things-to-do-in-kakadu-national-park

5 Things To Do In Kakadu National Park In A 2WD

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Londoner In Sydney is a community of expats and locals who love sharing the best destinations and activities around Australia. Be inspired, find hidden gems, stock up on local tips and discover awesome new things to do with our authentic travel guides.

Looking for things to do in Kakadu National Park in a normal car but unsure how to go about it? Luckily for you, Lisa Wilkinson (not the TV presenter) is bringing you this article as she’s spent the last two years travelling around Australia, documenting her experiences on her travel blog 2 Tiny Travellers. Go check it out and follow her Instagram @2tinytravellers and feel inspired to see more of Australia.


Why visit Kakadu National Park

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As Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu should be on the top of your list. But are you heading to the Northern Territory and wondering if you will be able to access Kakadu National Park without a 4WD? Well fear not – we did it in an old Toyota Hiace van and it was incredible!

Of course, without a 4WD you won’t be able to easily access any of the beautiful waterfalls and plunge pool and rock pools, like Gunlom falls, Jim Jim or Maguk. But please don’t let that put you off – there are so many amazing places to visit in this UNESCO World Heritage site in your trusty 2WD!


How to get to Kakadu National Park

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There are many things to do in Kakadu National Park in a day trip with the closest cities being Darwin and Katherine. You can follow 150km of sealed roads from the highways and you will need to pay a Parks Australia entry fee but it is absolutely worth the money.

Make sure you fill up with petrol in either the towns of Jabiru or Cooinda within the National Park (although don’t expect it to be cheap!). If you would like extra peace of mind then you can pack a spare jerry can of petrol but we managed without this.

It is worth a mention that there are many dirt roads that are fine to drive on in a 2WD. If you have hired your 2WD though, make sure you check the terms as some exclude dirt roads.

Kakadu National Park is steeped in history so if you would prefer a guide then why not book a day trip with a scenic flight so you don’t miss any of the sweeping views. The tour includes commentary guide, the yellow water billabong cruise and Warradjan Aboriginal cultural centre.


Best time to Visit Kakadu National Park

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I would recommend checking the National Parks website ahead of your visit to ensure the weather is safe. During the wet season (November to April) many roads are inaccessible, even to 4WDs. The dry season (May to September) would be the optimal time to plan your visit as it is cooler and the roads are a lot safer.


Food in Kakadu National Park

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Although there are a couple of food shops in Cooinda and Jabiru towns on your way in; there are no places to get food while you are out exploring the park. The food at the shops isn’t cheap and there is not a huge selection, so it might be best to pack an esky, especially if you have fussy eaters.


Things to know before you get there

Remember that Kakadu is huge! It is reasonable to expect to only be able to visit one place per day, especially if you have young kids. We spent a week there, but with a 4 and a 6 year old we like to take it slow. If you have a 4WD you could easily spend much longer, but in our week we got to see everything that we were able to in our 2WD van.

It gets very hot, so don’t forget your hats, sunscreen and enough water for the entire day. It is also worth investing in a fly head net.

Kakadu National Park is such an important, magical place that is definitely one to experience for yourself. With its stunning landscapes, abundance of wildlife and diverse flora, as well as rich Aboriginal culture dating back over 65,000 years, your visit is bound to be unforgettable!


Best things to do in Kakadu National Park

1. Ubirr Ubirr

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Ubirr Ubirr is one of the most famous spots and always top of lists for things to do in Kakadu and I couldn’t recommend it anymore. There is an easy 1km loop walk from the carpark accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. However, if you want to see the stunning lookout, there is a short steep hike up some rocks. Without shade, it can get extremely hot at the lookout so try and get there around sunrise or sunset for more comfortable viewing.

Steeped in history from our traditional owners, you can see some of the best surviving Aboriginal rock art in the world including the rainbow serpent gallery from the loop walk. It is one of the best rock art sites to see in the national park as it tells the historical story of Kakadu such as a thylacine, Tasmanian tiger, which has been extinct in Australia mainland for thousands of years.


2. Yellow Water and Cooinda

One of the best places to see saltwater crocodiles, water buffalos and some of Australia’s bird species including the white bellied sea eagles, it really is incredible. I would recommend getting here for either the sunrise or sunset yellow water cruise to get closer to the wildlife.

Sometimes there is an Aboriginal tour guide who tells the fascinating hunting and bush tucker traditions still used by the local indigenous community. If a cruise is not your thing, then in the dry season you can do a 2.6km return walk to the home billabong viewing platform.

Top tip: Close by, there is a campground at the Cooinda Lodge which has many great facilities – swimming pools, restaurants, bars and a big laundry room! Even if you are not staying the night in the Kakadu accommodation, it’s a lovely spot to relax and cool down in the midday heat.


3. Mamukala Wetlands

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If you are coming in from Darwin, your first stop when visiting Kakadu National Park should be the bird hide at the Mamukala Wetlands, a bird watching paradise! There are signs up to the bird hide along a 3km easy walk accessible by wheelchair or stroller. From here you can see a huge range of bird species including the Northern Territory loved Magpie geese, so bring your camera.

I would recommend a head net to keep the flies away in a few places, especially in the heat. If bird watching is your passion, the best time of year to visit is September at the end of the dry season as the birds have to congregate to access the scarce watering hole. It’s also the ideal time for local aboriginal people to hunt in this area.


4. Burrungkuy (Nourlangie)

Another great spot for Kakadu tourism and great to explore in a 2WD, the Burrungkuy area has Nourlangie rock which is an incredible rock art site. With evidence of over 20,000 years of Aboriginal occupation, this indigenous art is sure to blow you away. Northern Territory indigenous locals would camp along the rocks here in the wet season so you get a feel of how they lived.

There is a 1.5km short walk but there are no toilets so make sure you use the ones in the carpark before you set off. Only part of the walk is wheelchair accessible but you can still see some of the rock art and admire this awesome spot. The rest of the walk will lead you through shelters, grinding stones, all of the rock art galleries and the stunning lookout.

I would absolutely recommend finishing with a short drive to Andbangbang billabong where you can view Burrungkey and if you time it right, the main township of Jabiru.


5. Cahills Crossing

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Last but not least, exploring Cahill’s Crossing at high tide is one of the best experiences we had in Kakadu. Situated where the Arnhem Highway crosses the East Alligator River, the river covers the road carrying with it a huge range of fish such as barramundi and mullet and you can watch the crocodiles that come to eat them!

Don’t worry about getting your 2WD stuck, there is a car park a short distance from the crossing you can park up and walk to the viewing platforms that overlook the river. It is truly exciting to watch as the water trickles over the road and then the much anticipated saltwater croc jumps up right in front of the platform! A great experience for the whole family as kids would love to watch them hunt their dinner in the wild.


Where to stay in Kakadu National Park

Stay at The Cooinda Lodge

Kakadu National Park has many different places to stay, suitable for all budgets and tastes.

If you’d prefer to stay in proper accommodation or managed campgrounds, there are a few options:

  1. The Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru, one of Australia’s most distinctive hotels, is built in the shape of a crocodile! It’s a perfect location for exploring Ubirr, Burrungkuy, Cahills Crossing and the Mamukala Wetlands.
  2. Also in Jabiru is the Aurora Kakadu Lodge, which has a range of self-contained, air-conditioned studio, one and two-bedroom cabins, lodge rooms, as well as 186 powered caravan and campsites and 100 unpowered campsites. They have a pool, bar, bistro and BBQ facilities.
  3. The Cooinda Lodge is located near the Yellow Water Billabong. It has great facilities – swimming pools, restaurants, bars. It is a lovely spot to relax, especially in the middle of the day when it is too hot to be out exploring.

As well as the campgrounds at the places mentioned above, you can also stay in more remote bush camps, if that’s more your thing. In a 2WD, you won’t be able to access all of the bush camps in the national park, but you can camp at:

1. Burdulba campground, near Burrungkuy and Nanguluwurr, which is suitable for tents and has fire pits, pit toilets and cold showers available.

2. Muirella Park Campground is only accessible in the dry season. It is centrally located in the park on a sealed road, it has drinking water, flushing toilets and hot showers, as well a fire pits and a boat ramp.

3. Gungurul Campground is located 58 km from Cooinda, and has pit toilets and fire pits.


5 Things to do in Kakadu National Park in a 2WD

things-to-do-Kakadu-national-park

A big thanks to Lisa for sharing her guide. If you would like to write for us, fill out this form and let us know what you would like to write about. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

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