Why Visit Kakadu National Park
This unique archaeological and ethnological reserve, located in the Northern Territory, has been inhabited continuously for more than 40,000 years. The cave paintings, rock carvings and archaeological sites record the skills and way of life of the region’s inhabitants, from the hunter-gatherers of prehistoric times to the Aboriginal people still living there. It is a unique example of a complex of ecosystems, including tidal flats, floodplains, lowlands and plateaux, and provides a habitat for a wide range of rare or endemic species of plants and animals.
Kakadu National Park – How to get there
Access from Darwin to Jabiru is via the Arnhem Highway. This is a reasonable quality sealed road that is usually open all year round. Access from the south to Jabiru is via the Kakadu Highway, again usually open all year round. Check road conditions before setting off. It is around 3-4 hours drive from Darwin to Jabiru with adequate services along the route.
There is now an entry fee for Kakadu National Park – $25 per person over 16 years of age. The entry pass is valid for 14 days. You must buy your pass before arriving in the park. There is no entrance check point so you are expected to be in possession of your pass before arrival. You may never have to show your pass to anybody, even at the visitor centers but you must have it and you can be spot checked by the roving Park Rangers. Pass regulations are different for Northern Territory residents.
You can hire 2wd and 4wd cars in Darwin, with daily distance limits. Campervan rentals often don’t have distance limits. A variety Coach and small group tours are also available from Darwin.
Some parts of the park are not accessible during the wet season, or are not accessible by 2wd vehicles during the wet season. Check road conditions and closures in advance.
For a map of the Kadaku National Park
Kakadu National Park – How to Visit
Kakadu is massive (the size of a small country) and 4WD vehicles are required to enter some areas. However many spectacular and popular sites are readily accessible via sealed roads.
For those with a vehicle is an easy and pleasurable option. The main tourist route is east from Darwin to Jaibiru, then south-west to Cooinda, then continuing on as far as Pine Creek, with a possible deviation south to Katherine, before returning north to Darwin. Such an itinerary could be easily be covered in a few days with longer time if wanting to see things off-road.
Tours inside the Park are available with the popular destinations being a day trip to Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. The pick up points for such tours are typically from Jaibiru and Cooinda.
- bigNT Tours, (tel)1800 222 557 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Territory owned and operated business that offers small group Kakadu tours from Darwin
- Untamed Adventures, (tel)61 2 89222652 (email@example.com), . 2 to 5 day guided tours of Kakadu, Litchfield National Park and the Top End. Ideal for small groups and families, particularly those who are looking for high level interpretation of Australia’s natural and cultural worlds.
- Travelwild Kakadu Tours, (tel)61 8 88434159 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . small group 4WD camping tours departing from Darwin for backpackers and active people, from 3 to 5 days.
- Territory Expions, (tel)1300 115 922 (email@example.com), . Locally owned and operated small group, camping adventures to Kakadu
- Lost In Australia, (tel)+61 8 6102 0776 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Adventure, Small Groups, Safaris, Locally owned and Operated, Full day and over night Kakadu tours
- Gagudju Dreaming in Kakadu, (tel)+61 1800 500 401 (email@example.com), . An indigenous owned collection of Kakadu wetland cruises, 4WD Kakadu tours, cultural experiences and Kakadu accommodation. It is the largest collection of facilities catering to tourism in Kakadu and is focussed on positive indigenous outcomes.
- Top End Explorer Tours, (tel)+61 8 8979 3615 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Locally owned and operated. Small group 1 day 4WD nature experiences and private charters to Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and other exiting destinations in Kakadu National Park. Departing from Jabiru and Cooinda.
Scenic Flights in either small, fixed wing aircraft or helicopter are available. Air strips are located at Jaibiru and Cooinda.
What to see in Kakadu National Park
The Bowali Visitor Centre situated just outside of Jabiru, has a wealth of information on the Park’s ecology and Aboriginal culture and has an excellent gallery and souvenir shop. Located in Jabiru, the Centre’s long lineal design was inspired by an Aboriginal rock shelter.
The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre Located in Cooinda, the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre’s architecture represents the story of World Heritage-listed Kakadu as told by the traditional owners. The circular design of the centre symbolises a warradjan, the pig-nosed turtle
Ubirr is one of Kakadu National Park?s two most famous Aboriginal rock art galleries. The galleries can be viewed by following an easy flat one kilometre circular walking track. During the dry season Park Rangers give free scheduled talks about the ancient rock art. A moderately steep 250 metre climb takes you to a rocky outlook with views across the floodplains. The overlook just before the final push to the top is a recognizable filming location from the movie “Crocodile Dundee”. Enjoying a spectacular tropical sunset from the top of Ubirr is not to be missed. During the tropical summer months access is restricted, check with the Bowali Visitor Centre for the latest information. Rangers patrol around closing time to move everybody along and ensure appropriate enjoyments.
Nourlangie Rock The walls of the Nourlangie Rock Art Site, have served as a shelter and canvas for thousands of years providing windows to a rich spiritual tradition. Paintings such as Namarrgon, lightening man, explore the relationship of the people to their country and beliefs.
Nanguluwur art site, near Nourlangie Rock, is a small Aboriginal rock art gallery. Many rock art styles are represented from hand stencils, dynamic figures in large headdresses carrying spears and boomerangs, Namandi spirits and mythical figures.
Yellow Water, a stunning “billabong” (which is actually an arm of the South Alligator River) brimming with native flora and fauna. Its one of Kakadu National Park?s best known landmarks. Located near the small settlement of Cooinda, Yellow Water is home to crocodiles, wild horses, buffalo and other wildlife. The billabong, which floods to join other waterways during the tropical season, also attracts millions of migratory birds each year, including jacana, egrets, jabiru, sea eagles, magpie geese and many other native species. Daily boat tours can be booked via Cooinda – the dawn one is the best for bird watching.
Ubirr rock art, Kakadu National Park
Twin Falls is set in the Arnhem Land escarpment. Access to the falls is via the Twin Falls Gorge Boat Shuttle Service that will ferry you to the base of the falls. Note that the walk to the boat shuttle, although easy, is very exposed and hot. Post-boat shuttle, the walk continues and in some parts may present a challenge to those with a fear of heights. Carry sufficient drinking water.
Koolpin Gorge- available only through 4WD tours with a permit, but well worth it.
Bardedjilidji Walk, Ubirr, Kakadu National Park, Jabiru (Via Oenpelli Road), +61 (8) 8938 1120, . Through layered sandstone outliers, woodlands and wetlands alongside the East Alligator River, this is one of Kakadu’s most interesting short walks which starts at a small carpark 500 metres from the upstream boat ramp on the East Alligator River. You can complete it by yourself (map with information sheet available) or join the guided walk departing the shelter on Mondays. Allow 2 hours for this easy to moderate 2.5km walk. Please enquire with the Bowali Visitor Centre for accessibility as it is subject to weather conditions (flooding) and for the availability of guides. Free entry. edit
Gunlom Plunge Pool, Kakadu Highway, Jabiru (200km south of Jabiru), ? +61 (8) 8938 1120, . Located on Waterfall Creek in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, is the magical combination of waterfall and serene plunge pool, with shady gums cooling the picnic areas. A steep climb to the top of the waterfall provides sweeping views of the southern-most parts of Kakadu National Park while you enjoy a relaxing soak in the crystal clear pools. Free entry. edit
Gubara, Kakadu National Park, Jabiru (Via Nourlangie Rock Road), ? +61 (8) 8938 1120, . A six kilometre return walk past sandstone cliffs to shady monsoon forest pools. Gubara is found nine kilometres in on the first road to the right after the Nourlangie carpark. It is a pleasant place to spend the heat of the day where the grade is moderate and you should allow four hours to complete. You’ll be delighted by the multitudes of butterflies surrounding the pools and can enjoy a refreshing dip after the walk. Free entry
What and where to eat in Kakadu National Park
- Jabiru has a supermarket where you will find all the basic necessities and is quite well stocked with items other than food also. Fresh foods generally are a little more expensive than Darwin but some things are actually cheaper. There are also a few nice little restaurants and cafes.
- Basic food is available at the sporadic rest stops and museums throughout the park.
- The lodge at Cooinda serves food until about 9pm and drinks later (whenever things slow down, it seems). The food is really good and includes dishes like the wild goose and kangaroo pie, but neither it or the drinks are cheap. However, if you book the early morning Yellow Water Billabong cruise you can have a super buffet breakfast here for only $9 more. Seriously underpriced.
- There is a bakery which can be found by driving around behind the petrol station which has surprisingly tempting pastries and best of all, pizza.
- There are picnicking facilities at many sites. Cahill’s Crossing has a nice one where you can watch crocodiles in the river as you picnic from a raised embankment out of danger. Watching cars and trucks cross the river by driving through it is another cheap and fulfilling entertainment. On the eastern border of the park, don’t cross to the other side without a travel permit and pay special attention to the water depth markers as the river is close enough to the sea to be influenced by tides.
Where to sleep in Kakadu National Park – from budget to best lodging
- Aurora Kakadu Resort, +61 8 8979 0166. Motel rooms, tent sites, powered and unpowered van sites, restaurant, caf, store and guest pool. Reservations recommended.
- Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn, +61 8 8979 2800. Hotel rooms, (air conditioned), restaurant, gift shop, guest pool and bookings for commercial tours.
- Kakadu Lodge, +61 8 8979 2422. Budget accommodation, cabins, tent sites, powered van sites, barbeque facilities, camper?s kitchen. Bar/bistro for guests and visitors.
- Lakeview Park:, +61 8 8979 3144. Bush bungalows, cabins and air-conditioned rooms.
- Goymarr Tourist Park (Goymarr Tourist Park), Southern entry to Kakadu National Park (Kakadu Highway 60km from Pine Creek), +61 8 8975 5464, checkin: 1400; checkout: 1000. Goymarr Tourist Park, formerly Mary River Roadhouse is owned and operated by the Werenben Aboriginal Corporation. Motel rooms, backpacker accommodation, licensed restaurant, powered van sites and camping fuel available (no LPG). Kakadu Park Entry Pass outlet. $20 to $150.
There are many camping grounds dotted through the park. Jabiru, Cooinda and South Alligator all have commercial camping areas and are in proximity to most of the important natural attractions in these areas.
Camping with basic or no toilet facilities is available at Two Mile, Four Mile Hole, Red Lily Billabong, Bucket Billabong, Alligator Billabong and Waldak Irrmbal (West Alligator Head). Drinking water is not available. Rubbish bins are not provided, so please bring rubbish out with you. Check wet season access.
- Camping with basic toilet facilities available at Malabanjbanjdju and Burdulba. Drinking water is not available.
- Merl Camping Area: Showers, toilets and generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site. Check wet season access.
- Muirella Park Camping Area (Check wet season access). Has showers, toilets and is a no generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site during the dry season.
- Safari camp accommodation and night time spot light boat tour on Djarradjin Billabong (Muirella Park) provided by Kakadu Culture Camp.
- Mardugal Camping Area (Check wet season access). Has showers, toilets and generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site during the dry season.
- Camping with basic toilet facilities is available at Jim Jim Billabong. Drinking water not available.
- Garnamarr Camping Area (Dry season only, 4WD). Showers, toilets, camping fees (adults only) are collected on site. No generators.
- Gunlom Camping Area (Gravel road; dry season only). Gunlom plunge pool is located nearby. Has showers, toilets and generator zone.
Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site. Gas BBQ in day use area. Camping with basic toilet facilities, BBQ areas and picnic tables is available at Maguk, Gungurul and Kambolgie. Drinking water is not available. Please check wet season access for Maguk and Kambolgie.
Park Laws Kakadu National Park is established and managed as a Commonwealth Reserve under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Act sets out rules for Commonwealth reserves.
For example you must: ? Stay on public roads and marked walking tracks. ? Camp only in designated camping areas. Other park rules and guidelines include: ? Stay behind the barriers to protect Aboriginal rock paintings. ? Protect plants ? do not use tree branches as fly swats. ? Do not feed or disturb wildlife. ? Light fires only in fireplaces provided or use fuel stoves. Keep use of firewood to a minimum. ? Do not bring pets into Kakadu.
Camping is widely done throughout the park but great care should be taken when camping near water (always at least 200 meters from the water), particularly at the popular camping site Sandy Billabong.
When dealing with Aboriginal people, there are some cultural considerations to remember:
Some Aboriginal people have beliefs that mean they don’t like having their photo taken. It is courteous to ask for permission first.
Family business and ceremonies are an important part of life for Aboriginal people and these matters take priority, which can interrupt scheduled tours.
Access to some sites with spiritual significance may be restricted
Please observe all rules on park signs and brochures. For details call the Bowali Visitor Centre on +61 (8) 8938 1120.