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Kakadu National park

The Secret Guide to Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is a well-known and loved park in the Northern Territory. It is also a UNESCO-listed heritage site, home to ancient rock art sites, abundant rainforest and waterfalls and exceptional wildlife.

Kakadu National Park is on the World list since 1981 for both cultural and natural outstanding universal values. It is the park with the largest variety of ecosystems in Australia.



Why is Kakadu National Park so famous?


Kakadu National Park has it all! Landscapes are varied and breathtaking, you can find waterfalls, wetlands, floodplains and rock formations, all within the same park.


It is a must-do for nature enthusiasts as well as animal lovers as you can encounter huge crocodiles (saltwater), wallabies, more than 271 species of birds (over 1/3 of all Australian bird species!) including the cute small Jacanas, noisy magpie geese, kingfishers, herons and also the majestic Jabiru, also called black-necked stork.


Let’s not forget the incredible flora and biodiversity with over 1500 species of plants and 10 000 species of insects.


Kakadu National Park has outstanding rock art sites and has an important cultural significance for indigenous people as it has been home to the Bininj (in the North of the park) and Mungguy (in the South of the park) people for more than 65,000 years. You can find amazingly well-preserved rock art paintings depicting scenes from up to 20,000 years ago. Kakadu is the ideal place to learn more and immerse yourself in the oldest living culture on earth. Make sure you respect places where the entrance is restricted as they can be sacred sites, burial grounds or places of significance that should be left untouched.


Kakadu is incredible for adventure lovers, one of the best places in the Northern Territory for hiking, camping, swimming, exploring the mysterious plateau, or boating on the extensive wetlands areas.

Kakadu National Park Camping

How far is Kakadu NP from Darwin?


If you plan to go to Kakadu, you will most likely come from Darwin which is the nearest “big” city. Consider the travel time which is about 3h30 for 330km (depending on where you start in Darwin). The roads are good and you can go with a 2WD as long as you do not drive on dirt roads. On the way to Kakadu, if you have some time, you can take breaks and enjoy popular attractions like the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, Mary River National Park or Adelaide River Jumping crocodile cruises.



How many days do you need at Kakadu National Park?


As mentioned in the previous section, a return trip will almost take you a full day so we recommend going for at least 3 days to enjoy the park. It will also depend on whether you have a 2WD or a 4WD, as you will be able to access more areas of the park with the 4WD option.


Kakadu National Park is one of the largest parks in Australia. It covers 19,816km2 which is almost half the size of Switzerland, so you could easily spend a week there driving around for a full experience.


If you can stay 3 days, you can explore the main areas of Kakadu National Park. Visit the famous rock art site of Ubirr and go on a walk up to a panoramic viewpoint of the park. The next day, you can visit Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls (you need a 4WD to visit these falls) and on your way back do a Yellow Water cruise on the wetlands.


If you have 4 days, allow one full day for an immersive guided tour to learn about the Aboriginal heritage and culture.


Kakadu National Park Bushwalking Tour


Hiking and Bushwalking in Kakadu National Park


There are more than 27 different hikes listed on the Kakadu National Park website. Before you plan your hike, make sure you check if they are open, the amount of time required and distance as well as the walk grade. You will also have to carry enough water!


If you prefer to walk off the beaten path on the less-known parts of the park where almost no one goes, you will have to get special permits. This is what NoTraces specialises in, during our Kakadu tours, we take you to untouched parts of the Kakadu national park where you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the park. During our 3-day Kakadu tour, our specialist guide will take you up to the heights of Jim Jim Falls and further along the Arnhem Land plateau, places only a few locals have experienced. We will camp in the wilderness and swim in amazing waterholes! A truly special experience.



What is the best time to go to Kakadu National Park?


The dry season is usually the best time to visit Kakadu National Park. Usually, the dry season starts in May-June and ends around September-October depending on various factors. Some years, access might be restricted because there is too much water, because of heavy rainfall in th wet season, and you cannot access the areas of interest. During the dry season, days are usually warm (around 30°C) and nights are cooler (20°C), the humidity is also way lower compared to the wet season. This means that you can still be comfortable swimming during the day, sleep well at night and not sweat like crazy! The water levels also go down so you can access and enjoy more spots around the park. Wildlife is thriving during that season (especially birds).


Visiting during the wet season could also be a great opportunity to experience the park with no one around, full waterfalls and lush wetlands. However, make sure you check for park closures or flooding announcements as this season brings heavy rainfall which can impact waterways in the park and your ability to visit.


The best time to visit according to us would be right at the start of the dry season when the water is still abundantly flowing and the weather gets nicer. As we approach the end of the dry season and the start of the build up leading into the wet season, some water holes might have dried out and waterfalls streams might be quite unimpressive. If you decide to go during this time, come with us and we’ll take you to the heart of the national park where the summer waters do not dry up during the dry season.

Choosing the right time to go will depend on what you prefer to experience, how you can cope with the weather and crowds and also what type of vehicle you have!



Can you drive to Kakadu in a normal car?


You can absolutely drive to Kakadu in a normal car (2WD). The roads to get there are all sealed roads and you can access a range of attractions and camping facilities in the park itself. There will be some limitations as some roads are for 4WD only but you can explore a good portion of the park with a small car or sedan.


Where to stay in Kakadu National Park?


For us, the best way to experience all that Kakadu National Park has to offer is to camp. You can choose between more than 20 campgrounds. Check the official Kakadu National Park website to see if you need to book and pay in advance (some require a small fee to be paid and some are free) or if you can just turn up. Depending on what you are looking for you can also ensure the campground you select has the facilities you require (eg. toilets, showers, barbecue, picnic tables etc). Here is the map and current fees for camping facilities in Kakadu National Park. With our Kakadu Bushwalking Tours, you will camp in remote parts of the park where very few people go as permits are required. It is a unique experience you will never forget!


If you are looking for a more comfortable experience, there are various options for hotels and lodges around the park. Anbinik Kakadu Resort has self-contained cabins, Aurora Kakadu Lodge offers studios and cabins, and Cooinda Lodge is a village-type resort next to the Yellow Water Billabong with hotel rooms and campsites. Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge offers tented cabins and allows exclusive access of a remote and restricted area of the park.



Can you swim in waterholes in Kakadu National Park?


Kakadu National Park is home to around 10,000 crocodiles so definitely be croc-wise and cross-check if the area you are in is safe for swimming. There are a few spots around Kakadu that are well-known for swimming :

  • The lower pools of Gunlom Falls
  • Motorcar falls
  • Kurrundie falls
  • Jim Jim FallsMoline rock hole


Before you swim at any of those locations, check the official Kakadu National Park website for any warnings or safety recommendations!



Can you see aboriginal rock art in Kakadu?


There are many art sites in Kakadu some dating back 20,000 years. The Bininj/Mungguy people have lived in the park for thousands of years (long before it was a National Park!) and have produced numerous art pieces depicting the daily life and stories of the original inhabitants of the region. The main places where you can see those amazing are Ubirr, Nanguluwurr and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie).



Kakadu Park pass


If you are a resident of the Northern Territory, you can get a free pass to visit Kakadu National Park. For others, park passes cost $25 per adult in the wet season (1 November to 14 May) and $40 in the dry season (15 May to 31 October) and for children 5-15 years old $20 for the dry season pass and $12.50 for the wet season pass. You can also get concession passes and family passes.  Get your Kakadu pass. If you are part of a guided tour, check with your guide, you may or may not need to get a pass before you go. Passes are valid for 7 days.

Kakadu National Park Bushwalking Tour


Kakadu Tours


There are many options for Kakadu National Park tours.

  • Yellow Water Cruise tour: Take a boat at sunrise or sunset to see the amazing wetlands and abundant wildlife of Kakadu. Birdlife is incredible and you’ll witness scenes and landscapes out of this world.
  • Cultural Tours: Kakadu is probably the best place to do a cultural tour with Traditional owners who can take you where others cannot. They will tell you about their culture and ways of living and you will even be able to witness a spear-throwing demonstration.
  • Rock art tours: For those specifically interested in the rich paintings in the area, you can do a specialised tour that will help you understand the intricacies of the scenes depicted on the rocks
  • Bushwalking tours: Our Kakadu tour is completely unique and will take you to places where no one else goes. For 3 days we will walk to the heights of Jim Jim Falls and further, experiencing off-the-beaten-path sites and landscapes. Our tours start from Darwin so they are convenient for visitors who don’t want to rent a car or for locals who don’t own a 4WD and want to go on an adventure in places they haven’t visited yet!



Kakadu map


You can find a map of Kakadu on the official Kakadu National Park website.


Best tips for your trip to Kakadu National Park


  • Bring A LOT of water. Not many places have drinking water so make sure you bring enough water for your whole trip.
  • Bring enough food. There aren’t many places where you can buy a snack or something to eat (except in some of the hotels or caravan parks) so be prepared!
  • Bring good shoes: if you are walking, it is recommended to wear good walking shoes. It will be safer and more comfortable as well.




Kakadu National Park should be on every nature enthusiast’s bucket list. It truly has it all: waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife, rock art, swimming holes and much more! It is also a paradise for photographers with extensive bird life and people who just want to take short walks and relax with a view. For the adventurers out there, join an off-track bushwalking tour and explore the remote areas of the park where very few go and challenge yourself!



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