Kakadu National Park Holidays
Kakadu is a World Heritage-listed national park, 240 kilometres east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. It is 20,000 square kilometres, half the size of Switzerland, and has a wealth of Indigenous tourism experiences, ancient rock art, swimming holes, waterfalls, billabongs and wetlands teeming with plants and wildlife … including crocodiles.
The small town of Jabiru is the main service centre in the park with accommodation, a supermarket, newsagent, chemist, service station and medical centre. Some of Kakadu’s major attractions can be accessed by sealed road (the Arnhem and Kakadu highways bisect the park), but a four-wheel-drive vehicle is handy to make the most of the park. The best time to go is during the dry season between May and October.
If you’re not travelling under your own steam, a guided day tour with an adventure tour company is a great way to go. One of the most popular tours is with Yellow Water Cruises, in which canopied boats steer through wetlands where crocodiles rule. Along the way, there are sightings of jabirus, sea eagles and whistling kites. Jim Jim Falls is another essential experience.
There’s a 900-metre walk to the falls, which are set in a red-ochre landscape and have white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. Other highlights include Twin Falls, Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge), Maguk (Barramundi Gorge) and Mamukala Wetlands. For rock art, head to the Nourlangie rock art site and Ubirr.
Eat and Drink
The secret is to stick with Kakadu staples: barra, barra and barra. The ultimate Kakadu dining experience is to catch and cook a barramundi yourself, and a tour operator might be able to help with the first part of the experience.
There is not a vast amount of dining choice in Kakadu and visitors have to be mindful that alcohol is not permitted anywhere other than licensed premises, so you can’t buy it to take away. This means that if you want a beer or wine, you are confined to hotels, and that’s where the best dining options are to be found.
Most of the dining is bistro style. For more “sophisticated” dining, the Escarpment Restaurant at the Crocodile Hotel can produce some good Kakadu staples – barra, crocodile, buffalo, kangaroo and bush-tucker seasonings. Cooinda Lodge’s Barra Bistro has a tasting platter with barramundi, char-grilled buffalo sausages, kangaroo fillet, smoked and marinated crocodile, plum chilli sauce and bush tomato relish.
Lodge and hotel accommodation, with swimming pools and Wi-Fi, is available in Kakadu, as well as camping and caravan sites. Staying at Jabiru provides a good base with shops and other services, but if you stay in the Yellow Water region you are centrally placed in Kakadu to get to all the sites and attractions.
As you’d imagine, there are no shopping malls in this vast wilderness, but that doesn’t mean shopaholics can’t get their fix. Indigenous artwork and souvenirs can usually be purchased from accommodation reception areas, visitor information centres and local stores. The Warradjan Cultural Centre has a gallery that sells a range of arts and craft, including didgeridoos.
Kakadu Like a Local
Take a dip in a rock pool. One of the best is the natural infinity pool at Gunlom Falls. From the crystal-clear water you can see across the wide expanse of Kakadu. You can also trek up to the top of the falls for an even more spectacular vista.
Gunlom put Kakadu on the map when it was featured in the film Crocodile Dundee. There is a camping area at Gunlom, with solar-powered hot showers. Access is via four-wheel-drive vehicle in the dry season only.