Read this before you decide where to stay in kakadu
Wondering where to stay in Kakadu for your top end adventure? Well, there is some great accommodation on offer both inside Kakadu National Park and along the route from Darwin. From the most rustic of campsites to a hotel shaped like a crocodile, check out our extensive list of places to rest your head while you explore the rich landscape of top end.
How to get to Kakadu National Park
You can access the park year round with sealed roads suitable for 2 wheel drives reaching the main sites in the park. Occassionally during wet season these may be closed by flood so it pays to check road conditions before you head out. There are some parts of the park only accessible by four-wheel drive and we’ll be honest, it’s great to have one, but if you don’t, that should not stop you from enjoying a visit to Kakadu National Park.
If you are coming from Darwin, the northern entry to the park is just 133 km down the Arnhem Highway. From the southern towns of Pine Creek (60km) or Katherine (150km) you take the Kakadu Highway.
Areas to stay in Kakadu National Park
Kakadu is official divided into six regions and moving your base once or twice during your visit is a good way to be able to experience each area at the best time of day.
The six regions are:
- South Alligator region – One of the least visited areas in the park, the South Alligator region is home of the Mamukala Wetlands and several campgrounds.
- Jabiru region – the most populated area with a couple of good resorts, a three-star hotel and a small shopping area.
- East Alligator (Erre) region – Stay in this region to experience sunset or sunrise at Ubirr, Cahills Crossing and campgrounds
- Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) region – A good choice for hiking and exploring Anbangbang Billabong and ancient rock art sites. Sandy Billabong (Djirrilba) is a unmanaged campsite with but is one of the most scenic in the park. Djarradjin campground is a managed site with facilities is popular with boaties who want to do a bit of barra fishing.
- Yellow Water region – Close to Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, if you want to do a sunrise cruise on Yellow Water then spend a night or two here. There is a choice of accommodation with both Cooinda Lodge and Mardukal campgrounds excellent options.
- Jim Jim/Twin Falls – If you plan on hiking to these falls, then Karnamarr camping area about 10km from Jim Jim falls is the perfect base.
There are three communities that serve Kakadu National Park, but if you want to stay in a serviced centre, choose between Jabiru or Cooinda.
- Jabiru is the main a settlement. It was built to support a uranium mine before they established the national park on the site. Jabiru is the biggest service centre in the region and offers a shopping centre, petrol station and medical services. There is also a small airport here.
- Cooinda is 50km south of Jabiru. There are several attractions here, a petrol station and another small air strip used for scenic flights.
Accommodation in Jabiru
Jabiru offers the largest range of accommodation in the park. It is the best base for anyone travelling with a 2 wheel drive. You can book several tours from here and it is possible to get a good, strong coffee too!
Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
Kakadu National Park hotels are in short supply and the uniquely shaped Mercure Crocodile Hotel offers all the creature comforts of a three-star property. For hotels close to civilisation, this is as good as it gets inside the park.
Located just minutes from the centre of Jabiru, the hotel is looking a little dated, but it has a great outdoor swimming pool and is centrally located for exploring Kakadu.
There are a variety of room types spead over two floors and some are quite a long walk from reception so if you have any mobility issues let them know when you book.
All rooms, including family rooms are relatively spacious and the air conditioning is much appreciated out here.
The property offers free wi-fi in your room, a guest laundry, very handy with all the red dirt you encounter and an onsite restaurant and bar.
Tip: If you stay here, take the 4 kilometre loop walk to the Bowali Visitor Centre. It takes about half an hour to reach the centre.
Where: Flinders Street, Jabiru – just a 2-minute walk from the town centre and shops.
Access: Sealed road that is open year round.
Cost: $350 in high season, as low as $180 in the wet season.
If you book via booking.com you can choose a rate that includes free cancellation should your plans change.
Check out this guided tour the picks up in Jabiru if you want someone else to do the driving once you are settled in.
Anbinik Kakadu Resort
From powered caravan and camping sites to safari style bungalows and two-bedroom cabins, there is something for everyone at Anbinik. The resort owned and managed by the Djabulukgu Association which represents the Traditional Owners of the Park’s northern region.
The resort is within walking distance to Jabiru supermarket and other facilities. It offers an outdoor pool, which, while small, provides a welcome end to a day of sightseeing and discovering waterholes you are probably too scared to swim in!
Anbinik has won several design awards and the communal facilities are lovely. There is a guest laundry, and a range of options from powered sites and bungalows that feel like backpacker rooms to the large suites.
The suites feature cool outdoor showers but strangely, no kitchen. One step down luxury wise, the 2-bedroom suites offer a basic kitchen and are the best choice for families. Disabled suites are available.
Where: 83 Jabiru Drive – 250 kms from Darwin and 1.4km from Jabiru town centre
Access: Sealed road that is open year round.
Tip: Pop into the Marrawuddi Cafe in Jabiru and relax with the best coffee you will get in the National Park.
Aurora Kakadu Lodge Caravan and Camping Park
The highlight of Aurora Kakadu Lodge (often just called Kakadu Lodge) is the gorgeous lagoon style swimming pool and beautiful gardens.
Along with a bar and restaurant, there are also BBQ facilities if you are hoping to save some dollars.
The park offers over 100 unpowered campsites and 186 powered sites, there are also caravan park style self-contained studios, 1 and 2 bedroom cabins. This is not luxury accommodation, but the park itself is lovely.
Hands down, this would be my choice for a powered campsite in Jabiru, but when it comes to the rooms, you need to know they are not flash. You do, however, get the fantastic pool and a very engaged staff who provide great service. They also offer single air-conditioned rooms perfect for solo travellers.
Bookings are not required for campsites but if you require a cabin you should book well in advance.
Need to know: There is no free internet access at Kakadu Lodge but there is some mobile coverage in Jabiru, and internet access at the library and Bowali Visitor Centre.
The park offers an onsite Bistro, shared kitchen and barbeque facilities
Where: Jabiru Drive, Kakadu
Access: Sealed road year round access
Cost: campsites from $30 Rooms from $199
Accommodation in Cooinda
Cooinda Lodge is one of the most comfortable places to stay in Kakadu National Park offers great value for money. It’s perfectly positioned for easy access to the early morning cruises on Yellow Water Billabong or to visit the Warradjan Cultural Centre.
One of the features is the large swimming pool surrounded by palms, the perfect place to relax after a day exploring the Kakadu landscape.
This indigenous owned property is managed by Accor and offers recently refurbished lodge rooms and glamping style Outback Retreats.
Choose an air-conditioned lodge room that includes a private courtyard or one of the luxury glamping set ups of the outback retreats featured at the top of the page.
Accommodation Options outside the park
There are a couple of accommodation options near the northern entry to the park you might like to consider. If you are travelling in the Northern Territory with your dog, you will need to stay outside Kakadu’s borders.
Mary River Wilderness Retreat
Mary River Wilderness Retreat is 110km from Darwin on the Arnhem Hwy. From here it’s another 38km to Kakadu’s entry gates.
The riverfront property boasts two swimming pools, a bar, a restaurant, small shop, and boat and buggy hire. There is free wifi too!
The poolside bungalows are our pick here. They feature air conditioning and ceiling fans, queen beds, small fridge and ensuite. Two-bedroom bungalows are also available for families. Safari tents (no ensuite) area also available.
Where: 4642 Arnhem Highway Mount Bundey
Access: seal road – suitable for all vehicles.
Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge
In the Mary River Wetland just 30 minutes’ drive from the northern gates of Kakadu, Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge is a great base to explore the wetlands or enjoy some time fishing.
Point Stuart has its own Water Buffalo and Banteng wildlife and wetland tours. You can hire a boat and fish at Sandy Point or join one of their fishing tours.
The lodge and standard rooms are functional, air-conditioned and offer a fridge, ensuite bathroom and patio space. There are also safari tents and a caravan and a campground. The campground at Point Stuart is pet friendly.
Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge has an on-site saloon and bistro and bbq area.
Where: Point Stuart Road, Point Stuart
Access: A 7km well maintained unsealed section, suitable for all caravans & campers.
Camping in Kakadu National Park
There are three types of park run campsites inside Kakadu; managed sites, unmanaged sites and free camps.
None of these are fancy and all campsites in the park require you to bring your own drinking water but the managed sites offer some basic facilities.
If you are planning to camp, read the crocodile safety guidelines and follow the rules.
Managed camp sites
These sites are managed by the NT National Park. They offer basic facilities, including showers and composting toilets, fire pits, and an onsite manager, for any problems that might arise.
- Merl – 3 km from the Ubirr rock and close to Cahills Crossing. Suitable for 2WD and caravans.
- Djarradjin (Muirella Park) – 30km from Cooinda, this central location is great for fishing (barra) and spotting crocodiles. 2WD access and is suitable for caravans.
- Mardukal – 6 km from Cooinda, this is the only site in Kakadu that allows alcohol. Suitable for 2WD and caravans.
- Karnamarr – Pretty site with superb views. An excellent base for exploring with Jim Jim Falls is 10 km and Twin Falls is 18 km away. A 4WD is required, but the site is suitable for caravans.
- Gunlom – currently closed for cultural reasons
These sites cost $15 per adult and $7.50 per child per night.
Unmanaged Campsites in Kakadu
These unmanaged sites off very basic facilities, pit toilets, fire pits and picnic tables but what they lack in facilites that make up for with location!
While there are quite a few unmanaged sites, these are the main ones used by visitors.
- Kambolgie – 15 km off the Kakadu Highway and 45 minutes from Gunlom – no caravans, but it is possible to get in with a 2WD.
- Gungurul – 58 km from Cooinda, this camp is a bird watcher’s paradise and suitable for 2WDs and caravans
- Malabanjbanjdju – 17 km from Jabiru and less than 30 mins from Burrungkuy (Nourlangie). Suitable for 2WD and caravans.
- Burdulba – Just a 25 minute drive from Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) and Nanguluwurr. Suitable for 2WD vehicles and tents only.
- Sandy Billabong (Djirrilba) – a stunning site with waterlilies and abundant bird life – 4WD essential and not suitable for caravans.
- Jim Jim Billabong – 6 km from Cooinda, this site offers great fishing, 4WD required and no caravan access.
- Maguk – Beautiful site near Maguk waterfall, however you need a 4 wheel drive to access the site. Not suitable for caravans.
Free camp sites in Kakadu
If you want to get off the beaten track, it’s hard to go past the park’s free camp sites. These sites offer no special features at all other than the nature on your doorstep.
One very important rule in Kakadu is to always camp at least 50 metres from the water’s edge. Crocodiles can be anywhere in the Top End.
A 4 wheel drive is recommended to reach these sites and they are generally not suitable for caravans.
- Two Mile Hole/ Four Mile Hole – There are sometimes crocodiles here, but they say the fishing is good.
- Red Lily Billabong (Djunda) /Bucket Billabong (Ngarrababa) / Alligator Billabong (Gurdurunguranjdju) – 4WD tracks to reach these sites
- Giyamungkurr (Black Jungle Springs) – Caravans can access this site, apparently but check the road condition before you head in.
- Bilkbilkmi* (Graveside Gorge) – 60 km rough 4WD track to the camping area.
A Kakadu campsite can offer views that are worth the effort to reach.
Bookings are not required for camp sites in Kakadu – all run on a first come, first served basis.
Commercial Caravan Park Camp Sites
There are commercial camp grounds in Jabiru (Anbinik Kakadu Resort and Aurora Kakadu Lodge Caravan Park)and Cooinda that offer 100 powered sites and 200 unpowered grassed sites. These parks are perfect for less experienced campers or those who want access to power and water.