Reason enough for many to visit Australia is the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. A few hours' drive from Darwin, you can easily visit Kakadu on a day tour, or savour the park’s dramatic landscapes and abounding attractions by putting aside a couple of days on your itinerary. Along the way, you can see and experience:
Waterfalls and gorges
Aboriginal rock art
Wildlife including crocodiles
Wetlands and billabongs
Scenic hiking trails
Go chasing waterfalls
Covering almost 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu National Park is home to many stunning sights; perhaps none more spectacular than Jim Jim Falls. The falls descend from an elevation of over 250 metres into a deep plunge pool and are surrounded by sheer cliffs that will definitely make your jaw sit a little lower!
The one catch is that good things never come easy, and Jim Jim Falls at its most monstrous is an almost impossible sight to behold. During the wet season when the water is in full flow, the only way tourists can access them is via scenic flight.
Though 100 metres shorter in height, Twin Falls is much easier to access and a more than worthy alternative. Best of all, Twin Falls and Gunlom Falls are easily accessible by 4WD from the highway.
Spot ancient rock art
Kakadu is a place of immense cultural significance to the local Aboriginal people and one of the park's most celebrated attractions is its Aboriginal rock art. The Nourlangie Rock Art site tops must-see lists for many visitors to Australia but is not the only place you can see rock art in Kakadu.
Located 40 kilometres from Jabiru is Ubirr, Kakadu's second most famous rock art gallery. If you're visiting during the dry months take advantage of one of the free scheduled talks and at all times of year make sure not to miss the spectacular sunset from rock peaks.
Lose count of animals
Spotting native wildlife is another one of Kakadu's major attractions and the (in)famous saltwater crocodile is by no means the park's only inhabitant. At places such as the Yellow Water Billabong visitors can spot an estimated 74 mammal, 280 bird and 117 reptile species.
While fishing for your dinner is allowed, hunting is definitely banned in the park. This keeps animal populations at a healthy level so visitors always have a good chance of catching a glimpse of a kangaroo or wallaby. To maximise those chances, take a wildlife cruise at the Mamukala Wetlands or Anbangbang Billabong. A number of companies run both day and night cruises, which allow you to experience the park with two completely different sets of sights and sounds.
If you're blessed with some extra time to explore Kakadu, you're really in for a treat. While many of the park's sites are accessible by standard vehicles, the park really is your oyster when you hire a 4WD. Take a drive to the Koolpin Gorge or the outskirts of Arnhem Land. You can camp overnight deep in the outback, or even reel in some Barramundi for dinner in the East Alligator River.
If you decide to extend your visit to Kakadu for longer than a day and want to stay somewhere more comfortable than a camp site, you have ample accommodation options. The town of Jabiru offers the most range and services, while more secluded lodging can be found in the Yellow Water, South Alligator and Mary River regions.
Rain, hail or shine?
While Kakadu is a destination that dazzles in all seasons, you'll have a dramatically different experience depending on which time of year you decide to visit. According to local Bininj people, the seasons are categorised six different ways:
Gudjewg monsoon season between December and March is the most arresting of the seasons, with lightning striking over the park and waterfalls at their mightiest. As the rains slow in April, the Banggerreng season sees the park's billabongs fill with birds coming to harvest.
Yegge, between May and June, and Wurrgeng, which runs up until August, are the seasons that fringe dry and wet seasons. Being the most temperate times of year makes them good times to get an all round experience of Kakadu, along with Gurrung season between August and October when the air dries up and the water holes become irresistible attractions. In October, humidity returns to the air with Gunumeleng signalling the return of rains to the area.