Some 150km east of Darwin lies KAKADU NATIONAL PARK, one of the most spectacular and varied wilderness areas in Australia, and World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural riches. Kakadu derives its name from the Bininj/Mungguy people, the area’s traditional owners, who jointly manage the park with the Australian government.
Covering more than 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu is a challenging place to appreciate in a short visit; aim to allow a minimum of three days, and consider either renting a 4WD or joining a 4WD tour. Try too to factor in a river cruise to get to more remote areas. The dry-season months are the most popular times to visit, with little or no rain, acceptable humidity and temperatures, and conspicuous wildlife. Towards the end of the Dry, birdlife congregates around the shrinking waterholes, while November’s rising temperatures and epic electrical storms herald the onset of the Wet. To see Kakadu during the Wet, which sees up to 1600mm of torrential rainfall between December and March, or the early Dry is, many argue, to see it at its best. While some major sights are inaccessible and the wildlife dispersed, the waterfalls are in full flow and the land possesses a verdant splendour that can be breathtaking.
You could easily spend a week visiting all the spots detailed here, ideally followed by a return visit six months later to observe the seasonal changes. All the places mentioned here are reached off either the Arnhem or Kakadu highways. Most roads are accessible to 2WDs, except where indicated; 4WD tracks are closed during the Wet when even the highways can be underwater at times.