Regardless of what time of year you get the chance to visit Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory, jump on that opportunity and enjoy what the park has to offer. Dry season (May to October) will grant you more accessibility and activity options, but wet season (November to April) offers incredibly green, lush, verdant vistas and smaller crowds. With no shortage of salt and freshwater crocs, waterfalls, boat cruises, walks, swimming, bird watching, and fishing, you are sure to have an unforgettable journey to Kakadu that will have you hankering after your next visit. Get yourself a permit online before you travel to save yourself some hassle.
1. Yellow Water Boat Cruise
Take a journey through Kakadu’s expansive and magical wetlands on the Yellow Water Boat Cruise. The Yellow Wetlands, at the end of Jim Jim Creek, are home to countless crocodiles and about a third of all the bird species represented in Kakadu. Operating year round with a choice of a 90 minute or 120 minute experience and a knowledgeable and highly trained guide, this tour will get you up close and personal with the wetland. If you want a more unique experience, book at dawn or sunset, check out the night time cruise, or explore their fishing packages.
Nourlangie Rock, or Burrunggui, is a breathtaking rock formation. On a 1.5 km walking loop of the outcrop, you can observe ancient mythological Aboriginal paintings. If you are visiting during dry season, visit the nearby Anbangbang Billabong and enjoy the views of the Nourlangie. If you feel up for a challenge, the 12 km Barrk Sandstone Walk over the outcrop presents a great opportunity for fitness enthusiasts to make it to the top and enjoy the spectacular views while sneaking in some exercise.
3. Maguk Gorge
Maguk Gorge is found in the southern part of Kakadu National Park, just over 10 km off the main highway. If you are travelling with 4 wheel drive and have checked the road conditions, head to the trailhead, park your vehicle, and begin the 2 km walk to Maguk. Walk through lush forest and thick vegetation – try to spot some birds and lizards – until the path opens up to a swimming hole and see the only waterfall in Kakadu that flows regardless of season. Swim across the pool and let the water wash over you. Feeling brave? Try cliff jumping!
4. Jim Jim Falls
Accessible by 4 wheel drive in the dry season or by air in the wet season, be sure to catch a glimpse of Jim Jim Falls. Or if you don’t want to drive yourself, join a tour group to make some friends and leave the driving to an expert. Once you park, you will brave a short but challenging walk to the falls. If you’ve got the time and energy, do the Barrk-Mariam Buswalk – a 6 km round trip walk that gives breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Jim Jim Falls also has a nearby campground, so you can stay overnight (book this popular campsite well in advance). If you have the time, check out the nearby and popular Twin Falls for some more epic waterfall action.
5. Explore the Yurmikmik Walks
If you feel like you’ve been cooped up in the car while exploring Kakadu, get out of the car and spend a day hiking at Yurmikmik. Hikes from the Yurmikmik parking lot range from a 2km loop to a more challenging 14 km loop. If you’re planning a longer hike, look into obtaining a camping permit to extend your hike overnight. Check out the Yurmikmik lookout and explore the Motor Car Falls. Keep an eye out for peregrine falcons, black wallaroo, and saltwater crocodiles!
6. Grab a Bite to Eat at Kakadu Bakery
Hungry from a long day in the bush? If you find yourself hungry and close to Jabiru, be sure to drop in on Kakadu Bakery. Grab breakfast, meat pies, sandwiches, burgers and fries, or stock up on their famous pastries, meat pies or bread rolls to refuel before your next jungle adventure.
7. Get a Bird’s Eye View of Kakadu
If you want a real sense of the magnitude and beauty of Kakadu, you absolutely must head to the air to get the full experience. Choose from fixed wing or helicopter and a variety of itineraries to make sure you get the experience you are looking for. Depending on if you are travelling in dry or wet season, different tours may be available. If you’re near Jabiru, check out Scenic Flight Company (fixed wing) or Kakadu Air (fixed wing or helicopter) for the aerial trip of a lifetime.
8. Take in the Sunset at the Escarpment
Grab some groceries, make a picnic, and head to the Arnhem Land Escarpment by Jim Jim creek to sit back, relax, and take in the view while the sun sets. Be sure to bring your cameras to this memorable, breath taking view. If you have the time, try and catch a free talk by the local Rangers to learn about the rich history of the area.
9. Bardedjilidji Walk
This gentle walk is suitable for the whole family! Accessible during the dry season, the Bardedjilidji (the Aboriginal word for walking track) Walk takes you on a 2.5 km loop and will take approximately 1.5 hours tops. Explore the sandstone rock formations beside the East Alligator River, try to spot some Aboriginal stone art, check out the caves, and keep your eyes open for the unique plant and animal life that inhabit the area.
10. Animal Tracks Safari
Enjoy the bush experience of a lifetime by taking a dry season tour with Animal Tracks Safari. Start in Cooinda at 1pm and head to a local buffalo farm, then let your Aboriginal guide lead you through the wilderness to gather food, teach you about bush medicine, and then make a feast at sunset! Help make a campfire and learn about traditional cooking methods while you absorb the sunset jungle view with your tour group. If you’re worried about roughing it – they provide plenty of water and access to bush toilets that will keep you comfortable even in the heart of the jungle. You’ll be back in Cooinda by 8:15pm, and discounts are available for children 4 -16 and under 4 are free.
11. Warradjan Cultural Centre
The Kakadu area has been home to Aboriginal People continuously for over 50,000 years. This is evident throughout the park with many sacred sites and ancient aboriginal rock drawings. The Bininj/Mungguy are the traditional land owners and welcome you to experience their beautiful lands and learn about their traditional culture and the Warradjan Cultural Centre located near Cooinda Lodge offers visitors the chance to learn about aboriginal life while exploring the exhibit and also get an up-close look at some unique aboriginal art, many of which are produced by local artists and are for sale.