The Essential 2WD guide to ‘do’ Kakadu

Kakadu National Park is quintessentially Australian from its vast size (almost 20 thousand square kilometers or half the size of Switzerland) to its unique bushland and the wildlife it supports. Jointly managed by Parks Australia and the park’s traditional owners the Bininji and Mungguy people. Kakadu is 2 hours 40 minutes east of Darwin (to the visitor centre) and while a 4wd is certainly useful to be able to see all the sites, a 2wd vehicle will still allow visitors to fill their days with activities. Make sure you buy your Kakadu pass online before you arrive or at one of the stations in the park.

Leaving Darwin and driving through Humpty Doo along the Arnhem highway, be sure to ring the Bowali Visitor Centre before you are out of range to get up to date on what is currently open and all the complimentary guided experiences in Kakadu so you can factor them into your time in the park. A pit stop at Bark Hutt Inn to stretch the legs and break up the drive is a great idea. Then it’s on to the northern reaches of the park and the world-renowned wetlands. This area of Kakadu supports an abundance of life and is a crucial stopping point for numerous trans-continental migratory birds such as Magpie Geese. This is one of the main reasons for Kakadu’s world heritage listing. Mamukala wetlands walk and purpose-built bird hide are easily accessible and offer great vantage points to observe the wildlife up close. Keep your eyes peeled for crocs among the waterlilies and birdlife!

mamakula wetlands kakadu national park
maguk kakadu national park northern territory
From here deciding on where to next can be a coin flip, either into the town of Jabiru for a night at Aurora Kakadu Lodge, Mecure Kakadu Crocodile or Cooinda Lodge Kakadu. Alternatively, continue onto Ubirr rock to stay at Merls campground. Neither are bad options and if you are keen on Ubirr at sunset then Merls is right around the corner and is extremely well-maintained. Ubirr is special at any time of the day when exploring the ancient rock art galleries but the view from the top of Ubirr at sunset is something truly remarkable, not to mention there are often free guided tours. Cahill’s crossing is a stone’s throw away from Merls campground, where there are great viewing platforms to see crocodiles at high tide feeding on incoming mullet and barramundi.  Alternatively, there are several accommodation options in and around Jabiru and some great activities in town. Including visiting the Bowali Visitor Centre or dropping into Marrawudi Arts and Culture for a coffee and a look at the exceptional artwork created by local First Nations people, with many of the artists working at the back of the shop leading to the opportunity to meet and watch them work. Either way, you go the distances between the Ubirr area and Jabiru are relatively short so going between the two is not an issue.

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Before leaving the Jabiru area consider taking a morning/evening Yellowater cruise, these tours provide great information around the wetland systems and the flora and fauna within as well as getting you out onto the water for a relaxing ride. On your way out of Kakadu via the Kakadu highway completing some of the Nourlangie walk is well worth it to see another of the amazing rock art galleries that Kakadu has to offer and provides great vantage points to take in the vista. A must-do stopover is Maguk falls. The road in is bumpy but most 2wd cars should make it with no problem, slow and steady is the key. A short walk from the carpark Maguk is truly magical and an afternoon spent swimming here will not be regretted. The campground at Maguk is a great option for a night as it allows you to use every last bit of time you have to enjoy the waterfall. After Maguk it’s back on the highway and through Pine Creek at the southern entrance to Kakadu and onto the next adventure-packed activity the territory takes your fancy.

We highly recommend you Kaka’DO’ during your time in the NT!


nourlangie rock art kakadu national park first nations northern territory woman smiling in front

We hope you have an amazing time visiting the Kakadu National Park! We would love your feedback – please comment below if you’ve been or if you have any questions or suggestions.

You can always get more inspiration for other National Parks to visit by following @northerhq or signup for our monthly newsletter here to get travel inspiration and more straight to your inbox. 

Alice and Jack

Alice and Jack

Alice and Jack are two Victorians who deceided to comprehensively explore their backyard starting November 2021 and have been on the road eversince. They hold a particular passion for the great outdoors and rarely miss the turnoff to a national park during their travels. You can follow their travels through their Instagram page: @thevanofaus

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