Uncovering the Secrets of the Arnhem Land Coast - Australia's Outback Northern Territory

More and more people are visting Australia's Top End in the Northern Territory and discovering the secrets of the Arnhem Land Coast.

There's something extra special about arriving as a visitor to one of the Top End's tiny, far-flung coastal communities. Hordes of free-spirited children stop their beachfront acrobatics to mill around and chatter. Friendly ladies in colourful dresses lead you gently by the arm to their favourite museum exhibit.

4WD Tracks - Arnhem Land - Australia's Outback Northern Territory

4WD Tracks - Arnhem Land - Australia's Outback Northern Territory

Aboriginal Artist -

Aboriginal Artist -
Australia's Outback Northern Territory

This is part of the experience of travelling in Arnhem Land where the vast coastline and offshore islands are dotted with tiny communities and priceless treasures epitomising the cultural and historical heart of Australia's tropical Top End.

Travellers searching for something completely different in a Territory Outback holiday can fly, sail or drive into isolated Arnhem Land destinations to discover traditional Aboriginal lifestyles, exquisite art and crafts, wilderness experiences and historic relics left by the earliest foreign seafarers to this region. You can stay overnight at some or just fly in by charter for a leisurely day trip.

The region's indigenous coastal and island people take great pride in their artistic prowess and ancient culture and warmly welcome visitors to their communities - though a pre-arranged permit is essential before making such trips.

Top End permits are issued through the Northern Land Council in Darwin and Katherine, or through relevant community councils for specific locations.

Top End communities have been gearing up in response to a growing world interest in Aboriginal culture. Excellent museums and art and craft galleries have opened to display fascinating local histories and superb traditional art works created through unique skills passed down through hundreds of generations.

Several memorable Top End cultural experiences, including those offered through the world-acclaimed galleries of Yirrkala and Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula, the Mt Borradaile and Umorrduk safaris, and the charming Tiwi Island guides, have been luring international travellers for years. But other less widely visited Top End destinations have also been quietly etching a place for themselves in Outback tourism.

A prime example is the Territory's largest Aboriginal community, Maningrida near the mouth of the Liverpool River, a friendly regional service hub of around 2000 people and housing one of Arnhem Land's most renowned art and craft galleries, Maningrida Arts and Culture. The facility's spacious ground and mezzanine floors are crammed with exquisite woven natural fibre mats and baskets, wooden totem carvings and paintings in the traditional methods practiced in the region over thousands of years.

The adjacent air-conditioned Djomi Museum and Cultural Keeping Place protects valuable artworks, artefacts, traditional fishing and hunting implements and an excellent photographic display depicting the region's history.

Maningrida has its own modest five-room motel, well-stocked general store and an all-weather airstrip to cater for regular light aircraft landings.

Across the water on Elcho Island, the Marthakal Homelands venture offers fly-in visitors the chance to witness Aboriginal culture, fish and the hunt with locals, see arts and crafts being created and share times with a traditional Aboriginal family.

An equally memorable offshore experience awaits day-trippers at the friendly Melville Island community of Milikapiti with its excellent art and craft gallery and air-conditioned museum depicting the island's fascinating cultural beginnings and European history. Intriguing local features within a short drive of the community include traditional Tiwi Pukumani burial poles, the historic Fort Dundas ruins and secluded waterfalls and swimming holes.

Naturalists and history buffs will revel in the chance to explore northwest Arnhem Land's remote Cobourg Peninsula where valuable historical, cultural and wilderness features are dotted along coastal stretches including peaceful Port Essington.

Accommodation is available here to suit all budgets and includes the upmarket Seven Spirit Bay Wilderness and Cape Don Lodges that cater for fly-in guests, the Cobourg Beach huts and the shady Smith Point campground.

This tranquil area within the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park abounds with native and introduced wildlife including astounding sea creatures, relics of 17th Century Macassan trepang gatherers and one of Australia's most valuable heritage sites, the ruins of the British-built Victoria Settlement. Self-drive visitors must book ahead.

Several Darwin, Nhulunbuy and Jabiru-based tour operators offer a range of air, sea and land packages incorporating the above mentioned and other unique travel experiences across Arnhem Land and selected offshore islands. With 2002 the Year of the Outback there's no better time to Explore the Territory.


Talk to a Territorian about the great travel options available for your family holiday to the Outback Northern Territory - Call 13 30 68

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