The scenery on the way to Kakadu is of red dirt and endless grassy plains, as uniquely wonderful as this vista is, kids do not share the same appreciation. With the limited attention span of young kids and an ease of which boredom sets in, a vice is needed for the 3.5 hour drive from Darwin. Our vice was the Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, a resort complex shaped as a giant green saltwater crocodile.
In car banter straight out of a cliche National Lampoons road trip, would go something along the lines of “That’s enough or we won’t see the crocodile hotel.” Surprisingly this worked a treat, because what child doesn’t want to sleep in the belly of a crocodile hotel?
Whilst we don’t make it a point to stay in large animal shaped lodgings, the practicality of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel makes it the most family friendly option. Located inside Kakadu National Park in the popular Jabiru region. It’s the only resort in the area, offering creature comforts such as: air conditioning which is very important whilst staying in the Top End, satellite TV and a swimming pool. The resort taking on the shape of Kakadu’s most fierce creature, is an added bonus and one that kids got a kick out of.
Truth be told, it’s not just the kids that take pleasure in this crocodile, it also makes me smile. Simply because it’s so kitschy and unique, built with Aussie tongue in cheek flare.
I admire the bravery for that one person who suggested the hotel to be built as a crocodile. Obviously, everyone agreed it was a genius idea and now Kakadu Crocodile Hotel stands as one of the select zoomorphic buildings (animal shaped buildings) in the world and only a very few that you can stay in.
Whilst this review comes courtesy of Gagudju Dreaming, we were full paying customers and did not travel or receive preferential treatment as guests of Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel.
All opinions are my very own.
The profile of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
From the ground, it’s tricky to make out the crocodile shape. However, drive around to the side to get a better view of the crocodiles huge profile.
For kids it may be a little harder to conceptualise the idea as the crocodile is best viewed by air. A visual of the building, such as a printout or postcard can help point out the yellow eye on top of the roof of the lobby, the series of hotel room doors running along the side, that form the belly, the staircases that forms it’s arms and legs and the green roofs of the buildings at the back that make it’s tail. Once explained our 4 year was able to see the croc easily, as for the 2 year we could have pointed out any building and she would have played along with the idea that it was a crocodile.
The location of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
With kids, the 3.5 hour road trip from Darwin is about as long as little ones can endure in the car, making the township of Jabiru where the Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is located, an ideal family base.
Jabiru offers family friendly amenities including a small supermarket, bakery, a few dining options and a petrol station. Within the Kakadu National Park, it’s close proximity to the East Alligator and South Alligator regions makes visits to the popular attractions of: Ubirr, Megella Creek and Bowali Visitors Centre easy. From Jabiru, manageable day trips can be taken further afield to Norlangie, Yellow Water and Mary River regions. Click here to read about the best things to do in Kakadu with kids.
The lobby and reception of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
The mouth of the crocodile welcomes guests to the undercover hotel entrance and reception where you can temporarily park the car.
It is tempting to have one parent check-in, whilst the other parent with kids remain in the car, safe from running riot. However, the large open marbled lobby is worth a browse. There are walls adorned with Aboriginal art, a huge crocodile skin hangs behind the reception desk and an impressive taxidermic crocodile suspended in air, hunting barramundi underwater takes center stage in the lobby.
After admiring the art, quick and helpful staff are available to check the family in, answer any questions and provide useful information on the resort and nearby attractions. Here is also where reservations are made for the restaurant which they highly recommend during the peak season.
The rooms in the belly of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
Similar to a motel, once checked in you can drive the car around and park by the front door of your room. All rooms exit out towards the parking area, running along either side of the resort which forms the belly of the crocodile. For families, request a ground floor room for easy access and to avoid lugging gear upstairs.
Stepping inside the belly of the crocodile, you will find a clean room, comfortable beds and everything a family needs for an enjoyable stay. The rooms at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel are sizable, with a separate seating area, small writing desk, the all important flat screen TV and broadband internet is available at an additional cost. Sliding doors leads out to centre of the crocodile where all the rooms share an internal garden, which was looking a little untamed.
The bathrooms are small, basic and has a shower over a bathtub, which is perfect for smaller kids. Each room has a tea and coffee making area with plenty of cupboard space, a kettle and small fridge. For families wanting to self cater the room does not offer any cooking facilities such as microwave, stove, sink or kitchen utensils.
Whilst the resort boasts 4 stars, it is looking a little tired. A modern refurbishment would give it a bit of character to match it’s external persona. However as there is little competition in Kakadu, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a makeover at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel.
The facilities at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
Once settled into the room the kids can explore the rest of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel’s facilities. Kids can climb up the croc’s arms and legs and run along the corridors which form the sides of it’s belly. In the middle of the crocodile lies the resort pool which is, according to Parks Australia one of the only safe swimming spots in the Northern Territory.
Unfortunately, there is a reason why the saltwater crocodile was picked as Kakadu Crocodile Hotels animal form. With over 10,000 saltwater crocodiles in the Northern Territory, the local water holes are never guaranteed risk free swimming. Luckily, the pool at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is shaded, croc free and always a hit with kids.
In addition to the pool, Kakadu Crocodile Hotel also offers self service laundry facilities, WI-FI in the public areas of the resort, room service and casual dining at the on-site Escarpment Restaurant and Bar.
The food at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
8pm was quite late for dinner at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel’s own Escarpment Restaurant, most tables were filled with groups of grey nomads and a few families with older kids. Although the local caught barramundi with bush herbs looked particularly appetising from the buffet menu, we were not hungry enough for the buffet to justify the cost and chose to order al-la-carte.
On the menu the standard Aussie pub fare such as: steak and chips, chicken parmigiana, pasta and seafood options. The kids menu had all the usual choices of: sausages, chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers. Each meal was served with chips and salad accompanied by a drink and ice-cream.
The setting is relaxed, with a large self-serving buffet in the center. The decor like the rest of the resort has seen better days, however the restaurant area was clean and comfortable. Everything needed for family friendly dining.
Staff were inundated with orders and meals were served very slowly, which is never a great thing when dining out with kids. What they lacked in speed was made up for in attentiveness and courtesy.
The meals themselves is as you expect of pub food, and the premium price charged is for the convenience rather than the taste. If you wish to dine elsewhere, be mindful of closing times. The supermarket and bakery close very early at 4pm. The only other restaurant in the Jabiru township is the nearby Golf Club with positive reviews. The only disadvantage, a short drive required, compared with a short walk within the resort.
How to save money at Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
The tours available from Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is owned by the same indigenous group that operate the popular tours run by Gagudju Dreaming. It’s a smooth and easy process to arrange a tour with choices including: the unmissable Yellow Water Cruises, fishing trips and 4WD tours around Kakadu National Park. For more information on tours check out Gagudju Dreaming and my review on Yellow Water river cruise to come.
If considering the Yellow Waters Crusie, there is a 50 minute drive from Kakadu Crocodile Hotel to Yellow Waters Billabong
The value for money of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
Prices are fairly fixed in the Northern Territory with limited competition and high demand it’s hard to find a bargain. Expect to pay higher rates (we paid aprox $330 a night) during the peak period, which is also Kakadu’s dry season running from May through September.
Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is quite pricey, what we paid for is the convenience, comfort and excellent location inside Kakadu National Park. To get better value for your money, consider travelling on the shoulder periods of April through May or October through December or for the more adventurous travel during the wet season to find drops in room rates.
Have your kids stayed in the belly of Kakadu Crocodile Hotel? What are your thoughts on zoomorphic buildings? Love to hear from you, please post below: