Mary River National Park 2019 - All You Need to Know Before You Go

Mary River National Park 2019
Traveler photo submitted by ParksandWildlifeNT

Mary River National Park 2019 - All You Need to Know Before You Go - The Mary River flows in the Northern Territory of Australia and is a site of the Mary River National Park.

Anyone who's headed to the Northern Territory (NT) to catch a barramundi has heard of Shady Camp in Mary River National Park.

Apart from spectacular fishing, Mary River is popular for four-wheel driving, bushwalking and birdwatching.

It's a must-see park for any nature lover.

Photographers can get great wildlife and landscape shots with an abundance of native birdlife and saltwater crocodiles against a backdrop of paperbark swamp and lotus lilies.

Make sure you visit Couzens Lookout, particularly at sunset, for a stunning view.

The park has places for camping, picnicking and walking.

If you are interested in explorer history, don't miss the 6km walk in Point Stuart Coastal Reserve out to Stuart's Memorial Cairn.

Be Crocwise as there is a large population of saltwater crocodiles throughout the park, particularly at Shady Camp.

Bring plenty of protective clothing and insect repellent.

Check if this park is open?

  • Mary River National Park.
  • Mary River Billabong.
  • Bird Billabong Day Use Area.
  • Bird Billabong Walking Track.
  • Brian's Creek Monsoon Forest Walk.
  • Hardies 4WD Track (Closed for duration of wet season).
  • Jimmy's Creek Monsoon Forest Walk
  • Mistake Billabong.
  • Rockhole Road, Couzens Lookout and Campground, Wildman 4WD Track (Closed for duration of wet season).
  • Shady Camp Campground.
  • Shady Camp crocodile viewing platform.
  • Point Stuart Coastal Reserve.
  • Point Stuart Coastal Reserve Walking Track (Closed for duration of wet season.
  • Stuarts Tree walking track (Closed for duration of wet season).

Opening hours?

Some seasonal closures during the Wet Season between November and April. Many roads are unsealed.

How to get there?

To access : Travel 150km east of Darwin along the Stuart and Arnhem Highways.

Enter the park through Bird Billabong or Point Stuart Road.

What to see and do?

You can do all of the following activities in the park: boating, fishing, birdwatching, wildlife watching, photography, historic sites / memorials, scenic lookouts, walking tracks, four-wheel driving, camping permitted in designated camping areas, caravans permitted in designated campsites, and accommodation.

Four-wheel driving?

Mary River has plenty of tracks for the four wheel drive enthusiast.

Boat access?

You can launch your boat at any of the following areas:

Mary River Crossing - boat ramp off Arnhem Highway, all season access

Mary River Billabong - land-based fishing access via the Bird Billabong / Hardies access road, seasonal access only

Hardies Crossing - land-based fishing access via Hardies 4WD track, seasonal access only

Corroboree Billabong - boat access via Hardies 4WD track, seasonal access only

Rockhole - boat ramp access via Rockhole Road, seasonal access only

Shady Camp - access to Mary River saltwater side to Chambers Bay and Van Dieman Gulf via Sampan Creek

Stuart’s Tree Fishing Camp is a private area and charges apply - for access phone Terry Halse 08 8978 8863 or 08 8983 1223.

Where to stay?

You can camp at Couzens Lookout Camping Area and Shady Camp. Camping fees apply and are payable on-site.

There is also accommodation in and near the park.


Mary River National Park has all of the following facilities: information signs, ranger station – for emergency contact only, 4WD roads, fire pits, public toilets, picnic area, camping, accommodation, and boat ramp.

Plunge pools and waterfalls

Boasting an array of plunge pools and cascades, the Mary River region has some of Kakadu’s most picturesque swimming locations.

The most famous swimming spot is perched above Gunlom Falls, where an incredible natural infinity pool promises an idyllic dip.

Maguk is another popular swimming location. A short walk takes you through a monsoon forest to a beautiful waterfall and crystal-clear plunge pool.

Walks, wildlife and scenery

The Mary River region is known for its beautiful walks. Many of the easiest tracks wind through lush forests to sparkling cascades and sandy beaches. The area is also home to many plants and bird species found only in southern Kakadu.

Mary River’s more challenging hikes draw you high up into stone country, where breathtaking scenery captures the colour and majesty of Kakadu.


The Mary River region is Jawoyn land, and there are strong cultural ties between this part of Kakadu and nearby Nitmiluk National Park. The Jawoyn people believe that powerful creation ancestors rest here including Bula, the Rainbow Serpent.

The area has a wealth of Indigenous culture, and some of the most fascinating and gorgeous locations are shared with traditional owners. Many of these sites require permits to visit.

Camping and accommodation

Mary River has many quiet camping spots to relax and experience the landscape.

Intrepid travellers can make the journey to two of Kakadu’s best bush camping areas: Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge) and Bilkbilkmi (Graveside Gorge). These aren’t the easiest places to get to, but they are absolutely stunning and have special significance for the Jawoyn people. You need to apply for a permit to camp here.

You’ll find rooms, camping, caravan sites, meals and fuel at the Mary River Roadhouse. The nearby Mary River Ranger Station offers information and interpretive displays.

Detail "Mary River (Northern Territory)"

The river is approximately 225 kilometres (140 mi) long and rises about 50 kilometres (31 mi) east of Pine Creek. The catchment area is over 8,000 square kilometres (3,089 sq mi) but is ephemeral and only flows in the wet season, during the dry it is a series of pools and billabongs.

The catchment has several small reserve areas forming the Mary River National Park to help protect it. The Arnhem Highway crosses the river near one of the park areas. It also supports multiple land uses including pastoralism, fishing, mining, defence force, tourism, conservation and horticulture. Pastoralism, particularly cattle grazing is the dominant use taking up 63% of the catchment area.

The river has a total of ten tributaries including the Little Mary River, MacKinlay River, Bowerbird Creek, Mingloo Cree and Douglas Creek. It has a mean annual outflow of 2,400 gigalitres (3.139×109 cu yd).

Its lower reaches form part of the Adelaide and Mary River Floodplains Important Bird Area. The river is noted for its population of saltwater crocodiles, and is breeding area for the Barramundi, the target fish species for recreational anglers in the area. It is one of eight rivers in the Northern Territory with a large floodplain system in their catchment area. The wetlands occupy an area of approximately 1,300 square kilometres (502 sq mi) and are predominantly freshwater, although they suffer from saltwater intrusion. The wetlands provide a mosaic of habitats and are listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands. It is almost unique for an Australian river in that it has had no major tidal estuary as a river outlet for at least the last 2,000 years.

Flora and fauna

The Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is another protected area along the river and forms a vital habitat in the dry season for some 250 species of birds including Jabiru, jacana, brolga and pygmy geese.

Four threatened plants are found along the river including Goodenia quadrifida, Schoutenia ovata and the endangered Cycas armstrongii and Helicteres macrothrix.

The riparian vegetation found on the upper catchment includes mixed woodlands of Pandanus, Wattle, Paperbark and freshwater mangroves with an understorey of grass and sedges. Weeds are becoming problematic with shrub horehound, spiny head sida and wild passion fruit vine featuring.

34 species of fish are found in the river including; the Macleay's Glassfish, Barred Grunter, Sooty Grunter, Fly-specked Hardyhead, Toothless catfish, Flathead Goby, Spangled Perch, Barramundi, Oxeye Herring, Rainbowfish, Black-banded Rainbowfish, Northern Trout Gudgeon, Bony Bream, Catfish, Hyrtl's Tandan, Freshwater Longtom, Seven-spot Archerfish and the Sleepy Cod.

Two threatened goanna species; Varanus mertensi and Varanus panoptes are found along the river as is the vulnerable yellow-snouted gecko (Lucasium occultum).

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