East Alligator Region, Kakadu National Park

At the top of everyone’s list in Kakadu is the East Alligator region. A beautiful location in easy reach from the Jabiru township. I can’t count the amount of times we made the short journey to explore the area, there is so much to see and do and in my opinion… always different!

When we first arrived in Kakadu in April 2021, Ubirr was closed due to the passing of a traditional land owner out of respect. During this time it gave the community a chance to heal, also known as sorry business.
While you are visiting Kakadu it is important to remember one of the reasons this location is so special is because of the culture that still thrives throughout the area. Please respect any closures within the park during your stay.

During the dry season you can visit the Ubirr site between 830am and sunset, as this is such a sacred spot no alcohol is allowed within the gates to Ubirr. I know sunset with a beer is the perfect end to the day but you don’t need it to appreciate the beauty of this spot. No honestly it’s true!

The road up to Ubirr is very well suited for a 2WD so everyone can get there! A very well kept amenities block by the ranger of the area – he is a cheeky character too.

View of Arnhemland from the top of Ubirr rock.
Top of Ubirr

The short walk to the top takes you through the incredible escarpment, just before sunset you might be able to spot a rock wallaby or two poking their heads out to say hello. The rock art is amazing, and plenty of information boards to tell you the story behind each of them. My favourite is the story of the two girls who turned into crocodiles, make sure you find that one!

A short and rocky walk to the top, the kids will love it. The 360 degrees views of the surrounding landscape, Kakadu National Park to Arnhemland is truly breathtaking. I haven’t seen anything quite like it. I loved how everyone was in total awe of the area that the air was silent.

It is time to immerse yourself in Ubirr, it is so hard not too it is spectacular.

Sarah on top of Ubirr rock overlooking the wetlands.
Waiting for sunset at Ubirr

Cahills Crossing
Did I mention that Kakadu is home to over 10,000 crocodiles?!

Cahills crossing is the place if you want to see them in action IN THE WILD.

Saltwater crocodile chomping down on his catch.
Saltwater Crocodile

When we first arrived in April it was just coming into the dry season so there was still a lot of water around and the road up to the East Alligator region still had slight flooding. Only a small amount was over the road so Vandalf was able to pass. Due to this the crocodiles were spread out throughout the whole of the park so we only managed to see 2-3 crocodiles at high tide. To still see them in the wild was INSANE.

As the temperature increased and the dry season hit full swing the wetlands and river systems started to dry out. The crocodiles then slowly make their way into the same water ways. The more times we visited Cahills over the months we were lucky to witness this change, the numbers grew to 5, 10 and once August came around we saw 25, all hanging around to catch their lunch. Barramundi and jumping mullet are on the menu for these hungry crocs.

Black and white, three saltwater crocodiles waiting for dinner.
Waiting for lunch

The best time to visit is an hour before the high tide hits, it is a tidal river so the time of high tide changes everyday – make sure to check it out! We always used willy weather.

I love watching the change of the tide and the crocodiles coming in. Some even ride the wave over the crossing, a little cahills water slide! They then line up and wait for the fish to come to them. George managed to get some incredible shots of the crocodiles catching the fish, it is all waiting for you to see!

View of water flowing over cahills crossing surrounded by saltwater crocodiles.
Cahills Crossing

Cahills crossing is also known for being one of Australias most dangerous roads and the gateway into Arnhemland. You can only drive across if you have a permit as you are driving onto Aboriginal soil. Low tide is obviously the safest time to cross, but some people like the danger of high. If you are one of those people please bare in mind that the crossing has taken a lot of vehicles over the years, you can actually see some car wrecks at low tide!

Border Store
Just around the corner from Cahills Crossing is the Border Store, a great place to stop for a cold drink and a mid day snack!

Due to COVID the Injalak Art Centre in Gunbalanya, Arnhemland is closed to the public. The Border store has been home to the Injalak Art Galllery this season so no-one misses out on their beautiful pieces of art work and jewellery.

They also had Dairy free magnums, so it has to be a winner from me!

I can’t talk about the East Alligator Region and not make a mention of Arnhemland.

Rock art with ochre in arnhemland.
Arnhemland Rock Art

Cahills crossing is the gateway into Arnhemland and in order to cross you need a permit from Northern Land Council! Once you have your permit you will NEED a 4WD, there is no chance you are getting through there without one. Two of the most popular spots to visit during your time in Arnhemland is Nhulunbuy and the Coburg Peninsula! Make sure you have PLENTY of supplies, as there isn’t a Cole’s or servo in sight.

Aerial view of wetlands in Arnhemland.
Aerial view of Arnhemland

Unfortunately for us meer mortals with just a 2WD we need to explore Arnhemland on a day tour, my top choice is the Arnhemlander day trip with Kakadu Cultural Tours. We did this trip at the start of the season and were greeted with glorious billabongs, lookouts and astonishing art work. Our tour guide Lyndon was very knowledgable and passionate about the area and its history. A great chance to learn about this aboriginal land.

4x4 tour bus.
Arnhemlander Day Trip

The price included our permit into arnhemland, tour guides, morning tea and lunch.

We absolutely loved it and if you are the type of person (like us) who want to learn more about what makes Kakadu so special you need to do this trip.

Bardedjildji Walk
One of our favourite walks in Kakadu!

Sandstone formations around the Bardedjildji walk.
Sandstone Country

As you are driving up the Oenpelli road, take a right when you see the sign for the upstream boat ramp. The first car park that you come to will be the start of this gorgeous walk. There are two different ways you can go to start this short hike. One option will take you right next to the east alligator river where you can look out for crocs sun baking on the river bank. Keep an eye out on the path they might be hanging out there too! The second option will take you straight to true stone country.

The walk winds through the escarpment with several hidden rock art sites to spot. Multiple areas of the walk are numbered and you can pick up a leaflet for this walk at the Bowali visitor centre which details what each of these numbered areas are!

Walkway through sandstone escarpment.
Sandstone River Walk

So much of the wildlife found in the national park can be spotted here, we had a great time on the early mornings spotting all of the beautiful birds. One we didn’t get the chance to see was the chestnut quilled rock pigeon. You can only find this bird on the escarpments of Arnhemland and north Kakadu national park – pretty cool right! Safe to say I was gutted we didn’t manage to find them.

As always when hiking in the Northern Territory please avoid the heat of the day and walk in the early morning or late afternoon. Take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen!

Sandstone river walk
If you want to start your day with a long scenic hike then this is for you.

Landscape of sandstone river walk.
Sandstone River Walk

Starting at the Bardedjildji walk you will walk through and experience sandstone country. Not as popular as some of the other walks so for the majority you will be by yourself which is so nice. As you come through the escarpment you will come to a clearing with a sign to signify the start of the sandstone river walk. A 6.5km return loop so make sure you start this walk early in the day, it takes about 4 hours to complete!

Jabiru soaring through the sky.
Jabiru flying through the sky

Start early enough and you will be greeted with little wallaroos along the flood plains. Even though Kangaroos and Wallabies can be found anywhere in Australia, I will forever be excited when I see one! The walk takes you past several billabongs that are just FULL of bird life. We were lucky enough to follow a juvenile Jabiru while he was on the hunt for breakfast. George is also the king of kingfishers, spotting at least 10 at the start of the walk. I don’t know how he does it! He says he can’t miss that striking blue as it darts through the sky.

As you pass the billabongs you will arrive at a very sandy area of the walk, hence the name, so expect to get very dirty on this walk. Don’t wear your Sunday best, remember we are basically out bush!

You will then arrive at the edge of the East Alligator river, with views of Arnhemland on the other side. Be careful at this section as you are very close to the rivers edge, always be CROC AWARE, we are in their territory remember!

Manngarre Rainforest walk
In need of stretching your legs after Cahills crossing? Head over to the start of this luscious short walk at the bottom of the car park. Can be done at most times of the day as 90% is under the canopy of the trees.

Landscape of rainforest walk.
Boardwalk of the Manngarre Rainforest Walk

Looking to spot the bird life? Morning or early evening is the best time.

You will wander along right next to the East Alligator River and if after high tide you will see multiple crocodiles swimming along the river too. A chance to see them all away from the busy crowds.

Only open during the dry season as it it is immersed under water during the wetter months, and a home for all the water buffalo in the area.

Half way along you will come across a female aboriginal sacred site called The Old Lady Sits. Only women are allowed to take this path and learn the stories of this area, an amazing little place to experience.

Rainbow pitta on the ground.
Rainbow Pitta

We did this walk several times as we really wanted to spot the elusive rainbow pitta. It was our second attempt and George caught a flash of green in the corner of his eye. Through the bush there was a rainbow pitta just hopping along the floor, they are such beautiful little birds! We carried on thinking that was our spot of the day, then I froze. Right in front of me was a tiny rainbow pitta looking up at us from the path ahead. He wasn’t scared of us and let us follow him along his adventure. Kakadu has given me a love of birdwatching and the nature in the National Park I hope it does for you too!

Rainbow pitta foraging through leaves.
The glorious colours of the rainbow pitta

Merl Campground
Want to stay near to the area and not drive in the dark after Ubirr Sunset? Merl Campground is the perfect spot.

Unpowered camping at $15pp per night with well kept amenities and hot showers! This is a beautiful spot surrounded by trees and fire pits provided at each site. It was a beautiful haven.

One thing to be aware of while staying here is you are close to the nearby wetlands, so as dusk descends there will be mozzies. Be well prepared and you will be fine!

Sarah walking along a path towered by sandstone formations.
The landscape of the sandstone river walk

If you have any more questions about this area please do get in touch, I will love to help plan your trip!

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