Darwin Kakadu National Park is the most famous national park in Northern Territory. It covers an amazing 20,000 square kilometres, making it Australia’s largest national park. It’s not only big in size, it’s also huge in bio-diversity and cultural heritage. It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List in recognition of both its outstanding natural values and as a living cultural landscape.
Darwin Kakadu National Park – How to get there?
The best way to visit Kakadu is to drive a 4WD vehicle. Why? Some of the roads in the national park are too rocky to be suitable for a normal 2WD. So if you really want to explore different areas of the beautiful park, hire a 4WD. It takes approximately 3 hours drive from Darwin, and the same from Katherine to reach Kakadu. Due to the vast areas it covers, even within the park itself, it’ll generally take you at least 45 mins to get to one destination form the other. That’s how big it is!
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Darwin Kakadu National Park – When is the best time to go?
In general, the best time to visit Northern Territory is during dry season, which is from May to September. Kakadu is no difference. During dry season, weather is great and the sun is hot. It’s wise to bring along sun-screen and drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. During the wet season, there can be frequent flooding.
Darwin Kakadu National Park – How much is it?
You’ll need a park pass to visit Kakadu. It’s 40 AUD per adult and it includes entry to the park for 2 weeks or so, and ranger guided activities. The money goes to provide the visitor services and facilities you enjoy, preservation of the World Heritage, environment and cultural sites, as well as payments to the traditional owners. Although people don’t check diligently whether you’ve purchased the pass or not, it’s good to purchase it voluntarily. And you really don’t want to risk getting into a situation when rangers ask where your pass is. You can buy it in the park itself or online.
Darwin Kakadu National Park – Where to go?
Kakadu is so big that there are 7 regions in total. They are South Alligator, Jubiru, East Alligator, Nourlangie, Yellow Water, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls Gorge, and Mary Water region. Due to the limited amount of time (I spent 3D2N), I only managed to visit some of the regions. Below are the few regions I highly recommend you to go, especially when you face a time-constraint like I do.
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Darwin Kakadu National Park – East Alligator Region
If you want to ask me which is my favorite destination in Kakadu, it’s definitely Ubirr in East Alligator Region. There’s a moderate 250m climb once you reach Ubirr. It will take you to the top of a rocky lookout that offers superb views over the Nadab floodplain. This area is particularly beautiful during sunset, when the sky turns everything bright red.
The beauty of sunset in Ubirr is beyond description. The sky soon turns pitch dark as the last sun ray goes off. If you are afraid of driving at night, I highly recommend you to stay overnight in Ubirr, as you really don’t want to give this amazing moment a miss.
During the day, Ubirr is a fantastic place to discover rock art and understand the Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal people have inhabited Kakadu continuously for more than 50,000 years, tracing back in time to before the last ice age. Ancient rock art showcasing long-extinct animals combines with abundant wildlife and spectacular landscapes to deliver a profound visual and spiritual experience for travelers like us.
During certain mornings, the park rangers will offer free guide and explain to you the meanings behind the rock art. The stories are very interesting and amusing to hear, offering you a glimpse into the Aboriginal’s life in the past. You can get a copy of the daily activities guide when you purchase the Park Pass.
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Darwin Kakadu National Park – Nourlangie Region
Another place to catch great sunset is at Nawurlandja Lookout. It’s a very steep 300m climb, offering a wonderful forest view. As the sun doesn’t set directly in front of your eyes, the color is not as rich and vibrant as compared to the one in Ubirr. Still, it’s an unforgettable experience to sit down and gaze at the changing sky.
Darwin Kakadu National Park – Mary River Region
There’s a beautiful place called Gunlom in this region. A 2km return steep climb takes you to the top of the waterfall with natural infinity pool and a lookout with great views over southern Kakadu. Sadly I didn’t manage to witness the beauty myself as my 2WD was not suitable to drive in. If you don’t want to regret like me, get a 4WD!
Darwin Kakadu National Park – Where to stay?
Kakadu is a heaven for adventure lovers. And the best way to truly explore it is to camp. Not only does camping allow you to get closer to nature, you’ll literally sleep under a thousand stars at night!
Camping facilities are very well maintained and there is a camping site in almost every region. If you don’t have a camper-van, you can easily get yourself hot shower by staying in maintained camp sites. There are fire pits too if you want to do some cooking. Just remember to bring enough equipment to yourself through the nights.
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Below is a list of campsite in each area. Maintain campsite is $15 AUD per adult for a night, while unmanaged ones is $6 AUD per night. Very affordable indeed.
That’s basically the highlight of Kakadu in my opinion. If I had more time, I would definitely be able to find more beautiful places to visit. If you’ve been to Kakadu before, let me know if I miss anything that’s worth sharing by commenting below. I can’t wait to hear your amazing experience!