Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Kakadu
It’s hard to grasp exactly what you’re looking at when you see the rock drawings at Ubirr. Here, etched before you on ancient rock that springs from the red dirt Earth, are drawings placed here by Aborigines nearly 20,000 years ago. How the drawings have managed to survive for so long is a fascinating geologic story, but it's one that pales in comparison to the stories told by the drawings themselves.
Located in what’s known as the East Alligator Region of Kakadu National Park, Ubirr is a UNESCO World Heritage site that borders on desert magic. In addition to collections of ancient rock art, the site offers sweeping, panoramic views of the surrounding flood plains and fields, and includes a sacred “Rainbow Serpent” painting in one of the three different galleries. According to local Aboriginal legend, the serpent was involved in the very creation of Earth surrounding the site, and is regarded as one of the world’s oldest figures of early creation. To access the ancient rock art at Ubirr, follow the short, one-kilometer walking path that takes 30 minutes to complete.
Located at the heart of the Kakadu National Park, the Warradjan Cultural Centre is devoted to telling the stories of Kakadu’s traditional landowners – the Aboriginal people (known locally as Bininj or Mungguy) who have inhabited the region for more than 50,000 years.
For visitors to Kakadu, the cultural center offers an important insight into the park’s history and its deep Aboriginal ties. Fascinating multi-media exhibitions focus on the lives of the ancient clans, the role of the tribal elders, hunting techniques, bloodlines and marriage rights, as well as the effects of white settlement and the recent history of the park. There’s also a gallery of Aboriginal arts and crafts and a gift shop on-site.
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.
Nourlangie, also known as Burrungkuy (sometimes written Burrunggui), is an escarpment in Kakadu National Park filled with over 20,000 years' worth of Aboriginal history, making it a site of extreme cultural importance. Burrungkuy, an Aboriginal word, refers to the higher parts of the rocks, while the word Anbangbang references the lower parts. The rock art and archaeological details here illustrate the social and environmental history of the Top End area.
There are many ways to experience the heritage of Nourlangie, including following the mile-long circuit trail that winds through what was once a home for the Aboriginal people during wet seasons. Indoors, the Anbangbang Gallery showcases the art of an Aboriginal artist who repainted his works in 1964 to restore much of their original vibrancy. Those who visit Nourlangie during the months of June through September can hear stories of the area's cultural significance from rangers in the area.
The vast Mary River Wetlands, located in Australia’s Northern Territory, are home to massive saltwater crocodiles, abundant bird life and massive barramundi (Asian sea bass).
The Arnhem Highway crosses five floodplains, which are prime habitat for brolgas, egrets, black-necked storks, sea eagles and magpie geese, between Darwin and Jabiru. Yet, most visitors find it more enjoyable to experience the Mary River Wetlands from the water. Airboat rides explore the Mary River floodplains and lush monsoon forests, offering a rare chance to spot the area’s abundant bird life, introduced water buffalo and native monitors and wallabies in the plentiful paperbark forests. Adelaide River cruise hosts dangle bait to draw saltwater crocodiles into view and high out of the water.
For self-guided visitors, it is also possible to view these powerful reptiles from a viewing platform at Shady Camp. Other places to explore include the Brian Creek Monsoon Forest, North Rockhole, and Couzens Lookout. In the dry season, it’s possible to explore many unsealed roads in a standard vehicle; however, in the rainy season a 4WD is recommended.
Sport fishermen come from all over to land the famed barramundi, renowned for its good fighting ability. Landing a 100-pound barramundi isn’t easy, but casting a line at Shady Camp, Corroboree Billabong, or in the Adelaide River provides the best opportunity.