Arnhem Land is a vast, overwhelming and mysterious corner of the Northern Territory. About the size of the state of Victoria and with a population of only around 17,000, mostly Yolngu people, this Aboriginal reserve is one of Australia's last great untouched wilderness areas.
It may seem surprising to find a town of Jabiru's size and structure in the midst of a wilderness national park, but it exists solely because of the nearby Ranger uranium mine. It's Kakadu's major service centre, with a bank, newsagent, medical centre, supermarket, bakery and service station. You can even play a round of golf here.
Ubirr & Around
It'll take a lot more than the busloads of visitors to disturb Ubirr's inherent majesty and grace. Layers of rock-art paintings, in various styles and from various centuries, command a mesmerising stillness. Part of the main gallery reads like a menu, with images of kangaroos, tortoises and fish painted in x-ray, which became the dominant style about 8000 years ago.
The sight of this looming outlier of the Arnhem Land escarpment makes it easy to understand its ancient importance to Aboriginal people. Its long red-sandstone bulk, striped in places with orange, white and black, slopes up from surrounding woodland to fall away at one end in stepped cliffs. Below is Kakadu's best-known collection of rock art.
Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls
Remote and spectacular, these two falls epitomise the rugged Top End. Jim Jim Falls, a sheer 215m drop, is awesome after rain (when it can only be seen from the air), but its waters shrink to a trickle by about June. Twin Falls flows year-round (no swimming), but half the fun is getting here, involving a little boat trip (adult/child $12.50/free, running 7.
Cooinda & Yellow Water
Cooinda is best known for the cruises on the wetland area known as Yellow Water, and has developed into a slick resort. About 1km from the resort, the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre depicts Creation stories and has a great permanent exhibition that includes clap sticks, sugar-bag holders and rock-art samples.
The entire wilderness of this remote peninsula forms the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park which includes the surrounding sea. In the turquoise water you'll likely see dolphins and turtles, and − what most people come for − a threadfin salmon thrashing on the end of your line.
Cooinda to Pine Creek
This southern section of the park sees far fewer tour buses. Though it's unlikely you'll have dreamy Maguk (Barramundi Gorge; 45km south of Cooinda and 10km along a corrugated 4WD track) to yourself, you might time it right to have the glorious natural pool and falls between just a few of you.