Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Arnhem Land, NT. © Tourism Australia

Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Bordered by Kakadu National Park, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land is a vast unspoiled wilderness, rich in Aboriginal culture.

The Yolngu people are the owners of Arnhem Land and have occupied the region for at least 60,000 years. The Yolngu retain strong cultural and spiritual links to the land and you will find authentic indigenous experiences. This is the land where Australia’s famous musical instrument, the didgeridoo, originated.

The scenery of Arnhem Land is beautiful and diverse, with rugged coastlines, remote islands, rivers teeming with fish, lush rainforests, towering escarpments and savannah woodlands. Wildlife is abundant throughout Arnhem Land, including many saltwater crocodiles. It provides an important conservation habitat for dugongs, nesting turtles and migratory birds.

The area is also one of the best fishing destinations in the world. Join a deep-sea fishing charter or cruise inland on a tidal estuary in search of the famous barramundi.

On the western side of Arnhem Land is Gunbalanya (Oenpelli). Call in to see artists at work and to buy baskets and paintings at the famous Injalak Art and Craft Centre. Join a tour led by an indigenous guide to Injalak Hill to see ancient rock art and hear Dreamtime stories. Join a bush tucker tour and learn how the indigenous people live from the land.

There are several famous indigenous arts centres in Arnhem Land, including the community of Maningrida and Yirrkala, just outside the coastal town of Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula. Here you can also take a number of cultural tours with local indigenous guides to the white sand beaches and azure waters of Nanydjaka (Cape Arnhem), just a few hours’ drive from Nhulunbuy. The crystal clear waters are perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling.

There are also many significant historical sites in Arnhem Land, including the ruins of an early European settlement in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park on the remote Cobourg Peninsula. The surrounding Cobourg Marine Park provides an ideal habitat for many thousands of bird species.

Throughout the year, Arnhem Land's landscapes undergo spectacular changes. The most popular time to visit is in the dry season (April to September). The wet season sees extremely dramatic weather conditions and some parts of the park are closed. Helicopter tours and light aircraft flights are another way to take in the vast expanse.

Accommodation in Arnhem Land is limited, but there are some excellent wilderness lodges throughout the region. You can also sleep under the stars at one of Arnhem Land’s many secluded camp spots.

Daily flights connect Nhulunbuy with Cairns and Darwin. The region can also be accessed by 4WD along the Central Arnhem Road which connects to the Stuart Highway south of Katherine. Access from Darwin to Jabiru is via the Arnhem Highway. Access from the south is via the Kakadu Highway.

To visit Arnhem Land you will need a permit from the Northern Land Council. Joining an organised tour with an operator who has permission to enter the region is highly recommended.

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