While it’s fair to say that not all grey nomads are entirely happy about the cost of gaining entry to the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park, there can be no argument about the rich diversity of experiences available at the iconic destination.
There are rugged escarpments, lush rainforest and stunning wetlands teeming with millions of migratory birds … and saltwater crocs. It offers the chance to land the mighty barramundi, take an unforgettable cruise, and visit some of the best clusters of Aboriginal rock art anywhere in Australia.
And that’s all before you discover the refreshing waterholes and stunning waterfalls. Sprawling across 20,000 square kilometres, the park – located about 170 kilometres southeast of Darwin – is vast.
With a huge rugged sandstone plateau, lowlands, floodplain, tidal flats, and a Southern hills area, there is no shortage of geographical diversity in Kakadu … and no shortage of incredible flora and fauna, either.
The park reputedly contains more than 1,000 plant species, a quarter of all the freshwater fish species found in Australia, and more than one-third of all the bird species. And if you think that by some miracle you can see all Kakadu has to offer in one visit, think again. The tropical climate makes the park a completely different place depending on the time of year you visit.
Of course, the monsoon season does make for some spectacular waterfalls and incredible light shows, but it also makes large areas of the park inaccessible to visitors. And that’s why most grey nomads choose to come in the Dry Season … and it’s also why those entry fees are at their highest then. All adults who aren’t NT residents will pay $40 to enter the park from April 1-October 31. Concession prices are $30.
There are plenty of park-run camping areas in Kakadu with a range of facilities and fees, and there are also commercial campgrounds. The 200 metre high Jim Jim Falls is one of the highlights of Kakadu, but access is not generally possible when the falls are at their most spectacular. Getting there is a 90 kilometre drive along a well-maintained gravel road, although the last 10 kilometres or so are pretty rugged.
Visitors can take a 900-metre walk from the car park to the plunge pools at the bottom of the falls. The equally feted Twin Falls is close by. The waterfall descends from 158 metres above sea level via a series of tiers that are about 50 metres high. Another Kakadu highlight are the Yellow Water Wetlands which are part of South Alligator River floodplain. Many choose to take the Yellow Water Cruise to get up close and personal with the rich variety of birdlife and wildlife.
The best places to learn about Aboriginal art is at Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr Rock, where visitors can see paintings of the Rainbow Serpent, animals, Dreamtime figures … and some classic examples of X-Ray art. This is an amazing place with an amazing past.
Few grey nomads will ever forget the time they spend here.