Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

Planning a trip to the Northern Territory? Then Kakadu National Park should be on your list of 'must see', and Cooinda Lodge Kakadu provides the perfect base from which to explore the park.

How long you spend is up to you, but I know from visiting Kakadu in various capacities for over 20 years now, that I always wish I had more time. In saying that I would like to share my thoughts on planning an itinerary during this shoulder season, as the rangers work hard to open the roads and swimming holes which have been closed due to our seasonal rains.

Cooinda Lodge at Yellow Water Billabong is the perfect base at this time of year because it gives you the best position to access the open areas of the park. If we have a late rain event it is a safe option because you can adjust your day trips accordingly. Cooinda Lodge is under management by Kakadu Tourism which is an indigenous owned collection of Kakadu wetland cruises, 4WD Kakadu tours, cultural experiences and Kakadu accommodation.

Cooinda Lodge has all levels of accommodation from Lodge Rooms and budget Outback Rooms to powered and unpowered sites, so no matter your budget they have accommodation to suit. The 'Barra Bistro' has been renovated and continues to serve some of the best meals in Kakadu.

Why use Cooinda Lodge as a base for your trip? Well you are on holiday - so it is about relaxing, and enjoying the location you are in. The last thing you want to be doing is shifting accommodation every night as you move around the park, when there is not really any need to do that. Just book a few extra kilometres on the car and you can see Kakadu without shifting your room or camp.

You also don't have to plan a strict daily routine for your trip, because you can adjust and move as you please.

Now that is a great way to have a holiday!

East Alligator and Nourlangie - 1 Day Trip From Cooinda Lodge Kakadu

  • Ubirr Aboriginal Art site and Nadab Lookout. In the northern area of the park on the banks and floodplains of the East Alligator River it is accessed by a sealed road. During the shoulder season this site is generally open, as the only restriction is at Magella Creek where the flood waters flow over the road. Once they have dropped away Ubirr is easily accessible and is best seen in the late afternoon and finishing with a sunset at Nadab lookout.

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

  • Guluyambi cultural guided cruises near Ubirr is a special experience. A boat cruise up the East Alligator listening to the Djabulukgu people (traditional owners of the area) talk about their river, takes you back thousands of years. For more information go to Guluyambi Cruises
  • Nourlangie 30km north of Yellow Water it is the other significant site in the area. Anbangbang Billabong at the base of Nourlangie is generally shut until flood waters recede but Nanguluwurr rock art site and Nawurlandja Lookout are close by and worth a visit.

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

For those with a high clearance vehicle and that enjoy a walk, Gubara is one of the lesser known jewels of the park. Best seen during the wet or April / May shoulder season it is a pocket of monsoon forest at the base of the escarpment with crystal clear water running through it.

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

The ideal way to see these places is to depart Cooinda mid morning or even as late as lunch time stopping off at Nourlangie and Gubara for the walks and rock art sites. Then it is off to the East Alligator for the Guluyambi cruises and culminating the day with sunset at Nadab Lookout. To see all of these sites at a leisurely pace and do them and yourself justice you will need all day. Any of these sites can also be seen on your way into the park depending on how early you get away from Darwin for your first night at Cooinda.

Motor Car Falls and Southern Kakadu - 1 Day Trip from Cooinda Lodge Kakadu

  • Maguk or Barramundi Gorge is closed during the wet season and opens again April / May depending on late season rainfalls. This is a place on the must-visit list should it be open during your visit. A rainforest walk follows the creek up to the base of the escarpment where a large swimming hole beneath the waterfall is extremely enjoyable during the middle of the day.
  • Gunlom is the star of southern Kakadu and an easy day trip from Cooinda. The rangers always try to get it open for Easter as it is closed during the wet season, however, half way down the Gimbat road is a hidden wet season gem that is overlooked by most visitors to Kakadu. Yurmikmik Walks has 3 main sites to explore. Firstly a short 2km return walk from the car park is Boulder Creek which is a great spot to relax in clear water holes. A 7km return walk to Motor Car Falls is an easy walk with a little rock hopping at the end. It is the largest waterfall open in Kakadu during the wet season. Kurrundie is further along and is only for someone looking for more adventure.

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

Ikoymarrwa lookout is just south of the Mary River Ranger Station but it is the place known as The Rockhole (formerly Moline Rockhole) that is tucked away at it's base that many drive past. Accessed by turning right at the bottom of the jump up when heading south it is a short drive in and a 200m walk to a small waterfall with a large all year swimming hole at it's base.

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

If you only have a day for this itinerary, a solid day is Motor Car first due to the longer walk, followed by a cool off in Boulder Creek before returning back along the Gimbat Road to the Kakadu Highway. Turn right here and drive 5km or so to The Rockhole. From there you can return to Yellow Water for a sunset cruise and dinner at the lodge. The are a number of lookouts and stops along this part of the road I have just discussed the hotspots that should not be missed.

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park

Cooinda Lodge Yellow Water - 1 day itinerary

Sometimes it is great to just relax and join in a number of different activities at one place, and Cooinda Lodge Kakadu is somewhere this can be done. Some of the activities that you can do in your lazy day at the lodge include

  1. Yellow Water Cruise with sunrise and sunset being the prime ones but they run at various times through the day.
  2. Fishing on the billabong and South Alligator River be it either in your own boat or with one of the local guides.
  3. Scenic flights with times, pricing and options available at reception.
  4. Visit Warradjan Cultural Centre and learn about aboriginal culture in Kakadu
  5. Laze about the pool or grab a coldie at the bar and bistro.
  6. Join myself Paul Arnold on a photographic experience. Read More on this experience


In my experience Kakadu National Park is not somewhere you can see and appreciate in one or two days. Even during the wet season and start of the dry there is still much to see and do as I detailed above. All of the above can be spread over more days, but if time is short 3 days will see you in all major attractions without rushing through the park. Kakadu is open for tourists all year and even when some areas close other areas open up. Cooinda Lodge Kakadu is a great location to see it all without packing up each day.