Last updated on November 23rd, 2023 at 09:35 am
One of the best things to see and do in Kakadu National Park, NT is a sunset at Ubirr
Only a couple of hours drive from Darwin is Kakadu National Park, Australia’s biggest national park. This UNESCO World Heritage listed area covers some 20,000 square kilometres and offers visitors an insight into Aboriginal culture and their unique relation to the land. Plus lets you discover a world of wetlands, exotic wildlife, lush rainforests with waterfalls, ancient rock art and breathtaking sunsets over natural wonders. Here’s why a visit to Kakadu National Park is a must if you are in the Top End of Australia. You won’t want to miss these best things to see and do in Kakadu National Park while you are visiting the Northern Territory.
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Is Kakadu National Park Worth Visiting?
Kakadu National Park is definitely worth visiting for a few days on any trip around Australia. It has a number of interesting things to see and do. And if you are wondering if Kakadu National Park is kid friendly and family friendly, well yes, it is. There is a lot to learn about Aboriginal culture and people who have lived on the land for some 65,000 years. Plus the wildlife and natural landscapes are just wild! So there are plenty of things for kids to see and do in Kakadu, families to see and do in Kakadu and solo adventurers to see and do in Kakadu – everyone really.
A quick and important note: Heed warning signs. If you see a sign saying don’t swim, do not go in the water!
Things to See and Do in Kakadu
1. See Interesting Landscapes unfold along Arnham Highway
Massive ant mounds along Arnhem Highway – after a control burn
As you drive along the Arnhem Highway that links Darwin to Kakadu National Park the land is very flat and you will see different landscapes unfold. Check out the size of some of these ant hills I spotted. They just sit amongst the trees. This photo was taken shortly after a ‘vegetation reducing’ burn. These are done to reduce vegetation so if a fire does start, it won’t be as big and devastating because there isn’t as much vegetation to burn.
2. Cruise the Adelaide River to See Crocodiles Jumping for food
See the crocs jump for food – scary but exciting
Adelaide River is home to many salt water crocodiles. Take a boat cruise along the river to get up close and personal with them. See your guide entice them with a little food for which they jump out of the water for. Scary, yet exciting at the same time to see such magnificent animals in their natural habitat. And yes, if you are travelling through Kakadu NP with kids, this is a kid-friendly Kakadu activity – just keep their hands, and yours, within the boat!
3. Bird Watch at the Mamukala Wetlands
See the birdlife on the wetlands in Kakadu National Park
Kakadu is home to some 280 native species of bird, so bird-lovers are in for a treat! The Mamukala Wetlands is the best place in Kakadu to go bird watching. Stroll to an observation platform at Mamukala Wetlands to watch many local birds who live in and visit the wetlands. See kites, cormorants, finches, kingfishers and comb-crested jacanas to name a few. And if you are visiting between September and November I am told thousands of honking magpie gees come to dig for water chestnuts – I did not see any myself!
4. Learn about the Rock Art
See ancient Aboriginal Rock Art and learn the stories behind them
There are many areas with Kakadu National Park with rock art, but the best two rock art areas to visit in Kakadu NP are Nourlangie and Ubirr.
Aboriginal Rock Art at Nourlangie
Ensure you take the circular 1.5km Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) rock art walk. Preferably go on a tour and hear a park ranger speak about this ancient gallery of art and its relationship of the local people to the land. See Creation Ancestor Namondjok and the Creation Ancestor Namarrkon, the Lightning Man. Also take some time to climb to the Kunwarddewardde Lookout for sweeping views of both Kakadu’s escarpment and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock).
Aboriginal Rock Art at Ubirr
More stunning Aboriginal rock art site is at Ubirr. In the main gallery see rock art representing one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world. The galleries of rock art can be viewed by following an easy 1km circular walking track. I loved seeing the Aboriginal rock are here. I stood in awe listening to the tales behind the rock art that is thousands of years old!
5. Enjoy a Sunset from Ubirr
Magnificent sunset over the wetlands from the top of Ubirr
Most visit Ubirr in late afternoon to combine seeing the fabulous rock art before walking to the top of Ubirr, taking half an hour or so, for sweeping views of the surrounding wetlands. And stay for a glorious sunset as I did. Truly spectacular seeing the sun set over these expansive wetlands. Some people take a picnic with then and enjoy a glass of bubbly while watching the sun go down over Kakadu NP. And if you do, don’t forget a torch to light the way home as once the sun goes down it is very dark in Kakadu – cause there aren’t any lights apart from lights in the night sky!
6. Swim in a Fresh Water Waterhole
Swimming at Barramundi Gorge – watch out for ‘Freshies’
It is not recommended you swim in the fresh water waterholes as there may be fresh water crocodiles ‘freshies’ in them. However, my tour guide encouraged us to – he said that fresh water crocodiles are smaller than the salt water crocodiles and are usually very shy but may become aggressive when feeling threatened. Lucky I did not see any.
Waterholes are a great way to cool off from the heat of the Northern Territory. I enjoyed my swim at Barramundi Gorge, also known as Maguk. This swimming hole was surrounded by rainforest and was only about 90 minutes south of Jabiru. It was so refreshing to enjoy this swim after all the walking in the heat. If you don’t make it to Barramundi Gorge, another waterhole you might want to swim at is Gunlom Plunge Pool. You may recognise it from the movie, Crocodile Dundee! You will need to first take a two-hour drive from Jabiru, then a 1km walk to reach it – but it is so worth it!
7. Learn about Kakadu NP at the Bowali Visitor Centre in Jabiru
Jabiru is the main township in Kakadu National Park. It has all the services you’re likely to need and is a perfect base for exploring the park. It is here you will find the Bowali Visitor Centre. Wander around the centre and learn about the local flora, fauna, geology and inhabitants of Kakadu. Also browse the art and craft, gifts and books at Marrawuddi Gallery.
8. Visit Waterfalls
See flowing waterfalls, from the ground or from the air
Kakadu NP has a number of waterfalls you can hike to during the dry season – Twin Falls, Jim Jim Falls and Maguk Waterfall. You can only access them during the dry season (June to October) as during the wet season the waterfalls become roaring torrents of water and unable to be accessed by land. Seeing them on a scenic flight during the wet season is another matter. And you might want to put a flight over the waterfalls on your list of best things to see and do in Kakadu.
Plan Your Trip to Kakadu National Park
When to Visit Kakadu NP
The peak visitor time and best time to visit Kakadu National Park in the Top End is during the dry season. This is from May to September when it is winter time in Australia. Although it may be cold in the southern states, not so in the Northern Territory. This is the time most Australians visit the Top End as there is less rain and you can access more attractions, such as the waterfalls.
October to April is considered the wet season in the Northern Territory. The weather is usually hot, humid with tropical storms and maybe a cyclone or two. With all the rain, it can be difficult to get to some places. Overall, the best time to visit Kakadu National Park is during the dry season.
How to Get to and around Kakadu National Park
The vast wilderness of Kakadu National Parks about a three-hour drive from Darwin, Northern Territory’s capital city. Darwin is linked to Kakadu via the Arnhem Highway, and this is the best way to get to Kakadu National Park. You can visit Kakadu by 2WD or 4WD vehicle, though keep in mind some places are only accessible with a 4WD. If you don’t have one you can rent one from Darwin. Check out pricing and availability of rental cars here. Other ways to see Kakadu National Park are to take a flyover in a plane or helicopter or go on a tour.
Going on a Kakadu tour is one of the best ways to visit Kakadu National Park. Tours will include your transport, accommodation (if staying longer than 1 day), food and will take you to the best places. The price will also include Kakadu National Park Entry Fees. If you decide to drive yourself through Kakadu then you will need to sort Kakadu National Park Entry Fees yourself. Price depends on the season you are visiting, but start from $40 per adult and lasts for 7-days. You can book your entry pass in advance on the Parks Australia website.
How Long to Spend in Kakadu NP
If you are wondering how many days you need to explore Kakadu, well how long have you got? Although Kakadu is doable in a day trip from Darwin, there are so many amazing things to do in Kakadu National Park, that a visit of a few days would allow you to truly appreciate this beautiful part of Australia. Here’s some suggested itineraries, they are based on my personal experience of visiting Kakadu:
1 Day in Kakadu Itinerary
- drive there
- visit info centre on arrival
- go on a cruise of Adelaide River to see the crocs
- Visit the wetlands to see the birdlife
- Head to Ubirr to see the Rock Art
- Enjoy sunset at Ubirr before heading back to Darwin
2 Days in Kakadu Itinerary
- As per day 1 +
- See more rock art at Nourlangie
- Visit Barramundi Gorge and have a swim in the fresh water waterhole
- Drive back to Darwin.
3 Days in Kakadu Itinerary
- As er days 1 and 2 +
- Go see waterfalls if in dry season or take a flight over them.
- Get walking on one of the many hikes in Kakadu before driving back to Darwin.
If you don’t want to drive yourself around Kakadu National Park, here are some best tours of Kakadu National Park to consider and book online in advance.
Where to Stay in Kakadu NP
Now you know what fun things to see and do in Kakadu National Park, it is time to organise where you will stay if visiting independently. On my first trip to Kakadu National Park I was a backpacker and I went on a 2-day tour of Kakadu and stayed in a hostel, but there are quite a few options.
There are plenty of Camping and Caravanning spots in Kakadu National Park. Facilities will vary with most campsites having drop-toilets and only some having showers. You will find campgrounds at West Alligator Head, Jim Jim Billabong and Maguk to name a few. Check their websites for pricing and to book your stay. Caravanners will also find hookups at resorts offering budget accommodation at Aurora Kakadu Resort and Anbinik Kakadu Resort.
Mid-range Accommodation ($85 to $190 AUD) is available near some of Kakadu’s biggest attractions. Rooms range from budget dorm rooms to superior rooms so check out Cooinda Lodge Kakadu near Yellow Water Billabong and Anbinik Kakadu Resort .
If looking for some luxury accommodation options check out the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile. Yep, this is the one shaped like a crocodile and offers superior rooms. There is also the Cooinda Lodge Kakadu near the Jim Jim Billabong.
For more Kakadu accommodation options check out this really useful guide from Parks Australia. There is a map showing where the accommodation is and how close it is to the different significant sites in Kakadu National Park.
If you wanted to work in the Northern Territory as you travel Australia, ask at the accommodation places if jobs are going. What a great experience if you are on a working holiday visa.
What to Take to Kakadu NP
- Appropriate walking/hiking shoes & clothes
- Long or lightweight clothing
- Cardigan & jacket
- Swimwear + towel
- Sun protection gear e.g. sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses etc.
- Visitors guide/park notes
- Reusable drink bottle
- Binoculars – particularly for bird watchers
- Phone + charger – through you may not get very good reception
- Camera for all those wonderful photos of the natural wonders of Kakadu
- Camping gear if camping
- Toiletries + Insect repellent
Are You Ready to Visit Kakadu National Park?
So there you have it, I hope you have enjoyed my post on the best things to see and do in Kakadu National Park plus how to organise your visit. Kakadu National Park is such a wonderful place to visit to discover the oldest living culture on earth and to see rugged and ancient landscapes. Have you visited Kakadu or are planning your trip to Kakadu? I’d love to hear in the comments.
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