I’m a firm believer that it’s the parts of the journey you don’t plan for that have the potential to make the most memorable moments. Our travels through the Northern Territory proved this theory. We had a list of most popular icons we wanted to tick off our list. When we arrived in Central Australia we headed straight to Australia’s largest icon, but once we’d explored Uluru with the kids, we discovered there was more to the region than just the popular monolith.
We visited the Olgas, only taking a short look because the kids were so little and had already done a lot of exploration, it was a beautiful sight, and I can’t wait to take them back there now they are getting older.
We’d made friends with an overly friendly emu at Curtin Springs who apparently had a fetish for hot chips and made its way into the car in search of a treat, and I may or may not have given a little squeal at it’s enthusiasm.
Then we figured, while we were in the area, we should probably visit King’s Canyon, so, not knowing where we were going to stay, we headed off into the unknown to discover another part of Australia’s brilliance.
Central Australia is red. The dirt stains clothing, cars, skin, anything that comes into contact with it, so at this stage of our journey, almost everything had taken on an outback hue.
As we travelled toward Kings Canyon we spotted a place to stay; “Kings Creek Station”. A working camel station that also offers accommodation, so we figured why not. To this day I still remember the conversation Matt had with the guy who checked us in, and my reaction at the time makes me giggle now.
“Would you like a grassed site or are you happy just on the dirt? We try our best to keep a couple of grassed sites.”
(Remember the outback is dry and dusty, keeping green grass here DOES take a lot of effort, and it was something we hadn’t seen in a while, let alone set our tent up on!)
“Nah mate, don’t waste your grassed site on us, we’re happy with the dirt, kids are covered in it already.”
I tell you, grass seemed like such a luxury at the time, although I didn’t really mind, I was used to the dirt by then, but I really remember wishing we could have just one day with some greenery under the tent. If we had to make the choice again though, I’m sure we’d do the same thing, that red stain is part of the outback experience.
So, what do you eat for dinner when you’re staying on a camel station? Why, camel stroganoff of course. We figured we should get into the spirit, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to eat camel since, it was a nice meal at the time, and I’m sure we’ll give it another go when we take the kids back again, this time trying one of the famous camel burgers.
Kings Creek Station was the first campfire we’d had in a while, so we pulled out the marshmallows, took in the amazing outback sky, and it was such the perfect place to base ourselves for exploring Kings Canyon the next day.
There is just something so beautiful about the Northern Territory, it’s industry, it’s people, it’s culture and it’s red dirt that stains everything from your clothes to your skin, before making it’s way to steal your heart. It’s the little things, the unexpected things that will make your journey so much more memorable. I can’t tell you enough to look beyond the major landmarks and soak in the small, memorable moments you’ll look back at so fondly for years after your travels.
There’s plenty of Australian Outback destinations you could tick of your bucket list. The Aussie outback is massive, and features many natural attractions which provide a dramatic backdrop to an unforgettable adventure. Travelling around it is one of the best uses for cars in Australia – here are five must-see destinations for any budding Outback traveller.
The Devils Marbles
In the Aboriginal story of creation, the Rainbow Serpent created the Earth and then went to the point where the rainbow meets the Earth. The eggs of the Serpent fossilised to become what Aborigines call ‘Karlukarlu’ and in English are known as the Devils Marbles.
The Devils Marbles, sacred to Aborigines, are granite rocks of volcanic origin that have been eroded over time but can still be as wide as seven metres. Guidebooks often feature photographs of only two of the marbles, leading many people to believe that is all that exists, but there are actually many more. The Marbles are best seen at sunset where even the most amateur snapper will be able to take a photograph worthy of a postcard.
Kakadu National Park
The Kakadu National Park covers an area of almost 20,000 km2 – the size of Slovenia. There is much to do in the Park all year round. You could experience the rock art galleries of Nourlangie, marvel at the manifold birds of the Yellow Water and Mamukala wetlands, see the wildlife up close on a boat cruise, or scale the escarpment for astounding views.
Mataranka Bitter Springs and Thermal Pools
The Mataranka Bitter Springs are a natural alternative to the Mataranka thermal pools that nestle in a concrete jungle, and are much deeper. The temperature is a constant 32°C and there is much wildlife in the form of fish and turtles. Barras can also be fed nearby.
Uluru was previously known as Ayers Rock before adopting it’s traditional name. Its Aboriginal owners refer to themselves as ‘Anangu’ and act as tour guides. The Ayers Rock Resort located just outside the park is the only available accommodation. The Aboriginal name for it is ‘Yulura’, meaning “weeping,” which wags say is what visitors do when they see their bill, although some accommodation is targeted at budget travellers.
Uluru is beautiful, stark and dramatic. Its appearance changes as the sun moves. It is 358 metres high. Temperatures can be as low as -8°C at night and as high as 48°C by day. The Rock’s distinctive red coating is the result of the iron content of the rock rusting. Roads are coated with bitumen, so you won’t need to be driving an offroad car to enjoy the location.
Four hours’ drive from Uluru, in the midst of Watarrka National Park, is Kings Canyon. Its huge, vertical sandstone walls tower above dense forests of ferns and palms. The Canyon can be enjoyed by foot, quad bike and camel. If you succumbed to one of the many Australian 4×4 reviews and purchased such a vehicle, you could experience it that way. The more adventurous could ascend Heartbreak Hill, which is sometimes known as Heart Attack Hill due to its steepness.
The Australian Outback is vast and wild and has been the subject of myth ever since European settlers first arrived in the country. There’s so much to offer for both short and long trips, for those who live close by, our tourists who travel from far away places. Either way, it’s well-worth a road trip with the family or friends.
We’re going to take a look at Kakadu and it’s suitability for a family holiday destination. It’s a place I would encourage everyone to visit once in their lifetime. Seeing rock art that is centuries old gives you a real vision into just how small our part in this world is, and how important it is that we care for this land like the generations of people who lived here for centuries before us. If your family has any love of the great outdoors, then definitely it’s a must see. Kakadu left us changed, taught us about the true history of Australia, and left us in awe of the Aboriginal culture and it’s depth and importance when it comes to the future of the environment in Australia.
Where is Kakadu National Park Located?
Kakadu National Park is situated around 250kms from Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. When travelling South of Darwin, it is accessed by turning off the Stuart Highway, onto the Arnhem highway toward Humpty Doo, alternatively, by exiting the Stuart Highway near Pine Creek and turning onto the Arnhem Highway when travelling from further inland NT.
It’s important to note that travelling at dawn, dusk or night in the Northern Territory, or anywhere outside Australian cities, presents a higher risk of wildlife being injured. If you need to travel at these times, it’s important to travel slowly to ensure you’re able to reduce the risk of hitting wildlife and causing injury to both the wildlife and your vehicle. Keep this in mind when planning your travel itinerary.
The road into the park is all bitumen, so the main tourist areas are accessible via 2wd. There are some camp grounds and walk areas that are often only 4wd accessible. For travelling with younger kids, the shorter, more accessible walks and tours will provide a great experience, so a 4wd is definitely not necessary.
View Kakadu in a larger map
Activities for Kids in Kakadu
Mamukala Wetlands: Stop in at Mamukala Wetlands for a spectacular view, with great signage and lots of bird life!
Ubirr Rock Art Site in Kakadu: Without a doubt, one of the greatest attractions for visiting Kakadu is to see Aboriginal Rock Art up close. Ubirr is an easily accessible area that offers wonderful rock art sites, and the opportunity to climb to the very top for spectacular views across the National Park. It’s a great idea to tag along on a ranger talk about the rock art, but if you’re there at other times there are great signs that tell the stories of the art as you walk around.
There are several options for taking in the sights around Ubirr. These include a wheelchair accessible route to take in much of the rock art sites, right through to the climb up to the Nadab lookout for spectacular views.
Note for experiencing Ubirr with kids: Take plenty of water and snacks, wear hats and sunscreen, be sure to have comfy shoes that won’t give blisters, and are suitable for walking the rock climb if going to the top lookout. Our children were 5, 3 and 1 when we did the climb to the lookout and were comfortable doing the entire walk. It’s VERY important to watch children closely when climbing to the lookout and while on the top, it’s a natural environment and does not provide child safe barriers (that would ruin the view). It’s perfectly find for families who feel comfortable tackling something like this, but extra care should definitely be taken with young children.
(Angbangbang) Nourlangie and Nanguluwur art sites: These sites offer a spectacular gallery of Aboriginal Art, and are definitely not to be missed. There’s plenty of walking, but we found it fairly easy so if your kids are up to the challenge, then this nature wonderland is a spectacular walk with art that you won’t forget!
Yellow Water: The aboriginal name for Yellow Water is Ngurrungurrudjba. This is a spectacular place for a family to take a Yellow Water cruise and see an abundance of Kakadu wildlife up close. See huge crocs sunning themselves and a wide range of birdlife as you cruise the Kakadu wetlands.
There are a range of boardwalks to take in the world renowned wetlands, or a range of cruise options that run all day. Cruises give you a chance to not only see wildlife up close, but to learn more about the region, history and wildlife from highly experienced guides.
Have you been to Kakadu with kids? Are you planning to go? Got any questions? Feel free to comment below or drop us a line 🙂
The vast, flat desert lands stretching out before us, have become our backyard. The short green desert shrubs offer a stark contrast to rich redness of the soil which stains our clothing, our tent and our feet.
This is it.
This is what we’ve been waiting for.
My memories drift back to the pictures in Primary School. That day, when the teacher returned from his trip to “Ayers Rock” (back then it wasn’t really referred to as Uluru, white man’s name was still more popular). He held up 4×6 photographs, one by one, flicking through to reveal a golden sunset cascading across the grand red rock. There I was, a child, sitting hundreds of Kilometres away from central Australia, in a tiny school of 60 children in the middle of the drought ravaged bush of NSW. There I sat, in awe, wondering if I would ever get the chance to take photos like that myself.
That’s the power of the rock. Uluru. The grand heart of Australia. It draws you in. Calls you to it.
So here we are. Finally. Almost 15 years later, I was here. The heartland of Australia. Not only did I make it, I was about to take my children, my little people, to stand on the red soils, to see “The Rock”. I knew it would be a special place, but nothing can prepare you for just how special.
As the red dirt and shrubbery whiz by, the view out of the car window changes. Or rather it remains the same, other than one bump appearing on the horizon. There, in the distance, a bump, a rock. It looks so tiny.
The approach to Uluru is surreal. Looking out the car window feels so similar to viewing Uluru through a TV screen. It looks just like I imagined it would. Just like those photos, those documentaries, the collection of images in my mind seem to do it justice, and it looks so small.
We keep driving. All the while our eyes locked on this grand, grand, monolith.
It gets closer.
The shape changes, the view changes, and the real character of Uluru appears.
A weathered exterior, a wounded, battered exterior, ravaged by wind, rain and people, for centuries.
The spirits of the land dance around us. Our eyes look up, and up, and up. I breathe in. I’m here. It’s not small anymore. There is just a grandness, the sheer size cannot be described. I breathe it in again. Now all that’s left is to explore, and take those photos.
Have you been to Uluru? Share your story……
Before jet setting off to have a holiday in Darwin, we did what every great traveller does, and hit Google! We were on the search for great kids activities and family friendly Darwin attractions, and we weren’t disappointed. We didn’t know anyone who’d been to Darwin, let alone lived there, so we had to rely on what information we could find online to get an idea of what might be available to do once we arrived. Crocosaurus Cove was one of the more interesting options that we stumbled upon and it appeared it would suit our family’s interest in animals, was right in the centre of the city, so it was super convenient and would be great fun for the kids and us parents too!
About: Crocosaurus Cove
Situated in the Darwin City Centre, Crocosaurus Cove is a wildlife experience like no other. This attraction was fairly new having only recently opened when we visited back in 2008, and while we weren’t sure what to expect it sounded like it would offer a unique experience. Crocosaurus Cove offers a unique 360 degree view of large salt water crocodiles, thanks to the unique planning and construction of enclosures, you can not only see crocs from above but also from underneath, something that we all loved experiencing.
Attractions that you will find at Crocosaurus Cove include:
- Cage of Death – This allows you to enter the water with large Saltwater Crocodiles while in complete safety of a perspex cage.
- World’s largest display of Australian Reptiles – This includes the chance to hold and touch reptiles that are brought out of their enclosures by staff, plenty of photo opportunities too.
- 200,000 litre aquarium full of Barrumundi and other fish – A feature is the fish feeding.
- “World of Crocs” Display and museum
- Croc Fishing – this wasn’t available while we were there, but I sourced this information from their website (it sounds and looks great)!
- Swim with the Crocs – Take your swimmers, there’s a pool that adjoins the croc cages making it feel as though you’re really swimming with the crocs – we didn’t realise so didn’t get the chance but there were others there who did.
- Croc Feed Show – When we were there the naughty croc stole the feeding pole of a new handler, it added to the show 🙂
- Eat with the Baby crocs – This was a highlight for our kiddos, while you’re eating yummy food from the cafe you can sit beside a large viewing window and be entertained by the antics of juvenile crocodiles, lots of fun for the kids.
Lunch with the Junvenile Crocodiles
Suitability for Families
When we visited Crocosaurus Cove, our children were aged 5, 3 and 1 and we had lots and lots of fun. When it comes to our children, any encounter with reptiles and crocodiles leaves them happy and if your children have a love of wildlife then I’m sure the experience will be similar.
Crocosaurus Cove is spread out over 3 stories of well planned inner city attraction. There’s plenty for children and adults alike to experience, read, touch, feel, see, experience and enjoy. I love the fact that there is so much information available within signs and displays in the centre, there’s some fun to be had with bite force, educational information and lots of great things to see in the museum, not to mention the hands on experience of holding and feeling a range of reptiles. There is air conditioning where possible, which is a huge benefit if it’s a hot day while you’re in Darwin.
The unique design of the crocodile enclosures allows you to stand underneath the crocs as they lay across the bottom and gives you a unique view of their scales and bellies, something we’d never seen close up before.
Where is Crocosaurus Cove?
View Larger Map
Entry Details & Pricing
Crocosaurus Cove is open 9am to 6pm every day of the year except Christmas Day, so no matter when you’re visiting Darwin you’ll have the chance to visit.
Entry Prices are as follows: (current until 13/3/12 – follow link to website for updates)
|Family 1 (1A,2C)
|Family 2 (2A,1C)
|Family 3 (2A,2C)
|Family 4 (2A,3C)
CAGE OF DEATH EXPERIENCE
|1 Person/Single Cage
||$148.00pp (includes full day entry)
|2 People/Double Cage
||$108.00pp (includes full day entry)
- Take swimmers so you don’t miss the chance to swim with the crocodiles
- Be sure to check the website for the current times for croc feeding and other activities so you don’t miss anything
- Cafe is available for hungry families
- Allow at least a few hours to make the most of the entire attraction
- Expect to see more than just crocodiles – bring your camera with an empty memory card, there’s lots to photograph
- Wear hat & sunscreen on hot days as much of the attraction is outside, but there’s air conditioning available inside if you need a break from the heat.
[easyreview title=”Crocosaurus Cove Darwin Review” cat1title=”Good For Families?” cat1detail=”Definitely a great experience for families. 3 stories of interaction, education and entertainment. Lots of fun right in the heart of Darwin” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Location” cat2detail=”Easy to find, we found parking relatively easily and if you don’t want to eat at the cafe inside it’s only a short walk to eateries once you’re finished inside” cat2rating=”5″ cat3title=”Value for Money” cat3detail=”We only had to pay for 2 adults and one child when we were there due to our youngest 2 children being 3 and under. Now, it would cost us just under $100 to go which I think is a fair price for what’s on offer. There’s lots that goes into running an attraction like this, and it’s more than just crocs! The cafe can seem a little pricey to feed an entire family on a budget, but so is almost every attraction we’ve ever visited, but it’s well priced for a drink and a snack when taking a break inside. I’d definitely recommend making a day of it and perhaps really taking advantage of the educational aspects too for older children. Be sure to check the website for show times so you don’t miss anything.” cat3rating=”4″ summary=”For families of wildlife lovers, or those wanting to get up close and personal with crocs, then Crocosaurus Cove is lots of fun. We were there within a few months of it’s opening and the staff and facilities were great. We’d love to return to take part in some of the action that we didn’t experience when we were there the first time”]
Have you visited Crocosaurus Cove? What did you think? Comment below to let us know 🙂
When you set off for a journey of any kind within Australia, especially to one of Australia’s most popular travel destinations, you can’t help but arrive with pre-conceived ideas of what you will see and discover while you are there. For us, Kakadu was no different. We’d heard people refer to the amazing Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory top end as Kaka-don’t which certainly had us wondering what to expect, it didn’t however deter us from visiting.
The best way to describe Kakadu is spiritual. I totally get that many people can obviously visit the place and see trees and water and think “is that it”? I pity those people. Seriously. For those who refer to Kakadu as a waste of time or a disappointment, all I can imagine is that haven’t opened their travelling hearts, minds and souls to the amazement that exists, the history that pumps through the veins of the eco system, and the reminder that we’re all so small and tiny in the scale of things and as a society we’ve seriously lost sight of the beauty that is the world in which we live.
So, if you’re wondering whether you should visit Kakadu, then YES! If you get the chance, you should, embrace it, breathe it, stop, stand still and soak in the spirit of mother earth that hugs you and tickles your cheeks while you are there. Listen to the sounds and the stories of the land, and walk the trails, read, discover, understand some of the amazing history that is Australia. Look beyond what’s just in front of you and you’ll see it for what it is…. AMAZING.
The Entrance to Kakadu
So without further adieu here are the top 5 things I learned in Kakadu:
1.Forget What You’ve Been Taught About Australian History.
Yes, I’m educated, a great Aussie education, I knew that there was an invasion of Australia, and I knew that the Aboriginal people did rock paintings. I knew what I was taught. But I didn’t know a thing. I didn’t understand that we are all part of Aboriginal culture whether we like it or not. The Aboriginal culture is about the land. We are part of the land and the land is part of us. That includes everyone, any race, any skin colour, it includes us all. There is still a culture out there fighting for all it’s might to survive the destruction of white settlement, there is still a culture out there that is trying to find it’s way, a way to share all it has to share and embrace the new “way” of doing things. There is a generation of wonderful descendants sharing the traditional way of land management within our National Parks. There is much to be learned about Australia’s history that I don’t think you full understand until you discover places such as Kakadu (and remote inland Australia) and you start to understand that there is a forgotten culture, the oldest culture in the world that is fighting just to remain.
2. Make up Your Own Mind.
As I mentioned before, we’d heard Kakadu referred to as Kaka-don’t, and as I said before I’ll say again… I pity those people. I learned that no matter what you hear about a place or destination, if you want to explore it, then do so, discover it for yourself, because everyone has different perceptions and what one person finds boring or over-rated, you may find magical.
3. Recharge your Camera Batteries.
Ok, so this probably shouldn’t be at the top of my list, but it is. You see, there’s a whole lot of walking to be done in Kakadu National Park. Lots of great look outs to experience and plenty of wildlife, rock art and history to discover. After trekking probably a couple of kilometres in all we got to the top of one of the most amazing lookouts only to turn on both the video camera and the Nikon only to find that they were both flat! I managed to flick the camera on and capture a single shot, but missed preserving some of the magic of that walk. NOTE: It can be difficult when you’re camping in a National Park Free Camp, as there’s no power supplies, but we did have an inverter in the car and I should have taken more care to be sure both batteries were full. (I didn’t learn my lesson by the way and missed taking a camera right through Cutta Cutta Caves which is maybe even more disappointing as I still got to capture most of Kakadu)!
4. Keep Your Eye out For Travel Groups/Guides.
We were travelling solo as a family, and being on a budget meant we didn’t place value on booking into official tour groups or allocating finances to paying guides to take us places. Most places are well signed especially places like Kakadu, but we learned that there’s definitely a whole lot of value in hearing stories that have been shared and learned by local tour guides. We’d been reading our information guides, and knew we’d like to walk to Ubirr, we figured the kids could probably make the climb and we’d carry the little guy for the chance to take in the views, but the walk probably wouldn’t have been as fulfilling without hearing the stories and information shared with us on the way.
This was seriously one of the luckiest things that happened to us; arriving at the same time as a few tour groups to the entrance of the walking trails. Generally I’d not choose to hang around with groups of people when I’m trying to discover a National Park, it tends to scare away wildlife and make it a bit noisy all those things, but we saw opportunity when it knocked in this case. The guide was friendly enough and let us tag along in the background, and we listened intently as he shared stories of dreamtime, rock art and a culture that’s fading so fast. Stories of lifestyle, shelters, tools, seasonal keeping of the land, of the people that still live traditionally within the park. So, keep your eye out, if you have the opportunity to tag along bahind a group, do it!
5. Children are More Capable Than we Give Them Credit For.
Our children were quite young when we visited Kakadu, 5, 3 & 1 years old. We knew that some of the walking might be a struggle, and tried to stick to climbs and treks that they would cope with. We were pleasantly suprised when they managed Kilometres of walking around Kakadu (and other destinations too!). We discovered that when surrounded by excitement, nature and the ability and permission to explore and learn, that walking wasn’t so much of a chore for them, as it was part of a fun adventure. So my advice to others is don’t avoid doing walks and treks to great destinations just because you have children, just be prepared to allow them time, pace yourselves and allow it to become the amazing adventure that it is!
Tagging along with a tour group in Kakadu