Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory is a hotbed of wildlife experiences, cultural opportunities, and epic views. Sadly, we know some people say Kakadu is a KakaDON’T. This wasn’t our experience at all! We had a short, but fabulous stay in Kakadu as part of our Explorers Way trip from Adelaide to Darwin. Hopefully, our list of the top things to do in Kakadu National Park will make your experience a KakaDO too!
Visiting Kakadu National Park with a 2WD
Covering nearly 20,000 square km and Australia’s national park, Kakadu National Park is unlike any other landscape in Australia. Dual-listed as both a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage site, Kakadu offers abundant wildlife, varied landscapes, and unique cultural experiences.
Kakadu has been on my bucket list for years, but we just never seemed to make it to the Top End despite how much time we spend in Australia. Finally, we visited Kakadu as part of our Nature’s Way spinoff from the Explorers Way! Thankfully, it held up as a bucket list-worthy destination.
8 Top Things to Do in Kakadu National Park
We visited during the dry season and some of these activities, such as Animal Tracks Safari, are not available during the wet season (tropical summer). Keep that in mind when planning your trip.
We had a 2WD camper van for our visit. If you have a 4WD, other destinations such as Gunlom Plunge Pool or Jim Jim Falls may be accessible for you. If you have a rental car, make sure and check the agreement carefully. Even some 4WD rentals ban specific roads in Kakadu.
1. Get Into the Bush on Animal Tracks Safari
Our favorite Kakadu experience!
An Animal Tracks Safari is a chance to get hands-on learning about Aboriginal culture and bushcraft. You spend the afternoon and evening in the Kakadu bush gathering food, supplies, and medicines. At sunset, you prepare what you gathered and enjoy the stunning view over the Kakadu wetlands. This 8-hour tour is family-friendly for preschoolers and up.
You can read all about our experience and how to book here.
2. Experience the Wetland on a Sunrise Yellow Water Cruise
A cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong is a classic Kakadu National Park experience. The good news is that classic doesn’t mean boring!
Yellow Water Cruises sail all day, but we loved the colors and active wildlife at sunrise. You leave the dock in the dark and see and hear the wetland come to life with the sun. The 2-hour sunrise cruise includes a post-cruise buffet breakfast at Cooinda Lodge.
For those looking for saltwater croc sightings, this is the tour. You will definitely see crocodiles. Too many crocodiles, if you ask our kids. They were “croc’ed out” by the end of the cruise, but they had also seen a lot of crocodiles recently. With over 60 species of birds found in the wetlands, you should see plenty of those too. If you’re really lucky even a Jabiru or dancing Brolgas.
3. Unwind at the Sunset from Ubirr
In the evening, head to Ubirr for the beautiful views over the floodplains and sunset. Be warned, this is a busy spot. Arrive an hour early to enjoy the Ubirr rock art on your way to the lookout.
Ubirr is the most popular sunset spot in Kakadu. You will have lots of friends to share the view with you. Don’t linger too long after sunset. A park ranger locks the parking lot gate as darkness falls.
4. Be Amazed by Aboriginal Rock Art
Kakadu National Park has two major rock art sites – Ubirr and Burungkuy (previously called Nourlangie). Both locations offer ranger talks during the dry season. Unfortunately, when we visited, the talks were earlier in the day. Since we timed our visits for sunset, that didn’t work for us.
If you already plan to catch the sunset at Ubirr, arrive one hour early and enjoy the rock art before heading up to the lookout. Ubirr’s rock art includes x-ray paintings of all types of bush food. The famous x-ray paintings are one of the reasons Kakadu was on my bucket list. It was such a thrill to see it in person!
If you have more time in Kakadu, you can also visit Burrungkuy. The 1.5 km circular walk takes you to a large rock shelter and an amazing rock art site that features the Creation Ancestor Namondjok, and the Creation Ancestor Namarrkon.
5. Stretch Your Legs on a Bush Walk
Kakadu has a huge variety of bush walks. You can find on to suit your fancy on the official Kakadu National Park website. The 2.5 km Bardedjilidji Walk is a family-friendly hike with a cool cave shelter to explore. If you hike early before the crowds you may spot a rare barrk, a black wallaroo found only in Kakadu.
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre near Cooinda was developed by the Bininj/Mungguy traditional owners of the land. The displays range from Dreamtime stories to personal histories to bush tucker.
Bowali Visitor Centre in Jabiru is the place to learn about the plants, animals, and landscapes you’ll see in the park.
7. Catch Sight of Crocs at Cahills Crossing
Cahills Crossing is a flooded causeway located on the East Alligator River that separates Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land. The crossing is also one of the most notorious saltwater croc-infested locations in all of Australia. Every year cars who misjudge the tides are swept into the river.
At low tide, cars can cross safely and fishermen even brave the waters. Not ones to take our chances, we stood safely on the viewpoint next to the road. I had the heebie-jeebies watching people near the river.
At high tide, basks of salties congregate at the river crossing to gobble up fish swimming upstream with the tide. Beware anyone who is near the water at this time of day. Make sure it’s not you!
8. Get a Birds-Eye View of Kakadu and Arnhem Land
A helicopter or fixed-wing flight over Kakadu and Arnhem Land is an expensive, but top-rated activity in Kakadu National Park. You get an aerial view of the escarpments, wildlife, and destinations you may not be able to access otherwise. For example, even with a 4WD drive Jim Jim Falls is closed during the wet season and peak tourist season.
We didn’t do this, but our campground neighbors did and couldn’t stop raving.
You can see the national park’s list of approved scenic flight providers here.
Kakadu National Park Pass
Every visitor to Kakadu National Park needs a park pass. The quickest and easiest way to get a pass is to buy it online. Park passes are good for 7-days and can be extended to 14-days for FREE.
A Family Pass (2 adults + children) costs AUD$65. A single adult costs AUD$25. Children 5-15 cost AUD$12.50. Kids under 5 are FREE.
Where to Stay in Kakadu National Park
We split our stay between the campground at Cooinda Lodge (click here for photos and current prices) and Merl campground not far from Jabiru. For us, two different home bases let us explore the park more efficiently and sleep in a little extra for sunrise excursions.
We rely on booking.com to save us time and money when booking accommodation. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. You can see their Kakadu National Park properties here.
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