by Shirley Sinclair
Sunshine Coast travellers have never been closer to attaining bucket-list adventures in the Northern Territory.
Not only has Bonza launched direct flights between Sunshine Coast and Darwin airports, the Coast-based independent, low-cost airline also has put together holiday packages for all its destinations. The deals currently include flights and accommodation. Tourism NT has started its Summer Done Differently campaign, too, with exclusive deals available for travel from now until March next year.
So why should only international tourists to the Territory have all the fun? Here’s some suggestions, provided by Tourism NT and Kakadu Tourism, for a great getaway.
WILD ABOUT KAKADU
Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage Site, is about two hours from Darwin City on a tour or self-drive holiday.
Interactions with traditional owners is a highlight of any visit. At Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, take a guided ranger tour of rock art and other destinations, participating in Indigenous art and craft lessons, and trying bush foods.
Where could we stay?
The Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel.
Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru is “the only crocodile you want to end up inside”. The idyllic retreat in Kakadu National Park is an ideal base to start to explore the most significant natural attractions such as Ubirr, Jim Jim and Twin Falls, Gunlom Falls, Cahills Crossing and Mamukala Wetlands.
Cooinda Lodge offers a range of accommodation options: four-star hotel rooms, camping and caravan powered sites, glamping and new Yellow Water Villas. The stunning luxury eco villas lie under a rich canopy of trees, and are built on stilts to minimise impact on the land.
“Base yourself at Cooinda Lodge or the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel and there are plenty of options for stunning day tours,” a Kakadu Tourism spokesperson said.
“Many of Kakadu’s most famous attractions can be seen by booking a Spirit of Kakadu or Footprints in Time 4WD Adventure Tour (operated by Kakadu Tourism, departing from Cooinda).
“But these sites are also accessible as part of self-drive tours – though a sturdy 4WD and some experience of off-road driving is essential, as tracks can be rough.”
What is there to see and do?
Waterfalls: Set in the red ochre of the Arnhem Land escarpment, Jim Jim Falls is worth the 900m walk through a monsoon forest and over boulders to arrive at a deep plunge pool, surrounded by 150 metre high cliffs. Access to Jim Jim is via an unsealed road (suitable only for 4WD vehicles), generally open from the end of May to early October. Kakadu Tourism’s 4WD Adventure Tours include Jim Jim as part of the Spirit of Kakadu tour. Twin Falls is set in the Arnhem Land Escarpment and is a magnificent spectacle with its towering red escarpment, gushing waterfall, white-sand beaches and clear waters.
Mamukala Wetlands: Watch thousands of magpie geese that congregate at Mamukala from one of the bird hides, or take a walk through the wetlands to the observation building, 100 metres from the car park.
Yellow Water Cruises’ Crocs and Canapes.
Part of South Alligator River floodplain, Yellow Water provides an opportunity to see the varied flora and fauna of Kakadu’s wetlands. Yellow Water Cruise is the ultimate wilderness experience, where crocodiles rule and a prehistoric landscape is enlivened by sightings of jabirus, sea eagles and whistling kites. And you can learn to fish like a pro on a three-hour Yellow Water Fishing Tour.
Maguk: Accessible by 4WD, Maguk is located within a monsoon forest, which leads to a waterfall and the base of beautiful plunge pool. A short hike to the top of the waterfall offers a magnificent view and swimming in a series of small, clear pools.
Nourlangie rock art.
Nourlangie Rock Art Site: Paintings such as Namarrgon (Lightning Man) at the base can be reached by a 1.5 km circular walk. Park rangers during the dry season (April until October) invite visitors to join them in this ancient gallery. A lookout provides sweeping views of the escarpment. Or take the moderately steep climb to Gunwarddehwardde Lookout for impressive views of Kakadu’s escarpment and Nourlangie Rock.
Ubirr: The art sites at Ubirr can be reached by following an easy one-kilometre circular walking track. Among the sandstone outliners are richly painted rock walls that record battles, food animals, dangers and mythical beings believed to dwell within the landscape, During the dry season, park rangers conduct regular art site talks. A moderately steep 250 metre climb takes you to Nadab Lookout: a rocky outlook with views across the floodplains.
Anbangbang Billabong (one of the Crocodile Dundee film locations): An easy 2.5 km circular walk, Anbangbang Billabong is situated at the base of Nourlangie Rock. Crowded with water lilies, this small wetland is a haven for waterbirds during the dry season.
Yurmikmik: Yurmikmik is the Jawoyn name for the country between the Marrawal Plateau and the South Alligator River. The network of walking tracks is accessible year-round, along with waterfalls such as Motor Car Falls.
When should we visit?
Kakadu Bird Week – usually held late September to early October – has been called “the greatest natural spectacle on Australian earth”, with more than 250 bird species.
A Kakadu Dinner Under The Stars.
Taste of Kakadu – “a cultural food festival 65,000 years in the making” – will return in 2024 from May 24-26. Set in Kakadu National Park, Australia’s premier Aboriginal food festival brings together Indigenous chefs and Traditional Owners to celebrate ingredients which have sustained First Nations people for thousands of years.
Kakadu is the best place to fish for barramundi when the rains come from late November.
“The Million Dollar Fish Competition starts in December and goes through the summer – a million reasons for visiting Kakadu,” the Kakadu Tourism spokesperson said. “The million-dollar barra has never been caught, but many $10,000 tagged fish have been caught in Yellow Water Billabong.”
Find itineraries to cover short and longer times in the Top End at the Kakadu Tourism website.