If you go to Darwin you are probably going to the two nearby Litchfield National Park and Kakadu National Park. We have spent time in both of them and learnt something we would like to share.
Payment via Collection Boxes
In many campsites in national parks, the fee will be collected via collection boxes. That means, at these campsites, which offer sometimes water, sometimes toilets and sometimes nothing at all, are no staff on site, which are responsible for the well-being of the guests and where you can pay for your stay. But you will find a box at the campsite entrance in which you have to leave the money. The money is usually put in an envelope and thrown into the box.
You also have to fill out a little note with a few details (name, licence plate, number of people, length of stay, total fee).
The slip must then be clearly left visible in the car or tent. But to our knowledge they never check on that. And if you get caught, excuses are like, we just arrived, we did not understand how that works, we thought it would be voluntary, etc. will surely help.
Hardly a backpacker pays these fees. Even Australians see this as a suggestion rather than a must – we have seen it x number of times as Australians laugh about it, if you want to pay the fee! True story!
Kakadu National Park
You can bypass the entrance fee. There are no checks at the beginning or end of the park. The fee should be paid at an information center, located at the 2 entrance roads (one just next to Darwin and the other one just north of Katherine). There you get information material and you should pay the entrance fee. But no one will notice if you drive past the information center.
In the park
All sights in the park are well signposted. The Kakadu Park is suitable for bird watching, nature walks, etc. Otherwise the park has not that much to offer as we though. It also depends a little on the time when you visit him. The months of May and June are best for this. In August and September, however, everything is very dry and you will not get anything special – everything looks like dried out. We didn’t even see any crocodiles – maybe you are in better luck.
With a 4WD you get to see some interesting parts that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to reach. But even with a standard car you can reach interesting spots.
The main town of the park (Jabiru) is accessible from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway or just north of Katherine on the Kakadu Highway. Gasoline is quite expensive in the park, even in Jabiru. So take spare petrol with you. Jabiru itself is a very small town, but enough to get food etc. But these are expensive too. If it’s too hot, you can jump in the local swimming pool.
My experience of the park
I know that not all are going to confirm, but in my experience, the Kakadu park is not that special, espeically during the dry season – unless you want to watch birds, etc. (the birds there are really diverse and colorful indeed).
Shady Camp – Free Camping near Kakadu – INSIDER TIP
In the park there are some campsites. But I recommend to stay at a place which is just outside the national park. We got this tip from an Australian who we met on the way to Darwin on a stop at Mary Ann Lake at Stuart Highway (I have written some tips about that here).
If you want to see crocodiles in the wild, Shady Camp on the Mary River near Kakadu National Park is just the place to go. During the dry season, this camping is accessible by a simple two-wheel drive. During the rainy season, however, only with four-wheel drive.
ATTENTION: Shady Camp has the highest density of saltwater crocodiles in the world!
Right next to the campsite there is a river that flows into the sea near here. There is a crocodile lookout, but crocodiles seem to prefer to spend their time in the river directly in front of the camp. There is a transition holding back the salt water that comes at high tide. During high tide, crocodiles can be seen on both sides of the river. At low tide mostly on the freshwater side of the river.
The camping fees are paid via a collection box as well (again, most Australians we met there didn’t pay either). We definitely recommend the camp to all who would like to see crocodiles in the wild. In addition, countless wallabies are buzzing around especially in the evening.
Tthis is a very good insider tip, so we link the map to this place. Have fun, hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Litchfield National Park
Locals say “Litchfield do, Kakadu don’t”. That means, of course, that Litchfield Park is better than the world-famous Kakadu Park. In this national park, you will find many waterfalls and rivers where you can swim and jump in.
Depending on what you want, Litchfield can be much more exciting than the Kakadu park. For a few chilly days in the woods and by small rivers and lakes, Litchfield Park is just ideal. Local campsites are paid via the collection box. If you like being active than this is the place for you.