Nature’s Way, No. 6 of Australia’s Greatest Drives

The beautiful waterfalls, billabongs, crocodiles and Aboriginal art of Kakadu need no introduction. Yet despite itsfearsome reputation as the last frontier, Kakadu and the Top End are surprisingly easy to get around (even without a 4WD) and none of the main sites involve long walks to access them. The main route through Kakadu, known as the Nature’s Way, is fully sealed and links up with the Stuart Highway at both ends. It begins at the turnoff to the Arnhem Highway just south of Darwin and roughly forms two sides of a triangle, with the mining town of Jabiru at the apex, joining up with the Kakadu Highway running south to the Stuart Highway near historic Pine Creek.

Total distance: return to Darwin, around 1138km

Day 1: Darwin to Jabiru, 256km
Day 2: Jabiru to Cooinda, 57km
Day 3: Cooinda to Katherine, 253km
Day 4: Katherine to Darwin, 316km

Slow down for . . .

  • Watch saltwater crocs leap out of the muddy river on the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruise.
  • Spend a couple of hours watching magpie geese, egrets and countless other birds in the cool and breezy over-water shelter at Mamukala wetlands.
  • Take an early morning scenic flight from Jabiru, then do the one-hour walk around the rock art galleries at Nourlangie Rock.
  • Climb Ubirr for great sunset views over the Arnhem Land escarpment after viewing the ancient Aboriginal rock art galleries underneath.
  • At Cooinda make sure you do the Yellow Water billabong cruise on a breathtakingly beautiful landlocked billabong fringed by pandanus, paperbark swamps and monsoon rainforest. Take the sunset or sunrise cruise and you’ll see thousands of birds and more than likely a few big crocs.

Best kept secret
Mary River proposed National Park, en route to Kakadu, is a popular spot for birdwatchers and anglers who come here for the many beautiful lily-covered billabongs and riverside camping. Lacks the facilities of nearby Kakadu, but lacks the crowds too.

Break fluid
The Adelaide River Hotel has good value steaks, barra and burgers with loads of friendly, outback hospitality. Eat under the shady trees in the tropical beer garden.

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