Base yourself at Cooinda Lodge or the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel and there are plenty of options for stunning day tours. Many of Kakadu’s most famous attractions can be seen by booking a Spirit of Kakadu or Footprints of the Past 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. The end result, though, is inevitably worth the effort.
Yellow Water Wetlands
Part of South Alligator River floodplain Yellow Water provides an opportunity to see the varied flora and fauna of Kakadu's World Heritage wetlands. A Yellow Water Cruise is the ultimate wilderness experience. They are regarded as Australia's best wildlife boat tours. As canopied boats steer safely through tranquil waters, witness a land barely touched by mankind, where nature is raw, crocodiles rule and a prehistoric landscape is enlivened by sightings of jabirus, sea eagles and whistling kites across the flood plain. Located just a few minutes drive from Cooinda Lodge.
Jim Jim Falls
Whether the falls are raging with water in the 'Wet' season, or the merest trickle in the 'Dry', this majestic waterfall is a sight to behold. Set in the red ochre of the Arnhem Land escarpment and boasting white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, it is worth the 900 metre walk through a monsoon forest and over boulders to arrive at a deep plunge pool surrounded by spectacular 150 metre high cliffs. Jim Jim Falls has graced many calendars, books and television program's and is a must see for all visitors to Kakadu National Park. Access to Jim Jim is via an unsealed road (suitable only for 4WD vehicles) that is generally open from the end of May through to early October.
Set in the Arnhem Land Escarpment, Twin Falls is a magnificent spectacle with its towering red escarpment, gushing waterfall, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Access is by ferry boat, with tickets ($12.50) available from the Garnamarr Campground. Only accessible in the dry season, Twin Falls is 70km from Cooinda, but with the unsealed road, can take up to three hours.
Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge)
Known by some as 'The Jewel in Kakadu's crown', it is one of Kakadu's most beautiful places. Jarrangbarnmi has important cultural and natural values. To protect these values, only limited amounts of people at a time are allowed to visit the area and a special permit is required. A very pretty gorge with swimming, bushwalking and bird life. There are great views to be enjoyed from the top by the waterhole.
Maguk (Barramundie Gorge)
Accessible only by 4WD, Maguk is located within a monsoon forest, which leads to a waterfall and the base of beautiful plunge pool. The water is crystal clear and swimming is allowed. A short hike to the top of the waterfall is well worth the effort offering a magnificent view and swimming in a series of small clear pools.
Mamukala Wetlands offer a great opportunity to view the bird life on the wetlands from an observation tower, or via the many walking tracks on the edge of the wetlands. You can watch thousands of magpie geese that congregate at Mamukala from one of the bird hides, 600 metres from the car park, or take a walk through the wetlands to the observation building, located 100 metres from the car park. Walks vary from one to three kilometres.
Nourlangie Rock Art Site
The walls of these rock shelters have served as both shelter and canvases for thousands of years, providing windows to a rich spiritual tradition.
Paintings such as Namarrgon (lightening man) explore the relationship of the people to their country and belief; they illustrate the important stories, food sources, wars and mythological figures. The paintings at the base can be reached by a 1.5 km circular walk. Accessible for most of the year, during the 'dry' season (April until October) park rangers provide informative talks about Aboriginal art and culture, inviting visitors to join them and share their knowledge of this ancient gallery.
There is a lookout that is well worth the climb for sweeping views of the escarpment. For the more adventurous, there is also a moderately steep climb to Gunwarddehwardde lookout which provides impressive views of both Kakadu's escarpment and Nourlangie Rock.
Ubirr is one of Kakadu's two most famous rock art galleries. The art sites at Ubirr can be reached by following an easy 1 km circular walking track. Among the sandstone outliners are richly painted rock walls that recorded battles, food animals, dangers and mythical beings believed by 'Binji' to dwell within the landscape, During the dry season (winter), park rangers conduct regular art site talks at Ubirr.
A moderately steep 250 metre climb takes you to Nadab Lookout, a rocky outlook that provides superb views across the floodplains. Enjoying a spectacular tropical sunset from the top of Ubirr is not to be missed.
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 (winter).
Located on Waterfall Creek, Gunlom is the magical combination of waterfall and serene plunge pool, with shady gums cooling the picnic areas. It is the only escarpment waterfall in Kakadu that is accessible by conventional 2WD vehicle during dry season.
The Gunlom Billabong at the base of the waterfall was made famous by the film ‘Crocodile Dundee’, and provides a cool, quiet resting place. A walking route to the top of the falls and lookouts takes approximately one hour over a steep terrain, but is worth the effort as the infinity pool not only provides cooling waters but also panoramic views of the southern most parts of Kakadu National Park.
Yurmikmik is the Jawoyn name for the country between the Marrawal Plateau and the South Alligator River. The network of walking tracks are accessible year-round, along with waterfalls such as Motor Car Falls, named after a miner who managed to get his Chevrolet truck as far as what is now known as Motor Car Creek.
The walk goes through open woodland, where you can see exotic flora and fauna, before reaching lush monsoon forest. A track then leads to the falls and swimming hole. Walking in the wet season (summer) is particularly enjoyable.