom Falls is another must see spot as are the awe-insiriring Jim Jim and Twin Falls, at their most impressive in the wet season. There are so many things to see and do in Kakadu you could spend weeks and not see it all: check out our bucket list of 8 things in Kakadu you really shouldn’t miss.

Kakadu Accommodation

Luxury lodges and hotels in Kakadu

Airboats, chilled towels and champagne – Bamurru Plains Lodge is a luxury accommodation option on the edge of Kakadu National Park that AT highly recommends. But we love, too, the famous saltie-shaped inn, Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, right in the middle of Jabiru and sister property, Cooinda Lodge, on the banks of Yellow Water billabong. Going wild doesn’t have to mean roughing it in Kakadu.

Camping

There are more than 25 designated campgrounds in Kakadu, ranging from commercial caravan parks to remote bush camping sites with no facilities at all, as well as bush campgrounds that have toilets and hot showers.

Hiring a campervan is a great option if you have flown to Darwin: most come with basic camping gear. If you really want to get away from the crowds, and you have a 4WD, set up camp at West Alligator Head, a fishing and birdwatching paradise that’s as off-the-beaten-track as possible.

Glamping

Combine the best of luxury lodges and camping at Wildman Wilderness Lodge, just 30 minutes from the western border of Kakadu (in Mary River National Park). It’s the absolute bush luxury with supremely comfortable safari tents and cabins, a wet-edge pool and restaurant.

Check out our wrap up of the best places to stay in Kakadu for more details.

Kakadu Restaurants

The lodges and hotels all have licensed restaurants – you don’t need to be a guest to eat at the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel or Cooinda Lodge and the food is really quite good– and there is a café at the Bowali Visitor Centre in Jabiru.

The Corner Store near Cahill’s Crossing does Thai takeaway. If you’re camping, you’ll need to stock up on food and drink in Darwin or Katherine before you hit the road. Jabiru has a small supermarket for essentials, but no takeaway alcohol is available. You’ll also need to carry your own drinking water if staying outside the commercial caravan parks.