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Camping in Kakadu

Pitch your tent in a world heritage-listed national park and step into a land of cascading waterfalls, sandstone gorges and ancient rock art.

Kakadu & Surrounds has dozens of campgrounds spread across its seven distinct regions. You could lay your head in a different spot every night for months and never see the same view twice.

Kakadu National Park is world heritage listed for a reason: it’s spectacular. The almost 20,000 square kilometres of changing landscapes is as diverse as it is unique with waterfalls, billabongs, rock art, cultural experiences and wildlife unrivalled across the world.

Get back to nature with a swag under the stars and keep an eye out for the famous saltwater crocodiles on patrol along with barramundi, a range of stunning native birds, flatback turtles, wallabies, quolls and bandicoots, flying foxes and the huge termite mounds.

Kakadu truly has everything you could want in an escape, just a few hours from the city.

The best time to camp in Kakadu

Kakadu is in the Top End which has two distinct tropical seasons – the Wet/Tropical summer and the Dry. The best time to visit will be largely determined by the type of activities you’d like to do and areas you’d like to explore. Some roads may be closed during the Tropical Summer, restricting access to the places you can travel.

Regardless of the time of year you visit, sun protection and carrying enough drinking water is a must. Bug spray won’t hurt to keep the mosquitoes and midgies at bay.

Dry season (May to October)

The dry season is considered by some visitors as the best time to visit Kakadu as it offers optimal wilderness camping weather, especially during the drier months of June, July and August.

In the Dry, the days are sunny with the average temperature ranging from 21°C to 36°C. There’s little chance of rain, and humidity is low so you can comfortably explore the escarpments, rock art sites, cultural tours, nature and wildlife before settling into a cooler night in your outdoor tent or swag.

Wet season/Tropical Summer (November to April)

Things quieten down during the Top End’s Tropical Summer, but if you love warmer weather and don’t mind rainfall, some visitors and locals think this is the most beautiful time to visit the park. The waterholes and waterfalls are full and flowing, wildlife is active and the crowds are smaller. If you’re sensitive to the heat, we suggest staying somewhere with a resort pool and cabins.

Expect temperatures during this period to range from 24°C to 37°C, with 80% humidity. This time of year also brings some impressive and beautiful thunderstorms, so we recommend checking all roads are open and accessible.

For more information on the weather in Kakadu and the Northern Territory check out our weather and seasons guide or for up-to-date weather forecasts visit the Bureau of Meteorology.

Kakadu National Park pass & permits

To visit Kakadu National Park you’ll need a park pass which you can organise online before your arrival. Some campsites are paid and require permits. The pricing varies depending on the time of year you visit. You can apply for a camping permit through the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

Can I camp for free in Kakadu?

Within Kakadu National Park there are dozens of campgrounds starting from free basic campgrounds to luxury glamping cabins and suites.

If you’re looking for the quintessential camping experience, you’ll find a few bush campsites across Kakadu where you can pitch your tent for free. Check out Alligator Billabong, Four Mile Hole, Bucket Billabong and Red Lily Billabong and keep your eyes peeled for a shady spot to set up. These campgrounds are only accessible via 4WD though, so make sure you’re well equipped before you set off.

Camp where the fish are biting

The NT is well known for its fishing experiences and the billabongs and coastline of Kakadu are no exception.

If the idea of throwing a line in and cooking your fresh barra, jewfish, snapper or saratoga on an open firepit excites you, then these are some of the best places to camp and fish in Kakadu.

West Alligator Head (Waldak Irrmbal)

West Alligator Head is a secluded coastal beach camping area, and the only one in Kakadu. It’s very rarely visited by travellers, as it’s a bit out of the way down an 80km 4WD track, but there’s a reason you’ll find the local fishermen out there. It’s also a great place to spot flatback turtles who nest here for nine months of the year.

Mardukal campground

The Mardukal campground is a great option to base yourself to explore Kakadu. It is also right next to the Mardukal Billabong which is a known hot spot for chasing barra and saratoga. If the fish aren’t biting in the billabong then the Jim Jim and Mary River regions are only a drive away.

There are only unpowered campsites available, but the campground does have toilets, showers and a boat ramp at Mardukal Billabong.

Jabiru (town)

Jabiru is the perfect spot for any anglers who want a comfortable place to rest their head at the end of a successful day fishing, with East Alligator River and Yellow Water just a short drive away.

Being the main town in Kakadu, Jabiru has everything you need including a shopping centre, service station, medical clinic and even a golf course and swimming pool. Choose to stay at Kakadu Lodge or Anbinik Kakadu Resort.

Merl campground

Merl campground is right next to East Alligator River, which is a known spot for catching barramundi. When you’ve caught your fill, we recommend checking out the scenic walk through rock formations to Cahills Crossing or driving 3km to the Ubirr rock art site, which is one of the best places in the Top End to watch the sunset.

Roll out of bed and onto the water

If you’re planning a trip to Kakadu, then definitely pack your bathers and experience some of the most beautiful swimming holes in the world. After a short walk, you’ll want nothing more than to dive into these refreshing, natural pools.

Karnamarr campground

You’ll need a 4WD to get to Karnamarr campground. This shady campground is just around the corner from Jim Jim Falls (10km) and Twin Falls (18km), two of the most spectacular waterfalls in Kakadu.

There are only unpowered sites available, but the campground does have access to toilets, showers, drinking water, rubbish bins and fire pits.

Gunlom campground

Nestled amongst trees, Gunlom campground is the ideal spot to base yourself while exploring the breathtaking Gunlom Falls and pools. Float and relax around some of the most remarkable natural infinity pools while overlooking South Kakadu.

Gunlom campground has access to toilets, showers and fire pits. A 4WD is recommended.

Maguk campground

Maguk campground is the perfect place to set up camp if you want to make the most of Maguk’s amazing plunge pool. You can leave the car at the camp as it’s just a short but beautiful 2km walk to this impressive location.

You’ll need a 4WD to get to the campsite and there are toilets and firepits available.

Kambolgie campground

This simple, quiet little spot is a great central location to escape the crowds while also making the most of the Mary River region of Kakadu. Fifteen kilometres off the Kakadu Highway, this spot is close to Yurmikmik walks, Gunlom plunge pools as well as Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin gorge).

The facilities here are basic, with toilets and firepits, no caravans allowed and you’ll need a 4WD to get here.

Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin) campground

This beautifully secluded campground is surrounded by rocky ridges and cascades. The Jarrangbarnmi area holds great cultural significance to the local Aboriginal people so you’ll need a permit to camp and visit the area. You can apply for a permit to visit Jarrangbarnmi.

You’ll need a 4WD to get here and there are no caravans allowed.

Camping in comfort

While nothing can beat a night under the stars, Kakadu also has a number of camping and glamping options that allow you to experience the best of both worlds in comfort with fully decked out suites, a bar to enjoy your favourite cold beverage and warm water showers.

Cooinda Lodge

Cooinda Lodge sits alongside the beautiful Yellow Water billabong and offers lodge rooms, outback retreat glamping tents along with powered and unpowered sites.

The lodge itself has an inviting swimming pool, restaurant, bar and is an amazing place to base yourself to see Jim Jim and Twin Falls, Yellow Water and the Warradjan Cultural Centre.

Anbinik Kakadu Resort

In the town of Jabiru, nestled amongst a luscious, tropical rainforest garden, you’ll find Anbinik Kakadu Resort. Anbinik has something for every type of traveller from self-contained cabins, powered and unpowered campsites to safari style bush bungalows.

The resort also has a beautiful communal area including a swimming pool and BBQs and is walking distance from the Jabiru town where you’ll find a supermarket, library, post-office, medical centre and other community facilities.

Mary River Roadhouse

Mary River Roadhouse is so much more than just a roadhouse. It has cabins, powered and unpowered sites as well as backpacker’s accommodation.

Mary River Roadhouse makes for the perfect base camp for exploring Maguk, Gunlom, Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin gorge) or the Yurmikmik walks.

Kakadu Lodge

Kakadu Lodge is the activity hub of Kakadu, as all tours pick up and drop off from the lodge.

After a busy day seeing the sights and touring, come back and unwind by the swimming pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens complemented by a poolside bar, bistro and barbecue facilities.

There’s large camping areas or caravan sites for those bringing their own bed, otherwise you’ll find a range of cabins and lodge rooms.

Off the beaten track camping

Escape the crowds and uncover Kakadu’s best kept 4WD secrets. These remote areas have minimal facilities, but the payoff will be some of the most breathtaking and untouched landscapes you’ll ever see.

For some 4WD camp sites in Kakadu, you’ll need a permit. These can be organised online or at the Bowali Visitors Centre.

Four Mile Hole

Four Mile Hole is one of those hidden gems, a secluded billabong filled with barra and popular with the locals. It’s a basic campsite with no facilities so just keep your eyes out for a shady spot to get set up.

Red Lily Billabong

This beautiful billabong is the first of 3 billabongs along a single track. The first is Red Lily Billabong (Djunda), which is great for fishing and named after the red lilies that you’ll find along the water’s edge.

Bucket Billabong

Bucket Billabong is surrounded by foliage which makes for a nice shady spot to set up camp.

It’s only accessible in the Dry, and you’ll need to pass through a creek crossing so make sure you you’re well equipped with a 4WD.

Alligator Billabong

Alligator Billabong is very secluded which makes it popular with fisherman looking for a peaceful day on the water. There are no facilities here, but that’s just the charm of the place. You set up camp under a shady tree and get down to barra business.

Sandy Billabong

Sandy Billabong is quite possibly one of the most beautiful areas on this list, as you’re welcomed by fields of waterlilies strewn across the water. A plethora of wildlife also call this billabong home including the iconic Top End crocodile and vast amounts of birdlife. You’ll wake each morning to the sound of white-bellied sea eagles, whistling ducks, cormorants and long-necked darters.

Camping with entertainment

Why not align your camping trip with one of Kakadu’s events that draw crowds from all around the country and the world?

The highlight of the events calendar is Taste of Kakadu – a bush food experience unlike anything else on Earth. Experience the local bush flavours and explore Kakadu’s extraordinary culture. Join foraging walks with bush tucker experts, enjoy canape cruises on lily-lined billabongs, see cooking demonstrations using native ingredients and savour the rustic ground oven feasts.

There are a number of free and ticketed events for everyone to enjoy over the ten-day festival. Make sure you book with one of the local accommodation providers early to avoid disappointment.

One of the biggest free annual events is the Mahbilil Festival which is generally held around the end of August and celebrates Aboriginal culture through music, dance, art and food. Whilst there’s no camping at the event itself, you can find some great spots in nearby Jabiru and surrounds. We recommend Anbinik Kakadu Resort or Kakadu Lodge.

Being voted the number one birdwatching destination in Australia, and with more than a third of Australia’s bird species calling Kakadu home, you can’t miss the annual Kakadu Bird Week. There are a number of free and ticketed tours, talks and workshops that visitors are guaranteed to flock to. It’s worth keeping an eye out closer to the date for the accommodation partner specials to find the best place to stay and camp.

There’s also free daily activities throughout Kakadu National Park including art site talks, walks and activities to teach you about the vast history of this iconic park. Find out more about the art, culture and heritage ini Kakadu.

All of the ideas but none of the gear?

Kakadu is located just three hours from Darwin so we recommend starting your trip here to collect your vehicle and equipment.

Finding the right vehicle is the first requirement for your camping trip around Kakadu. Remember some of the best camping spots are 4WD-access only so make sure you choose the option best suited to your trip.

For your camping equipment you can hire this from many of the car rental places, however if you’d prefer to buy brand new then Darwin offers some great fishing and camping stores.

Go with the professionals

Tours start from Darwin and Jabiru and often include guided walking tours, cultural tours, fishing tours, cruises and visits to the most popular and accessible waterfalls, plunge pools and cultural sites. You can also access other activities like helicopter tours at a discounted rate.

Guided and self-guided tours through Kakadu range from short day tours like the Footprints of the Past tour (where you spend the day exploring Gunlom plunge pools and finish the day with drinks and canapés by a private billabong), to longer multi-day tours where you can experience the beauty of Kakadu at a leisurely pace. Charter North 4x4 Safaris offers comfortable camping packages as well as fully accommodated options for those who like to combine camping and comfort.

Before you leave

Before you head off here are a few things you need to know about camping at Kakadu National Park.

Leave no trace

Always respect the land and country that you’re visiting and ensure the campsite looks exactly the same when you leave it as it did when you arrived. This means taking all your rubbish with you if there are no bins available.

Fires

To prevent the risk of bushfires while camping, take note of fire restrictions in the area and only light fires in fireplaces/fire pits provided. Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure you fully extinguish the fire when finished. Also, only use what you need, a lot of these sites are shared with others, so make sure you leave enough firewood for others to use. For more information visit our fire safety page.

Road safety

During the wet season roads can get washed out or close, restricting access to some areas. Before you leave be sure to check the road conditions.

Pets

We’re sorry but no pets are permitted in Kakadu National Park under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act.

Be croc aware

Crocodiles are very active within Kakadu National Park and inhibit most areas of water including floodplains, freshwater billabongs, creeks, rivers and coastal areas. Always obey warning signs. If there are no warning signs, it is always best to assume crocodiles are present.

For a full list of advice for camping, fishing and swimming in Kakadu National Park, check out Kakadu National Park and Be Crocwise websites.

Where to camp in Kakadu

To find the best spot for you, we’ve put together a list of places to camp in Kakadu to suit your needs, comfort and interests.

Please note that prices and access may change depending on the time of year so it is always best to check the Kakadu National Park website before you leave.

Campground

Best for

Price range from

Accommodation

Facilities

Things to see

Access

West Alligator Head

Fishing

Adults: $6.00
Children: $3.00
Families: $15.00

Bush Campsite

Toilet
Firepit
Beach
Beach boat launching

Fish from shore
Fish from boat
See Flatback turtles
Birdwatch

4WD only

No caravan access

Mardukal campground

Fishing

Adults: $15.00
Children: $7.50
Families: $38.00

Non-powered sites only

Toilets
Showers
Rubbish bins
Boat Ramp
Generators permitted

Jim Jim Falls
Kungardun walk
Mardukal Billabong

2WD

Jabiru Town

Fishing

From $6.00

Range of options from campsites to hotel rooms.

Shopping centre
Medical clinic
Police station
Service station
Library

Jabiru Lake
Bowali Visitor Centre
Rock art at Burrungkuy and Nanguluwurr
Marrawuddi Gallery
Scenic flights and tours

All access

Merl campground

Fishing

Adults: $15.00
Children: $7.50
Families: $38.00

Non-powered sites only

Toilets
Showers
Rubbish bins
Firepit

Ubirr rock art site
East Alligator River
Cahills Crossing

2WD

Karnamarr campground

Swimming holes

Adults: $15.00
Children: $7.50
Families: $38.00

Non-powered sites only

Drinking water
Toilets
Showers
Firepit

Jim Jim Falls
Twin Falls

4WD only

Gunlom

Swimming holes

Adults: $15.00
Children: $7.50
Families: $38.00

Non-powered sites only

Drinking water
Toilets
Showers
Firepit
Rubbish bins
Generators permitted

Murrill Billabong
South Alligator River
Mary River
Gunlom falls and pools
Gunlom Lookout

4WD recommended

Maguk

Swimming holes

Adults: $6.00
Children: $3.00
Families: $15.00

Non-powered sites only
NOTE: no caravans allowed

Toilets
Firepit

Rainforest area
Maguk waterfall & plunge pool

4WD only

Kambolgie

Swimming holes

Adults: $6.00
Children: $3.00
Families: $15.00

Non-powered sites only
NOTE: no caravans allowed

Toilets
Firepit

Yurmikmik walks
Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge)
Gunlom Falls and pools

4WD recommended

Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin gorge)

Swimming holes

Adults: $6.00
Children: $3.00
Families: $15.00

Non-powered sites only
NOTE: a permit is required to camp here.

Click here to apply

Toilets
Firepit

Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin gorge)
South Alligator River

4WD only

Cooinda Lodge

Serviced camp-grounds

Powered Site from: $20.00
Outback retreat from $170.00
Hotel rooms from $261.00

Campground
Powered/unpowered sites
Glamping tent
Hotel rooms

General store
Fuel station
Restaurant/Bar
Swimming pool
Laundry service

Yellow Water
Warradjan Cultural Centre
Jim Jim Falls Twin Falls
Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) bushwalks

All

Anbinik Kakadu Resort

Serviced camp-grounds

Powered sites from $38.00
Rooms from $110.00

Powered campsites with drinking water
Cabins
Rooms
Suites
Bush bungalows

Drinking water
Toilets
Showers
Rubbish bins Power
Parking
BBQs
Swimming pool
Restaurant
Store

Jabiru Lake
Bowali track
Bowali Visitor Centre
Rock art
Marrawuddi Gallery
Scenic flights and tours

All

Mary River Roadhouse

Services camp-grounds

n/a

Motel rooms
Backpacker accommodation
Powered van sites
Camping sites

Drinking water
Toilets
Showers
Rubbish bins
Power
Parking
BBQs
Swimming pool
Restaurant
Store

Maguk Falls
Gunlom falls & pools
Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin gorge)
Yurmikmik walks

All

Kakadu Lodge

Serviced camp-grounds

Powered Campsite: $46.00 two people.
Kids under 12 free
Unpowered Campsites
$16 per adult
Kids under 12 free
Lodge rooms from: $99.00
Cabins from: $119.00

Cabins
Communal lodges
Powered campsites
Unpowered campsites

Drinking water
Toilets
Showers
Rubbish bins
Power
Parking
BBQs
Swimming pool
Restaurant
Store
Tour departure area

Jabiru Lake
Bowali track
Bowali Visitor Centre
Rock art
Marrawuddi Gallery
Scenic flights and tours

All

Alligator Billabong

4WD only

Free

Bush campsite

Firepit
Boat launching opportunity

Fish from shore
Fish from boat
Walk along billabong

4WD only

No caravan access

West Alligator Head

4WD only

Adults: $6.00
Children: $3.00
Families: $15.00

Bush campsite

Toilet
Firepit
Beach
Beach boat launching

Fish from shore
Fish from boat
Walk along beach
Keep an eye out for Flatback turtles
Birdwatch
Fishing

4WD only

No caravan access

Four Mile Hole

4WD only

Free

Bush campsite

Firepit
Boat launching opportunity

Fish from shore
Fish from boat
Walk along billabong
Catch the sunrise over the water

4WD only

No caravan access

Bucket Billabong

4WD only

Free

Bush campsite

Firepit
Boat launching opportunity

Fish from shore
Fish from boat
Walk along billabong

4WD only

No caravan access

Red Lily Billabong

4WD only

Free

Bush campsite

Firepit
Launch boat off the bank

Fish from shore
Fish from boat
Walk along billabong to admire red lilies
Birdwatch

4WD only

No caravan access

Sandy Billabong

4WD only

Adults: $6.00
Children: $3.00
Families: $15.00

Bush campsite

Toilet
Firepit
Picnic table

No fishing
See Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) rock art
Admire nymphaea and yellow snowflake waterlilies
Birdwatch

4WD only

No caravan access


Camping around Kakadu