Itineraries Coonida Lodge (5)
Day 3. A bird’s eye view of Australia’s most spectacular landscape
After breakfast, pack your bags and call into the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre for a fascinating explanation of Kakadu’s living cultural heritage and European history. You’ll see many artefacts, hear about kinship and personal stories from local Bininj/Mungguy (the Aboriginal people of Kakadu). Artists are often present creating traditional paintings and crafts.
Drive to Jabiru and drop your bags into the world-famous Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel. Fully Indigenous-owned, the locals just call it the ‘The Croc’, and with its comfortable rooms, quality restaurant and large shaded swimming pool, it’s the only crocodile you’ll want to end up inside!
Indigenous art is one of the highlights of visiting Kakadu, and you can view high-quality locally produced art at The Croc’s Ochre Art Gallery and the Marrawuddi Gallery, where artists can be seen producing paintings.
Many visitors say that Kakadu is best seen in the wet season because nature is at its most powerful. Take a scenic flight in a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft from Jabiru Airport (flights also go from Cooinda Lodge airstrip) and experience the grandeur and enormity of the landscape. It’s a remarkable site to see Kakadu’s iconic waterfalls such as Jim Jim and Twin Falls in full-torrent, and view the advancing waters as they flow across the wetlands.
Return to Cooinda Lodge Kakadu for a leisurely swim, a cocktail and some fine bush-tucker influenced cuisine at the Mimi’s Restaurant or opt for casual outdoor dining at the Barra Bistro.
Day 2. Cruises, rock pools and waterfalls
Plan an early wakeup for a truly memorable Kakadu experience. The Yellow Water Cruise through this wetland area of international significance floats through paperbark forests and past carpets of lotus lilies, populated by over 250 bird varieties, vast numbers of crocodiles and other wildlife. The two-hour cruise is complemented by expert commentary sharing stories of the landscape and Indigenous culture. You’ll love the cruise so much that you might want to come back for a sunset or extra sunrise cruise at a specially discounted rate.
Stock up on snacks at Cooinda for a picnic lunch before heading south to Stone Country, the home of Kakadu’s Jawoyn people to experience Kakadu the traditional way, walking on country.
First stop at Bukbukluk lookout (400 m easy loop walk) for beautiful vistas of Kakadu’s southern hills and ridges. Keep an eye out for birds and wallabies.
Travel on the unsealed Gimbat Road (check access report for conditions) to Yurmikmik and take the walking track to Boulder Creek (2 km return walk) or Motor Car Falls (7.5 km return walk). This is a stunning part of Kakadu that’s popular with locals. At this time of year the surroundings are unbelievably green and fragrant. Sit and enjoy a picnic lunch in a truly unspoilt wilderness.
Return to Cooinda for a cooling swim and drink by the pool before dinner.
Day 1. Darwin to Kakadu
Set out early for your drive to Kakadu (under three hours’ drive) and just before you arrive in Kakadu call into the Mamukala wetlands for an introduction to the remarkable birdlife that calls Kakadu home for part or all of the year.
Mamukala is at its most dramatic in the late dry season (prior to December), when thousands of magpie geese congregate to feed. There is an observation platform to view the birdlife, while a 3km walk adjacent to the wetlands is open for much of the year, and you may even get to see crocodiles by the shore, kangaroos, wild pigs and buffalo.
Call into Bowali Visitor Centre to find out the latest access details around the park and to view a fascinating display highlighting the plants, animals and landscapes that have contributed to making Kakadu a dual World Heritage-listed national park.
Drive 40 minutes to Cooinda Lodge Kakadu and check into a fully refurbished Lodge room, one of the new Outback Retreat glamping tents, or into the shady caravan and camping village. Grab a bite to eat before driving back (20 minutes) to the Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) rock art site and Kunwarddewardde lookout (1 km return walk). The dramatic sandstone cliffs here are a wondrous sight. Take your time winding through shaded rock shelters.
In the main (Anbangbang) gallery you’ll see the Creation Ancestor Namondjok, and the Creation Ancestor Namarrkon, the Lightning Man. Climb to the Kunwarddewardde Lookout, and be rewarded with sweeping views of both Kakadu’s escarpment and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock). If you have time, another rewarding walk is the 6 km Kubara pools walk, which takes in savanna woodlands, paperbark forests and monsoon thickets. The Kubara pools walk is open most of the year but is most popular during the tropical summer.
There’s an abundance of birds here – listen to the calls of the helmeted friarbirds or try to spot emerald doves and banded fruit-doves darting about the tree canopies. Finish your afternoon of exploration by climbing to the nearby Nawurlandja lookout to be rewarded with tremendous views of the park. This is a magical spot to relax and watch the colours change as the sun descends in the west. Amazing storms often roll in and put on a dramatic lightshow during the tropical summer.
Return to Cooinda for a cooling swim in the large lagoon pool and dine on local cuisine at the recently refurbished Mimi’s, which offers both inside and outside dining.
Bonus extra: A million-dollar reason for visiting Kakadu during tropical summer
Add another day on your itinerary if you love fishing because not only are Kakadu’s waters brimming with large fish, each year between October and the end of March you have the opportunity to win a million dollars for catching a tagged barramundi – the king of Kakadu fish. The Million Dollar Fish competition started in 2015 but to date no one has caught one of the tagged million dollar barras (possibly because the crocs like them too and care little about the tags!). However, many $10,000 tagged Barras have been caught in Yellow Water Billabong and even if your Barra doesn’t have a tag, it will taste like a million dollars on a BBQ.
If you want expert advice on fishing, either as an experienced or novice fishing enthusiast, you can join a Yellow Water Fishing cruise. The tours are led by experienced guides, who know the waterways like the back of their hands and know exactly where the Barras are biting. They will provide all of the fishing gear and will coach you to cast, retrieve and how to make your lure the most attractive for a Yellow Water barramundi.
Day 4. A memorable cruise only available during the wet season
Have an early breakfast and be ready for a pick up at 8am for the memorable Guluyambi Combo Tour, a five-hour 4WD/cruise combo that is only available during the wet season and the only way of accessing the Ubirr rock art site during this time.
The drive from Jabiru takes you through the East Alligator River district to the flooded Magela Creek, where you are transferred to a cruise vessel for a magical trip through the paperbark forests. Expert Indigenous guides provide an insight into local Aboriginal mythology, traditional uses for many plants and animals, and bush survival skills required for this wilderness environment.
After departing the cruise you’ll travel to nearby Ubirr Rock, where you’ll view ancient rock art sites and experience the panoramic views from the lookout before returning to Jabiru by boat and 4WD.
Return to Cooinda Lodge Kakadu and enjoy a relaxing lunch at Mimis Restaurant before saying goodbye (‘bobo’) to Kakadu and returning to Darwin.