Despite its fearsome reputation as the last frontier, the Top End, and Kakadu, is surprisingly easy to get around, even without a 4WD. The main route through Kakadu, known as the Nature’s Way, is fully sealed and links up with the Stuart Highway at both ends. It begins at the turn off to the Arnhem Highway, 34km south of Darwin and roughly forms two sides of a triangle, with the mining town of Jabiru at its tip.
How much time you spend in Kakadu, and what you see and do is limited only by the amount of time you have. You really need a minimum of two days, and even then, you will only be seeing the highlights. Spend a couple of hours watching the birdlife in the breezy over-water shelter at Mamukala wetlands and time your trip to Ubirr for sunset views over the Arnhem Land escarpment after viewing the ancient Aboriginal Rock art galleries. Take an early morning scenic flight from Jabiru, then do the one-hour walk around more rock art galleries at Nourlangie Rock. Climb Mirrai Lookout for woodland views before driving on to Cooinda – the turn-off to famous Jim Jim and Twin Falls is just before you reach Cooinda, but you’ll need a 4WD. At Cooinda the two-hour Yellow Water cruise on a beautiful billabong fringed by pandanus, paperbark swamps and monsoon rainforest is a must and you’ll see lots of birds and crocodiles. As you head out of the park back towards to Stuart Highway take a detour to Gunlom Falls, one of the few waterfalls you can see in the park without a 4WD.
Litchfield National Park is a perfect day trip from Darwin, or call in on your way up the Stuart Highway after finishing the Nature’s Way. This is the place to see waterfalls, the four most spectacular in the park are all accessible by 2WD. You can swim at Buley Rockhole, Florence Falls and Wangi Falls, although they can close after heavy rain. Other highlights are the magnetic termite mounds and the 4WD track to the Lost City, a group of fantastically-shaped sandstone towers. Litchfield is 100km south of Darwin, accessible year round via Batchelor.