The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is a massive Northern Territory nature reserve, clocking in at 4.2 million acres (1.7 million hectares). With sandstone escarpments, secret waterholes, billabongs, and lily-strewn waterways, Kakadu is an introduction to wild Australia. Read on to learn what to see and do in the country’s largest national park.
On Kakadu National Park tours and Top End adventures, you’ll find opportunities to encounter exotic animals such as dingoes, wallabies, dugongs, and saltwater crocodiles, and also discover Aboriginal culture, from ancient aboriginal rock art at Ubirr and Nourlangie to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Cooinda, where visitors pore over traditional bush food and didgeridoos. Ubirr is uniquely beautiful, located at the foot of a food plain, with prominent rock formations standing as guardians of the Arnhem Land. If visiting without a tour guide, be sure to stop into the Bowali Visitor Centre to plan your trip with the center’s staff; this rugged outback environment can be hazardous for the unprepared.
Ways to Visit Kakadu National Park
You can take in Kakadu on a guided tour from Darwin, or, if you have your own car, visit the park independently from much farther areas such as Kimberley and Broome in Western Australia. Most day tours depart from Darwin, about 93 miles (150 km) away, and last upwards of 12 hours, including round-trip transportation by a WiFi-equipped coach. Kakadu National Park can be reached in about 1.5 hours from Darwin by road, and travelers can choose from a variety of options, including small-group tours, private tours, and adventure tours. For a longer excursion, multi-day options offer accommodations or camping experiences that can be combined with a visit to Litchfield National Park, Nitmiluk National Park, or Katherine Gorge, other must-see spots in the Top End.
Top Sights to Experience Kakadu’s Natural Beauty
Cruising along the Mary River wetlands or the East Alligator River (Guluyambi) will allow you to spot native birds and possibly catch a glimpse of a crocodile from a safe distance. Travelers also enjoy cruising Yellow Water Billabong near Cooinda and bush camping in Koolpln Gorge, although it’s recommended that this adventure is taken with a guide unless you’re an experienced outback camper, as permits are required and the terrain is rough. The park’s most prominent water features are Jim Jim Falls and the nearby Twin Falls, but they flow mostly in the quiet wet season. The best way to see these falls is on a scenic flight, which allows for spectacular aerial photo ops.
Best Times to Visit
Most visitors plan their trips for the late July dry season, when most of the park is accessible and animals gather in large numbers around shrinking waterholes. In the wet season from October to March, bodies of water swell and it becomes difficult to move around the park, making plane rides a popular wet season activity.