Kakadu National Park is located in the Northern Territory of Australia and is the largest National Park within Australia. Kakadu has important Aboriginal significance as well as some of the most stunning landscapes found in Australia. Here you’ll find everything from saltwater crocodiles to impressive waterfalls, world heritage rock art, and beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes. Here is your Kakadu National Park Ultimate Travel Guide with everything you need to know about travelling to Kakadu.
HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest city to depart from is Darwin. From there you can chose to join a tour or rent a car and do your own self drive tour (which is what I did). Kakadu is pretty easy to navigate yourself around but if you are driving yourself its advised to get a 4 wheel drive as many of the beautiful sights are off dirt roads.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
Kakadu has a distinct wet season and dry season. It is very much advised to go during the dry season because during the wet season many of the sights and roads are closed down due to flooding and the possibility of crocodiles in the swimming holes. Dry season runs from May to September. During this time the weather is favourable and towards the start of the dry season is when the water holes & waterfalls are full. That being said, it is also the busiest time of year where the campgrounds are packed and the attractions are often full of people. I personally went in the shoulder season (November) and I thought the timing was perfect. While it was very humid due to recent rainfall, the weather during my trip was perfect and sunny and there were very few people – I saw probably about 6 people the whole time, and we often had the sights all to ourselves.
WHERE TO STAY
Depending on your preference there are the options of staying at hotels or camping in the bush. There are plenty of campgrounds scattered throughout the national park, but much fewer hotel options available. If you are traveling during the peak season I highly suggest you book a hotel far in advance.
My favourite hotel options are as follows:
The Mecure Crocodile Hotel is my first pick of hotel in Kakadu. This hotel is the ideal base to explore Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock areas and is within range of Jim Jim & Twin Falls. The Mecure Crocodile Hotel is not only a beautiful hotel but it’s famous for its aerial view which the whole hotel looks like a giant crocodile.
Cooinda LodgeCooinda Lodge is your best option to stay at to explore Yellow Water, Gunlom Falls, Maguk Gorge and within range of Jim Jim & Twin Falls. is a beautiful resort with a nice swimming pool, a big hangout bar area & outdoor TV/movies.
While I was traveling Kakadu I opted to stay at a few of the local campsites. A few of my favourite campsites are as follows:
Gunlom Falls Campground was the most well equipped campground I stayed at. It is located right at the base of the hiking trail to Gunlom Falls. It has toilets, showers and electric bbq’s available for use. This is the ideal place to set up camp if you plan to witness the sunset at Gunlom Falls. Camping fees apply.
Muriella Park Campground is the closest option to stay at if you are visiting the Nourlangie Rock area. This campground is basic but has toilets, showers & fire pits for use. Camping fees apply.
PLACES TO SEE
Gunlom Falls was easily my favourite location within Kakadu. It has multiple levels of rock pools with an incredible lookout over the forest. To get up to the rock pools it requires a short but pretty steep hike. It’s a great spot any time of the day but particularly great for sunset. The sun sets right in front of you creating the perfect view while sitting in the pools. Bring up a bottle of wine and take in the view, just be sure to leave pretty quickly after the sunset so you’re not hiking in the dark.
Nourlangie – also known as Burrungkuy – is a must stop location on your journey through Kakadu. Here you’ll find some world heritage listed aboriginal rock art as well as a number of walks throughout the area. Take the short walk from the car park passing a few rock art sights and up to a lookout to take in beautiful sunset here.
YELLOW WATER BILLABONG
A cruise through Yellow Water Billabong is the best way to experience the wildlife and wetlands of Kakadu, most popular at sunset and sunrise. You can find a cruise at most local travel agents and hotels. If you’re not up for a cruise, during the dry season there is a boardwalk that wraps around the South Alligator River floodplains. The boardwalk is only accessible during dry season when the water levels are low but you’ll get the chance to witness some wildlife including some impressive saltwater crocodiles.
Ubirr is located a bit off the main loop of Kakadu but if you have a bit of extra time up your sleeve then Ubirr is a must see. This is another famous sight for rock art and incredible sunset views.
MAGUK GORGE (BARRAMUNDI GORGE)
Maguk Gorge is another favourite of mine. The access road to Maguk is necessary with a 4wd vehicle as it is an uneven dirt road and prone to flooding during the wet season. From the car park it is about a pretty easy 30 minute walk to Maguk Gorge, crossing over some rocks and the river at one point. Once you get there you’ll find a beautiful swimming hole with a waterfall at the back. The water is refreshing and the view is beautiful. I highly recommend visiting Maguk Gorge on your trip around Kakadu.
TWIN FALLS & JIM JIM FALLS
Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls are the two biggest waterfalls within Kakadu. These waterfalls are 2km apart from each other accessible only by a 4wd road. The falls are flowing from the wet season until mid-July. I unfortunately didn’t get to see these falls as the access road was closed when I was there. The best view of these fall is by air, you can find flights from local travel agencies.
LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
Although Litchfield National Park is not a part of Kakadu, you’ll likely drive right past it if you’re heading back towards Darwin. Litchfield is only an hour drive away from Darwin. Here you’ll find various waterfalls including Florence Falls & Wangi Falls. Both of these are beautiful waterfalls with swimming holes that you can spend a nice hot day at. If you’re considering spending the night camping I suggest the campground next to Wangi Falls. It has basic facilities but it’s within walking distance to the waterfalls.
Looking for more Northern Territory inspiration? Check out my Uluru Ultimate Travel Guide.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
TAKE A TOUR OR TAKE A 4WD
Kakadu is not the easiest place to navigate yourself due to varying weather conditions and many roads that are difficult to drive on. For this reason a tour is advisable. If you choose to drive only go with a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Many roads are not sealed and can only be accessed by 4wd. Be aware of any recent wet weather as many roads may be closed under these conditions.
You certainly won’t see crocodiles everywhere you go, but you do need to practice a lot of caution when entering any swimming holes. Most swimming holes are monitored often for any crocodile sightings and in that situation would be closed, but they are hard to spot so be cautious when entering the water. Crocodiles are more common during the wet season, and like most wild animals be particularly cautious around dawn and dusk.
BRING ENOUGH FOOD AND SUPPLIES
Kakadu is very remote which most of it you won’t even get a mobile signal. There are a few stores with very basic supplies (mainly where the hotels are located) but are often overpriced. It’s advisable to bring enough food and water for your entire stay in Kakadu. Plan ahead and you won’t have any problems. There are a few public bbq’s to cook your own food, but not many so plan ahead and know where your bbq’s are located if you’re planning on cooking. It’s also very advisable to bring some bug spray. I didn’t have too many issues with mosquitoes but the flies are VERY annoying – think the ones that are constantly landing on your face.