Can you believe it has been 30 years since Crocodile Dundee was released in 1986? Time to plan a trip to Kakadu to revisit Australia’s Northern Territory.
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On 30 April 1986, Crocodile Dundee was released following its premier screening in Sydney, leading to the biggest revolution in Australian tourism since the arrival of the jumbo jet in the 1970s. The film cost $10 million to make and grossed $300 million.
The success of the film in America and around the world put the spotlight firmly on Australia’s unique outback and larrikin culture. For Kakadu, a fledgling tourism industry was supercharged overnight, with the now legendary Crocodile Hotel being built as a result of the new interest in the destination.
Kakadu's Crocodile Hotel
Developed by the local Indigenous Gagudju people, the Crocodile Hotel highlighted the power of the ‘crocodile’ in marketing the region, with nearby Yellow Water Billabong established as one of the most popular locations for cruises to catch sight of crocodiles in their natural habitat.
Yellow Water starred in the croc‐horror film Rogue a decade later. While crocodiles may have had a fearsome reputation in the wild, Crocodile Dundee converted the reptiles into one of Australia’s biggest tourism drawcards.
Crocodiles became one of Australia’s biggest tourism drawcards after Crocodile Dundee
Crocodiles certainly took centre stage in Crocodile Dundee. They feature in the film almost from the start as American journalist Sue Charlton comes to Kakadu in search of a bushman reported to have lost half a leg to a saltwater crocodile.
Sue Charlton, played by Linda Kozlowski, arrives at ‘Walkabout Creek’ and her first encounter with ‘Mick’ Dundee (played by Paul Hogan) is when he announces his arrival at the pub she is staying by throwing his hunting knife at the bar and wrestling a stuffed dead crocodile.
While Sue finds that he hadn’t lost his leg, she does find lots of outback action, involving kangaroo shooters, snakes, buffaloes and, of course, crocodiles. Mick decides to show Sue ‘his’ country, and this is where the audience gets to see the spectacular Kakadu scenery.
Ubirr is the rock formation in Kakadu National Park where Mick Dundee climbs to the top, points toward the horizon, and says “This is my backyard and over there is the Never Never” while the movie camera panned across the flood plain.
One of the icons of Kakadu, Ubirr's galleries contain the world's most panoramic sweep of history with drawings ranging from the thylacine to arrival of Europeans. Ubirr is easily accessible by 4WD and standard cars (during the dry season) and Parks Australia provides free guided tours and talks of the site and its art galleries from April through to October.
Mick and Sue head further into the bush but are stopped by a water buffalo that refuses to budge. In the film, which was shot on the road between Jabiru and Gunbalanya, Mick solves the impasse by hypnotising the water buffalo. Charlie the Buffalo is now immortalised at the Adelaide River Resort where he’s stuffed and standing on the bar.
A gorgeous landscape view from Ubirr
Mick then has the chance to show Sue his outback skills, including a cruise in his tinnie on Angbangbang Billabong, where you see crocodiles and birdlife. It gives Mick an opportunity to demonstrate his bush skills, including a clever ruse where he pretends to tell the time by looking at the sun though this part of the scene is filmed at Gunlom Falls.
‘Mick’s country’ includes spectacular footage of Angbanglang Billabong where crocodiles and birdlife are featured, along with the very distinctive Nourlangie Rock. In the movie, it is where Mick Dundee and Sue spend their first night in the wilderness—or to be more precise, it’s where we see them preparing to face the day after they spend their first night in the wilderness.
There are many rock art paintings found under the rock ledges at Angbangbang gallery
The large rock outcrop in the background is Nourlangie Rock. Nourlangie is the site of important Aboriginal rock‐art “galleries”. It is estimated that Aboriginal people have been using this site for around 20,000 years. The entire area is archaeologically important, as it is believed that this is where some of the earliest tropical settlement of Australia occurred. The people in this area developed grinding stones for crushing seeds and later used the grinding stones to crush ochre for painting.
Nourlangie Rock and surrounding early art sites are among the reasons Kakadu National Park was made a World Heritage Site. The richness of the ecosystems here is another reason for protecting the area.
Nourlangie Rock is one of the many beautiful sights in Kakadu National Park
Nourlangie and Angbangbang can be viewed throughout the year. Guided ranger tours and talks are available from April through to October.
After being offended by Mick's assertion that as a “sheila” she is incapable of surviving the outback alone, Sue heads off into Kakadu, where she stops at a billabong to refill her water bottle only to be attacked by a crocodile. Fortunately, Mick had been following her and was on hand to wrestle with and kill the croc, thereby justifying his ‘Crocodile’ tag. This scene is actually filmed just outside Darwin in Girraween Lagoon.
Gunlom Gorge is the location where Mick Dundee spears a fish and cooks bush tucker. Gunlom Gorge was previously known as UDP Falls (after the Uranium Developing and Prospecting Company); in the Crocodile Dundee movie it is referred to as Echo Pool. Crocodiles aren’t found in these waters, but never let facts get in the way of a good scene‐stealing moment.
After surviving the attack, we see Mick and Sue swimming in the spectacular Gunlom rock pool, now one of the favourite tourist locations in Kakadu. We also see Mick spear fishing for barramundi and cooking goanna for Sue.
Gunlom offers a beautiful, big swimming pool below the waterfall and if you walk to the top you find more pools to swim. The drive through the so called “southern hills and basins” is an experience in itself. Millions of years of erosion have left awesome scenery of rugged hills and broken ridge lines. The now exposed rocks are 2500 million years old.
The pools at the top of Gunlom waterfall provide spectacular sceneries
Depending on the time of the year you may find anything between a roaring waterfall and a gentle trickle falling down the cliffs. From the upper half of the track you have fantastic views over southern Kakadu. Signs along the track explain the geology of the area and the different ways in which Kakadu National Park can be seen: the white man's, and the Aboriginal view.
Gunlom is accessible during the dry season. Spirit of Kakadu 4WD Adventure Tours takes visitors to Gunlom from May – October (depending on weather conditions).
Indigenious culture and history
In the film, the ‘Aboriginal view’ is represented in a typically laconic fashion. In the bush Mick and Sue come across a fully painted Indigenous man, played by David Gulpilil.
The Warradjan Cultural Centre, near Cooinda, is a fascinating exhibit that shines a light on Kakadu’s indigenous culture and history.
Visitors to Kakadu can experience incredible Aboriginal culture
Interactive displays explain hunting techniques used in different seasons, bloodlines and marriage rights, tribal elder stories and the effects of white settlement in the Top End. Local art and craft is available for viewing and purchase. Entry is free.
For many the first reaction to this anniversary is “was it really 30 years ago?” The second reaction may be gratitude that “Crocodile Dundee” was a huge step in putting Australia on the world travel map. Happy birthday to the Croc.
When Paul Hogan took his crew to Kakadu to film Crocodile Dundee, they had to use a mining camp – Pan Continental’s JaJa camp that was built to house workers at the never-opened Jabiluka Uranium Mine – to house the team as there was little to no tourism accommodation available in the park at the time.
Can you believe it's been 30 years since the first Crocodile Dundee movie?
Accommodation is now available at the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel and Kakadu Lodge Cooinda. New ‘flashcamp’ tents will be offered this year, providing high quality bedding in comfortable tents that combine campsite ambience with comfort and convenience.
When the film was made there weren’t sealed roads to tourist sites like Gunlom, Nourlangie and Ubirr.
Even today, access can still be an issue to many of Kakadu’s ‘treasures’ such as the Maguk, Jim Jim and Twin Falls attractions, which is why Kakadu Tourism is offering guided 4WD tours during the dry season (usually June – October).
Spirit of Kakadu 4WD Adventure Tours leave from Cooinda, and take in a range of Kakadu’s top attractions in an entertaining and informative way. Hosted by highly experienced guides, including a number of local Indigenous guides, the tours give visitors access to spectacular destinations and the rich stories behind them.
Visitors can experience the vast diversity of Kakadu’s wildlife, including over 200 bird species, buffalo, snakes and massive saltwater crocodiles on a Yellow Water Cruise on Yellow Water Billabong. Cruises operate daily throughout the year. Specialised Yellow Water Fishing and Yellow Water under the Stars cruises are available during the dry season.
3 travel tips to help you save in Kakadu
- Free ranger talks and tours are offered by Parks Australia.
- The best time is go is the shoulder periods in May or Sept/Oct. You can expect to save over 30% just on accommodation.
- The last wet season was relatively dry, so it will be a very early start to the season this year. Much of the Park will be open in May, though waterfalls might dry out faster than usual. So get there early – and save.
You can visit kakadutourism.com for more information.
Remember this iconic scene from Crocodile Dundee?
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