From picturesque waterfalls and lush wetlands to red rock formations shrouded in culture and history, Kakadu is one destination travellers can't get enough of. If you haven't been, chances are it's on your bucket list, and if you're a Kakadu veteran, we're sure you aren't far off your next return visit. The huge range of sights and icons around Kakadu mean the more time in this natural wonderland, the better. Take a look at some of our top tips for exploring the region.
Whatever type of break you are planning, use our travel guide to help you plan the perfect Kakadu getaway or book holiday park accommodation in Kakadu now.
Kakadu, a simultaneously brown and green landscape during the dry season, doesn’t give up its beauty easily. It becomes increasingly apparent when bouncing along 37km of dash-rattling, corrugated red dirt into Gunlom that you have to work to discover this ancient land’s secrets. A 4WD will give you best access to Kakadu's many attractions, although you can get by without it. Helicopter rides and organised tours are well worth the cost, particularly if you are touring in a 2WD vehicle.
Accessing these magnificent waterfalls is tricky without a 4WD, but those that are equipped will be rewarded with breathtaking views and idyllic swimming holes. A plunge pool at the base of Jim Jim Falls demands a fair amount of mobility, as the oasis is tucked away beyond tall rocks and bush trails. Once there, though, the 200m gorge creates a dramatic backdrop for a shallow swim. Croc safety should be paramount for all Kakadu visitors. Jim Jim is one of many so-called ‘croc-managed zones’, meaning rangers set traps for salties and, if caught, move them to another area. The best advice, though, is to assume each waterway contains estuarine crocs and to apply some common sense before swimming.
Rock art plays an important role in the significance of the national park. It provides visible and intriguing links to the culture and history of the land’s traditional owners, reminding us of a different way of life, one that existed for thousands of years before European settlement. There are three main locations where visitors can view Aboriginal rock art. Ubirr, about 40km north of Jabiru, is open during daylight hours from April to November and from 2pm during the summer months. The turn-off to Nourlangie and Nanguluwur, which are a little trickier to access, is about 20km south of the Arnhem Highway, These three sites are well worth a visit.
Along the 200-odd kilometres of bitumen that is the Arnhem Highway lies a hidden gem. The Mamukala Wetland is an important habitat for flora and fauna, including around 60 species of waterbird in the late dry season. A large, purpose-built viewing platform is set on the edge of the wetland, an easy 100m walk from the carpark, and is the best place to take in this intriguing natural environment. For the more adventurous, there’s a marked, circular 3km walking track that winds its way around part of the wetland. Check access ahead of time during the wet season.
In between all the hiking, bushwalking and driving that a trip to Kakadu involves, a visit to the thermal pools at Berry Springs Nature Park can be just what the doctor ordered. The springs consist of a series of three pools, starting with the Berry Springs Waterfall, a short walk from the carpark. From there, the crystal spring water meanders to the much larger main pool, where bathers young and old enjoy the temperate, shaded water. The pools are occasionally closed during the wet season, but the park is nonetheless perfect for a picnic and a bit of wildlife spotting.
The dry season, between May and October, is the most popular time to visit Kakadu. There are plenty of tours, talks and walks in operation and you're less likely to get bogged or flooded in. The wet season, from November to April, transforms the region with dramatic afternoon storms and abundant vegetation, as well as less crowds, however a number of attractions may close due to wet weather. In these instances, scenic flights can be a good solution to view the scenery from on high.