Close to the banks of Yellow Water Billabong and Jim Jim Creek, Cooinda Lodge’s new luxury villa-style retreats are one of the most romantic, opulent places stay in remote Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.
As we hurtle down the highway from Darwin at a satisfying 130km/h, Christina and I ponder what our digs in Cooinda will be like.
Once, Cooinda Lodge was nothing more than a humble roadstop and campsite. Now, it’s grown into a village.
There’s a store and tour office here, a gas station, swimming pools, restaurants, a motel and most recently the impressive Yellow Water Villas, named after the beautiful nature-filled billabong close to the lodge.
Check out our video walkthrough of our Yellow Water Villa—Bamurru—here:
Cooinda Lodge is an indigenous-owned property, but French hotel group Accor now manage it, giving the best of two worlds; both in touch with the country it’s on, yet running as an international hotel.
Where To Stay In Kakadu—Cooinda Lodge’s luxury Yellow Water Villas
From the moment we pull into our parking space in front of our Yellow Water Villa—Bamurru, meaning ‘magpie goose’ in local Bininj Kunwok language, we realise this is about as far from glamping as you can get.
Raised up on a two-metre-high steal frame (Jim Jim Creek, no more than 150m away, can flood in the rainy season) our Yellow Water Villa is closer to the ‘stately home’ end of the accommodation scale than it is toward being a tent.
At the top of the steps is what is effectively a mud room with a little seat.
Through the tall front door, we’re presented with a luxuriously finished and appointed kitchenette, complete with brass taps on a gun-metal grey sink, a knife block and fridge. There’s even an electric hob and dishwasher in the slick grey stone-finish countertop, and hidden drawers full of utensils.
The kitchenette backs onto the huge bed, which sits in the middle of the main room and is angled towards the deck.
Yes, there’s a deck.
The enormous timber balcony stretches the width of the villa and looks out into the beautiful dense bushland of Kakadu.
On the balcony is a full five-burner gas barbecue, a dining table for four and—most opulently of all—a deep-full bath.
Back inside the Yellow Water Villa, we check out the other rooms. Plural.
To one side is the dayroom. This has another four-seater table and two daybeds big enough for us to relax on or—if you’re travelling as a family—for two kids to sleep on at night.
Although the dayroom is open to the rest of the villa now, we notice that you can close this section off with the zip-down canvas wall at night. In fact, it’s at this point that we realise the ‘tentness’ of our villa.
All the external walls are canvas. You can even zip down whole sections if you want to let more light (or for whatever reason, more heat) in the villa.
Talking of heat, the aircon in here is brilliant. It’s almost too cold, though it’s a welcome respite from the boiling afternoon air. But in the evenings, leaving the doors open (though fly screens closed) is lovely, especially in late September-early Oct.
In the far corner of the villa is another door. This leads to easily the most lavish bathroom a tent has ever had.
Entirely clad in chic grey tiles and accented with brass fittings, this ensuite is full of details. Nooks with hand towels, reed room diffusers, locally-made amenities and a shower room that wouldn’t be out of place in a high-end hotel room in a capital city.
Such Attention To Detail
This Yellow Water Villa is like one of those paintings that gives up more details the longer you look.
Shelves are decked with books representative of where we are, with artworks by local artists and cute lamps that add warmth and homeliness.
There are mod cons we’re really not expecting to see: Bluetooth speakers, cleverly designed reading lights, USB ports next to the bed, lovely crockery and cutlery, and even a temperature-controllable kettle to go with the selection of teas in the little wooden tea chest on the counter.
And because these villas are set back from the rest of the lodge facilities, so everything feels so private, but at the same time, you’re only a short walk from it all.
What Else Is At Cooinda Lodge?
Apart from these five luxurious villas, Cooinda has a host of other accommodation options. From the campsite to motel-style rooms to stand-alones called ‘Outback Retreats’ that are like the little brother of our villa. They’re not as big and don’t have their own en-suites—though this may be remedied down the line.
The network of paths that thread through the property all eventually lead you to the main building, which has the bar and its indoor restaurant Mimi’s. Here you can enjoy some brilliantly crafted menu items that work on local produce and bush-tucker ingredients.
Outside, you’ll find Barra Bar, which is more casual and has generously portioned pub classics on offer. Also out here is the Too Deadly Takeaway. This food truck not only does superb fish and chips, it also has things like crocodile on the menu, which is a must while you’re in Kakadu.
There’s also an outdoor cinema here showing family-friendly films each night.
Other facilities here include three different pools—though the main lagoon pool with its rock cascade and shade sail is the best of them—and a shop. This convenience store also quadruples up as the petrol station register, and accommodation and tour check-ins. When it’s busy here, expect a bit of a wait.
But an absolute must is the Yellow Water Cruise tour, which you can book at reception.
This beautiful billabong that backs onto the Cooinda site is teeming with wildlife—especially saltwater crocodiles—and so many different birds. Try and get a sunset trip as the sky over the billabong is simply magnificent as the sun goes down.
There’s also a boardwalk that goes along the edge of the water—just make sure to stay on the raised pathway. There are crocs literally everywhere here!