Kakadu National Park protects almost 20,000sq km of unique parkland and is listed as a World Heritage Area for both its natural and cultural features.
Enjoy the contrasting beauties visible throughout the park — tranquil waters decorated with lotus flowers that are also home to a number of crocodiles, expansive coastal floodplains, rugged escarpments and the most outstanding concentration of Aboriginal art in the country are just a few of Kakadu’s winning cards.
Several Aboriginal groups still live within the park, which is jointly managed by the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and Parks Australia.
Much like the rest of Australia’s Top End, Kakadu is ruled by water. During the wet season (November to March), the waterways flood, but ebb in the dry season (April to October), creating waterfalls, gorges and billabongs that are a spectacular sight to see. The dry season is the popular choice for many visitors, due to the lower temperatures and humidity and more accessible attractions.
The South Alligator area is a great spot for boating, bush camping and off-road four-wheel driving adventures. Enjoy remote camping and fishing at Two Mile Hole or explore the Mamukala wetlands. For those wanting a place to stay, Aurora Kakadu Resort has plenty to offer.
Or head over to the East Alligator area, where the East Alligator River marks the north-eastern boundary between Kakadu and Arnhem Land. A permit is required to enter Arnhem Land and can be sourced from Northern Land Council. Check out Cahills Crossing, which has riverside picnic tables and a viewing platform. Set up camp at the Merl camping area to truly take in this wonderful area within Kakadu.
But among the most popular attractions in any Top End national park is the waterfalls. Kakadu’s Barrk Marlam/Jim Jim Falls are one of its most iconic attractions. The falls are magnificent in the wet season, with water crashing 210m down over the sandstone walls into the pool below — this is a fantastic time to take a scenic flight. Or visit in the dry season to make the 1km walk to the plunge pool, then check out Jim Jim Falls which are inaccessible by road in the wet season.
Birdwatching, boating and fishing
Whether you’re a novice birdwatcher or an aficionado, Kakadu is one of the best spots in Australia to go birdwatching, with more than 280 bird species recorded. The billabongs, streams and floodplains form some of the most important tropical wetlands in the world. These are flooded during the wet season, but in the dry thousands of magpie geese, plumed whistling ducks and other water birds can be seen crowding the remaining billabongs of Mamukala, Yellow Water and Anbangbang. Head over to Mamukala Billabong for an informative walk and viewing area, specially constructed by Parks Australia.
Or if you want to enjoy the birdlife and natural serenity, book a water cruise. The Guluyambi Cruise and Yellow Water Cruise are the Park’s most well-known cruises, but there are options for fishing tours too.
If you bring or hire your own boat, always tell someone where you are going, as currents, sand bars, submerged logs and crocodiles mean Kakadu’s waterways can be dangerous. Please note, non-motorised vessels such as canoes and kayaks, as well as jet skis, airboats and hovercrafts are not allowed.
When fishing, lures are permitted, but live bait, cast nets, traps, spear guns and crab pots are not. Bag limits, fishing area restrictions and conservation quarantines can apply, so be sure to check online first. Take caution and do not clean fish near boat ramps, as this may attract crocodiles.
Kakadu is a bushwalker’s dream, with a splendid array of landforms and habitats to explore. Many of the short walking tracks are marked, however longer bushwalking routes are not. These longer routes do provide more of a challenge in terms of physical climate and terrain, so walkers need to be well-prepared, fit and experienced navigators, and carry the relevant topographic map/s with the route marked.
Permits are required for walks of more than one day. When planning your walk, ask park staff for up-to-date information.
Popular shorter walks include:
- Bardedjilidji walk (2.5km/1hr): see sandstone outcrops.
- Ubirr circuit walk (1km/45min): takes you past the numerous Aboriginal rock art sites. An additional 250m climb will offer you breathtaking views over the Nardab Floodplain — a fantastic spot to visit at sunset from 1 December to 31 March.
- Yilikadjarr floodplain walk (3.8km/2hr): Visit in the dry season for this circuit walk across the floodplain to Burdulba Billabong. The walk starts from either Malabanjbanjdju or Burdulba camp sites.
While exploring Kakadu by foot might get you up close and personal with its natural wonders, seeing it from the air can be just — if not more — memorable. For more information about organising a scenic flight, you can contact Kakadu Air, Katherine Aviation or North Australian Helicopters.
Aboriginal art sites
Kakadu has been home to Aboriginal people for at least 50,000 years, and there are a large variety of relics that can be found throughout the park, including grindstones, shelters, stone tools and ceremonial painting ochre.
Art and living sites such as Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwurr introduce the world of Aboriginal culture. During the dry season, rangers run guided talks at Ubirr and Nourlangie (ask at the Bowali Visitor Centre for more details).
Anbangbang Gallery is well worth a visit, and only a short climb from the gallery is the Gunwarddehwardde lookout which provides amazing views.
Aurora Kakadu Lodge & Caravan Park
P: (08) 8979 2422
Gagudju Lodge, Cooinda
P: (08) 8979 1500
Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
P: (08) 8979 9000
Anbinik Kakadu Resort
P: (08) 8979 3144
Bowali Visitors Information Centre
08 8938 1121
Kakadu National Park Permits Officer
P: (08) 8938 1140
Kakadu Tours and Travel
P: (08) 8979 2548
Northern Land Council, Head Office
P: (08) 8920 5100
Travel: The Top End, Kakadu and Litchfield
Kakadu through the eyes of a Jabiru