Kakadu National Park is located about 180km southeast of Darwin
and a permit is required to enter. This World Heritage-listed park is the largest in Australia and features diverse landscapes including rolling floodplains, picturesque billabongs, tumbling waterfalls, crystal clear plunge pools, striking escarpments and historical Aboriginal rock art.
The national park is divided into 7 specific regions and following the Arnhem and Kakadu Highways will take you to all the magnificent attractions the park has to offer.
The South Alligator region is the first attraction in the northwest section of Kakadu along Arnhem Highway. Mamukala wetlands on the South Alligator floodplains are covered in water lilies and attract much birdlife, particularly during the late dry season (Sep-Oct) when magpie geese flock to the billabong to feed. The sheltered bird hide is a 100m walk from the car park and provides an educational viewing platform with information regarding the birdlife and seasonal wetland changes. A 3km walking circuit follows the outskirts of the wetlands for better viewing.
Aurora Kakadu Resort is located about 10km from Mamukala on Arnhem Highway. The resort provides motel accommodation, powered camp sites, swimming pool, café/restaurant and general store selling fuel, gas and basic food items.
The Jabiru region, focuses around the township of Jabiru, the main community within the park. All basic goods and services are available in Jabiru including supermarket, bakery, chemist, medical centre, post office, newsagent, and bank.
The Bowali Visitor Centre is just west of the Jabiru township and is the national park headquarters. Extensive information about the park is available here and friendly staff can assist you with any inquiries. We recommend checking if any of the park attractions are closed as some often are after the wet season rains.
Kakadu Lodge is located in Jabiru and provides cabin style accommodation, powered camp sites, camp kitchen, swimming pool and licensed bistro. The park is well maintained and features attractive grassy green camp sites.
The East Alligator region features Ubirr, which is a highly renowned Aboriginal rock art site. An easy 1km walk finds an impressive collection of rock art and the last 250 metres involves some rock climbing to view the stunning floodplains below. The scenery from the lookout is magnificent. There is a camp ground with showers and toilets at Ubirr but we strongly advise not to camp here as the mosquitoes are incredibly fierce in the evenings. Be sure to carry insect repellant when visiting this site as it is bordered by wetlands.
The East Alligator River separates Kakadu and Arnhem Land. Scenic boat cruises along the river are available through Guluyambi, during which you can enjoy the peace and tranquility of the waterway, learn about aboriginal culture, spot crocodiles on the banks and even set foot on Arnhem Land. The tour is very enjoyable and informative.
The East Alligator River is also a popular fishing destination within the park. Boat ramps are located on either side of Cahills Crossing not far from Ubirr and there are plenty of spots on the riverbank to flick a lure around.
The Nourlangie region features the prominent Nourlangie Rock and Aboriginal rock art galleries. The easy 1.5km loop finds impressive rock art sheltered by rocky outcrops and amazing views at the top lookout. The magnificent Nourlangie, with its striking orange and black rock face, towers over the surrounding bush land and from here the views of Kakadu’s escarpment are superb.
Kakadu Culture Camp is located at Muirella Park in the Nourlangie region. The camp is run by a local Aboriginal family and provides safari tent accommodation, camp sites, shared amenities and bush style bistro. Cultural cruises on the Djarradjin Billabong are available at the camp.
The Yellow Water region is characterized by the Yellow Water wetlands on the South Alligator floodplain. A boardwalk offers a viewing platform over the wetlands, boat cruises are available and an 800m walk crosses the floodplains to Home Billabong when the water levels are low. Birdlife is abundant late in the dry season and the sunsets here are spectacular.
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre is just 3km from Yellow Water and provides plenty of information and displays representing the aboriginal culture within Kakadu. Learn about the uses of native plants, hunting techniques and aboriginal customs. Art gallery and souvenir shop are also located here and opening hours are 9am to 5pm daily.
Gagudju Lodge Cooinda is located at Yellow Water. The lodge provides accommodation, powered camp sites, swimming pool, licensed bistro and general store selling fuel, gas and food.
Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls Gorge region features two spectacular waterfalls accessible by four-wheel drive only. The unsealed track is 60km and the last 10km is soft sand. Jim Jim Falls is characterized by 150 metre high cliff faces and the falls pour down the centre in the wet season only. A 1km walk finds a deep plunge pool, sandy beach and towering cliffs which are very picturesque and a delightful place for swimming and enjoying the surrounds. Jim Jim viewed from the air would be a spectacular sight during the wet season when the falls are powering into the pool. Garnamarr camp ground is located 8km from Jim Jim Falls and has toilet and shower facilities.
Twin Falls Gorge is a further 10km from the Jim Jim turnoff and involves crossing the deep Jim Jim Creek, thus a four-wheel drive vehicle with snorkel is recommended. Twin Falls is accessible by boat only and swimming is prohibited due to the potential presence of Saltwater Crocodiles. Some walking is required from the boat docking area through the impressive gorge to reach the two cascading falls (no photos available as years ago we had to swim to the falls).
The Mary River region features the spectacular Gunlom Falls. A 1km steep walk finds the top of the falls with cascading rapids and rock pools suitable for swimming. The views of the plunge pool below and the surrounding Kakadu bush land are superb. A camp ground is located close to the falls and gorgeous plunge pool. Facilities include toilets, showers, shady picnic area and kiosk operating during the dry season. Gunlom is accessed via unsealed road and a four-wheel drive is not essential but recommended.
About 20km south of Gunlom Falls on the unsealed access track adjoining Kakadu Highway are the Yurmikmik Walks. The 7.5km return Motor Car Falls Walk incorporates the 2km Boulder Creek Walk and 5km Yurmikmik Lookout Walk. 7.5km sounds long and hard to some tourists but the walk is relatively easy following an old vehicle track and eventually ending up at some magnificent falls nestled amongst lush monsoon forest and a butterfly haven. Swimming is permitted here during the dry season.
A secluded and generally untouched gem is Fern Gully. Located in the far southern end of Kakadu it is accessed via four-wheel drive only. About 700 metres north of the Information Bay/Ranger Station a gravel track leads to the right (if heading north). About 3.5km in are a gorgeous set of cascading rock pools set amongst pandanus trees and suitable for swimming in. There is a small camping area located here.
Further south of the Fern Gully turnoff about 3.8km along Kakadu Highway is another point of interest being Moline Rockhole. Take the four-wheel drive track to the right (if heading south) on the same side as the Information Bay/Ranger Station and follow the rocky track for 1km. Moline is an attractive rockhole with a small waterfall and beautiful plunge pool. Swimming is permitted here during the dry season.
Note swimming in any waterhole within the park is entirely at own risk as Saltwater Crocodiles do inhabit these areas during the wet season. Popular swimming holes are surveyed by the Parks and Wildlife Commission prior to opening for the dry season, however the risk still remains they may move into the area undetected.
As applies to most national parks Australia-wide pets are prohibited in Kakadu. There are plenty of good dog boarding kennels based in Darwin.
Kakadu is an enormous national park with many attractions and we haven’t covered them all but have certainly seen most. To really appreciate Kakadu you need at least a few days or more to explore some of what the park has to offer. We often hear fellow travellers telling others “Kaka-DON’T!”
Well we can tell you “Kaka-DO.”
It might be a 3 hour drive from Darwin to the heart of Kakadu but if you take the time to explore and not rush around you will not be disappointed. We will be blatantly honest and admit you do need a four-wheel drive to access some of the best attractions such as Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. Also camping near wetlands and billabongs is not a good idea due to the fierce mosquitoes in the evenings which can make your Kakadu experience very uncomfortable and affect your overall opinion of the park. Come prepared with sufficient insect repellant such as Tropical Strength Aeroguard or Rid, Bushmans, mosquito coils and insect spray to clear your sleeping quarters before retiring to bed. Admittedly we did get bitten but not excessively and no more than usual up this way. Prevention is definitely better than cure so stock up on the repellents, camp in sensible places and enjoy Kakadu National Park and its marvellous scenery!
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Destinations in the Northern Territory
Elsey National Park
Return from Kakadu to Northern Territory