While you have probably seen countless images and videos that showcase the natural beauty of the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park, there is nothing like actually seeing it with your own two eyes. Australia’s largest National Park shelters a variety of habitats and wildlife, rugged escarpments, lush rainforest, cascading waterfalls, sparkling waterholes, and stunning rock art galleries that are around 50,000 years old. Since there are hundreds of square kilometres of park to explore, the following are the main areas you absolutely must experience while visiting.
South Alligator Area
The main thing that people come to see in the South Alligator Area is the Mamukala wetlands. About 65 kilometres into the park you will see a short track that leads to an observation area on the edge of the wetlands. The best time to visit this area is towards the end of the dry season (September and October), because many birds will be congregating. There are a few walks you can do around the area, such as the Gu-ngarre walk that takes you through woodland, monsoonal forest and along the edge of the Anggardbal billabong.
If you’re looking for a town centre with services such as a supermarket, post office, bank, chemist and accommodation, then Jabiru is the place to be. From here you can book scenic flights and commercial Kakadu tours at the Jabiru Travel Centre, or simply plan your next move. While visiting, you absolutely must check out the Bowali Visitor Centre to get up-to-date information about Kakadu. You will see displays, videos, a library, maps and plenty of Aboriginal art and crafts. You can also get more information about what to do in the park, how to get around, and what events are taking place.
East Alligator Area
To get to the East Alligator Area, you must take a 40-kilometre side trip off of the Arnhem/Kakadu Highway intersection. This will take you right to the border between Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land. Since it is an Aboriginal reservation area, you must have a permit or be on a guided tour to access it, which can be arranged either through Jabiru or organised as part of a Darwin tour. The main attraction in the area is Ubirr rock, which you can see following a short bushwalk. Here you will find some of the most fascinating Aboriginal rock art. Climbing to the top will afford you spectacular views of the Nardab flood plains and Arnhem Land.
You can get to this area by turning off of the Kakadu Highway 19 kilometres past Bowali Visitor Centre. This area is well known for its fabulous Aboriginal rock art as well as a beautiful rock shelter that you can explore. For some fantastic views, check out Gunwarrddehwardde Lookout, or enjoy lunch at the Anbangbang Billabong picnic area. If you’re up it, some great bushwalks include: Barrk bushwalk, Nawurlandja Lookout, Nanguluwur, and Gubara Pools.
Jim Jim Falls Area
While visiting the park, you’ll probably want to see some of the famous waterfalls. 43 kilometres south of the Bowali Visitor Centre will land you at Jim Jim Falls Area, which is only accessible in the dry season by 4WD. A short walk will bring you to Jim Jim Falls, which is the park’s most spectacular waterfall. Also in the area is Twin Falls, and a 6-kilometre walk will take you to the plateau above the falls, which offers beautiful views of the pools along Twin Falls Creek.