Road to Arnhem Land

Where: Central Arnhem HIghway from Katherine to Nhulunbuy
Permits: A minimum of two permits. Consult with the Northern Land Council and Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation for your requirements. (Vehicle dependent). Be aware there are numerous restrictions and additional permits required for drinking, fishing or travelling to any other communities.
Costs: $45 pp for Dhimurru permit for 2months. Other charges do apply.
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (gravel, sandy tracks  and creek crossings- be aware of cattle, buffalo and station/local traffic)
Days required to do it justice: Minimum of 2 days for the drive to Nhulunbuy (permit dependent) and a few weeks to explore the coastline

It’s a long drive to Nhulunbuy on the Eastern tip of Arnhem Land – 725kms of sometimes reasonable, sometimes terrible, sometimes watery, often bull dusty but fascinating Central Arnhem Highway road. Here’s our top ten tips for keeping entertained and informed as you drive along:

  1. Permits: You need a lot of permits to come to Nhulunbuy as this is Aboriginal land. There’s one for the road, one for the campsites, one for fishing, one for drinking alcohol and many more I can’t remember from the top of my head. With permits comes paperwork – make sure you read yours thoroughly as you travel and check out the Northern Land Council website when you have some internet access.

    Central Arnhem Highway

    Central Arnhem Highway

  2. Buffalo searching. We wondered if we’d see Buffalo and were on high alert for a sighting. The first two we spotted got a photoshoot any model would be jealous of. …you know…just in case they were sparse. Then there was more and more and even a whole yard full of them at the Bulman community.

    Yarded Buffalo, NT

    Yarded Buffalo, NT

  3. Chatting to Buffalo hunters: On seeing so many buffalo wandering the tracks we naturally had a lot of questions about them. Stopping at a lunchspot in the middle of nowhere we bumped into a couple of buffalo hunters. What better way to get our questions answered. We were told that the buffalo we had seen yarded at Bulman were young buffalo who were to be shipped to Indonesia. These hunters were hunting the older buffalo which would be minced up and fed to the crocs at a local crocodile farm. One of the hunters had been trampled the day before by a buffalo and was obviously in significant pain……The conversation wore on to the location of Peter Falconio’s body….but that’s another story.

    Buffalo which are hunted in the NT

    Buffalo which are hunted in the NT

  4. Pose next to ant hills: Keep your eyes peeled for some of the tallest ant hills you’ve ever seen.

    Massive ant-hills

    Massive ant-hills

  5. Cross Goyder River: The Goyder River is the biggest river crossing on the road to Nhulunbuy and depending on the time of year can be difficult to cross. When we crossed it was fairly low but again, very photogenic. So we crossed…took some photos…crossed again….took some photos….and crossed again.  It’s a shame crocodiles inhabit these waters as the temptation to swim is enormous.

    Crossing the Goyder River

    DSC_0095

    Crossing the Goyder River

  6. Have a shower under the stars. Mainoru store and fuel stop (approx. 220kms) has created a gem of a campsite right on the banks of a river filled with lilies. It’s a simple bush camp but incredibly comfoartable with flushing toilets and a shower which looks up to the stars. There’s even a little swimming pool and safari tents for those not set up for camping. Highly recommended spot.

    Almost at Mainoru Store

    Almost at Mainoru Store

  7. Search behind rubbish bins for fabulous scenery: When gathering information about the track we were told not to be scared off by overflowing rubbish bins as these were usually a sign that some great scenery was somewhere near by. We pulled in at the first rubbish bin we spotted and low and behold…right behind it was a vast valley surrounded by the escarpment we were standing on. It reminded me of the vast plains of Africa and an elephant or giraffe would have fitted in the picture well.

    Beautiful Arnhem Land scenery

    Beautiful Arnhem Land scenery

  8. OOo-aaah at billabongs: There’s lots of creek crossings dotted along the road, some bigger than others. Most have beautiful water lillies, pandanus and paperbark trees lining them. Make sure you stop and have a look but be croc-aware…most have a resident croc in them.

    Waterhole along the Central Arnhem Road

    Waterhole along the Central Arnhem Road

  9. Make dust look photogenic. There’s no ignoring the  fact this is a VERY dusty road and care needs to be take when passing other vehicles which create a total white-out (or red-out). But there’s also something very photogenic about red bull dust, a white car and  a blue sky.
    Bulldust

    Bulldust

    Roadtrain dust

    Roadtrain dust

     

  10.  Guess the makes of the abandoned cars: There’s a few burnt out and abandoned cars along the road which have been left by their owners for one reason or another. Guessing the makes of them passed a little bit of time.

    Pajero that met a terrible end

    Pajero that met a terrible end

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