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Last updated on August 19th, 2023 at 06:40 pm

Are you curious about how you can visit Australia’s Kakadu National National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site responsibly? The best things to do in Kakadu revolve around enjoying the rich cultural heritage and incredible nature with sustainable ecotourism and Indigenous-led experiences. This guide covers  22 incredible things to do in Kakadu while providing everything you need to know to plan your visit, including the best time to visit, park information, eco-lodges to book, cultural and sustainable tips, and amazing ecology facts!

Kakadu aerial view

Kakadu is a dream destination for aficionados of cultural ecotourism. Sustainable and responsible tourism is accessible to every type of traveler while exploring Kakadu’s incredible ancient lands. Whether you want to take it easy while learning at the Warradjan Cultural Center or turn it up a notch with an off-road adventure through the outback to breathtaking waterfalls, there is something to do in Kakadu for everyone.

Scenic viewpoint of monsoon forest at Ubirr in Kakadu Australia

Being a National Park, UNESCO Cultural, and Natural World Heritage park, Kakadu has dozens of things to see and do that immerse you in the intertwined natural and cultural landscape. Many of these incredible things showcase what makes Kakadu such a remarkable place. As you visit and explore, remember that Kakadu is a sacred place and a biodiversity hotspot, so engaging in sustainable, responsible, and mindful activities will enhance your experience and preserve the cultural and natural beauty for generations to come. This guide will help you discover the best nature-based and cultural things to do for a trip unlike any other.

Sustainable Cultural Ecotourism in Kakadu National Park Australia Things to do

To ensure you are embracing all the principles of sustainable ecotourism, read my comprehensive guide to ecotourism and the responsible traveler’s guide to UNESCO World Heritage sites which cover the aspects of being a responsible traveler in sensitive places like Kakadu to ensure you engage in regenerative tourism.

QUICK LOOK

  • Established as a national park in 1979 and a UNESCO Cultural Heritage and Biosphere Reserve in 1981
  • Kakadu is co-managed by Bininj and Mungguy traditional owners and the Australian government.
  • People have inhabited the land for 65,000 years
  • The closure of a uranium mine shifted the economy from resource extraction to Indigenous-led tourism
  • Kakadu is perfect for cultural and sustainable ecotourism with lots of enriching things to do

Kakadu Park History and Ecology

Kakadu National Park is a culturally and environmentally sensitive region in the Northern Territory of Australia. With more national parks than any other country, Kakadu is just one of 650 national parks in Australia, covering 20,000 km of land. It was first named an Aboriginal Reserve in 1964 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1972. Finally, in 1979, it became an official national park, and then in 1981, UNESCO designated the region as a World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve. 

Aerial view of East Alligator River in Kakadu

Kakadu is derived from the Gagudju Indigenous language that was historically spoken in the park. However, as one of our Indigenous guides mentioned, Kakadu is not a place name but a misinterpretation of an abstract concept. Though he seemed to be okay with the name, considering the many clans and languages (over 200 at one point) spoken in the region refer to parts of the park differently, making it a complex place to name, and Kakadu seems to fit nicely.

Kakadu’s Rich Biodiversity

Kakadu is a biodiversity hotspot. It is home to rare monsoon forests, ancient sandstone mountains, savanna forests, wetlands, 2,000 different plant species, ⅓ of Australia’s total bird life, and ⅕ of its mammals. One of the most iconic species in the park is the magpie goose. These boisterous waterfowl are found only in N. Australia and S. New Guinea. The goose is considered a keystone species, providing a critical role as a grazer of wetlands and a food source for both the Indigenous People and crocodiles. While their population is stable, they are restricted to a small habitat range. They are threatened by habitat loss from rising sea levels that could flood their nesting grounds. Read about how the Indigenous community is involved in understanding rising sea levels to protect magpie geese and other vital species. Watch for some of Australia’s most iconic species, including Kookaburra, wallabies, frilled-neck lizards, black cockatoos, and saltwater crocodiles, as you explore.

Invasive Feral Buffalo and Pigs 

While I don’t want to dive too deep into this topic, as it is an incredibly complex and nuanced issue involving local and Indigenous stakeholders, I want to touch on it. In the 1800s, water buffalo were introduced to the region by colonizing settlers as a source of meat. The population got out of control and currently wreaks havoc on the local environment, threatening species such as the magpie geese, ruining cultural sites, spreading invasive plants, and destroying wetland habitats.

Thousands are in the wild, and some are on ranching stations. Local ranchers raise and collect the species from the wild before live transporting them to SE Asia primarily for meat. The buffalo are alive when they are shipped in a very traumatic and unethical experience where many of them die. Campaigns to end this practice in Australia encourage ranchers toward a local butchering process.

waterfowl, magpie geese and whistling ducks at Mamukala Wetlands Kakadu

Most people, including many traditional owners, agree that feral and invasive species damage the environment and must be controlled. However, it is crucial to consider that many have come to rely on the species as an essential food source or a revenue stream over the years, and a transition plan, if the species were to be eradicated, is critical. One key element includes the Traditional Owners in management practices such as culling, monitoring, and conservation work.

As you explore Kakadu, remember that pigs and buffalo are not native to the region and bring many complex issues. While I saw them, I did not photograph or glamorize them to not set a precedent for other tourists to expect them.

Culture and People

The land’s traditional owners have inhabited the region for at least 65,000 years, making it one of the planet’s most culturally significant regions.

The Bininj, Mungguy, and Gagudju are the traditional owners of the land that includes Kakadu National Park. Outside of Kakadu, many additional clans exist in a region known as Arnhem land. The Indigenous people have inhabited the region and acted as stewards of the land for millennia. They documented their pre-historic life history and Dreamtime stories painted on rock cliffs hidden in the nooks and crannies of ancient sandstone cliffs. 

Indigenous Australian man throwing a spear Guluyambi Culture Cruise

But Kakadu’s traditional owners are not just people of ancient stories; they remain as caretakers with a rich culture today. After generations of abhorrent treatment by Australian colonizers, many died or were forced to relocate to mission-run communities that contradicted their ancestral and clan-focused way of life. During a period that started in the 1970s, the homeland movement began with many returning to small rural communities based on family and clan dynamics and more traditional life.

Many Indigenous people live in Kakadu and are involved in tourism, while others reside outside the park and live more traditional lifestyles off the land. Others seek employment in ranching or conservation as paid bush rangers, park rangers, or controlling invasive feral buffalo.

Sustainability and Cultural Ecotourism

Sustainable Indigenous-led ecotourism is a critical source of revenue to maintain Kakadu’s cultural and environmental integrity. Even though Kakadu is a national park and UNESCO site, right smack dab in the middle of the park was a uranium mine. The Ranger Mine was controversial, environmentally detrimental, and opposed by most local residents, including the land’s traditional owners. To the relief of many, the mine closed in 2021. However, one uncertainty remained: funding for maintenance in the park and livelihood for the remaining residents.  In a historical event, the mining town of Jabiru was given back to the Indigenous people of Kakadu to develop as a cultural and tourism hub in a post-mining landscape.

Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu National Park

Cultural ecotourism to the rescue! I am one to be cautious about over-advertising the benefits of tourism, but Kakadu is genuinely remarkable for regenerative and community-led tourism in action. The tourism model benefits biodiversity, upholds traditional cultural values, and is community-led to support residents economically.

The national park is co-managed by Parks Australia and local Indigenous community members who receive lease payments for their land and manage and develop most of the tourism in the park. That’s right, Tourism Kakadu is an Indigenous-owned and led tourism group of hotels, activities, restaurants, bush ranger programs, and more!

That means engaging in culturally respectful tourism that benefits the natural environment is super easy – which is how it should be if you ask me! But, of course, we must be active participants as we explore the park, so remember to:

  1. Respect all cultural and sacred sites – do not cross fences, trespass, touch, deface, or mark any rock paintings.
  2. Learn about the lands’ traditional owners and engage in meaningful cultural exchange – book tours with Indigenous guides and visit art and cultural centers. 
  3. Respect the natural environment. Do not litter, go off trail, touch or feed wildlife, or collect or harvest natural resources.
  4. Learn about nature with ecology tours, guided nature walks, reading signposts, and educating yourself on local conservation issues and concerns.
  5. Even if traveling on a budget, budget to support Indigenous art, culture, tours, and excursions.
  6. Stop the spread – Clean your boots and clothing before entering Kakadu, and as you hike around the park to prevent the spread of invasive plants. Keep things seed and dirt-free. Avoid glamorizing the existence of invasive feral animals.
  7. The ecosystem is very flammable. Do not smoke in the park.
  8. Learn the cultural nuances – posting photos of Indigenous people can sometimes be taboo. Drinking alcohol can also be a sensitive issue in some communities. Some experiences prohibit alcohol.
  9. Conserve Water – the region can have water shortages, especially during the dry season.

The 6 Seasons of Kakadu

Before we get into all the incredible things you can do to enjoy cultural ecotourism in Kakadu National Park, we need to cover the 6 seasons of Kakadu. The landscape of Kakadu and nearby Arnhem land changes dramatically with the seasons. Cracked and drying muddy banks along shrunken billabongs eventually give way to thunderclouds and monsoons, bringing new life and expansive flooded wetlands.

Storm coming into Kakadu

The 6 seasons of Kakadu are essential to planning weather-appropriate activities that may be available only at certain times of the year. Dirt roads may flood during monsoon season, making places like Jim Jim Falls inaccessible by land – but incredible to view from the air. At the same time, the dry season is better for off-roading adventures. While there is somewhat of an ideal window of time to visit Kakadu, there are things to do year-round. Understanding the 6 seasons can help you plan your activities and the best time to visit. 

The seasons of Kakadu don’t have specific start and end dates like our Western calendar. Instead, it is based on temperature, weather patterns, and animal behavior. However, they are generally consistent enough to plan around. 

Kudjewk – Monsoon Season

  • Kakadu’s tropical summer
  • Thunderstorms, flooding, and heavy rains dominate the weather
  • Vast expanses of wetlands emerge
  • Massive levels of growth for vegetation with everything turning lush and green
  • Magpie geese return to the wetlands to nest.
  • Average temps 25-34°C
  • Most back-country roads closed
  • Usually, December to March

Bangkerreng – Windy Season

  • The season opens with strong winds
  • Heavy rains subside, and blue skies emerge
  • Floodwaters recede
  • Kakadu is alive – plants are fruiting, and baby animals learn the ropes
  • Average temps 23-34°C
  • April

Yekke – Cool and Humid Season

  • A relatively calm season with cooling temperatures and infrequent storms
  • Wetlands and billabongs are still full of water and blooming lilies
  • Indigenous land stewards often begin their controlled patch burns to bring new life
  • Average temps 21-33°C
  • Usually May – mid-June

Wurrkeng – Cold Season

  • Cool temperatures at night with low humidity
  • Floodplains, billabongs, and creeks quickly dry
  • Most waterbirds gather at the shrinking billabongs – great for birding
  • Average temps 17-32°C
  • Mid-June to mid-August

Kurrung – Hot and Dry Season

  • Most water sources are dried up, save for a few year-round billabongs and wetlands.
  • Reptiles, such as goannas, sea and long-necked turtles, lay eggs
  • Dry and brown landscapes
  • Some seasonal birds begin to return leading up to the monsoon seasons
  • Average temps 23-37°C
  • Mid-August to mid-October

Kunumeleng – Pre-Monsoon Season

  • Humidity and temperatures increase, building up to increasing storms.
  • Afternoon rain is common – bringing some new life to the region
  • Animals and people begin to move – Barramundi head to estuaries for breeding, birds spread out with expanding billabongs, and the Indigenous people would migrate to shelter from storms
  • It can last for a few weeks to several months
  • Average temps 24-37°C
  • Mid-October to December

thrilled-neck lizard kakadu

The Best Time to Visit Kakadu

Each of these 6 seasons has pros and cons for visiting, but to make things easier, we can divide them into 2 broad categories – dry and wet.

Dry Season – April/May to October

The dry season is the peak season and when most people visit. Most attractions, accommodations, and roads are open, making it a great time to see the best of Kakadu. That also means you may encounter crowds, and hotels and experiences may book quickly. 

However, within this window, you will have lots of variety. 

If you visit in the shoulder season of April or May, there will still be a lot of lush green landscapes and water, making jet boat experiences memorable. However, some roads may still be closed depending on the current state of ongoing flooding. 

If you visit the shoulder season of October (like we did), you will encounter fewer crowds but hotter weather. The landscapes are much drier, and billabongs are much smaller (but still there with many birds). October is between Kurrung (Hot and dry season) and Kunumeleng (Pre-monsoon season). While it was hot, we enjoyed minimal crowds at most locations. While we avoided the intense heat of mid-day, we still managed to get some hikes in, visit Billabongs, go birding, flightseeing, visit cultural centers, rock paintings, jet boating, and river cruising.

a group of birds at the Leaning Tree Billabong Australia

All roads were accessible. This is a great time to visit waterfall sites, go birding, go off-roading, take cultural tours, and do almost everything else in Kakadu. 

I want to return to visit during the wetter May shoulder season to see the landscape in all its lush green glory! 

Tropical Wet Summer – November to March/April 

The wet season is, well, wet. With all that rain and flooding, most backcountry roads are closed, meaning waterfall access to places like Jim Jim Falls is off-limits. However, flightseeing tours to see the roaring falls from a bird’s eye view are supposedly incredible at this time. Animals are active during this time of plenty, making activities like Yellow Water cruises an exciting adventure. 

Shiny Ibis in water

The main road through the park, easy-to-access sites like the Ubirr paintings, Yellow Water Cruises, and most hotels inside the national park remain open now. However, specific luxury accommodations outside the park, like Bamurru Plains, close during the extreme wet season.  

Make sure you pack all your rain gear and clothing that is breathable, quick dry, and still protects you from the sun.

Cultural Things to Do in Kakadu

Kakadu has one of the best models of cultural Indigenous-led tourism I have personally encountered. Because of the rich cultural heritage and history, engaging in cultural activities fosters meaningful cultural exchange. To know and appreciate the beautiful landscapes, you must first get acquainted with the people connected to the land and remain today as stewards. While most of the tourism operators are Indigenous-owned, you will ideally go one step further and talk to and learn from the Traditional Owners.

Get Your Park Pass at the Visitor Center

Picking up your Kakadu National Park Pass should be the first thing you do in Kakadu. This mandatory permit is required when traveling through and visiting sites in Kakadu National Park. The pass varies in price depending on age and season (it’s cheaper during tropical summer). For us, it was $40 per adult during the dry season. Depending on your itinerary, you may need a special permit. For example, if you plan on camping, exploring the backcountry, filming, or photographing for commercial purposes (drones never allowed), you must contact the visitor center for a permit.

I love how transparent Parks Australia is about where the fees collected from permits go, with nearly 40% going directly into paying the land’s traditional owners’ lease payments for operating a national park on their land. The rest goes towards funding infrastructure, maintenance, conservation work, bush rangers, educational programs, operations, and cultural heritage.

You can buy most Kakadu permits online, which is the easiest option, or pick them up in person from the Bowali Visitor Center. Make sure you have the pass on you at all times.

What to Eat in Kakadu? Try Bush Tucker Food, Drinks, and Spirits.

The Bininj and Mungguy have spent tens of thousands of years honing their survival skills in one of the harshest environments. They excel in hunting and gathering to create meals in what is now called bush tucker food. Bush Tucker cuisine uses traditional ingredients consumed by the Indigenous people of Kakadu. The food options include crocodile steak, barramundi, magpie goose, root tubers, native fruits, and green ants. 

Magpie geese in Northern Territory Australia

You can enjoy bush fruit, vegetables, and bread made with waterlily flour as a vegetarian. Ganesh and I are both vegetarians, but I believe that the future of sustainable nutrition is insects and Indigenous-led land management, so we did sample Indigenous items made with native green ants. 

My dietary preferences aside, Indigenous-sourced bush tucker food is probably the most sustainable and ethical cuisine you might find on this planet. If you are going to try the barramundi, croc, or goose, then I encourage you to do so at an Indigenous-owned establishment or while supporting Indigenous-owned businesses for a cultural and ethical experience.

There are several places, events, and ways to sample bush tucker food. 

Kakadu DIRD (Moon) Feast

To celebrate each of the six seasons of Kakadu and the rising moon, Indigenous-owned Cooinda Lodge partners with Bininj chef Ben Tyler of Kakadu Kitchen for an exclusive dining experience. Enjoy several courses of bush tucker cuisine (not always veg-friendly) and bush-infused mocktails (most events are alcohol-free). The dinner will have traditional stories, music, and cultural highlights. 

These events are popular and book up quickly. If you manage to be in Kakadu for the DIRD feast, then make sure you grab tickets because this is probably the best way to sample sustainable, ethically sourced, Indigenous foods. 

Cooinda Lodge & Crocodile Hotel

If you can’t make the Dird Feast, the Cooinda Lodge has a restaurant serving bush tucker foods such as wallaby shank and barramundi. The menu always prioritizes locally sourced or foraged foods when possible. They have plenty of vegetarian alternatives, which unfortunately don’t feature many bush-tucker ingredients, but there is enough variety to eat something different each night as a vegetarian. 

Cooinda Lodge Restaurant

Manjmukmuk Restaurant at the Crocodile Hotel also has a selection of bush tucker cuisine featuring cuts of crocodile and invasive feral buffalo. Vegetarian options are also available but are more Western-focused.

The Taste of Kakadu

The Taste of Kakdu or Karrimanjbekkan An-me Kakadu in the local Kundjeyhmi language is a week-long culinary and cultural festival in the heart of Kakadu. The event usually occurs in May and features dozens of daily foodie events throughout the week. Some culinary highlights include a Yellow Water cruise with canapes and non-alcoholic bush-inspired drinks, cooking demonstrations, guided walks to forage for bush tucker food, and a cocktail night featuring native-ingredient spirits.

waterlilly in Kakadu national park

Support Local Foodie Businesses 

There are several ways to support Indigenous foodie businesses as you explore Kakadu. Kakadu Kitchen is a non-alcoholic drink company founded by Bininj Ben Tyler. You’ll find his drinks at various hotels, restaurants, and food events around Kakadu. He is also a featured chef for many special events around town. Try the signature An-marabula (peach) bellini and the non-alcoholic spirit infused with green ants. 

Looking for something with a kick? Indigenous-owned distillery Seven Seasons uses bush tucker ingredients to create gins with green ants and bush apples. They also distill a vodka with bush yams and brew a lager infused with waterlily seedpods. Seven Seasons bush apple gin was our go-to for sundowners while exploring Kakadu.

For perishable sustainable souvenirs to take home, check out Indigneous-owned Kakadu Organics for their line of teas, jams, and bath and body products. 

Finally, Maningrida Wild Foods is a part of the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation. While most of their foods are harvested and collected by their members for other members, you can often find their seasonings, such as plum powder, available to purchase. 

Visit the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center

The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center is a must-visit in Kakadu. It is ideally one of the first things you do in Kakadu as it provides critical context into the life history of the many Indigenous people and clans. Photos were not allowed in the center and one of the reasons for this you’ll learn as you visit. Images of deceased people are taboo for most clans, and the center does not want certain images appearing online.

Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center in Kakadu

Along with cultural taboos, you’ll learn more about the complicated skin groups that dictate how clan members interact and who they can marry. The center also features a film, exhibits, art, ancient history, colonial encounters, and modern life. The gift shop is a great place to buy authentic gifts. 

I recommend visiting during the hottest part of the day, as it is air-conditioned and offers an educational and insightful way to learn about the region and stay cool. Admission is free, making the cultural center an accessible and budget-friendly option for everyone visiting Kakadu.

See the Historic Rock Paintings

The pre-historic rock art sites are probably some of the most notable things to do in Kakadu. I’m happy to say that they are 100% worth the hype. The rock art painted in yellow and red ochre mixed with blood is some of the best preserved and impressive petroglyphs I’ve ever encountered in all my travels. One of the best aspects of the paintings is that the direct ancestors of the people who painted them are alive and able to share many of the stories and meanings behind the images and scenes. 

Ubirr Kakadu Rock paintings

The images were the First Nations’ way of communicating through generations, passing along vital information, such as where to shelter during the monsoons, how to hunt and prepare fish, what species were edible, and documenting their Dreamtime stories. As you explore these sacred sites, you’ll have an opportunity to view images of the changing landscapes as billabongs were created and brought freshwater species to the region, their first contact with colonizers, and stories passing down moral code – such as how not to get eaten by a croc. 

The art primarily covers three distinct periods: 

  • The pre-estuarine period (50,000 – 6,000 BCE) shows a time of low sea levels and arid land. The images are simple and depict handprints, now-extinct megafauna, and the rainbow serpent.
  • The estuarine period (6,000 – 500 BCE) shows extreme flooding and rising sea levels that created mangrove swamps. Art shows fish, crocs, and wallabies in an X-ray style that reveals their bone structure and how to prepare and kill these animals. 
  • The freshwater period (500 BCE – 500 years ago) reveals the creation of freshwater billabongs. People are depicted with goose spears, cultural regalia, and more complex stories and narratives.

Ideally, you will visit at least one of these sites with a guide to help you understand the images and their meaning. There are several options for guided experiences at Ubirr during the day, Ubirr in the evening, and Nanguluwurr.

The most famous and visitor-friendly site is the Ubirr Rock Painting site. Ubirr has about 2km of accessible trails, with an alternative 150m elevation hike to a viewpoint. The main images here show animals and cultural insights. There are plenty of signposts and information. The other two locations are located next to each other at Anbangbang and Nanguluwurr Rock Painting Sites. The images at these locations are more modern, revealing images of colonial ships and human-centric paintings. 

Buy Indigenous Art and Jewelry 

I recently attended a purposeful travel summit in Banff, Canada. On the first day, I wore the colorful Pandanas Leaf earrings that I purchased from the Marrawuddi Arts and Cultural Center. These Indigenous-made earrings are my favorite jewelry staple, and they were great icebreakers at the conference, with multiple people commenting on them. An insightful conversation followed about the importance and value of Indigenous-led tourism.

Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center

The Marrawuddi Center is located in downtown Jabiru. The center is owned and governed by the Mirarr Traditional Owners and features unique and traditional art from over 500 artists across Kakadu and Arnhem Land. Aside from my earrings, Ganesh and I also went home with a traditional painting created on natural bark from a paper-bark tree. 

Whether you are looking for paintings, screen-printed clothing and bags, woven pieces, photography, sculptures, or jewelry, the center has something for you. We bought smaller pieces we could easily carry home, but there are certainly larger statement pieces that would be great conversation starters for your home. 

Art and jewelry from Kakadu National park

My favorite part about the Marrawuddi Arts Center is that the art is unique to the region. Often, when I think of Indigenous art from Australia, I think of the dot art that is more authentic from southern clans near Uluru. These pre-conceived expectations can cause artists to change their style to appeal to tourists’ expectations. Arnhem Land and Kakadu artists have their own styles featuring cross hatches and materials sourced locally. It was nice to learn about art from different regions and purchase a unique statement piece for our home that reminds us of Kakadu and the incredible artists from the region.

You can also stop by for a cup of coffee at their cafe while you enjoy shopping for ethical and Indigenous-made art.

Join an Indigenous-led Hand-crafted Workshop

If you prefer to make your own art with the guidance of an Indigenous mentor, there are plenty of interactive and educational art and cultural workshops throughout Kakadu. 

If you are inclined to try painting, join Jacqueline, a Ngombur and Mukurkala woman, at a painting workshop. As you learn to paint in a traditional art style, Jacqueline, a bush ranger in the national park, shares stories of life growing up in Kakadu. The Bowali Visitor Center has painting workshops with Jacqueline most Saturdays for morning and afternoon sessions, which you should book in advance. 

paper bark tree in arnhem land Kakadu

The six seasons of Kakadu often dictate what natural resources are available and the daily activities of the land’s traditional owners. Naturally, many of the activities related to creating art are dictated by the seasons. Join Patsy, a Daluk woman, to learn how to strip fresh pandanus branches. Prepare them for weaving and jewelry making by learning how to dye them with natural colors using flowers, seeds, and roots for various colors. This is an activity traditionally done during the Kunngobarn. To honor the Kunmadj season, Patsy shares her traditional knowledge regarding weaving using traditional materials. The Pandanas branches are used to weave baskets, bags, jewelry, fans, and mats. You can take your creation home at the end of the event. 

The dying and the weaving activities are outdoor and accessible events at the Bowali Visitor Center. Both activities are for all genders, most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with dying at 10 a.m. and weaving at 1 p.m.

Magpie geese in Kakadu national park AustraliaFor women, the women’s only weaving workshop is on Thursdays at 1:30 at the Merl Campground. This activity is hosted by a group of women to align with the clan’s social norms and to create a positive space for women.

Finally, if you are in Kakadu for the weekend, check with the Cooinda Lodge or the Warradjan Cultural Center for a weaving event hosted by traditional owners on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Try Other Cultural Workshops & Experiences

If art isn’t your thing, I get it. Thankfully, Parks Australia and Kakadu’s traditional owners host many other cultural activities. If you find yourself struggling with the pronunciation of the place names around Kakadu, then sign up for a language workshop. One of my favorite things about traveling is learning local phrases such as greetings, thank yous, and other pleasantries. Join Bininj speakers to hear and learn their language and stories.   

Enjoy a Cultural Boat Cruise 

 The Guluyambi Cultural Cruise is a must-experience for an immersive cultural guided experience through Kakadu and Arnhem Land. We loved our time on the water with Hilton, a Guluyambi Indigenous Guide.

The cruises operate along the E. Alligator River with the opportunity to step foot on Arnhem Land. To visit this land independently, you would need a special permit and permission from the traditional owners. With the Guluyambi River Cruise, your guides invite you to visit their traditional lands alongside them.

Guluyambi Cultural cruise Kakadu

As you slowly cruise with a small group of fewer than 25 people, your guide will point out species such as crocodiles, barramundi, eagles, egrets, paper-bark trees, and other incredible species. This cruise is unique because your guide discusses these species from an Indigenous perspective regarding their importance for their traditional and modern way of life. Crocodiles are discussed, referencing Dreamtime stories and mythology, and paper-bark trees are discussed for their importance in grilling barramundi and wrapping infants. In the middle of the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to disembark and visit Arnehm land for a traditional spear-throwing demonstration and to see the native ecosystem along the river. 

Guluyambi Cultural Cruise

The cost is $84 per person, and you’ll have plenty of time on the water and with your guide, making it an unforgettable experience. The tours depart near Cahills Crossing and operate daily during the dry season (May – November), with multiple departures. Tours should be booked in advance.

Visit Arnhem Land

If you are on an independent off-road 4WD adventure through the N. Territory, you can visit Arnhem Land on your own. Arnhem Land is home ot the Yolngu People. Of course, you must first get a permit via the Northern Land Council. These permits can be obtained in Darwin or Jabiru. Once in Arnhem Land, you can curate a unique cultural itinerary, such as visiting rock art sites at Injalak with a guide or exploring rural areas and camping independently.

Arnhem Land Kakadu

Kakadu Cultural Tours also operates cultural experiences in Arnhem Land and overnight packages to a wilderness lodge.

Outdoor Adventures and Nature-Based Things to Do in Kakadu

Kakadu’s stunning landscapes and incredible opportunities for ethical wildlife viewing make it one of the top places in Australia for nature-based and ecotourism activities! If you can, sign up for guided outdoor experiences to gain deep first-hand knowledge about conservation, nature, and how that connects to the Indigenous clans.

Attend Kakadu Bird Week 

You probably expected birding to be first on this list if you know me. In fact, you know this twitcher is going to mention birding twice! We were fortunate enough to visit during Kakadu’s annual bird week; let me tell you, it was a treat! Kakadu is home to ⅓ of Australia’s bird biodiversity, with hundreds of species thriving in this region, making it an excellent place for birding. During Kakadu Bird Week – usually the end of September – early October- your Park Pass gives you access to dozens of bird-themed events. 

Kakadu Bird Week Australia

Ganesh and I signed up for a guided birding experience at The Bubba Wetlands. A local ecologist and an Indigenous bush ranger took our small group on a walk through a forest and then along a billabong to spot, listen, and learn about the forest birds and waterfowl. We learned about the conservation efforts of birds, particularly against climate change, and the bird’s importance to Indigenous culture. We saw two dozen or so different birds, including the elusive Jabiru!

Whistling dicks birding in Kakadu

Other weekly events include lectures, guided birding tours, and cultural events like painting workshops – but bird-themed!

Go Birding

If you’re not in town for Kakadu Bird Week, I want to ensure you know Kakadu is an incredible place for birding year-round! Do not forget your binoculars, monocular, and zoom lens! We did several guided tours, including the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise and the bird week guided walk. While these were great for local insider knowledge, the best place for independent bird watching is the Mamukaka Wetlands. This accessible Billabong is a birding haven. We spent more than an hour here during the dry season just watching the whistling ducks, magpie geese, egrets, jacanas, and more interacting. There are plenty of informational signposts at this spot to help you identify birds and understand their behavior during the 6 seasons. 

Other great spots for birding are on water cruises or other billabongs, such as the appropriately named Bird Billabong, Mary River Billabong, and the Bubba Walk.

Book a Scenic Wildlife Boat Cruise 

Yellow Water Cruises is another slow river cruise offering something slightly different. While the Yellow Water Cruises have a cultural element, they focus more on the natural experience. Yellow Water is entirely within Kakadu and UNESCO Park. With more than 60 bird species in the area and crocs in the water, the wildlife opportunities on the Yellow Water Cruises are incredible. They operate year-round during the wet and dry seasons and run several cruises daily. They are known for their sunrise and sunset cruises, where the changes in wildlife activity are vast. We talked to several people who had done morning and evening tours and saw completely different animals.

Things to do in kakadu croc watching

The Yellow Water Cruises are part of the Cooinda Lodge compound and depart from their local Billabong. 1.5-hour cruises cost $105, with 2-hour cruises costing $129. Book in Advance, as spots can fill quickly.  

Experience a Bush Safari With an Indigenous Guide

With the traditional owners running many art and cultural workshops, there are also opportunities for the nature nerd to get outside and explore Kakadu National Park with a traditional owner. Animal Tracks is an 8-hour open-door safari tour through Kakadu for the adventurous traveler. You’ll spend almost the entire day with an Indigenous guide as you look for wildlife, bush tucker food, plants used for medicinal purposes, and more. The Indigenous guide may harvest or hunt traditional foods on their land with you as their helper. 

The great thing about this tour is you go to places most tourists cannot access. Only with your local guide can you visit Gindiala Wetland, Australia’s largest gathering of birds during the dry season. 

Wetlands in Kakadu Australia

The tour completes with a sunset campfire in another exclusive location, where your guide will prepare a meal using some of the foods you harvested (not veg-friendly, and you may be harvesting turtles and other animals – but it is sustainable and ethical with your Indigenous guide!). You can even help them prepare the meal by learning traditional techniques. 

If I were to write a definition of sustainable, ethical ecotourism, this tour would hit ALL of the notes. The tour is $220 for a full day with a personal guide. 

Embrace Indigenous Stewardship 

Part of learning about local ecology is understanding how Indigenous people have cared for our planet for thousands of years. In Kakadu, many of the land’s Traditional Owners are employed as bush rangers. Part of their job is engaging in their annual controlled burns. Much of Kakadu’s biodiversity relies on low-intensity fires. These fires stimulate new growth, activating seed pods and keeping the ground clear of debris that builds up to spark intense, extreme fires. 

 As you explore and drive around Kakadu, especially at the tail end of the wet season, look for these low-intensity fires. Talk to your local guides about how this stimulates healthy biodiversity and why it is essential to conservation work.

You will also notice the feral buffalo and pigs as you explore Kakadu. These species were introduced to the region and have catastrophic impacts on the natural environment. They destroy nesting grounds for bird species, dig holes, and damage vegetation. To manage them, many Traditional Owners hunt them in an act called mustering. Their role in controlling the invasive species is critical as few know the land as they do, and they have come to rely on this species for meat. Learn about invasive species’ impacts and the Traditional Owners’ role in managing them.

Welcome sign to Kakadu National Park

Additionally, many of the Indigenous clans are helping scientists and Western land managers map rising sea levels, the spread of invasive aquatic plants, and climate change impacts on magpie geese. Learn about the role of technology and Indigenous land management in Kakadu. 

Enjoy A Scenic Flight 

This might sound counter-intuitive to enjoying nature. However, flying over Australia’s Top End shows an elaborate ecosystem network that shapes one of the world’s most culturally and environmentally precious landscapes. The wetlands give way to ancient mountains worn by time but ever-preserving prehistoric rock art. Saltwater crocodiles line muddy river banks as magpie geese fly in chaotic flocks overhead. The hooves of invasive and feral water buffalo mark the jarring white strips of sand, a reminder of their devastating impact on native biodiversity. A dark blight looms on the horizon – a uranium mine scars the native savanna woodlands in the heart of Kakadu National Park and UNESCO site. During the wet season, when road access to many waterfalls is closed, a flight-seeing tour can help you see the falls at their peak glory. 

To fully appreciate the incredible natural beauty of Kakadu, the bird’s eye view allows you to see how all the microclimates fit together. We flew with Gunbalanya Air as part of a pre-booked excursion with our accommodation. Our pilot and co-pilot lived in the rural community of Gunbalanya. While they were not traditional owners, they had training in the cultural and historical context of the landscape. So, as we flew overhead, we learned about Dreamtime stories relating to the environment. Our flight-seeing tour was an incredible experience that allowed me to put the many things I learned on the ground into perspective and context.

scenic flight over Kakadu

Indigenous-owned Kakadu Air also offers fight-seeing tours. If I were to return, I would book with Kakadu Air for more flight options and to support an Indigenous-owned tour company. 

Swim in a Croc-Free Billabong

As amazing as all the billabongs throughout Kakadu are, they are unsafe for swimming. I repeat they are not safe for swimming. You might be cued in by now with the countless croc signs surrounding every body of water. Hidden in every body of water or mud pit, there are potentially fat Crocs lying in wait.

Naturally, we were in disbelief when we heard there was a billabong safe for swimming. In all that disbelief, we asked numerous sources to ensure that Maguk Swimming Hole was safe for swimming. The park ranger at the visitor center assured us, our local tour guide, and the front desk at our hotel. All that being said, it is still important to be aware that while this is the only managed swimming hole to rid Crocs from the area every season, there are still signs saying to swim at your own risk.

Maguk Billabong in Kakadu National park

Now that I have thoroughly scared you, Maguk is probably the most amazing natural billabong or swimming hole I have ever seen. The water is so refreshing during the hot seasons. The Maguk waterfall tumbles into a vivid green watering hole. Brave souls will scramble up the rocky outer areas for exciting cliff jumping. We spent about 2 hours at this location, and it was hard to leave. 

Maguk billabong in Kakadu

After driving down a packed dirt road (our AWD was perfect), you will park (don’t forget your park pass). From the parking lot, you must hike about 2 km (there and back) over rocky terrain and sometimes in extreme heat. So, pack water, sun protection, a snack, a towel, your swimmer, and good shoes. A pair of Keens, Tevas, or something similar would be ideal, or regular trail shoes you can leave at the water’s edge.

Sunset Hike at Nawurlandja Lookout

One of our favorite experiences from Kakdu was an evening hike to Nawurlandja Lookout. This is a very short hike up a sloping sandstone hill. But the views are incredible. Once at the top, you can settle in and enjoy the westward-facing scene as the sun sets. Straight ahead is an expanse of gum forest, as far as the eyes can see. Slightly to your left, there is an impressive sandstone mountain, the very same that houses the ancient rock paintings of Nawurlandja. 

Kakadu Sunset Nawurlandja Lookout

We brought a small picnic, and as the sun sank, vivid purples and fuchsias exploded over the sky. Somewhere in the distance, a storm was building. Dramatic clouds billowed out, expanding over the sky while flocks of cockatoos played in the distant trees. When the moon began to rise over Nawurlandja, it appeared larger than life over the darkening and moody sky. 

Once, we witnessed the most fantastic sunset of our lives – seriously, this was in my top 2 best evenings, with only the sunset from Cafe del Mar in Ibiza coming close – we began our descent. Packaging headlamps and good shoes were necessary, as it was pitch dark when we reached the car. The drive home can also be challenging, as you drive down an unpaved road, and animals such as wallabies may suddenly cross the road. 

Do a Nature Walk 

Kakadu is a great place for a nature walk. Most Billabongs areas have boardwalks or developed trails, making it easy to enjoy a nice walk through nature, enjoy wildlife, and end at a watering hole. Most of Kakadu’s wildlife congregate in these billabongs and watering holes, especially during the dry season when water is a precious resource. Other walks take you through the forest or around sandstone cliffs. These walks can be through intense temperatures and ecosystems, so ensure you are prepared with the appropriate clothing, water, and sun protection. I would also suggest you bring your camera and binoculars. 

Kakadu national park monsoon forest

The Mamukaka Wetlands is a 3km loop walk that circles my favorite wetland area. About 500m will get you to a wildlife viewing platform. From there, you can continue along a trail to extend the walk and for chances to see more wildlife. 

The Anbangbang Walk is probably the best bang for your buck. You’ll start with a relaxing walk through a forested region, pass sandstone cliffs with rock paintings, and eventually come to a billabong teaming with life. This is a 3.5km track. You can join a Bininj bush ranger on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a guided ecology walk. 

Bubba Walk starts with a nice stroll through the forest, where you can observe birds and forest vegetation. The walk emerges to a vibrant billabong. The walk wraps around the Billabong and through some open savannah before returning to the car park. I think we walked about 4-5 km.

Barrk Sandstone Walk is one of the longer walks, but it is still easy to access without too much offroading. The trail is 10 km, so you must pack a lot of food, water, good shoes, and sun protection. Expect scrambling and scratchy vegetation- so bust out your full safari gear. You’ll see plenty of rock art, stunning sandstone formations, and incredible views. 

Kubara Walk is a 7km there and back hike that takes you to stunning rock pools (no swimming allowed – CROCS!). This hike is great even in the wet season, making the pockets of monsoon forests and the pools much more interesting. Prepare yourself for a longer bush walk.

Magul Waterfall hike

Gunlom Falls is a short and sweet, well-maintained waterfall walk. In less than 2km and 100 m elevation, you can have great views of the waterfall and surrounding ecosystem. Another great short waterfall hike is to Maguk billabong.

Explore All the Native Ecosystems

Kakadu is home to several incredible ecosystems, some of which are quite rare. Indigenous people have been living and shaping the land for centuries, so the dynamics here are unlike those elsewhere. 

Savanna woodlands are the most common ecosystem, and it is the majority of the forest you see as you explore Kakadu. You’ll see plenty of swamp bloodwood in these forests, a type of eucalyptus. The woodlands have plenty of space between the trees, and you might notice termite mounds thriving off the ample amount of leaf litter on the ground. This ecosystem includes wallabies, songbirds, frilled-neck lizards, and bush apples. You can see this ecosystem on a safari or while driving in the park.

Kakadu ecosystem

Floodplains are full of paperbark trees and spear grasses. During the wet season, these areas completely flood, and you can enjoy activities such as the airboat experience. During the dry season, these ecosystems still exist and shrink considerably. Many waterfowl, dragonflies, crocs, and magpie geese nest and thrive in these habitats. We saw floodplains on an airboat experience with Barmurru Plains.

Kakadu wetlands

Mangrove forests line the shores of rivers and coastal areas. These are brackish ecosystems with muddy banks. You’ll spot many egrets stalking the banks, looking for mudfish and other critters hiding in the mud. Kingfishers are often perched on the outskirts of these forests, waiting to hunt insects and small fish. These forests are critical for carbon sequestration and preventing excessive flooding. We say this on a river cruise in the Mary River National Park just west of Kakadu.

Monsoon forests or seasonal rainforests are incredibly rare ecosystems, and you are fortunate to walk through one. In Kakadu, the monsoon forests exist in small pockets among the dryer gum forests and wetlands. Because the forests are fragmented and declining due to forest fires, climate change, and desertification, they rely on fruit bats and birds to transfer seeds between the fragments. You’ll often spot goannas, birds, and lush vegetation like sand palms. You’ll see this on the walk to Maguk Falls. 

Maguk Billabong Hike in Kakadu

Other ecosystems you’ll see are open forests, tidal mudflats, and coastal habitats. 

Head Off-Road to See Waterfalls

If you are visiting with your 4×4, you can visit some more remote areas like Jim Jim Falls during the dry season. We only had an AWD SUV hybrid, and while it got us to most of the accessible and even some off-the-beaten-path experiences, driving too long off-road was uncomfortable. Outer areas like Jim Jim Falls are only for 4×4 overland vehicles due to road hazards, river crossings, and other dangerous obstacles. 

off road driving in Kakadu

If you have a snorkel on your car, then head out to visit Twin Falls Gorge, which requires crossing Jim Jim Creek.

You can gear up for a true backcountry adventure if you are prepared and savvy with outdoor survival and car knowledge. Most backcountry is only open during the dry season. 

Join a Croc Tour/Talk

If you are croc obsessed, then make sure you take advantage of croc sightseeing tours! While there are a lot of gimmicky shows outside of Kakadu where the bait crocs get them to jump, I would suggest sticking to seeing them in their natural environment. There is little research on these experiences’ impacts, but if I learned anything from my master’s, it is how tours like this can alter animal behavior, and it is always best to see them in their natural setting. 

Crocodile in Kakadu

Thankfully, there are many opportunities to see crocs with guides and experts. I recommend booking one of the river cruises with an Indigenous guide. During the Guluyambi River Cruise, Hilton was an expert at spotting crocs the rest of us would have never seen! The Yellow Water cruise is another opportunity to spot them. Bamurru Plains also offers jetboat tours to see them in the wild.

Cahills Crossing is another great place to see crocs and watch 4×4 explore Arnhem Land. Cahill Crossing is known to have a large consolidation of crocs. During high tide, you might see up to 40 crocs feeding at this point from a safe vantage point and boardwalk. 

Crocodile in Kakadu national park

Cahill’s Crossing is also the meeting point for a croc talk, where a bush ranger will talk about all the fascinating things that make crocs so cool and what makes them apex predators that have survived since the Triassic period. 

Enjoy an Airboat Tour

You might stop at Mary River National Park on your way into Kakadu. This is an excellent location for airboat tours to see the wetlands. This is also offered at luxury lodges like Bamurru Plains. While jetboats can be loud and disruptive, we asked our guide for some quiet time on the water to let the wildlife settle. As we enjoyed tea and biscuits, dozens of bird species, dragonflies, crocs, and fish appeared. I would suggest you do the same for a more mindful experience. 

airboat tour in mary river national park

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Where to Stay in Kakadu – Book Eco Accommodation

There are not many accommodation options to choose from when in Kakadu. Still, several options maintain rigorous standards, minimizing their environmental impact and benefitting the broader socio-cultural ecosystem. We stayed in two places in Kakadu – one was a pricy luxury bush eco-lodge, and the other was a more humble Indigenous-owned glamping experience. They were both great experiences but for different reasons.

Cooinda Lodge

Cooinda Lodge is located inside Kakadu in a central but still secluded location. This Indigenous-owned lodge is rustic but has everything you need on-site and then some. The compound has several different types of rooms for you to choose from. 

Cooinda Lodge glamping holiday

  • The main lodge has spacious family and single rooms. These rooms have their own bathroom, a covered patio, and feel more like traditional hotel rooms but with Kakadu flare. 
  • The Glamping pods (where we stayed) were large comfortable tents that fit a queen bed, nightstands, a dresser, a seating area, and a mini fridge. We had to use a communal bathroom, but it was close by, clean and modern. This facility also had a laundry station and a place to wash dishes for those on a longer campervan or camping road trip.
  • The tents are glamorous glamping pods with an outdoor private bathtub and a nice seating area with a large bench and a workstation.
  • All units have AC.

Cooinda Lodge

The grounds are large and forested, so we fell asleep to the noises of the bush – cockatoos, bats, and wallabies. There was a large swimming pool, two restaurants, a small shop, outdoor BBQs, and a local billabong. We spent the hot afternoons relaxing in the pool.

Honestly, this place was just a dream. It was simple, yet it had everything we needed. We loved the rustic luxury of the large swimming pool and modern glamping pods. Every evening, we would order some of their vegetarian food, a bottle of white wine to cool off, and eat out on their restaurant terrace after the intense heat of the day died down. 

Cooinda Lodge

Another perk is that the cultural center and yellow water cruises are all within walking distance, so you can access many activities without going far.  You’ll feel good booking several nights here as your money supports Kakdu’s traditional owners and a lodge with a strong environmental commitment to the national park.

Cooinda Lodge is an excellent option for an immersive experience inside the park without breaking the bank. Book several nights so you have plenty of time to enjoy all the amazing things to do in Kakadu.

Bamurru Plains

Before we entered Kakadu National Park, we stayed at a rural Australian-owned luxury bush lodge north of Mary River National Park. Bamurru Plains is modeled after African safari lodges. Think of a small, intimate, all-inclusive compound surrounded by nature. Bamurru Plains is incredible if the high price tag fits your budget and you want a unique one-of-a-kind experience. 

Bamurru Plains Northern Territory  To get there, we turned to head down a long, dusty, unsealed road and drove for several kilometers. Bamurru Plains is located on private grounds, so eventually, we parked, and a staff member picked us up in a topless, doorless, 4×4 off-road vehicle. Once we arrived, we had a tour of the impressive property. 

There are only about 10 bungalows at this property, meaning you’ll only be around 20 or so guests. There is a main common lodge with an incredible pool, an open bar you can help yourself to at any time, games, a lounge area, and a dining room. All meals are included and shared with the other guests. You must inform them of a vegetarian diet beforehand, but the veg options were great!. The bungalows have open, breathable netting, so you can fall asleep watching and listening to the wildlife. 

Bamurru Plains swimming pool

The property has an incredible environmental and social contribution. With impressive water and energy reduction commitments, local natural materials, eco bed linens, and regular donations to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, they hit all the notes of truly positive impact hotel properties. All their staff and guides were extensively trained regarding the natural environment and Indigenous clans. 

Daily, morning, and evening guided activities include jetboat rides, guided nature walks, safaris, sunset outback excursions, and more. You can also add a day into Kakadu that includes a flight and a knowledgeable guide who received 6 months of cultural and environmental training to take people into Kakadu. We did this, and it was nice to have the local insider personal guide for the flight, visiting some of the rock art sites and more. Of course, this should be balanced by visiting Kakadu for experiences and hiring Indigenous guides, which we did by booking several nights at Cooinda Lodge afterward. 

Safari Bamurru Plains

The one downside of this place is that it shares the property with the cattle ranch. However, it sparked a conversation about Australia’s controversial meat industry. The other slightly negative aspect was this felt like it should have been an adult-only lodge considering the price we paid and the quality of luxury. Several kids stayed the same time we did and complained about activities, meals served, and rough-housing in the pool. Otherwise, everything was fantastic! I do not recommend this location for families; Cooinda Lodge is better suited.

Bamurru Plains is your go-to for sustainable, locally-owned, all-inclusive luxury with guided excursions. We booked the 3-night package with the added tour into Kakadu, but if you want more time to relax, opt for the longer stay.

Crocodile Hotel

We did not stay in the Crocodile Hotel; we just stopped in for snacks, but it is a popular choice in the park. This fun croc-shaped and themed hotel is Indigenous-owned, making it a good social impact choice. It is a larger facility, more similar to what you expect from a regular hotel. There is a pool on-site restaurant, and its downtown Jabiru location makes it a good launching point for tours or to stop by the local supermarket. 

Crocodile Hotel Kakadu

It is an older hotel, slightly more dated and less eco-friendly than some other locations. Still, it is a good value choice for anyone looking for an accessible, hassle-free accommodation. Book your more affordable and unique stay at Crocodile Hotel today!

Camping

Of course, if you are interested in a more rustic choice, you can always camp. Kakadu is full of campsites, making it an excellent choice for tent campers (prepared for extreme heat), campervans, and those who pre-booked camp bungalows. 

Some campsites require a 4×4 off-road capable vehicle with a snorkel – others, like the one near Bubba Walk, are accessible with an AWD. 

You should have the proper permit and backcountry skills to choose this option. However, this is a great budget-friendly option for anyone looking for an adventure and a way to be close to nature.

More Tips for Visiting Kakadu National Park

How to Get Around 

The best way to get around Kakadu is by car. An AWD is a must, and a 4×4 is a nice bonus for anyone visiting more rural areas. The main road through Kakadu is paved and easy to drive, but most – if not all– the main sights are at least a few kilometers down an unsealed and unpaved road. The road is very bumpy, and having a decent vehicle like an AWD SUV can make or break your experience. 

Driving in Kakadu National Park

Most of the sites are places you can visit on your own. If you plan to attend any of the ranger talks or guided walks, you will still need a car, as most of these things do not include pick-ups and drop-offs. The alternative would be to hire a company for a multi-day tour.

How to Reach Kakadu 

The best way to reach Kakadu is by flying into Darwin. You can spend 1-2 days exploring Darwin before renting an AWD or 4×4 SUV and driving to Kakadu. There are several nice stops along the way, including:

  • Didgeridoo Hut and Art Gallery for Indigenous Art
  • The Humpty Doo Hotel, a historic outback pub for a cheeky brew
  • Window on the Wetlands a visitor center, education point, and viewing area for regional wetlands
  • Leaning Tree Lagoon is a nice bird-watching stop, depending on the season.
  • The Purple Mango Cafe and Brewery – an excellent spot for lunch with wood-fired pizza and all things mango, including daiquiris and beer!
  • Bark Hut Inn for a lunch alternative at a traditional station house.

Once in Kakdu, you’ll follow the main road, taking the side roads for various adventures. As you leave the park, swing through Pine Creek for food and loop through Litchfield National Park to see the magnetic termite mounds or those incredible swimming holes. 

What to Wear/Pack

What you pack may depend on the season you are visiting and the weather. These basic items will get you through the rainy or dry season, but you’ll definitely want some rain gear and waterproof shoes for the rainy season. 

hiking in kakadu

  • Day bag – I only ever use Osprey bags. They last me 10+ years, making them a sustainable long-term investment. Most of my Osprey is so old that I’m not sure they are even online anymore, but I have a day bag similar to this with hip support.
  • Pack an Osprey water bladder – In extreme heat, Ganesh and I carry 5L for half-day hikes between the two of us. Great way to reduce your plastic bottle waste and stay hydrated. 
  • Wool socks – Farm to Feet is my favorite sustainable and ethical U.S. brand. These keep you warm, dry, and stink-free!
  • Hiking boots – I have a German brand that you can’t find many places outside Germany. Finding a good hiking boot is best done in person at your local recreational store like REI
  • Hiking pants – I am all about those zip-offs. Long pants might sound counterintuitive for hot weather, but they can keep the bugs at bay.
  • Hiking shirt – The REI basic is my favorite because it is SPF 50 and is light and breathable. I suggest getting white to repel heat.
  • Snacks – I always pack my snacks in reusable bags or bee’s wax wraps. I suggest water-heavy snacks like grapes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and fruit for hikes in hot weather.
  • Sunscreen – Choose an eco-safe compostable or zinc-based sunscreen for a great environmental choice. 
  • Sunhat – Make sure you grab a broad-rimmed hat for optimal protection against Kakadu’s intense heat.
  • Trekking poles – you might not need these, but I always have them on hand if I get in a sticky situation, get tired, or want to increase my calorie burn with an arm workout. My REI Co-Op poles have lasted me 9 years and are still going!
  • Battery charger ensures your phone has a battery for photos and emergency calls. We use Anker.
  • Sunglasses
  • Phone and/or camera
  • Binoculars – you’ll want these to see all the wildlife
  • For the rainy season, pack waterproof shoes, a rain jacket, and rain pants.

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Sustainable Travel Guide and things to do Kakadu National Park Australia

I hope you discovered some fantastic cultural and nature-based things to do in Kakadu National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This guide is a comprehensive look at ways to engage in meaningful Indigenous-led ecotourism. Whether looking for deep cultural exchange or thrilling outdoor ethical wildlife encounters, Kakadu has something for you. After you take time to learn about the rich culture and biodiversity, bookmark this post to save these ideas for things to do in Kakadu. 

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