East Arnhem Land

Where: East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (near 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). This is remote country and you must be mechanically self-sufficient.
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. You must be self sufficient here – no toilets, no water , no facilities at campsites.

When you stand on a long stretch of clear white sand dappled with red rocks with the ocean lapping at your feet, turtle tracks visible nearby and not a soul camped anywhere in sight it truly feels like paradise. Paradise does however come with a small disclaimer in Arnhem Land in the form of swarming biting sandflies and five metre crocodiles hovering in idyllic waterholes. If you can manage both of these successfully then this Land will capture your heart and max out your memory card.

The road to East Arnhem Land

The road to East Arnhem Land

The brochures describe Arnhem Land as the perfect place for ‘camping, fishing and relaxing’ and we’d have to agree. Arnhem land is a long (and sometimes challenging) drive from anywhere but the rewards at the end of the 725km drive from the Stuart Highway are well worth the trip. This Land has deep Aboriginal connections and as such is a largely unspoilt coastline which offers an array of remote bush camping positioned within a 60km radius of the well supplied mining town of Nhulunbuy. The camping is structured around a permit system which we found very straight forward to organise through the Northern Land Council and the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.

Rainbow Cliffs. a stunning beach to have all to yourself (despite the onslaught of sandflies)

Rainbow Cliffs. a stunning beach to have all to yourself (despite the onslaught of sandflies and the fear of crocs!)

The highlights of our trip to Arnhem include having whole beaches and campsites to ourselves everywhere we camped and managing to find safe croc-free pools of water to swim and wash the dirt off. The photographic opportunities here abound – beach landscapes, bush landscapes, wildlife, 4WD tracks…

A Brahminy Kite

A Brahminy Kite

Arnhem Land. Its photogenic.

Arnhem Land. Its photogenic.

The lowlights? …A mauling by sandflies at Rainbow Cliffs ended an idyllic nights camping and sent us scurrying for a non-sea side camp. Come armed with Bushmans and any sandflies remedy you know – we use 1/3 Dettol + 1/3 Baby Oil + 1/3 Methylate Spirits and I think it saved us from an even bigger mauling than we had.

Beware of sandflies.

Beware of sandflies. This was the outcome when our Dettol + Baby Oil +Methys concoction wasn’t used

The interesting things we learned? There’s a lot of debris and rubbish sprinkled around the beaches here. This has all been brought in from Indonesia by the tides and is not as a result of local dumping of rubbish. Conservation Volunteers run regular clean-ups here to remove debris which is harmful to marine life. We were also pleasantly surprised to learn and see that Nhulunbuy town site is a well organised and well stocked up town and even has a fabulous swimming pool to satisfy the urge to swim!

 

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