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Tiwi Islands

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Known as 'the islands of smiles', the Tiwi Islands are popular for their Aboriginal culture, tropical island scenery and blue-water fishing.

Comprising Bathurst and Melville Island (Australia's second largest island after Tasmania), the Tiwi Islands are situated 100 kilometres to the north of Darwin.

Experience the Tiwi Islands as part of an organised Aboriginal day tour and learn about the cultural and linguistic differences between the Polynesian-influenced Tiwi people and the indigenous people of Arnhem Land just across the water.

The Tiwi Islands are famous for their diverse and thrilling fishing and the consistent conditions year-round. Book in at one of the local fishing lodges, or join a fishing expedition.

Along the islands' coastal landscape you will see dense rainforest, sandy beaches and rock pools. The islands' isolation and extremely high rainfall means they support many species not recorded elsewhere in the NT (or in the world). The islands host the world's largest breeding colony of Crested Terns and a large population of the vulnerable olive ridley turtle.

Access is via light aircraft from Darwin, or ferry across the Timor Sea to Bathurst Island. A car ferry connects the two islands at the narrowest point between them.

Things to see & do on the Tiwi Islands

  • Information

    Activities

    • Natural Attractions

    Facilities

    • Picnic Area
    • Public Toilet

    Activities

    • Swimming
    • Walk
  • Map

    Map

    What's nearby

    What's nearby

    Explore the NT
    Road tripsFlight paths
  • FAQS

    Can the Tiwi Islands be done as a day trip?

    Yes you can, there are two main day trip options from Darwin to visit the Tiwi Islands. A flying tour will give you more time on the islands, although the ferry is an excellent way to see the coastline and give yourself a different perspective of Darwin.

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    Do I need any passes or permits to visit the Tiwi Islands?

    The Tiwi Islands are Aboriginal land, and all visitors are required to have a permit. If you're travelling on a tour your permit will be arranged by the tour operator. Visitors who are not part of a tour are required to be hosted by a resident who will arrange permits on their behalf. Visit the Tiwi Land Council's website for more information.

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    How do I get around the Tiwi Islands?

    The Tiwi Islands are made up of Bathurst and Melville Islands, the latter of which is Australia’s second largest after Tasmania. The Tiwi Islands are only accessible on a tour - your tour operator will arrange the transport, so you can sit back and relax. A range of touring options are available and include bus, car, boat and light aircraft.

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    How do I get to the Tiwi Islands?

    The Tiwi Islands are 80km north of Darwin, to visit the islands you will need a permit. Tours from Darwin include light aircraft flights or a ferry ride with Sealink Northern Territory. The flying time to Bathurst Island is 20 minutes, and the ferry ride takes 2.5 hours. Be sure to check timetables well in advance.

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    How far are the Tiwi Islands from Darwin?

    The main community of Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island is 80km from Darwin, which is a 20 minute flight by light aircraft or 2.5 hour ferry ride. The communities of Milikapiti and Pirlangimpi on Melville island are 130 km from Darwin, which is approximately 40 minutes flying time.

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    What are the major attractions at the Tiwi Islands?

    All year round, the Tiwi Islands offer an authentic insight into one of the most fascinating examples of Aboriginal culture Australia has to offer. Visit community art centres which feature contemporary Aboriginal art works including wood carvings, pottery, screen printed fabrics and impressive works on canvas. The Patakijiyali Museum uncovers the rich cultural history of the Tiwi people, along with photographs and stories about the modern history of the islands. The Islands are also a prime fishing spot, with many Darwin-based fishing operators offering extended tours to the region.

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    What should I bring with me to the Tiwi Islands?

    When heading to the Tiwi Islands, don't forget to bring your hat, drinking water, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and comfortable clothing and footwear.

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    When is the best time to visit the Tiwi Islands?

    Day tours operate Monday to Friday, April to November. The annual Tiwi Islands Football Grand Final and Art Sale event takes place in March each year and is a great opportunity to see an iconic game of Australian rules football. You'll also have the chance to scoop up some unique pieces of Aboriginal art.

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    Where should I go next from the Tiwi Islands?

    Once you've explored Bathurst and Melville Islands, check out the wilderness of Kakadu National Park or continue your cultural learnings in the off-the-beaten-path paradise of Arnhem Land.

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