Where to Stop on the Way from Darwin to Kakadu National Park by Car

You can break up the drive from Darwin to Kakadu National Park in the Top End of Australia's Northern Territory by stopping along the way at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve and Windows on the Wetlands. The drive from Darwin to Kakadu National Park in the Top End of Australia's Northern Territory is an easy three-hour drive on good bitumen roads. Mary River National Park and the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruises are two attractions that can't be missed.

Traveling from Darwin to Kakadu National Park in the Top End of Australia's Northern Territory to participate in some of the best indigenous guided experiences the country has to offer, to absorb ancient Aboriginal rock art, to swim in tranquil waterholes, to cruise through mangroves teeming with wildlife, to go birdwatching or barramundi fishing, and so on and so forth. and climb up stone escarpments to enjoy sunsets over breathtaking landscapes, will form some of the most memorable moments of your trip to Australia. According to our standards, it ranks up there as one of the most enjoyable highway journeys in all of Australia.

And now is the time to start making plans for your vacation. People talk about the Top End having two seasons, the Wet and the Dry; however, the Aboriginal people use a more nuanced calendar of six seasons: Gunumeleng (pre-monsoon season, mid-October to late December); Gudjewg (monsoon season, January–March); Banggerreng (knock 'em down storm season, April); Yegge (cooler but still humid season); and Banggerreng (season of knock 'em down storm May to the middle of June); Wurrgeng (the season of cold weather, which lasts until the middle of August); and Gurrung (the season of hot, dry weather, which lasts until the middle of October).

The majority of tourists from other countries who visit the Northern Territory will take a tour from Darwin to Kakadu National Park, but locals much prefer to take their time and drive there themselves. Why not do as the tourists in Australia do and rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a campervan, or a motorhome so you can drive from Darwin to Kakadu National Park? You should give yourself a minimum of three days and nights, but anywhere from five to eight days is preferable.

Even though a two-wheel drive car allows you to see a lot, a four-wheel drive car gives you access to so much more. Check out our list of the most helpful tips for taking road trips in Australia to learn more about why a four-wheel drive vehicle is your best bet for traveling across Australia.  

You can break up the journey by stopping along the way at lush Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, Windows on the Wetlands, Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruises, and Mary River National Park. Driving from Darwin to Kakadu National Park is an easy three-hour drive on good bitumen roads.

It is a simple 254-kilometer drive that takes two hours and 45 minutes along good sealed roads to get from Darwin to Jabiru, the main township in Kakadu; however, the trip can take up to three hours if you stop for food and fuel along the way. It is possible to depart from Darwin in the morning and arrive in Jabiru in time for lunch. The distance of 152 kilometers that separates Darwin and the entrance to Kakadu National Park will most likely take you approximately one hour and 45 minutes to travel.

After that, it is an additional 100 kilometers and an additional hour's drive to Jabiru from the Kakadu National Park entry, which is really just a border post and where you will probably want to stop for a photo op. There are a few places to stay in Kakadu's main township, Jabiru, which is more of a hamlet than anything else. Jabiru also has restaurants, automated teller machines, a supermarket, a gas station, a post office, and offices for tour companies and aerial flights. But why are you in such a rush?

Driving from Darwin to Kakadu is a much more interesting experience if you make a few stops along the way. Some of these stops include Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, Windows on the Wetlands, and a Jumping Crocodile Cruise on Adelaide River. Despite these stops, the journey can still be completed in a single day. You can also spend some time at Mary River National Park if you have a spare night or even two. The park is open year-round.

We tested several tours to Kakadu and Arnhem Land when we updated Australia guidebooks, and our favorite was the award-winning Lord's Safaris led by owner-operator Sab Lord, who grew up with the traditional owners of Kakadu and Arnhem Land. We recommend this tour to international tourists who would rather not drive themselves from Darwin to Kakadu National Park. and employs local guides on his private four-wheel drive excursions.

Other companies also offer 3-day, 4-day, and 5-day small-group 4WD camping safaris from Darwin to Kakadu and Arnhem Land, which also include the Mary River Region and Litchfield National Park.

At the time that this article was written, Luxury Escapes was running a promotion for a four-day "Outback Adventure" that included three nights in a bush bungalow at Mary River Retreat (see below) with all meals, two wetlands cruises, and a tour of Litchfield National Park for a total price of 9 per person, which was originally $1,799.

The benefits of participating in tours such as these include being led by knowledgeable guides who are familiar with the surrounding area, not having to worry about driving, and having everything provided for you, from entrance fees to meals.

But if you aren't bothered by the driving and you like the idea of having the freedom to explore on your own, we highly recommend driving from Darwin to Kakadu, and this is how to do it. If you aren't bothered by the driving and you like the idea of having the freedom to explore on your own, then you should drive from Darwin to

If you're traveling by car from Darwin to Kakadu National Park, here are some suggestions for places to stop along the way.

The trip from Darwin to Kakadu National Park is one that will live long in the memory, particularly if it is broken up with stops at places like Fogg Dam, Windows on the Wetlands, Adelaide River, and Mary River National Park.

From the Conservation Reserve at Fogg Dam to Darwin

Because the route is so well marked, figuring out how to get from Darwin to Kakadu while behind the wheel is a piece of cake. After leaving Darwin, continue in the direction of Palmerston, Katherine, and Alice Springs by following the signs. After traveling 35 kilometers in a southeasterly direction along the Stuart Highway, during which time you will see market gardens growing tropical fruits such as mangoes and dragonfruit, you will make a left turn onto the Arnhem Highway in order to reach Kakadu National Park and Jabiru.

The Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is a popular place to stop for tourists on their way from Darwin to Kakadu. It is located 22 kilometers from the turn-off for the Stuart Highway on the Arnhem Highway, and then another kilometer off of that highway. It was established in the 1950s with the purpose of irrigating an experimental rice project located close by at Humpty Doo, with the end goal of improving the economy of the surrounding area. Numerous factors contributed to its failure, but the primary cause was that rice crops were destroyed by migrating birds. This lush wildlife sanctuary is worth visiting in order to see the diverse array of birdlife.

Walk across the barrage to get to the Pandanus Lookout, where there is a bird hide that provides panoramic views of the wetlands and the birds that live there, such as the mischievous comb-crested jacanas, also known as "Jesus birds," as well as geese and egrets. It’s a 2 5-kilometre return walk If you take your time and don't rush, it might take you an hour.

The Monsoon Forest Walk is another pleasant route that is clearly marked and easy to navigate. It will take you an hour to travel the 7 kilometers back. 5 hours if you take your time) through a variety of natural habitats, such as floodplains and paperbark forests, and the Woodlands to Waterlily Walk, which is a boardwalk that winds its way through mangrove forests and encircles a lagoon (2 kilometers). 2 kilometers round trip, and it should not take more than an hour, and probably closer to 45 minutes if you take your time.

Take note of the warning signs: the dam is home to saltwater crocodiles, so exercise extreme caution. Stay on the boardwalks at all times, and steer clear of the lagoon's water's edge.

Moving on to the Window on the Wetlands from the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve

It's only a two-kilometer drive along the Arnhem Highway from the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve to the Window on the Wetlands, which will be on your left. Try not to get too comfortable, because you won't have much time. To get to the visitor's center on Beatrice Hill from the parking lot requires a strenuous ascent, but there is a drop-off area for passengers if that becomes necessary.

Another popular pit stop for tourists on their way from Darwin to Kakadu is the imposing Window on the Wetlands visitor's center, which is open from 8 am to 7 pm daily. 30pm; located off the Arnhem Highway and 21 kilometers to the east of the Stuart Highway) offers a wonderful beginning to your time spent in the area. The upswept lines of the Windows on the Wetlands observation tower reflect the contours of the hill, which the local Aboriginals, the Limilngan-Wulna people, call the Ludawei because it represents Lulak or 'turtle dreaming' and has a great deal of spiritual significance. The hill is located in an area known as the Wetlands of the Window on the World.

The Window on the Wetlands provides visitors with breathtaking panoramas of the Adelaide River floodplain, and its exhibitions offer an in-depth look at the ecology of the surrounding wetlands. If you are taking a trip with your children, they will have a great time engaging with the interactive components, which cover topics such as the seasons of the Top End, the environment, wild animals, and feral animals.

If you are interested in birdwatching, the best time to visit is between the months of December and July, as this is when the greatest number of birds can be seen. However, you should keep in mind that the months of December through March are the wet season, during which the region is subject to monsoonal rains. Even though the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is accessible in any weather and is open throughout the entire year, you might not have a good time there if your idea of a good time on vacation is to stay inside and do nothing.

To the Adelaide River, traveling from the Window on the Wetlands

Along the Arnhem Highway, it is only a one-kilometer drive to the Adelaide River. The road is well-marked, and you'll have no trouble finding the turn-off on your right just before the bridge that will lead you to the designated parking area. Even if they don't go on one of the famous "jumping crocodile cruises," many tourists stop at Adelaide River on their way from Darwin to Kakadu because it is such a popular place to see crocodiles in their natural habitat.

The very well-liked Litchfield Park Tour and Jumping Crocodile Cruise is a cruise that departs from Darwin and lasts for the entirety of a day.

We are hesitant to encourage you to do this because it is not natural for "salties" to rise two meters out of the river and snap ferociously at raw meat. Because of this, we are reluctant to encourage you to do this. However, the opinions of the specialists on whether or not it is inappropriate to encourage such behavior are split down the middle, and considering how many people are captivated by this mind-blowing display, we'll just leave it up to you to decide whether or not to embark on a cruise.

Crocodiles are known to inhabit the Top End, and there will be additional chances for you to observe these reptiles in their natural environment. Northern Australia is home to two distinct species of crocodiles: the freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstonii), also known as a "freshie," which can reach a length of up to three meters, and the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), also known as a "saltie," which can be found in both saltwater and freshwater and can reach a length of up to six meters. Freshies are known to be more reserved than salties, which are known to be more aggressive and are responsible for one to two deaths annually in northern Australia.

Which is why it's essential to keep an eye out for crocodile warning signs and to avoid becoming as careless as some of the locals we've seen, particularly fishermen, who have walked knee-deep around their boats in crocodile-infested waters at locations such as Shady Camp Reserve and Rockhole. In other words, it's important to be aware of the dangers of crocodiles.

Do not make the assumption that swimming in any of the natural waterholes is risk-free because there are only a few rivers in the area that are devoid of saltwater crocodiles. Crocodiles can cross from rivers into waterholes during the wet season when the water levels rise, and if they don't swim back out before the water level drops, they have to be trapped and removed by park rangers before the waterhole can be considered "safe" again. However, some swimming spots are never completely safe from crocodiles.

From the Mary River National Park down to the Adelaide River.

You can reach Mary River Crossing and Mary River National Park from Adelaide River by continuing on the Arnhem Highway in a southeasterly direction for another 29 kilometers after leaving Adelaide River. In addition to being a well-liked fishing spot among locals, this location is an absolute must-see for tourists on their way from Darwin to Kakadu because it gives them the opportunity to get a close look at some crocodiles.

If you are planning to spend the night in Mary River National Park and need a place to stay, the Mary River Wilderness Retreat is the accommodation option that is located the closest to the Arnhem Highway. If you are traveling there, you will find it just after the river.

Continue along the Arnhem Highway for another 21 kilometers until you reach the turn-off on your left for Point Stuart Road. This is the best route to take if you are interested in birdwatching and fishing. In addition, the region is home to a plethora of bird species, including the graceful Jabirus and the storks with black-necked necks. This route takes you through Mary River National Park on a paved road, where you can go bird watching on the Mary River Wetlands Cruise, and then on to Rockhole, a popular fishing spot, where you can camp at Couzens Lookout.

The next turn-off will take you to Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge, which is located 36 kilometers away and offers activities such as fishing and wetlands tours. If you keep going in the same direction, you will eventually come to the turn-off for Shady Camp, which is another popular fishing spot where you can hire boats. However, there is little to interest anyone other than people who enjoy fishing at this location. Because of its distance from the Arnhem Highway—40 kilometers—getting here requires a fair amount of effort, unless your goal is to fish.

Although the barrage here separates the fresh water from the sea's tidal reach, it is possible for saltwater crocodiles to access both sides of the water, so you should exercise caution. Continue along Harold Knowles Road to be met at the Swim Creek Station gate if you have a prearranged pick-up for Bamurru Plains. We will be waiting for you there. After having been paved for the first 25 kilometers, the road deteriorates into a sandy dirt road.

Wildman Wilderness Lodge, Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge, and Bamurru Plains are among the places that offer lodging in and around Mary River National Park; reservations are required to stay at any of these places, and you won't even be able to drive to Bamurru Plains if you don't have one.

Even though this region is reachable from May until September during the dry season, the majority of it is made up of flood plains, and from October until April the roads in this region are prone to flooding and may be impassable for several months at a time when much of the surrounding area is submerged in water.

The Mary River National Park provides visitors with the unique opportunity to view the park from both the air and the water. This Mary River Airboat, Safari Cruise, and Helicopter Tour includes a breathtaking helicopter flight to and from Corroboree Billabong over lush floodplains, an exhilarating 45-minute airboat adventure, and a 90-minute safari cruise on the Mary River Wetlands. The tour begins and ends at the Corroboree Billabong. You might see wallabies, jabirus, sea eagles, kites, kingfishers, jacanas, brolgas, or buffaloes. It is possible to arrange to meet at Mary River if you are traveling by car from Darwin to Kakadu.

This Culture and Wildlife Tour with Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours also includes a lunch cruise on the Mary River Wetlands and Corroboree Billabong, spotting saltwater crocodiles and native flora and birdlife, however, you’ll also get to engage with local indigenous people, learn basket weaving, try your hand at throwing a spear Try your hand at playing the didgeridoo, learn about the food and medicine native to the area, and sample some bush damper and billy tea.

This Mary River Wetlands Cruise from Darwin is a good alternative to driving from Darwin to Kakadu because it visits Fogg Dam Nature Reserve, the Window on the Wetlands, and Adelaide River in addition to a two-hour stop at Kakadu National Park. 5-hour cruise through the wetlands, where you'll have the opportunity to see a large number of birds (around 30 different species). ) and an abundance of flora and fauna, including the greatest number of saltwater crocodiles found anywhere in the world

Starting at Mary River National Park and continuing on to Kakadu National Park and the Mamukala Wetlands

It is approximately 120 kilometers from the Arnhem Highway-Point Stuart Road turn-off to Jabiru, but it is only 18 kilometers, which is about a 15-minute drive, to the Kakadu National Park boundary for that photo opportunity. If you spent the night at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat, the drive to Jabiru, the primary access point for Kakadu National Park, is approximately 140 kilometers and will take approximately 80 minutes.

Travelers heading from Darwin to Kakadu should make sure to stop at the Mamukala Wetlands, which are located 110 kilometers away from Mary River Wilderness Retreat and are an additional mandatory pit stop along the route. After traveling seven kilometers east of South Alligator River, the exit will be visible to your right.

These verdant Mamukala Wetlands are the habitat of thousands of magpie geese, particularly during the latter part of the dry season, from September to October, when the geese gather in large numbers. There is a viewing platform that provides panoramic vistas, but you can get much closer by walking the three kilometers that are not particularly difficult. Give it an hour to pass.

Only 32 kilometers along the Arnhem Highway separate the Mamukala Wetlands and the Bowali Visitor Centre, which serves as the main entrance to Kakadu National Park. It will be on your right, and there is an abundant supply of parking there at all times. This is the location from which you can purchase Kakadu National Park passes if you did not do so previously on the internet.

Please let us know if you have any questions about driving from Darwin to Kakadu, and be sure to check out our upcoming post on Kakadu National Park. After that, we'll publish a driving guide for getting from Kakadu National Park to Litchfield National Park via Pine Creek and Adelaide River. Please see our post titled "Kakadu to the Kimberley" for more information.

This picture was provided by Luxury Escapes.


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