Trip To Kakadu National Park, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge. 4WD Or 2WD?

by Adam

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

We are planning a 10-12 day trip to Kakadu National Park, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge. Our family of 4, kids 6 and 9, likes hiking and camping, but we have only done it in the US. Our budget is not enormous and we are trying to decide if it is worth it to rent a 4WD.

We want to be able to go everywhere but it costs more than $2000 vs. about $800 for a 2WD. It is a tough call. I guess the question is how much does one really miss out on by not having a 4WD (which means having to stay on bitumen roads according to the rules of every rental place I've called). Will we regret it? I realize you can't really answer this for us but any comment welcome and we won't blame you whatever the outcome...

Thanks, Adam

Re: Trip To Kakadu National Park, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge. 4WD Or 2WD?

Hi Adam!
Tough call indeed. It's not the lack of 4wd that will restrict you, but the regulations. Many unsealed roads are perfectly fine for 2WD.

What time of the year do you plan to travel? Not being able to leave the bitumen is a bigger problem during peak season, when everything is totally packed. A 4WD provides the option to get away from the biggest crowds.

How much does one really miss out on?

  • You don't need a 4WD in Katherine Gorge.

  • Most of Litchfield National Park is bitumen, but the Lost City and the southern access road (passes Tjaynera or Sandy Creek Falls and Surprise Creek Falls) are unsealed. In my opinion this is the best part of the park. However, if you like hiking and camping, then Walker Creek or the Tabletop Track are also good places to get away from people.

  • In Kakadu you will definitely miss out big time... Jim Jim and Twin Falls, Maguk, Gunlom, Koolpin Gorge, all the quiet and free bush camping areas...

I would opt for the 4WD, and try to save as much as possible in other areas. (Camping all the way, choosing free bush camp sites, cooking rather than buying meals, drinking water rather than soft drinks, really stocking up on all groceries in the city where it's cheaper, etc.)

Another option is to take the 2WD and ignore the regulations... But that's just me. Don't read that as qualified advice, please. You'd have no insurance cover on unsealed roads, so it could turn out to be VERY expensive.

I hope that whatever you decide, you will end up feeling it was the right decision!

Photo by Vaka

Comments for Trip To Kakadu National Park, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge. 4WD Or 2WD?

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It will be hot, I know...
by: Adam

Dear "B",

thanks so much for the thoughtful and fast answer. We are going in late Sept. early Oct. It will be hot, I know...
Also, my understanding is that some of the falls may be dried up so it may not be worth worrying about seeing those.

Another possibility is to do 2WD for part of the trip and then go back to Darwin and get a 4WD for the rest. But that's a lot of extra driving and also the rates are higher for shorter rentals (though maybe not by that much).

Thanks again. Your site is great.


Two more quick thoughts.
by: Birgit

Hi again Adam!
Two more quick thoughts:

1. Yes, falls dry up, but not necessarily the pools below and above them. And those are definitely worth worrying about on a hot October day :-).

2. Renting two different vehicles might save money, but costs a lot of extra time. In my opinion time is too precious on such a trip to spend it in the car if it's not absolutely necessary...

Have a great trip!

What If You Get Lost?
by: Anonymous

What if you get lost in the bush with nothing but the clothes on your back, what do you do? Can you give some tips about what to do? As in what plants are good for food or water?

Did your family make the trip
by: Anonymous

Hello Adam,

we are from Toronto Canada and are planning on something similar to Kakadu and Uluru for Jun-Jul 09 with two kids 8 and 9 y.o. I am anxious to hear of your experience if you have already completed your trip. The outfitted camping trips seem steep in price.


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