Kakadu National Park is one of the most magical places in the world. It is home to the oldest living culture, which has survived over 65,000 years through generations of Aboriginals. Inside the national park are over 500 known rock art sites and I’m sure there are thousands more hidden throughout the park. Kakadu National Park is located in the Northern Territory just a couple of hours from the capital city of Darwin.
We visited for a week and enjoyed beautiful viewpoints like Ubirr Rock Lookout and Nourlangie Rock Lookout and also experienced the Yellow Waters river with alligator tours and Barramundi Fishing. These are 12 unique things to do in Kakadu National Park that will amaze you!
HOW TO GET FROM DARWIN TO KAKADU
The most common spot to base yourself in the Northern Territory is the capital city, Darwin. From Darwin, you can rent a car and drive through Kakadu National Park. The drive takes just over 1.5 hours and you have sealed roads the entire way along the highway. You will need a car in the National Park unless you plan on doing a tour every single day, which is possible but I highly suggest renting a car for that freedom to explore. Alternatively, it can be a great idea to book the tour below that also includes a billabong cruise!
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK TOUR FROM DARWIN
The best way to have a great experience visiting lots of the unique things to do in Kakadu National Park is on an organized tour run by a local expert guide. This specific tour includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Darwin. The tour I am recommending to you takes you to all of the top highlights in Kakadu but also includes a Billabong Boat Cruise!
Book your tour: Full Day-Trip to Kakadu + Bonus Boat Cruise
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK FEES
The Kakadu National Park fees are $40 for an Adult or $100 for an adult. Kids under 15 are $15. Your pass is valid for 7 days and can be extended to 14 for free. You can book your passes before you arrive by visiting this page on the official website. Below is a breakdown of where your entry fee will be going and with transparency like this you can be assured your entry fee is helping to preserve this beautiful region for generations to come.
WHERE TO STAY IN KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
I stayed at Cooinda Lodge and it was one of the highlights of the trip and incredibly well-organized accommodations as well as a tour operator. They are keen to show off all the things to do in Kakadu National Park, teach you about the local culture, and of course, make your stay the best they can.
Cooinda Lodge: It is seriously the best place you can stay in Kakadu National Park for a few reasons:
- Firstly, you are in the outback and might expect some average food. The chef at Cooinda Lodge defies that and whips up some amazing dishes. He incorporates local ingredients like the crocodile, local berries and fruits, and of course barramundi into modern cooking.
- Secondly, the rooms are great. Kakadu National Park is great but it is damn hot. There is nothing better than coming back after a day of exploring all the things to do in Kakadu National park and enjoying an air-conditioned room, hot shower, coffee, and relaxing on a comfy bed.
- Thirdly, Cooinda Lodge is more than just an accommodation. It is the hub of lots of tours run by the same owner. They run the sunrise and sunset crocodile tours on the Yellow Water, which I did both of. I also did the sunrise barramundi fishing experience on the Yellow Waters and it was so stunning and peaceful in the morning. I also did a full-day waterfall tour of Gunlom and other secret waterfalls in the area.
- Fourth and final, you are nearby lots of attractions like Nourlangie Rock. If you have your own car you can explore on your own and enjoy the unique atmosphere of Kakadu National Park.
12 TOP UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
In this section of the article, I will share all of the top spots to visit in Kakadu National Park.
NOURLANGIE ROCK VIEWPOINT AND ROCK ART
We visited Nourlangie Rock twice. Once we visited during sunset and then we decided to come early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Both were immensely beautiful and the peaceful, quiet atmosphere in this area really gave you time to take it all in and appreciate the history, culture, and landscape of where you were sitting. Hanging out up here was one of my favorite things to do in Kakadu National Park.
The walk up to the viewpoint from the parking lot takes about ten minutes and is mildly steep. Most tourists will be more than capable of this short walk. At the top, you have sweeping views of the Burrungkuy region. The scenes from the top are what Kakadu is all about for me. That vastness and almost prehistoric feeling hit you hard. It’s amazing to sit up here and think that the local culture is still alive after 65,000 years. Australia, as we know, has been formed for less than 200 years to put that into perspective.
The Nourlangie Rock/Viewpoint and Rock art is included in the day trip from Darwin. On this day trip tour you will do a Yellow-Water crocodile cruise and visit Nourlangie Rock art among other sites.
View full blog post: NOURLANGIE ROCK (NAWURLANDJA LOOKOUT)
Book your tour: Full Day-Trip to Kakadu + Bonus Boat Cruise
BARRAMUNDI FISHING TRIP FOR SUNRISE
One of the coolest things to do in Kakadu National Park is to wake up before sunrise and head out onto the Yellow Water Billabong on a small boat. We did a Barramundi fishing tour and it was insanely beautiful and we caught a lot of fish. At sunrise, we were the only ones out on the water and it was glassy still. The reflections were immaculate. We saw lots of crocodiles too so this tour was almost like a sightseeing tour as well as a fishing tour. We ended up catching about 10 Barramundi fish, but they were slightly too small to keep. We were casting right next to a big crocodile at one stage who didn’t seem to care and saw lots of other native animals throughout our time on the water.
If you do get a Barramundi that is of the legal size you can take it to the restaurant at Cooinda Lodge and the chef will cook it up with some fries and salad for a small cost.
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UBIRR SUNSET VIEWPOINT AND ROCK ART
When you arrive you will find a parking lot. From here there is a 1-kilometer circuit, which leads you through several rock-art sites. The rock art was distinctly different from many I had seen before. There were several alien-looking figures that guides had told us were bad people. Instead of dot painting, only many of the paintings had solid lines. With hundreds of different tribes across the country over thousands of years, it’s so intriguing to see the different styles and stories being told.
From the 1-kilometer circuit, you can venture up further. On the way up the rocks, you will pass several more rock art sites. There is a defined trail and you are asked to stay on this trail to protect these important, sacred sites. There is plenty of exploring to do once you reach the top areas, so please stay on the trail as you make the ascent.
Once you reach the first plateau you will get some epic views of the Nadab Floodplain. It looks like you are peering out over an African plain and I found myself waiting for an elephant or giraffe to pop out from behind a tree. The Floodplain seems to extend forever!
Despite all of the intriguing rock art sites, it is the sunset that most tourists come to Ubirr for. As the sun begins to set a crowd assembles atop the Ubirr Rock to bring an end to the day. Northern Territory is known for its epic sunsets and especially for the red ball of fire. When the sun sets it isn’t blinding it is a fiery red ball, which you can seemingly stare directly at without being blinded.
The night we visited Ubirr Rock for sunset was a sunset to remember. After the official sunset time had passed and the sun had disappeared most of the tourists left. However, a few of us knew there could be more to come and we stuck around for the show of colors. It paid off as pastels began to float through the sky over the Nadab Plain.
View full blog post: UBIRR ROCK SUNSET LOOKOUT
Gunlom Falls was one of my favorite adventurous things to do in Kakadu National Park. The adventure starts with a short but very steep hike from the bottom pool to the top of the falls. At the top of the falls are a series of cascading pools with so much to explore. There are so many unique rock pools, cliff jump spots, and even a spot to look out over the plains at the bottom of the falls. This is a spot you can hang out at all day so bring your lunch and settle in.
At the bottom of the falls is a giant swimming hole. It’s rumored that a fresh-water female crocodile lives in the pool. Don’t worry if it is true they aren’t dangerous like their saltwater counterparts. We swam in the pool like many others although when we visited, there was only a dribble of a waterfall as it was during the dry season.
Moline Falls was a brilliant little spot hidden off the main road. We walked in for a few minutes and found a little waterfall tucked away in the trees. The water was incredibly clear and we went for a swim, exploring the depths of the pool below the falls. Without much direct sunlight, this water was chilly!
Cahills Crossing is quite a bizarre attraction. It is the only point of entry into Arnhem Land, which is a remote region of the Northern Territory. Each day the water rises and subsidies across the road. This means drivers have to time their run to make it across at the low tide. Tourists tend to gather around the time in between the safe and dangerous moments. Drivers have been known to miscalculate and get stuck in the current and lose their cars. It is an incredibly odd situation as onlookers almost will on drivers to charge into a dangerous road that is submerged underwater. Here is a video of a driver who made a huge mistake at Cahills Crossing.
It is also one of Australia’s biggest hotspots for saltwater crocodiles, which is a deadly combination.
YELLOW WATERS SUNSET CRUISE
The sunset cruise on the Yellow Waters Billabong is probably one of the most popular things to do in Kakadu National Park. As dusk nears the wildlife around the billabong springs into life. A variety of bird species jump into action while snakes, spiders, and critters can be found in the trees along the banks. Water Buffalo and crocodiles are the big attraction of the show and we managed to record many sightings of both.
The sunset tour runs for about an hour and a half and crocodile sightings are almost guaranteed! We were lucky enough to have the sunset of the year the night we were on board or maybe it was just normal for Kakadu National Park.
We were lucky enough to visit Kakadu National Park during Taste Week and participated in a Hangi Lunch. Local indigenous landowners killed several buffalo and cooked them in a traditional Hangi. This involves digging a huge hole, burying the buffalo beneath a layer of coals, and essentially steaming the meat. It was an awesome experience and one of the most unique lunches I’ve ever had and one of the most unique things to do in Kakadu National Park.
GUNAWARRDEHWARDE ROCK ART AND VIEWPOINT
There are over 5,000 Aboriginal rock art sites in Kakadu National Park and there are some spectacular examples at Nourlangie Rock Area that depict lightning dreaming. We visited several throughout our visit to Nourlangie Rock and the surrounding area and enjoyed reading the explanation of the story and the images.
*There were things to do in Kakadu National Park that are among the most popular attractions to do in Kakadu National Park that I didn’t get to do. Normally, I only share the adventures I get up to myself. However, because of the end of the huge wet season, Jim Jim Falls and Motorcar Falls were closed. Therefore I will talk about them briefly here and I hope you can have the chance to visit these amazing spots. I will hopefully return during the right season.
A 7.5km trek will take you to the pristine Motorcar Falls where you can swim in the bottom pool. Along the walk, you can spot an abundance of wildlife as this is not a heavily trafficked spot and is one of the most beautiful things to do in Kakadu National Park.
JIM JIM FALLS
Jim Jim Falls can be found during a 2km return walk through a monsoon forest. The walk will take you into the wild and across boulders and finally lead you into a deep plunge pool. The waterfall is the biggest in Kakadu National Park at 200 meters high.
SCENIC FLIGHT OVER KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
A 60-minute scenic flight is one of the most popular things to do in Kakadu National Park. Not only is it a great way to take in the whole park, but it also lets you access areas that are otherwise closed. For example, when Jim Jim Falls is at its peak it is off-limits to tourists. Often it is also closed in the wet season before it can be checked for crocodiles and opened to the public.
Book a tour: 60-minute Kakadu Helicopter Flight