My Australia Bucket List: Kakadu National Park

There are many ways to relax and unwind at Kakadu National Park There are many ways to relax and unwind at Kakadu National Park

I’ve been thinking a lot about home recently. We’re almost seven months into our trip and I recently posted my thoughts about our journey so far in my 6-month review. I said that while I don’t want to go home any time soon, and I’ve still got plenty of places to go and experiences to be had, I’ll be the happiest man in the world when I eventually touch down on home soil.

I was recently approached to write an article about Kakadu National Park for our website, but I’m currently living in France so thought it might be difficult to do. Then I had a brainwave, what about I start a series about all of the places I want to visit in Australia! Kakadu National Park is top of the list for places I want to see, so it seemed like a natural fit that I’d start my new series here. I’ve seen so many Australian movies, TV shows and advertising for the area that I’ve always dreamed of going, but for one reason or another never quite managed to make it.

So here we go, part one of the ‘My Australia Bucket List’ series.

There are a lot of reasons why I want to visit Kakadu National Park above all other Australian attractions. I’ve seen plenty of Australia, but I’ve never been to the ‘top end’. The outback of the Northern Territory is a special place given its aboriginal history and spectacular scenery. In fact, Kakadu National Park is UNESCO World Heritage listed for both its environment and aboriginal culture. We’re not educated nearly enough in our school system on the history of our indigenous people, and there would be no better way to understand the Aboriginal way of life than by visiting one their spiritual homes. There are more than 5,000 sites showcasing Aboriginal art going back thousands of years, as well as archaeological sites dating back some 40,000 years.

With four major river systems, floodplains, lowlands, hills, basins, tidal flats, waterfalls, rock pools, and an incredibly diverse range of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects and plants, there is literally something for everyone and anyone who is interested in nature at its best. Here are the places where I am desperate to get to when I visit Kakadu National Park:

Yellow Water Billabong

Yellow Water Billabong by boat is the way to go

Yellow Water Billabong by boat is the way to go

I can’t wait to lay my eyes on a huge crocodile that call Yellow Water Billabong home. There have been many instances of crocodiles killing people Kakadu National Park, so it’s important to obey all warning signs and information from park employees. The best way to explore Yellow Water Billabong is by private cruise.

Bird watchers will love this area given Kakadu is home to a third of Australia’s bird species, including Brolgas, Kingfishers, Jabirus, Whistling Ducks and Magpie Geese, while big crocodiles and buffalo can be watched in their natural habitat. I think a sunset or sunrise cruise might be the time to go for me, for that extra special experience!

Jim Jim Waterfalls

Waterfalls and sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Kakadu

Waterfalls and sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Kakadu

I’ve seen so many images of this place on TV or in print, and I can’t wait to see it for real. Crystal clear water for swimming in looks incredible, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to get out, especially in the dry season! It also has white sandy beaches that are quite striking set in among the red ochre landscape, and the 900m walk across these rocks to reach the falls is well worth it. My research tells me you need to time your trip carefully to see decent waterfall, as it’s inaccessible during the wet season, and there are times when just a trickle comes down during the dry season.

Car hire companies won’t let you drive their vehicles to the Falls, so you’ll have to go with a tour group. if you don’t have your own 4WD.

Go Walkabout

There's so much to see simply by going for a walk

There’s so much to see simply by going for a walk

I love walking anyway, I’m always on foot exploring wherever I may be visiting, and there aren’t many better ways to explore Kakadu National Park than to just go walkabout! There are a few walks I can’t wait to get stuck into, but here are two that have caught my eye:

  • Yurmikmik Walks – Located in the southern part of Kakadu, head to waterfalls and swimming holes via the Boulder Creek Walk, Yurmikmik Lookout Walks and Motor Car Falls.
  • Mirrai Lookout – Get amazing views of the Kakadu escarpment on this walk. It starts 30km south of the Bowali Visitor Centre at Mirrai car park, and is a reasonably difficult 3.6km trek to the Mount Cahill lookout.

I’m keen for a swim, but not with big crocodiles!

I can't wait to see a big croc in the wild, just not too close though

I can’t wait to see a big croc in the wild, just not too close though

Almost as much as I love a good walk is a good swim either somewhere along the way or at the end. If there’s one thing I can tell from my Kakadu research, is it’s clearly a place for world famous swimming holes. Here are a couple that have peaked my interest:

  • Gunlom – Natural swimming pools at the top of a waterfall with amazing views across the national park…can life sound any better than that!
  • Koolpin Gorge – It’s advised you should set aside a good day to explore the many gorges, crystal rock pools and white sandy beaches in the area. Sounds like heaven to me!

Visit some incredible ancient rock art

There are loads of places to see amazing Aboriginal Rock art, but the two most famous, and most popular places seem to be the galleries at Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock.

Ubirr is a one kilometre circular walking track showcasing amazing Aboriginal art that has to be seen to be believed. There’s also a lookout with views over the floodplains below, made famous in a scene of one of Australia’s most famous and successful movies, and one of my favourites, Crocodile Dundee. Paintings of kangaroos and fishes x-ray style, spirits from the Dreamtime, and half man half yam figures from over 15,000 years ago will be great to see.

The walls of Nourlangie Rock have some of the best-preserved Aboriginal art in Kakadu, with the rock formation providing shelter and a canvas to indigenous people for thousands of years.

Warradjan Cultural Centre

Warradjan Cultural Centre, Kakadu National Park

Warradjan Cultural Centre, Kakadu National Park

In order to get a real Aboriginal education, like the one I missed out on during my school days, a visit to a cultural centre is a must and the Warradjan Cultural Centre looks like a very good option. The Murumburr, Mirrar Gun-djeihmi, Badmardi, Bunitj, Girrimbitjba, Manilakarr and Wargol clans have come together to create this impressive exhibit. You’ll be educated on the history of Kakadu, hunting techniques, marriage rituals, tribal hierarchy and the effect European settlement hand on Aborigines and the land.

Where to stay?

Kakadu Crocodile Hotel

Kakadu Crocodile Hotel

Depending on my financial situation when I start travelling around my own country upon my return, will determine where I stay. There are a few options within Kakadu to suit any budget.

Cooinda Lodge is a good mid-range option that gives great access to the Yellow Water Billabong and Warradjan Cultural Centre. There’s even camping, caravan and backpacker accommodation for the budget traveller.

Another place that looks a great spot to stay is the saltwater crocodile shaped Kakadu Crocodile Hotel. Located in the northern region of Kakadu, in a town called Jabiru, it’s ideal for exploring Ubirr, Cahill’s Crossing and Magella Creek.

I can’t wait to go

Swimming under one of Kakadu's waterfalls will be amazing

Swimming under one of Kakadu’s waterfalls will be amazing

I’ve only just touched the surface of what you can see and do in Kakadu National Park. Because it’s so big, it’s recommended you stay at least a week to get a good taste of what there is to experience. I certainly plan on doing just that when I eventually get there. The national park is so vast, the size of some small countries, that it would do it a disservice to only spend a day or two there.


Disclaimer: I was hired to write an article for Gagadju Dreaming, indigenous owners and operators of Kakadu Tourism, with their links featuring in this post. However, Kakadu National Park is on top of my Australia Bucket List, and the destinations I mention are the places I wish to go to when I visit the area.

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