Though Kakadu National Park spans 20,000 square kilometres across Australia's top end, this historic destination is a whole new world. It has escaped the manmade marks of time, instead allowing Mother Nature to do what she does best, shaping and moulding its unforgettable landscapes over thousands of years to create an unspoilt haven that calls to the spirit of adventure within every traveller. Its lands are varied and dazzle with an array of things to see and do, but there are a few experiences that should not be missed.
When it comes to dramatic beauty, Kakadu has it in spades, and its crashing waterfalls top the list of sights to take your breath away. Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are two of the park's most impressive. Both put on the best show during the wet season when they are at full flow, but keep in mind that a scenic flight is your best bet for a view. Roads and passages are likely to be restricted or closed during this time.
Getting up close during the dry season definitely has its benefits though. For one, the towering heights of the surrounding sheer red cliffs can be fully appreciated from the bottom of the gorge. Keep in mind that the access road is by 4WD only for all of you self-guided travellers, and croc safety rules should be followed at all times.
An iconic part of Kakadu, the beauty of the billabongs is hard to beat. These deep blue waters are dappled with lily pads and grow and shrink with the changing seasons. They are abundant with wildlife, above and below the surface, offering optimal bird watching or croc-spotting opportunities. They also happen to be the perfect spot from which to enjoy the sunrise or sunset.
With boat tours readily available at dawn and dusk to whisk you across the water, you can learn about the vital role these wetlands play as you enjoy the changing colours of the landscape. Fishing charters and night tours are also available for something especially unique.
Kakadu National Park has World Heritage status, thanks in part to the incredible collection of historic rock art paintings found throughout. Dating back up to 20,000 years, these unique works of art provide an outstanding visual record for the indigenous community and help create one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world.
There are several locations throughout the park that are open to visitors to appreciate this incredible artwork. This includes Ubirr and Nourlangie, which showcase examples of animals, traditional x-ray art and early contact with European people. For a degree of added insight, join a rock art tour to learn when and how some of these paintings were created along with the traditional legends and stories surrounding them.
Another integral part of any trip to Kakadu is paying a visit to the cultural centres. The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Bowali Visitor Centre both offer engaging exhibits that focus on the traditional landowners and their relationship with Kakadu. Covering everything from personal histories and bush tucker to artworks and native flora and fauna, they are a great way to learn more about the park and its importance.
In order to truly tap into the essence of Kakadu, you must be at once with the surrounding nature. All right, that may be a bit extreme, but seriously, camping in Kakadu is an unforgettable experience. It's a departure from the usual holiday routine and allows you to escape the hustle and bustle for the more natural surrounds.
For those that prefer a proper bed, the outback plays home to a couple of luxury camping spots that ensure all the creature comforts are accounted for. On the fringes of the park, Wildman Wilderness Lodge offers deluxe safari tent accommodations, or get a taste of camp life with a touch of the finer things at Bamurru Plains just west of the park. There are also a number of designated campgrounds and caravan parks located within the park. Just be mindful of all rules and notices.
You must purchase a pass for each person entering the park. At time of writing, passes are $25 and allow you to explore the park for 14 consecutive days. Children under 16 and Northern Territory residents are free.
November to April
May to October
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