Two backpackers were 3 days in beautiful Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. Read on to find out what they discovered, get some tipps and advice and have a look at their beautiful pictures. Wanderlust guaranteed.
We discovered Kakadu National Park during a week in the Australian Top End, where we travelled around Darwin, Litchfield National Park, Kathering and Nitmiluk National Park. This enormous park was fascinating…its landscapes, its culture and its incredibly diverse flora and fauna.
Kakadu National Park: When and how to get there?
Kakadu National Park is located in the Top End (Australia tropical North), 250 km away from Darwin and 1300 km away from Alice Springs. It is Australia’s largest terrestrial national park, covering 20,000 square kilometres. For these reasons, it is inscribed on the World Heritage List!
The dry season runs from May to October, making it the most popular time for tourists. The wet season runs from November to April (aboriginals count six seasons instead of two). During the dry season, temperatures are more pleasant and landscapes are drier and yellow-tinted. On the other hand, it is very humid and hot during the wet season. Landscapes are vivid-green, billabongs filled with water, and you will discover impressive waterfalls. Road can be closed due to floods.
We decided to go in April. It does not seem to be the best season as roads can close down due to floods and tourist attractions tend to open in May/June… However, we did not regret our decision, as we were able to do everything we planned. In April, one will enjoy lush vegetation and peaceful holidays, away from tourists’ crowds.
Moving around in Kakadu
To move around in Kakadu, you can either rent a car ($500 per week) or rent a 4WD ($1000 on average per week). If you choose to rent a 4WD, you will be able to drive wherever you wish, especially during the dry season (during the wet, roads can be closed due to floods). In most cases, they will be equipped to sleep. On the other hand, if you decide to drive around with a basic vehicle, you will have to drive on concrete roads, limiting your visits. This however depends on what you wish to visit.
Given the season, we picked the “basic car + camping with our equipment” option, in order to reduce costs.
Kakadu National Park: what to do in 3 days?
Three days were sufficient with a Sedan during the wet/end of the wet season. However, during the dry season and with a 4WD, it might be worth adding 3 to 4 days to explore the park in depth…
Most of tourists decide to explore the park from North to South, however we decided to do the contrary. Below is an indication of our trajectories and visits in the national park:
1st day: Discover Kakadu South
The South of the park is not the most outstanding one without a 4WD. In fact, you can only access famous Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls with a 4WD. These roads were closed during our trip.
We thus ended up taking various walks providing beautiful point views such as Bukbuluk, Gungurul and Mardjugal.
2nd day: A day on the shore and in the air
Billabong Cruise: Yellow Water
We woke up very early to participate in a billabong cruise at sunrise. At the end of the wet season, water is plentiful and thus hiking trails around the billabong were closed. Taking the boat was therefore the only way for us to discover this small ecosystem. From the boat, we discovered the local flora with pandanus and lotus flower. It was also a great opportunity to observe the local wildlife – from crocodiles to a large variety of birds (jacanas, jabiru, egrets…). This was an amazing experience, for us nature lovers!
Panoramic flight above the park
We then spun toward the town of Jabiru and enjoyed a scenic flight. It was an incredible way to see the park, waterfalls, tray Arnhem … The advantage of this flight in the wet season is to see the very impressive and strong flows of Jim Jim and Twin waterfalls. We also had the chance to leave when a storm was coming (thunderstorms are very common in April and we enjoyed a beautiful storm every night).
3rd day: North East of the Park
A little walk allows you to walk along a rock where you 20,000 years old cave paintings can be found! A world famous site, full of history! Our advice: do that walk relatively early and try to be one of the first ones there, as it is a very peaceful and spiritual place.
Ubirr is described in guides as an inescapable place to go – and it is indeed. The road accessing Ubirr is closed during the wet season and only opens later (usually around April or May). In fact, the road was flooded, with water up to one meter. During our stay, the road had just opened however the creek was still overflowed with 30cm of water on the road. Then again, renting a 4WD is recommended, see mandatory snorkel.
We took the risk to go explore sites recommended by a ranger, who told us that the creek was calm without power (rental agencies rarely allow fording sites). Make sure to check with tourism offices’ rangers if you embark on the adventure! Everything went well for us and our Sedan, and we were able to enjoy two different atmospheres: first one under a storm in the end of the day and second one under an amazing blue sky the next morning.
Summary of three days in Kakadu National Park
We would definitely go back during this season, mainly because of how peaceful it was, the sky colour in the late afternoon, the green and wet fields, and finally the incredible waterfalls flowing afloat. We hope you will enjoy your trip in the TOP END as much as we did!
25 AUD for 14 days
Camping National Park (Mardugal, Gunguru, Merl …): 10 AUD per person (shower and toilet) Bush Campground (no shower, toilet): 5 AUD per person Camping / Caravan park (fewer): about 30 AUD per location
Find more information in the article about renting a campervan in Australia
About 100 AUD for 1 hour with Kakadu Air
99 AUD for a 2 hours cruise – Yellow Water Cruises
Make trips in the early morning to avoid hot weather and tourists. Remember to take mosquito repellent and an anti-bird net for the day (according to the season it can be difficult)! Drink enough water!