Cobourg Peninsula

Where: Garig Gunak Barlu National Park (Cobourg Peninsula), Northern Territory
Permits: Road access and camping permit $232.10 for 7 nights (must be arranged prior to travel as limited amount of vehicles are allowed on the peninsula)
Costs: $232.10 for up to 5 adults for 7 days
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (planning is important when you come here. This is a remote national park accessible via a corrugated gravel road which passes through Aboriginal Land. You need water, food and fuel and a well maintained vehicle).
Days required to do it justice: 7 days

Its hard to know how to even start writing this article without sounding cheesy. Cobourg is a magical place. If you like 4wd-ing, fishing, solitude, stunning oceanside campites, blue water, starry skies, wildlife, photography and and and and and and…..then its well worth a drive up here. If you love swimming in the stunning blue water without a care in the world then this maybe isn’t the place to come as there’s a host of deadlies waiting for you in this idyllic ocean (box jellyfish, stonefish, crocs, blue-ringed octopus and so on).

A classic Cobourg sunset

A classic Cobourg sunset

Cobourg (Garig Gunak Barlu National Park) is located 570km north east of Darwin (250km of bitumen to Jabiru and the rest is gravel road through Arnhem Land). The ‘interesting’ part of the journey begins after Jabiru at the infamous Cahill’s Crossing where the crocodiles line up to feed on passing barramundi as the tide comes in. When we cruised over the shallow crossing to enter Arnhem Land we spotted at least five crocs just metres from the car as well as a couple of fisherman with a death-wish.

Cahill's. Check out the guy on the left who hasn't even noticed the croc behind him

Cahill’s Crossing. Check out the guy on the left who hasn’t even noticed the croc behind him

The drive through Arnhem Land up to the National Park is gravel and corrugated and passes through dense woodlands which obscure the view of the nearby coastline. Once in the national park however the blinkers come off and everywhere you look there’s something interesting. The designated campsites are right on the beach at Black Point perfect for wine-o-clock sunsets and for heading down the beach in the dark to spotlight the crocodiles resting on the sand. Interestingly the crocodiles up here are very scared of humans and will quickly scarper at the flash of a torch.

Smith Point rock formations

Smith Point rock formations

Our must-do’s from Cobourg:
1. Watch the sunset at Smith Point
2. Travel the 4WD track around the coastline of the park to visit remote beaches
3. Fish at Caiman Creek (despite the fact our fishing curse continued and only the two year old in our group managed to catch a fish!)
4. Visit the inland wetlands to see the huge flocks of magpie geese (take lots of mozzie spray)
5. Collecting fresh oysters off the rocks at low tide
6. Wildlife spotting. The birdlife here is extraordinary as well as the herds of endangered Banteng (Bali) cattle and the deer.
7. Chill out and soak it all up.

What we wish we had done but didn’t….if we’d had a boat we’d have travelled over to the 1830 Victoria settlement ruins. If we’d had a boat we’d also have done more fishing…and maybe actually caught a fish.

2 Responses to “Cobourg Peninsula”

  1. Chris says:

    Hi I just came across your blog and spent a bit of time reading. Thanks for sharing your experiences, you have some great photos and your blog is easy and enjoyable to read.

    We are on a similar trip to you, currently slowly making our way to Arnhem Land. We are working in a small community north of Broome at the moment and will eventually make our way up the Gibb River Rd and on to Kakadu and Arnhem Land.

    I have a couple questions if you dont mind. I am currently working out an Itinerary for Arnhem Land so we can apply for our permits required. It looks like most people do what you have done by going up to Cobourg Peninsula Via Jabiru and then back to Katherine and onto Nhulunbuy up the Central Arnhem Rd. In your experience is this the best way to see Arnhem Land? Assuming we do the same what permits do we need and are they all from the Northern land Council? I’ve rung them once or twice but they seem to not know what we can and can’t do.

    Thanks and hope you are enjoying your travels.


    • helenosler says:

      Hey Chris
      Thanks for visiting the blog and getting in touch. Its good to get some feedback!
      We actually went to East Arnhem Land (Nhulunbuy) first and arranged our permits for a duration of two weeks. You need two permits: one for actually driving up the road to Nhulunbuy through the Northern Land Council (you are only permitted to take 24hrs to do the trip there – we stopped and camped at Mainoru Station) and one from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation in Nhulunbuy. We pre-arranged everything then picked up the permit for the road from the NLC in Katherine and then the other permit when we got to Nhulubuy (they aren’t open weekends). We found the Dhimurru people the most helpful and knowledgable so give them a call maybe? You will definitely need to prearrange that permit as apparently the campsites get booked out up there especially in school holidays and rangers are pretty strict at checking permits.

      We didn’t originally intend on going to Cobourg but when we got back from Nhulunbuy we decided we would. We therefore went from Darwin via Jabiru and back. Permits for that were dead easy to organise and you can book, pay and pick them up in Darwin from Parks and Wildlife in Palmerston (Darwin suburb). Again you need to book as they only let limited vehicles up there.

      I know people that have travelled from Nhulunbuy to Cobourg via the communities on the coast (I can’t remember the name of that road off top of my head) and it looks very direct on the map but when we asked for permission we were told a blanket ‘no’. I have since been told you need 22 individual permits from the communities to travel that way…not sure if this is true or not?? It all sounded a bit hard when we asked.

      Basically i reckon its probably easier to go to Cobourg then back out to Katherine and then up to Nhulunbuy. We found the road a lot better than we expected too.

      Hope that helps
      Happy to answer any other questions


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