Is This The Most Australian Hotel? Crocodile Hotel, Kakadu

As far from the straight-up-and-down tower of a regular hotel as you can get, the Mercure Crocodile Hotel in Kakadu is as unique as its ancient, stunning surroundings. Here’s what to expect from this kitschy crocodilian crib.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel

One of the last few roads in Australia where you can legally drive over 110km/h, the Arnhem Highway zooms us east out of Darwin into Kakadu National Park, 250km to its very end.

As we roll through the dusty streets of Jabiru, the only town within an Australian national park, we get an uneasy sense that we’re being watched.

Through low trees and bushes, the head and body of a gigantic crocodile looms, it’s eyes glowing red in the failing light of the day, its great teeth gleaming.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - croc in the bushes

This is the entrance to what surely must be the most Australian hotel—the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel—which has been built in the shape of a giant 270-metre long two-storey tall croc.

Check out our video walkthrough of the Croc Hotel here:

This hotel, designed and built in the 1980s, is an interpretation of the spirit ancestor, Ginga, of the Gagudju, who have called this place home over 60,000 years. Indeed, the name Kakadu is a derivation of their name.

The Croc Hotel was built to the plans submitted by the representing Gagudju Association and has, as you’ll appreciate, created quite a lot of conversation over the years.

Now part of the Accor portfolio, the Croc Hotel has a lot of the elegant touches and details that you’d expect from this hotel group as well as some clever inclusions of local culture, art and history.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - the 'foot' of the stairs

The ‘foot’ of the stairs – this claw leads to a staircase to the upper level of rooms!

Inside The Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel

But as well as showing cultural sensitivity, it’s clear the building designers had some fun with the Croc Hotel, and, rather than trying to avoid the kitsch, they’ve embraced it.

Entering via the gaping jaws of this huge beast, we’re greeted by a cavernous lobby and reception based in the croc’s head. After all, this is the brains of the operation. To the left, next to the long check-in desk and—by no coincidence I’m sure—under one of the eyes, is the start of the Ochre Art Gallery.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - underwater scene Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - Ochre Gallery Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - Ochre Gallery

We browse the beautifully made artefacts, objects and paintings around the room, then follow it down the corridor. The gallery fills the side of the head with an astounding collection of art.

As we explore further, down the ‘throat’, we appropriately come to the dining area. This is split into three sections.

To the left is the bar area, next is the buffet section that doubles as breakfast each morning. But the main room to the right is the Manjmukmuk (née Escarpment) Restaurant. Here you can still take advantage of the buffet, but there’s also a surprisingly good a la carte option too. More on that later.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - gallery and bar

Through the back doors of the dining area, we’re outside and back in the already baking morning air.

We’re in the pool and garden, surrounded by the two levels of rooms that line the sides (read ‘ribs’) of the mighty croc.

Cool and limpid beneath its broad shade, the oval pool beckons to us; a delicious respite from the heat of the day.

From the pool, a little brook winds and curves down through the garden, and we realise that the pool and stream are the heart and innards of the crocodile. It reminds us of the X-ray art that Kakadu is known for; ancient rock art showing not just the animal, but its internal physiology too.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - pool area Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - the garden and stream

What Are The Rooms Like At The Croc Hotel?

It’s important to remember that this hotel was built in the ‘80s and didn’t expect the luxury travel community to show so much interest in somewhere as remote as Kakadu. To that end, the rooms have a fun retro feel.

Although this is in line with the kitschy vibe of The Croc, it hasn’t given Accor as much to play with as they’re used to. The bathroom’s quite small, the front door opens onto the carpark and the room is quite boxy.

Having said that, there’s still a level of quality here that elevates the rooms at the Croc way beyond your regular motel. Think Bannisters in Mollymook or the Saguaro in Palm Springs.

And the carpark, by the way, is a series of circles, which represent the crocodile’s eggs.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - bedroom Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - recliner lamp and Indigenous art

Our room is on the ground floor, which means we also have a little fenced-in courtyard veranda looking out over the pool.

Inside, the decor takes advantage of its location, harnessing Indigenous links with lovely artwork on the walls and soft furnishings, and stocking locally-made amenities in the bathroom from an Aboriginal company. In fact, Kakadu Organics is owned by the sister of the chef at the other Accor hotel in Kakadu, Cooinda Lodge.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - in-room amenities by Kakadu Organics

As well as the king-size bed, there’s enough space for a comfy recliner and architectural reading lamp, a work station, and a minibar with a Nespresso machine.

The bathroom won’t win awards, but it’s clean and everything works. And if you’re jonesing for a bath, you’re in luck here. Not a bad way to recover from a hot day’s hiking around the national park.

Dining At The Manjmukmuk Restaurant

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - the bar and restaurant

Manjmukmuk Restaurant (meaning ‘excellent taste’ in the local Kundeyhmi language) offers an a la carte experience featuring four delicious courses of bush-tucker-based dishes.

When you book this dinner (and you do need to book), they really pull out the stops for you; from white linen and flowers on the table to beautiful place settings and the best spot in the restaurant.

Where to stay in Kakadu - Mercure Crocodile Hotel - our table setting

Our dinner begins with a petit eye fillet sourced from Gunbalanya Meats, based in Arnhem Land. This succulent cut comes with a rich saltbush béarnaise, a crunchy potato croquet and blistered cherry tomatoes.

Next is a kangaroo fillet smoked in native paperbark. The meat is tender and tasty, and the zing from the accompanying chilli Kakadu plum dressing over fresh mango and avocado balances the dish well.

The last of the savoury dishes is a thick slab of wild-caught barramundi, an icon of the Northern Territory. Perfectly sautéd on its skin side and delicate and sweet on the other, the barra is wonderful. Served with purple heirloom potatoes, charred broccoli and salsa verde, the kitchen has saved the best for last.

To finish, we’re given deconstructed panna cotta with cointreau berries and a macadamia crumb, and a ball of mango sorbet alongside.

Mercure Crocodile Hotel Kakadu - dinner

TL-BR: petite eye fillet, kangaroo, barramundi, panna cotta

It’s a hearty, satisfying meal that really shows not only what the kitchen is capable of, but also the wealth of ingredients that are available in this part of Australia.

Of course, there’s no surprise that they haven’t served us crocodile.

We stayed at the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel as media guests of Kakadu Tourism and Tourism NT, but our experiences and opinions remain our own.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 22, 2024

    Peter Hook

    As I always say, Jim and Christina, this is the only croc you want to end up inside! And for native food lovers, there are Kakadu plum trees growing outside the hotel, so they are worth sampling in season (or served with your kangaroo dish). Your readers might not know that the Croc Hotel – along with the rest of Kakadu – was meant to have been removed after the end of uranium mining a few years ago, but now that the town’s future is confirmed, expect positive things ahead for Kakadu.

Leave a Reply