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That’s the view of intrepid explorer and blogger, Steph Parker, whose popular website Big World Small Pockets reflects her ‘modus operandi’ of seeing as much of the world as possible, but on a careful, well-planned budget. Her round-the-continent trip took her to Kakadu where they discovered an inviting oasis of comfort called Cooinda Lodge and camping grounds. Here is her review, which led to her conclusion that Cooinda Lodge camping grounds provided the “best accommodation in Kakadu National Park” for budget-conscious travellers.

Steph Parker
October 6, 2016
Full story and photos:

Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is Australia’s largest national park at over 20,000sqkm. If you’re not really sure what these means in real terms, then let me put it to you bluntly. IT’S HUGE, like the size of a small country, huge!

In order to do this UNESCO World Heritage site justice therefore, you’re going to need at least a few days to explore the place. I’ve already written about the best free things to do in Kakadu National Park, as well as the one Kakadu tour you should definitely take, but what I haven’t spoken about before is Kakadu accommodation.

There are 3 types of accommodation in Kakadu National Park, each tiered accordingly to their facilities and price range:

1. Basic, Free Camps
First up are the most basic camps, which are free after paying for your Kakadu Park Pass.

Normally a lover of all things free, I’ve actually foregone the free camps in Kakadu on both occasions I’ve visited the park, simply because they are really far out of the way.

What I mean by this, is that they’re generally not near any of the Park’s best sights, which means driving to these types of free Kakadu accommodation, can actually end up costing you a significant amount in fuel – think driving 100km round trip just to free camp!

As such, I’d much rather spend my money on a form of accommodation with a shower thanks, especially given the heat in Kakadu!

2. Paid Park Camps
The second type of Kakadu accommodation is the paid park campsites. These are generally located near some of the major park attractions such as Gunlom Falls, Jim Jim Falls / Garnamarr and Maguk, which makes them more convenient.

I’ve stayed in a couple of paid park camps, most notably Merl Campground, which is excellently placed right next to Ubirr, meaning you only have a short drive back to your tent after watching sunset there.

Merl and many of the other paid park campsites do have some facilities (such as drinking water, picnic tables and showers) which is good. They are priced either $6pppn or $15pppn, depending on whether are “managed” or not and the level of facilities.

$6pppn is ok (these ones generally don’t have showers), but I do take a small umbrage with the fact that anywhere else in the Northern Territory, a national park campground without a shower is $3.30pppn and ones with shower facilities cost only $6.60pppn. The fact that Kakadu National Park charge $6 and $15 respectively therefore, seems a bit much, but anyway!

These campsites are fine and can service you well, but you need to come prepared as they are basic and be warned, insects abound!

3. Private Kakadu Accommodation
That’s why I really recommend the third type of accommodation on offer in Kakadu National Park.

Visiting Kakadu can be a hot and tiring experience. It is delightful, but long days with lots of driving can take its toll.

If you’re spending a few nights here therefore, it is well worth treating yourself (even just for 1 night) to a paid and private campground.

This really is the best way to complete your Kakadu experience and is exactly what we did on our most recent visit … and boy were we glad!

Staying at the Cooinda Lodge in Kakadu was an absolute delight!

The resort boasts a great camping ground (where we very kindly received a complimentary powered site) as well as private rooms for 2, 3 or 4 people. This means Cooinda Lodge really caters for every sort of visitor, making it the perfect Kakadu accommodation.

Brilliantly located right in the centre of the park, it was both easy to get to and sightsee from. Indeed, it fitted in perfectly with our Kakadu itinerary and was comfortably near many top attractions, including the famous rock art site of Nourlangie, the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Mirrai Lookout and Jim Jim Billabong, which is more than enough to fill one day!

Yellow Water Location – Perhaps the highlight of Cooinda Lodge’s location however, was its proximity to the Yellow Water area of Kakadu, which is one of the park’s must-see spots!

Indeed, the morning after we stayed at Cooinda Lodge, we treated ourselves to a Yellow Water Cruise at dawn, which was fabulous.

That said, it was an early 6am start and I’m really glad a complimentary shuttle bus basically picked us up from outside our tent, rather than us having to drive or walk anywhere at that hour!

***** 5* Cleanliness *****
But it wasn’t just the location that we loved about Cooinda Lodge, the cleanliness was also top notch!

As you can imagine, we’ve stayed in a lot of caravan parks and campgrounds as part of our budget 4wd trip around Australia, so trust me when I say Cooinda Lodge was CLEAN. In fact, it was possibly the cleanest campground I’ve stayed in!

With plenty of lovely grassy patches, which made a nice change from the usual scrubby dirt we’re accustomed to, paths that were well-swept and gardens that were well-kept, it was like a lovely tropical oasis.

Best of all, however, were the bathrooms, which looked like new they were so sparkly!

Indeed, they very well may have been new, with plenty of cubicles, mirrors and space for everyone! The showers were awesome, with a ton of pressure and plenty of hot water. It’s the simple things that count after all!

Excellent Facilities

But our treat at Cooinda Lodge, didn’t end there! The resort also boasted a café, bar and restaurant for meals, free BBQs and 2 delightful pools, which we enjoyed a dip in just as the sun was going down!

What an epic way to end the day!

So if you’re looking for some Kakadu accommodation, can I suggest Cooinda Lodge. Highly recommended, this place is ideal for families or those looking for the ultimate way to complete their Kakadu experience.

It was also the ideal tonic for some dirty, sun-blasted and rather weary budget travellers! After a swim, a shower and a sleep at Cooinda Lodge we felt wonderfully refreshed and ready to tackle the awesome Kakadu National Park the next day.

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