When it comes to favourite Top End destinations, are you crazy about Kakadu or do you love Litchfield more?
For millions of annual visitors, Kakadu’s kaleidoscopic scenes and bucket list adventures make this destination a must-do: tremendous sheer-drop waterfalls, barramundi-filled billabongs and thousand-year-old rock art. But experiencing the dazzling, unequalled diversity of Australia’s largest World Heritage Area comes at a price, and it begins with a hefty $40 per person entry fee.
This may be why so many budget tourers are choosing to spend their time in nearby Litchfield National Park: a vibrant, more affordable microcosm of Top End habitats with swimming holes, historical sites and a lonely Lost City to discover.
Touring both parks is the best option by far, but if you are short on time or money and have to choose, here’s where we put these two destinations head-to-head, rating their facilities, accessibility and top attractions, and putting a price tag on every experience.
Kakadu: Is Bigger Best?
Our biggest and best-known national park packs a lot of punch and surprisingly, most of what you can enjoy in Kakadu won’t cost you a cent. A short walk will find you floating in the secluded plunge pools above my favourite waterhole at Barramundi Falls, a hidden oasis that promises sun-kissed solitude.
Off-roaders can drive themselves to the base of tremendous, sheer-drop waterfalls at Jim Jim and Twin Falls, and everyone will want to join an easily accessible (and free) guided tour of Ubirr or Nourlangie Rock – open-air art galleries that record one of the longest historical records of any people, anywhere in the world. Around 5000 Aboriginal cultural sites have been identified in Kakadu and the frescos at Ubirr are some of Kakadu’s finest.
Even if you’ve seen a hundred salties, it’s hard not to be impressed by the turn-of-the-tide spectacle at Cahills Crossing when 4WD vehicles crossing the causeway stir up the turbid water. All this action attracts unsuspecting barramundi, the salties that snap them up and the anglers that line the banks, competing for their share of the catch too!
The boardwalk at Yellow Water Billabong is THE spot for sunrise and sunset to photograph the glossy jabirus that line up alongside elegant egrets, magpie geese and the solitary saltwater crocodiles that patrol the shallows.