Here’s everything you’ll need for the two-hour road trip from Darwin to Kakadu and way, way beyond, into the best bits of the national park. On a budget – or not.
First thing you have to know is be sure to fuel up and purchase provisions first. Kakadu National Park is enormous, almost half the size of Switzerland, so driving distances can be long.
On the way, pass the time by spotting termite mounds – they can be up to six metres tall – and then…
How to do Kakadu on a budget:
After the long drive, you’ll be thrilled to see the turn-off to Gunlom Falls (Waterfall Creek). The sign says ‘unsealed 2WD’, but the 40-kilometre road can be extremely uneven; a 4WD is recommended.
Swim at the base of the falls, or trek to the top for spectacular views of southern Kakadu from the natural infinity pool.
Base yourself at the centrally located Cooinda Campground & Caravan Park (from $41 for a powered camping site; kakadutourism.com), which is right on the doorstep of Yellow Water Billabong.
If camping isn’t your thing check out Flash Camp, semi-permanent ‘glamping’ sites available during the dry season (from $140 a night).
Purchase your national park pass at your accommodation for $40 or $25 per adult; $20 or $12.50 per child (dry and wet seasons respectively).
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).
How to upgrade your Kakadu experience:
Stay at Wildman Wilderness Lodge, just 30 minutes from the western border of Kakadu (in Mary River National Park). Closed for the wet season, the lodge is absolute bush luxury with supremely comfortable safari tents and cabins (from $615 a night).
During your time in the park take a Yellow Water Cruise through wetlands to spot some 60 species of bird, as well as crocodiles and buffalo grazing on the floodplain (from $72).
Also consider the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise on East Alligator River with an aboriginal guide; spot wildlife and disembark on the Arnhem Land side where you’ll be shown traditional hunting methods ($76 adult, $49 child).