East Arnhem Land Adventures
When you think of the NT, the images that spring to mind are most likely of Kakadu, Uluru, waterfalls, wetlands and wide open spaces. There’s a whole other side to the NT though and it includes some of the most stunning coastline in all of Australia.
Tucked away in the northeast corner of the NT is East Arnhem Land. We were lucky enough to spend a week exploring this little known pocket of paradise and it’s nothing like the rest of the Territory.
The main hub for exploring East Arnhem Land is Gove (Nhulunbuy), a 1 hour flight from Darwin. With a population of around 3,000 people it’s a small community but has everything you need for exploring this incredible countryside. Within an hour of landing we’d picked up our 4wd’s and supplies and were on the road to 3 of the most strikingly beautiful beaches you’re ever likely to see.
Maccassan Beach, Turtle Beach and Little Bondi are around a 40 minute drive from Gove and about 5 minutes apart. First stop was Maccassan and as we jumped out of the car our jaws hit the ground. Maccassan Beach is a landscape of vibrant contrasting colours, turquoise waters lap up against a rich red rocky headland and perfect powdery white sand stretches out along the shoreline. Add into the mix the fact that the wet season has just finished and the lush green vegetation is the cherry on top.
This visual theme is consistent across the other 2 beaches just up the road, only the size of them and the number of people there are different. Turtle Beach was the busiest of the three spots with a few people picnicking and swimming whilst Bondi offered a lot more space and we were able to even drive out onto the beach. Little Bondi is occasionally patrolled by the local surf club during Dry Season and it’s the favourite to swim at with locals too.
Heading back into Gove after an awesome afternoon exploring those unforgettable beaches we were pretty pumped and keen to find a cracking sunset spot to finish off an amazing first day. We didn’t have to look far with East Woody Island only a short drive from the center of town. A quick walk along the sand spit brings you to the island and then it’s your pick as to which of the huge granite boulders you’d like to sit back on and watch the sky light up as the sun disappears over the ocean below.
An early start the next morning was well and truly worth it with a day trip to Bawaka Homestead. We were picked up in a 4wd mini bus and the journey there itself was a real eye opener with close to 2 hours of offroad driving along sandy tracks, through creeks and along beaches until we arrived at the homestead and absolute paradise!
We were greeted with a traditional welcoming ceremony before learning a little about the Yolngu people’s language and customs. From there we were free to do some exploring along the pristine beach that fronts the homestead before a short drive to one of the most remarkable beaches you’ll ever see, Lonely Beach.
Lonely Beach is unlike any other beach in Australia with huge limestone cliffs on one edge, stunning blue waters surrounding a sand spit which joins up to island on the opposite side. To top it off our guides informed the group that it was safe to swim here! We were quick to take up the chance and it was quite a surreal experience to be here in this remote paradise that could quite easily be in Australia’s top 10 most beautiful natural wonders.
The last stop on our East Arnhem Land adventure was an overnight stay on Bremer Island, about a 2 hour boat ride from Gove. The Banubanu Beach Retreat here is run by Trevor and Helen and is the perfect escape for those looking to relax and unwind to the sounds of the sea. From the beachfront luxury eco tents through to the delightful lounge/bar decorated with items washed up on the shores below, the ocean is never far from you. Add into the mix the sensational food prepared by the onsite chef and it wouldn’t be hard to spend a week or 3 here in complete bliss!
Guided tours of the island are provided by Trevor in his trusty 4wd and you soon get a real appreciation for the size and remoteness of it. If you’re into fishing, then you’re in luck with boat charters in the incredible waters around the island also on offer and there’s also the chance to meet some of the Gutjangan community who live here and purchase some of their crafts and artworks.
The NT never ceases to amaze and East Arnhem Land is no exception. The coastline along this region has to be seen to be believed. If you’re looking for spectacular beaches, an authentic Northern Territory experience and memories to last a lifetime then make sure you check out www.northernterritory.com for more info and put East Arnhem Land on your holiday list!
Permits are required to access East Arnhem Land, visit https://www.nlc.org.au/visiting-aboriginal-land/apply-for-permit for more info.
A recreation permit is also required to visit Maccassan, Little Bondi and Turtle Beach, it’s quick and easy at: http://www.dhimurru.com.au/general--special-permit-areas.html