Arnhem Way 7 day drive itinerary
Considered one of Australia’s last unspoilt areas, Arnhem Land is just waiting for you to discover. The Central Arnhem Road starts 50km south of Katherine and finishes in Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula.
This route will take you on an adventure through open savannah woodlands as you cross creeks and spot a variety of wildlife. Please note that when travelling to Arnhem Land you require a permit from the Northern Land Council. These permits are necessary to preserve the beauty of Arnhem Land.
Day 1: Katherine to Mainoru Outstation
Begin your journey in the township of Katherine, where the Outback meets the tropics. For inspiration on what to do in the Katherine region, check out the Kakadu and Katherine Nature’s Way itinerary. Make sure you’re well equipped with enough food, water and fuel.
The first leg of your drive will take you south of Katherine towards Mataranka, before turning off onto the Central Arnhem Road. Travelling just over 250km today on mostly unsealed road, this route is off-the-beaten-path.
Take the driving easy and consider breaking your journey with stop offs at either the friendly community of Barunga (home of the Barunga Festival) or Beswick where you can browse local arts and crafts at Djilpin Arts. We suggest you contact well ahead to check opening hours. Take an overnight break at Mainoru Outstation.
Day 2: Mainoru Outstation to Nhulunbuy
The Central Arnhem Road continues for another 480km (unsealed) where you’ll reach the main town of East Arnhem Land, Nhulunbuy (also known as Gove). The road may be unpredictable, so ensure you take your time, be prepared and most of all, appreciate the remoteness of the land you are discovering.
When you arrive in Nhulunbuy, reward yourself with a sunset drink at the Gove Boat Club and take in a famous Top End sunset.
Day 3 & 4: Nhulunbuy and surrounds
For the next two days, enjoy the remarkable natural surroundings of East Arnhem Land. Stop off at Yirrkala to visit the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre (a 15-minute drive off the Central Arnhem Road). This art centre is worth the short detour; here you can view authentic pieces of art and craft created by local Aboriginal artists.
With Nhulunbuy as your base camp, set out and uncover iconic landscapes at one of the Dhimurru Recreation Areas. Choose from a wide range of settings: from sandy white beaches and rugged coastlines to open forests and shaded inland waterways, all located just one to two hours from Nhulunbuy. Pack a picnic and head out for the perfect day trip exploring Arnhem Land. Visit Dhimurru for more information.
Day 5 & 6: Bremer Island
Leave the car for a couple of days in Nhulunbuy and escape to an island. Make your way to Bremer Island via a leisurely one-hour boat ride, or a 10-minute charter flight. Arrive at Banubanu Wilderness Retreat on Bremer Island, an eco-escape paradise in the Northern Territory. Take this opportunity to relax, recharge your batteries and live the island lifestyle for a few days. Take part in guided walks, spearfishing, turtle watching or just chill out on the pristine white beach.
Day 7: Nhulunbuy
Take a day to recoup from your island escape. Get the car fuelled and packed up ready for the road trip back to Katherine.
Once you reach the Stuart Highway, either head north towards Katherine and Darwin, south towards Daly Waters, or if you’re really loving this untouched landscape, we recommend heading to Limmen National Park with a detour to the fabulous Lorella Springs. Explore the spectacular Victoria River region for inspiration.
Optional add-on: Bremer Island to Nhulunbuy
With so much to see and do, why not stay for an extra day and have a blue water fishing experience with one of the charters available. If fishing isn’t your thing then charter a scenic flight to witness this amazing part of the world from the sky.
Arnhem Land is Aboriginal Land Trust and permits are required for visiting beaches, parks, waterways and accessing Aboriginal homelands.
Please ensure you consider the following steps before travelling to the region.
- A permit from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation is required to visit any area outside of Nhulunbuy township, and a number of areas within the township boundaries.
Apply for a Dhimurru permit here: Rez Expert - Online Reservation.
- Those driving to Nhulunbuy or any area of East Arnhem Land via the Central Arnhem Road are required to apply for a transit permit through the Northern Land Council (NLC). Due to COVID-19 , a transit permit will only be issued to travellers with a pre-existing permit issued by Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.
Apply for an NLC permit here: Transit Permit | Northern Land Council (nlc.org.au)
- Check the official East Arnhem Land visitor information site to learn more about permits and travelling to the region.
Note: if you are undertaking a trip as part of an organised tour, they may organise permits on your behalf. Please check with your tour provider at the time of booking.
Remember to plan your trip with these road safety tips before starting your Northern Territory road trip adventure.
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