Kakadu National Park

The World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park is regarded by many to be Australia’s best national park.

At almost 20,000km², Kakadu covers a large area but only a relatively small part of the park can easily be explored in a car.

Many travellers organise tours from Darwin that take in the main attractions, but independent travel is also possible with accommodation and other services available from areas within Kakadu.

Jabiru is the main town serving the park and it has accommodation, shops, a visitor centre and an airport. The East and South Alligator areas are two other accessible parts of Kakadu, each with accommodation and other services.

Kakadu is a very different park in the wet (Nov–Mar) and dry (Apr–Oct) seasons. Most backpackers visit in the dry when it is easier to travel and more comfortable. However Kakadu is much greener in the wet when it teems with wildflowers and the waterfalls are at their most powerful, but it is harder to get around as some roads are closed – even to 4WD vehicles. A wider variety of boat cruises operate during the wet and are an enjoyable way to see Kakadu at this time of year.

Tours from Darwin operate throughout the year and they tailor their itinerary to capture the best sights in each season.

Highlights of the park, which are accessible in both the wet and dry seasons, include the Mamukala Wetlands, Nourlangie rock art site and Yellow Water.

Entry to the park is free.

Coming and going and local transport

Greyhound coaches operate between Darwin and Kakadu National Park with stops at Jabiru and other areas of interest. The coach service is a little like a mini-tour and is included in some off Greyhound's coach passes.

Other options include a wide range of tours that can be booked from Darwin including a good election catering to backpackers. Tour prices range form $400 for a two-day tour to more than $1000 for a five-day 4WD safari. A day trip from Darwin starts at around $100, although one day isn't enough to properly experience Kakadu.

Kakadu Dreams is one of the most popular tour companies with backpackers. They have two-day tours for $400 and three-day tours for $535. Other tour companies running tours from Darwin include AAT Kings and Aussie Adventures.

Crocodile warning

Kakadu is a great place to spot crocodiles – unfortunately this also makes swimming in the park’s waters dangerous.

Some visitors risk swimming at some beautiful spots such as Gubara, Maguk Gorge, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. However freshwater crocodiles live here and the more dangerous estaurine (or saltwater) crocs sometimes move into these areas.

These areas are surveyed at the opening of each dry season and information is posted next to crocodile warning signs at each gorge and plunge pool area.

Park rangers recommend that the only safe places to swim are the pools at the hostels and the swimming pool at Jabiru.

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