Take to the land, air and water on this Kakadu National Park itinerary and you'll discover everything this mesmerising region has to offer, including expansive floodplains, rushing waterfalls, rare wildlife and tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal history.
Hit the highway early – you have a lot to see in seven days! Driving south along the Stuart Highway from Darwin, make your first stop at Adelaide River. A historically significant town, Adelaide River was an import rest area for soldiers during WWII. While you're there, pull up a stool beside one of the locals at the Adelaide River Inn for a cool NT Draught and take some happy snaps of Charlie the Buffalo, made famous by the Crocodile Dundee movies.
Next stop on your way to Kakadu National Park is Pine Creek. Another small Outback town, Pine Creek is famous for its gold rush history - something you can find out about at the National Trust Museum. Arrive at the right time of year and you might be in luck to see the annual Goldrush Festival, featuring the Northern Territory Gold Panning championship and Didgeridoo Jam.
Reaching the Kakadu National Park gates in the afternoon, follow the signs to Gunlom campground (a camping area located beside a pristine plunge pool and waterfall) for your first nights' stay.
South Alligator Creek
Wake up and stretch your legs by walking two kilometres along South Alligator Creek to the top of the waterfall, where you'll be rewarded with an expansive view over Southern Kakadu. On your way back down, cool off with a swim in one of the cliff-top rock pools before finding some shade in the picnic area for lunch.
Depending on how energetic you're feeling, spend the afternoon lazing in rock pools and watering holes, take a short walk to Murrill Billabong, or, to bump up your heart rate, explore one of the more expansive Yurmikmik Walks.
Located just back up the road from the campground, take your choice from the two kilometre Boulder Creek Walk, which takes you through woodland and rainforest, or the five kilometre Yurmikmik Lookout Walk for expansive views over Jawoyn country.
Warradjan Cultural Centre
Pack up your campsite and head north along the Kakadu Highway. Best accessed with a four-wheel drive, take the turn-off to Cooinda and travel the 12-kilometre four-wheel drive recommended track that leads to Maguk – one of the park's waterfalls that flows year round. Follow the walking trail up into rocky country and reward yourself with a dip in the plunge pools.
Once you've managed to pry yourself from the pools, continue on towards Cooinda and the Warradjan Cultural Centre, where you can learn about the culture of the traditional owners of the local land. Nearby is one of the park's highlights, the vibrant Yellow Water Billabong.
As one of the best places in Kakadu to spot some of the estimated 74 mammal, 280 bird and 117 reptile species that call the park home, make sure you charge your camera batteries before taking a seat on one of the popular wildlife spotting cruises.
Jim Jim and Twin Falls
Another of Kakadu's must see sights is Jim Jim and Twin Falls. Picture-perfect in wet season, but dry season is when the waterfalls are much more accessible. Hire a car and bravely navigate the bumpy 60-kilometre four-wheel drive path yourself. Better yet, join a tour to let someone else do the driving! Whichever way you go, remember to pack your swimsuit so you can plunge into the crystal clear pools when you reach the falls.
If you visit Kakadu in rainy season, there's some good and bad news. Though rushing waters make the waterfalls their most majestic, wet roads make getting to the falls by land almost impossible, especially later in the wet season. Good news is that you can still catch a birds-eye view by taking a scenic plane ride or helicopter flight.
Nourlangie Rock Art Walk
Continue north-east on your fifth day towards another iconic Kakadu site, Nourlangie Rock. The site of the Anbangbang galleries, Nourlangie Rock is one of Australia's most iconic attractions. Evidence suggests that local Aboriginal people have been finding shelter from storms at the site for up to 50,000 years. Take a walk through history on the 1.5-kilometre Nourlangie Rock Art Walk.
For an extra art fix, add the Nanguluwur galleries to your itinerary too. A short drive away from the Anbangbang galleries, along the 1.5-hour return walk you'll pass a range of works depicting thousands of years of Aboriginal history. Keep your eyes peeled too for the rarely seen white-throated grass wren.
After the galleries, stop to wander through the interpretive displays and gallery at the Bowali Visitor Centre before continuing on to Ubirr, the final site of your Aboriginal art tour. One of the two major Aboriginal rock art sites in Kakadu National Park, reach Ubirr late in the afternoon and follow the easy one-kilometre walking track to the galleries. After the galleries, stop at sunset to admire another work of art – a 360-degree view across the floodplains from the top of the hill.
East Alligator River causeway
Injalak Art and Craft Centre
Having explored the heart of Kakadu National Park, today head north-east towards Arnhem Land – an expansive area of rich geography. It's a good idea to join a guided four-wheel-drive tour to help you navigate this area, especially to cross the infamous East Alligator River causeway.
Join a boat cruise to spot crocodiles along the way to reaching the most stunning point of the river, the separation of Kakadu from Arnhem Land, before visiting the Injalak Art and Craft Centre to see artists at work on weavings and painting.
Stop for lunch by a billabong in the scenic Minkinj Valley, spotting brumbies, birds, and possibly crocodiles then, with a guide in tow, spend the afternoon climbing up Injalak Hill to see the extensive rock art galleries and look out over floodplains.
Mamukala Wetlands and Bird Hide
Bark Hut Inn
Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre
Even though it's the last day of your trip, rise with a smile because there's still plenty to see on the road back to Darwin. Make a stop at the Mamukala Wetlands and Bird Hide to spot an abundance of birds including egrets, darters, herons and forest kingfishers, and thousands of magpie geese if you visit between September and October.
With the sun shining down on the highway, make a stop for a cool drink at the iconic Bark Hut Inn. Located almost exactly halfway between Darwin and Kakadu, the quirky roadhouse is filled with Territory paraphernalia and is a great location to share your Outback tales with a friendly local.
Further on towards Darwin, make a stop in Humpty Doo where you can visit the Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre. One of the highest points on the Adelaide River floodplain, the informative centre offers you some final views of the floodplains.
Finish your itinerary with an action packed Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise, where you'll see huge saltwater crocs launching themselves from the Adelaide River to nab the food dangled at them by staff on the riverboats. Don't forget to take in one final and unforgettable Kakadu sunset!