How to go on a day trip from Darwin to Kakadu

Are you visiting Northern Territory and planning a day trip from Darwin to Kakadu? Perfect! Everything you need to know is right here!

Kakadu is one of the most beautiful national parks in Australia. It’s also an amazing place to learn more about the Australian aboriginal culture. 

It covers almost 20,000 square kilometres, making it the largest national park in the country. Driving around Kakadu is not as easy as it seems. There are quite a few things to be aware of and planning is essential to ensure your day out from Darwin is as amazing as it should be.

In this post, we tell you exactly how to visit Kakadu from Darwin in a day!

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Plan a day trip from Darwin to Kakadu

Can you do Kakadu in a day from Darwin?

Yes, it’s possible to visit Kakadu in a day from Darwin however, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time in transport. Ideally, you need between 2 and 5 days to explore Kakadu. It’s a big national park and there is a lot to see. If you don’t have much time to spare, going on a day trip from Darwin is a good option but you won’t get to see everything. It also works out quite expensive.

Kakadu is one of the most beautiful national parks in Australia and no matter what, it’s always worth a visit! It will blow your mind! But it’s important for you to know that it will be a long day and it won’t be cheap.

You need to be organised and know what to do and how. If you only have one day, you have no time to waste!

How to get to Kakadu from Darwin

The entrance of Kakadu National Park is located 150km from Darwin. It takes less than 2 hours to get there by car. However, most sites are nowhere near the entrance which means you will have to drive another hour to get there.

Although you can drive yourself, the best way to go on a day trip from Darwin to Kakadu is with a tour. The local companies are used to the road and know exactly how to make the best of the day.

Here is exactly how to get to Kakadu.

Best Kakadu day tour from Darwin

Booking a tour is the best thing to do if you want to explore Kakadu from Darwin in one day. By opting for this option, you won’t need to deal with the hassle of planning the day, won’t need to drive and can truly enjoy the best of Kakadu.

You will be picked up from your hotel in Darwin and head to Kakadu on a minibus. During the day, you will go on a cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong, discover rock art at Nourlangie and go on a walking tour with a local guide. Meals are also included.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Please note that you will also need to buy the pass to enter the national park (more on that below).

Driving from Darwin to Kakadu

You can also opt to drive yourself. It will take you 1h45 to get to the entrance of the park and another 1h30 to get to the sites. Altogether, you need about 3 hours to get there.

Driving to Kakadu is easy. You don’t need a 4WD at this stage and the road is in good condition however, you do need to be prepared to drive 6 hours in one day (about 600km).

If you choose to drive, make sure to leave Darwin before 7 AM so you get enough time on site.

How to buy the National Park pass for Kakadu

You must buy a pass to visit Kakadu. It costs $40 during the dry season (15th May to 31st October) and $25 during the wet season (1st November to 14th May). If you are a NT territory, it’s free.

You can buy your pass online, on the official website or at the entrance of the park.

As you are only going for a day, I highly recommend to buy it online so it’s done and you don’t have to worry about it.

How to spend a day in Kakadu National Park

Here is exactly how to spend your day in Kakadu. Please note that if you opted for the tour, you will follow the same itinerary.

Kakadu 1-day itinerary Map

Kakadu day trip Itinerary

7 AM: Depart from Darwin

You will need to wake up early for this one. 7 AM is the perfect time to leave Darwin. Make sure to eat a good brekkie before leaving as you will get lunch a bit late.

From Darwin, put “Yellow Water Billabong” in your GPS. It’s a 3-hour drive.

8:30 AM: Enter Kakadu National Park

At about 8:30 AM, you will get to the entrance of the park. You will be asked to show your pass. Make sure you printed it or have it on your phone. 

10:30 AM: Yellow Water Billabong

You will get to Yellow Waters billabong between 10AM and 11AM. This billabong is the perfect place to discover the wildlife in Kakadu. It’s also referred to as Ngurrungurrudjba, which is the native-Australian name.

kakadu cruise

If you are visiting during the dry season, make sure to go on the 2.6 km return walk across the floodplain. You will get to a lookout where you can see beautiful views of the billabong. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do that during the wet season as there is too much water (and crocodiles).

The best thing to do in Yellow Water Billabong is going on a cruise. It lasts up to 2 hours. The local guides will take you all around the billabong. It’s a very unique experience and you will get to see loads of crocodiles and birds. The guides are very friendly and will help you to spot the wildlife. They will also give you a lot of information about the ecosystem and the traditional stories.

Click here for more information and prices.


1-2 PM: Lunch

After the cruise, go for lunch. Food is not cheap in Kakadu so if you want to save money, pack a sandwich before leaving.

If you’d rather going to the restaurant, head to the Barra Bistro & Bar at Cooinda Lodge. You can find their menus here.

 

2:30 PM: Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Kakadu National Park is managed by both the traditional owners and Parks Australia. This is quite unusual but is an amazing thing. For this reason, Kakadu is one of the best places in Australia to learn more about aboriginal culture. 

The Warradjan Aboriginal Culture Centre was entirely developed by the traditional owners. You will find amazing collections of aboriginal artefacts. This includes paintings, clothes and plenty more. They also organise workshops during which you can meet local artists. They usually show you how they paint, play music…

It’s incredibly interesting and such a good way to understand what Australia is really like. 

 

4 PM: Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) Rock Art Site

After the cultural centre, head to Nourlangie Rock Art Site. It’s home to some of the most incredible rock art in the world and the oldest man-made landmarks in Australia. The paintings are so old that they can’t even be dated properly. The existence of these paintings is one of the main reasons why Kakadu was added the UNESCO world heritage list.

rock art in kakadu

Once you get there, head to the path leading you to the Nourlangie Rock Art Walk. It’s a 1.5 km easy circuit walk. The boardwalk will lead you to the Anbangbang Gallery. From there, you can either make your way back or keep going on the hike to Gunwarddehwardde Lookout. The views from there are fantastic.

Please note that the park rangers also organise free tours. Make sure to check their schedule to see if you can go on one of the walking tours. It’s very interesting.

 

6 PM: Drive back to Darwin

Once you’re done, you can start making your way back to Darwin. You should get there before 10 PM.

 

Bonus: Sunset at Ubirr

If after visiting Nourlangie you are still up for more, go to Ubirr to watch the sunset. It’s a 50 minutes drive from Nourlangie so you need to make sure to leave at least 1h30 before sunset (so between 5 PM and 5:30 PM).

Once you parked, go on a walk to the cliff. You can sit there and watch the sun setting behind the lands. It’s stunning! You can even spot buffalos in the background!

This step will add another hour drive though so you need to make sure you are ready for that. It also means that you won’t be back to Darwin before 11 PM.

It’s one of the most amazing experiences in Australia so it’s well worth the effort and you will already be driving quite a bit so you might as well!

Tips to enjoy your visit to Kakadu

Kakadu is a pretty wild place and there are a few things you should be aware of before visiting. These tips and tricks will help you enjoy your visit.

  • Eat breakfast and pack your lunch: this day trip will be full-on. You need to make sure you ate properly in the morning to be full of energy for the drive and activities. Restaurants are a bit expensive so packing your lunch is a good way to save money.
  • Take coffee and water: again, the facilities in the park are limited so it’s better to take coffee in a thermos. Make sure to take loads of drinking water. It’s very hot and humid in Northern Territory which means you will sweat a lot and will need to stay hydrated even more than normal.
  • Visit during the dry season: many sites and roads are closed during the wet season so if you can, prioritise the dry season. If you are visiting in summer, check the official website for updates before you go.
  • Wear walking shoes: you will be walking a lot during the day and Kakadu is known for being home to all sorts of animals. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes! Do not wear thongs (flip-flops)!
  • Take mosquito spray and sunscreen: mosquitoes in Kakadu can be nasty. Very nasty. I highly recommend taking a mosquito spray (preferably eco-friendly) to avoid getting bitten too much. Sunscreen is also important to avoid sunburns.
  • Wear a hat.

 

You may also be interested in:

Australia Travel Guide

Man-made landmarks in Australia

Places to see in Australia

Adelaide to Uluru Drive: Australian Outback Road Trip

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How to plan a Kakadu day trip from Darwin