With dramatic sandstone escarpments, ancient Aboriginal rock art sites, and crocodile-filled billabongs, the wild landscapes of the Kakadu National Park are beyond photo-worthy. Spread over 4.2 million acres (1.7 million hectares), Australia’s largest national park offers a thrilling look at the native landscape, wildlife, and culture.
Most tours to the Kakadu National Park set out from Darwin and it’s possible to take in the highlights on a long day trip. Cruise along the Mary River wetlands or the East Alligator River (Guluyambi) in search of crocodiles, soak up the scenery along the Yellow Water Billabong, or visit the ancient rock art sites at Nourlangie or Ubirr. Other top attractions include the Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, where you can cool off with a swim or soar overhead on a scenic flight.
With time to spare, multi-day tours help explore farther afield and experience camping out in the park. Many tours also combine a tour of Kakadu with other must-see spots in the Top End, such as Litchfield National Park, Arnhem Land, or the Katherine Gorge.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visitors to Kakadu must purchase a park permit.
- There are three accommodation options within the park: Cooinda Campground and Caravan Park, Cooinda Lodge, and the Mercure Crocodile Hotel.
- Bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and plenty of water, as well as your swimsuit, if you plan to swim at the water holes.
- The National Park Visitor Centre at Bowali offers maps and park information, as well as restrooms, a café-restaurant, gift shop, free Wi-Fi, and charging stations.
- Only swim in designated areas and heed all warning notices; crocodiles are common throughout the park.
- Some of the park’s boat cruises and lookout points are wheelchair accessible, but it’s recommended to visit with a guide.
How to Get There
Kakadu National Park is located at the north end of the Northern Territory, 90 miles (150 kilometers) east of Darwin, or a 1.5-hour drive. There is no public transportation to the park, so the only way to visit is with your own transport (a 4WD vehicle is recommended) or by joining a guided tour from Darwin or Katherine.
When to Get There
It’s possible to enjoy the Kakadu National Park year-round, and each season offers advantages. Peak season for visitors is June to August, when dry weather and cooler temperatures are more favorable for sightseeing, hiking, and wildlife spotting. Visiting during the wet season, when the water holes are full and waterfalls are at their strongest (October to March), is possible but road access to some areas may be limited.
Wildlife in Kakadu National Park
The vast mangrove swamps, floodplains, and wetlands of Kakadu harbor a huge variety of wildlife, as well as more than 2,000 plant species. The park is best known for its large population of saltwater crocodiles, but you might also spot wallabies, wallaroos, river sharks, and flatback turtles. Birds, including jacanas, kookaburras, and black kites are common. Plants include gigantic waterlilies and Kakadu plums, as well as medicinal plants and bush tucker used by ancient Aboriginals.