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The seasons of Kakadu – and when to visit

For most people visiting the Northern Territory’s Top End, the 2.5-hour drive along the Arnhem Highway from Darwin to Kakadu National Park is an absolute must. 

View from Nawurlandja towards Nourlangie Rock

However, more than most places you’ll ever travel, your options in Kakadu can vary depending on the time of year you visit, which means some forward planning and knowledge is required.

At its most basic, Kakadu’s dry season runs from April to October, while the wet season runs from November to March, and visiting Kakadu National Park can be a very different experience depending on what time of year you visit.

The six seasons

While it’s common to split northern Australia’s seasons into two, wet and dry, Kakadu’s traditional owners actually recognise six different seasons based on their thousands of years of local knowledge. 

These six seasons are well-summarised by Parks Australia here, but in short they include:

Kudjewk – Monsoon season (December to March)

Thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding define this season. Plant and animal life booms, while speargrass grows to over two metres in height.

Bangkerreng – ‘Knock ‘em down’ storm season (April)

Rain clouds go away and clear skies emerge. The floodwaters recede and streams run clear. Most of Kakadu’s plants bear fruit, while animals care for their young.

Yekke – Cooler (but still humid) season (May to mid-June)

A relatively cool period with lower humidity. Mists float over the plains in the early morning. Local Indigenous people start patch burning to ‘clean the country’ and encourage growth.

Wurrkeng – Cold weather season (mid-June to mid-August)

The coldest time, though ‘cold’ is relative – daytime temperatures are around 30°C and they drop to about 17°C at night. Creeks stop flowing and floodplains dry out.

Kurrung – Hot dry weather (mid-August to mid-October)

Hot and dry. Sea turtles lay eggs on beaches, and goannas sometimes rob their nests. White-breasted wood swallows arrive and thunderclouds begin to build again.

Kunumeleng – Pre-monsoon storm season (mid-October to late December)

Hot and increasingly humid weather. Thunderstorms build in the afternoons and showers turn the dry land green as monsoon season again approaches.

A scenic flight to witness Jim Jim Falls can be enjoyed year round 

When to visit Kakadu National Park?

The most popular time to visit Kakadu National Park is during the dry seasons, from May to October. Most of Kakadu’s most famous attractions are open and accessible at this time, including:

  • Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) – A 1.5km circular walk around Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) Rock, the wet season home in Kakadu for generations of Indigenous people. It features famous rock art that depict the connection between the people and their land.
  • Nawurlandja. A short uphill walk from a car park, Nawurlandja lookout offers incredible views across Anbangbang Billabong towards Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) and the Arnhem Land escarpment.
  • Ubirr – Another outstanding rock art site. In the main gallery you can see rock art representing one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world. There’s also a lookout with incredible sunset views.
  • Yellow Water Billabong – Hop on a Yellow Water Billabong cruise near the famous Cooinda Lodge. A haven for bird watchers with 280 bird species calling this area home – around a third of the bird species in Australia. You can also see crocodiles, wallabies, wild horses and buffalo.
  • Gunlom Plunge Pool – Made famous in Crocodile Dundee, Gunlom is a clear rock pool high on the Kakadu escarpment – it’s like a natural infinity pool.
  • Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls – Accessible only by 4WD (in the dry season) – or by scenic flight year round – these waterfalls are a majestic sight to behold year-round.
  • See also: Maguk (Barramundi Gorge), Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge), Mamukala Wetlands, Bowali Visitor Centre

However, bear in mind that beacuse this time is so popular, the crowds will be larger than normal. Plan ahead, particularly when it comes to booking accommodation, vehicles and tours.

What about the wet season?

In the wet season, your options are a little more limited when it comes to driving.

Dependent on whether conditions, you can usually still make your own way to places like Nourlangie, Nawurlandja and Mamukala Wetlands. Yellow Water Billabong cruises run year-round, but may not run on days where unsafe weather or access prevents doing so.

As touched on above, the wet season is an incredible time to view Jim Jim and Twin Falls. While these can’t be accessed by road at this time, scenic flights allow you to enjoy them in all their glory as the powerful waters crash over the falls.

Overall, remember this: no matter what time of year you visit Kakadu, incredible experiences await.

A Yellow Water Billabong cruises is arguably the best way to see Kakadu's rich wildlife