Top 5 ways to discover East Arnhem Land
Arnhem Land is home to one of the world’s oldest living cultures – found in the far flung north-eastern region of the Northern Territory.
Here are five of the best ways to experience the magic of Arnhem Land.
Wild and remote, the dazzling white-sand beaches and sparkling waters of Arnhem Land are often considered to be off the beaten track but here’s the thing – it’s easier to get there than you may think.
Tours to Arnhem Land depart from Darwin regularly between May and October. Travelling with a tour guide or visiting while there is a community event are the best ways to experience Aboriginal culture in the region.
The Central Arnhem Road from Katherine to Nhulunbuy is a 730km unsealed stretch that requires a 4WD so be well prepared for the trip. Daily flights with Air North land in Nhulunbuy and many communities across Arnhem Land, although be sure to have ground transport organised and consider any permits you may need before arriving.
1. Fish your heart out
Nothing tastes better than a mud crab you’ve speared yourself, or sashimi sliced from a fish you’ve just hauled out of the sea. Bremer Island is a speck of land about a 50-minute boat ride from Nhulunbuy, surrounded by waters teeming with big fish. The only footprints on the white sandy beaches are those left by the flippers of sea turtles and the handful of guests at Banubanu Beach Retreat, an artfully rustic lodge with bungalows right on the water’s edge. A Registered Sacred Site, the island is the homeland of the Yolngu people and the locals are happy for guests – and the Banubanu chef – to tag along on traditional hunting trips.
2. Uncover the art and culture
Visit the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre at Yirrkala near Nhulunbuy to see an extraordinary collection of Yolngu art, including painted barks, weaving and didgeridoo, plus film and music recordings. Don’t miss the famous Yirrkala Church Panels; painted in 1963, they represent the first time that land rights were documented and led to the Yirrkala bark petitions, which are now on display in Parliament House. On Elcho Island in Arnhem Land’s north-east is Elcho Island Arts, where you’ll find traditional fibre works – such as pandanus baskets – and wooden sculptures.
3. Learn stories at a cultural festival
East Arnhem Live is a gathering of some of the most inspiring and creative Yolŋu musicians from Arnhem Land and across Australia. This fresh music and cultural festival is action-packed full of entertainment with three days of bands, DJs and Yolŋu cultural workshops and activities. East Arnhem Live is a truly unique festival experience that could only happen in Arnhem Land.
4. Camp overlooking the beach
The campsites scattered around the Gove Peninsula are some of the most spectacular in the country. They are almost all either right on the beach or overlooking one, and so few people know about them that more often than not you’ll have the whole beach to yourself. You’ll need to purchase a permit through Dhimurru first.
5. The ultimate adventure drive
You can fly from Darwin to Nhulunbuy (Gove Airport) in less than 90 minutes but driving the Central Arnhem Road is an adventure-filled road trip like no other. It’s a dry season trip, and it will take two full days to bump your way across but it’s a journey that fills the spirit where the savannah stretches out beneath an endless sky and wild buffalo roam. Remember to apply for a permit from the Northern Land Council and you can overnight at Mainoru Safari Lodge, which also sells fuel, on the way.
Discover more trip ideas to Arnhem Land.