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Arnhem Land and Gove Peninsula

Arnhem Land and Gove Peninsula

Arnhem Land is made up of 91,000 square kilometres of unspoiled wilderness, located in the middle of Australia’s Northern Coast, bordered by Kakadu National Park, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Arnhem Land is blessed with wild coastlines, deserted islands, rivers teeming with fish, rainforests, soaring escarpments and savannah woodland.

The park protects wetlands of international importance and provides a habitat for abundant wildlife including crocodiles, dugong, nesting turtles and migratory birds. One of the last pristine areas in the world, its small population is predominantly Aboriginal people, whose traditional culture remains largely intact. The region is an exciting destination for travellers wanting authentic traditional cultural experiences, with many tailored indigenous tours on offer. This is the land where the didjeridu originated.

Access to Arnhem Land is restricted and only selected tour operators who have earned the trust of traditional landowners may bring visitors in. It is therefore advised to travel to Arnhem Land on a tour.

There are many areas of historic significance including the ruins of an early European colony at Victoria Settlement in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, on the secluded Cobourg Peninsula and the Black Point Cultural Centre which displays Aboriginal, Macassan and European histories of the area.

The town of Maningrida, on the north coast of Arnhem Land, is famous for its indigenous art. Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), one of the first stops east of Kakadu National Park, is an Aboriginal community where indigenous artists gather at the Injalak Art and Craft Centre. An open day is held in Oenpelli usually during July, when travellers can visit freely and enjoy the cultural activities without a permit.

The town of Nhulunbuy is located on the Gove Peninsula, approximately 600 kilometres east of Darwin. It is a major service centre, providing accommodation and supplies, and offers spectacular beaches and great fishing.


Must do:

Browse some of the most prized indigenous arts and crafts anywhere in the world, including the world-famous musical instrument - the didjeridu (Yidaki).

Meet Aboriginal people in their natural environment in places like Gunbalanya, Maningrida and Yirrkala.

Discover spectacular wildlife and scenery.

Dive and spear fish around spectacular coral reefs in little-known regions.

The Cobourg Peninsula - West Arnhem Land

The Cobourg Peninsula, remote and rugged, is fringed with magnificent white sandy beaches. The Peninsula, recognised as one of Australia’s most spectacular fishing locations, is accessible only by 4WD from Oenpelli via Jabiru (it is essential you report to the Ranger Station on arrival), or a 30 minute charter flight from Darwin. Click here for more information regarding tours to Cobourg Peninsula with Venture North.

Accommodation is available at the luxury eco-resort Seven Spirit Bay Eco Wilderness Lodge. The Peninsula is the perfect destination for hiking, bird watching and photographing this truly unique landscape.

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, Northern Australia’s first flora and fauna protection reserve, and the surrounding Cobourg Marine Park, provides an ideal habitat for many thousands of waterfowl and other bird species. The Parks and Wildlife Commission restricts the number of vehicles travelling through Arnhem Land and it is therefore necessary to apply for your permit well in advance.

Please note: Access by road to the Cobourg Peninsula is not possible during the wet season. The area can be accessed by private air charter or boat.

For further information phone (08) 8999 4555.

Historic Sites

Take the time to visit Kennedy Bay and Port Essington where over 165 years ago the British made an attempt to establish settlements. Explore the ruins at Fort Wellington (1827) and Victoria Settlement (1838) which met with failure -the harsh conditions proving too much for those early settlers.

Wildlife Photography

For the keen photographer, the Cobourg Peninsula offers the visitor excellent opportunities to capture the true nature of this remote region. With an abundance of wildlife including buffalo, Timor ponies, wild boar and wallabies, and with an array of colourful birdlife there is no better location in the Top End to capture that 'once-in-a-lifetime' shot.


Considered to be one of the finest fishing spots in the country, the waters around the Cobourg Peninsula abound with Spanish mackerel, giant trevally, queenfish and coral trout, whilst in the tidal creeks and estuaries barramundi, mangrove jack and threadfin salmon lie in wait to tempt the serious angler.

Aboriginal Art and Culture

Join a safari tour with Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris to Mount Borradaile and witness one of the most stunning Aboriginal cultural sites in Australia. View galleries of ancient rock art paintings which depict the indigenous history of the clans and show elements of the Dreamtime. Brooke's Australia Tours also offer exclusive tours into Arnhem Land and Kakadu.

Download a Parks and Wildlife fact sheet for more information.

One day tours into Arnhem Land departing from Jabiru are also available.

The Gove Peninsula - East Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land is culturally strong, remote, pristine, easy to get to and has some of the best adventure fishing in the world! Yolngu people solely own Arnhem Land. Yolngu have lived in the region for at least 60,000 years with recognised land and marine estates. Clans live throughout Arnhem Land hunting fish, bush animals and seasonal bush foods. Today, Yolngu retain their cultural and spiritual links to the area.

East Arnhem Land is one of the last wilderness areas on Earth, yet all services can be found in the town of Nhulunbuy, located on the Gove Peninsula, approximately 750 kilometres by road from Katherine and home to about 4000 people. Alcan Gove built the town on a special purpose lease in 1971 to service its bauxite mine, despite concern from the Yolngu. However, the town is now an intricate part of the region, making it an ideal base from which to explore. Nhulunbuy has a lodge and a motel in town. The Gove Airport is about 15 kilometres from town.

There is no campground or caravan park available, although camping is possible at the recreation areas. Please note that a permit must be obtained through the Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation.

The Gove Peninsula is scenic with long white sandy beaches, azure waters and green vegetation. This is where the Gulf of Carpentaria meets the Arafura Sea and the temperature ranges between 28° and 30°with plenty of cool breezes.


Fishing is a major drawcard for the region and Gove offers some of the best sportsfishing in the world. Fish are abundant - catches include red emperor, Spanish mackerel and coral trout. A range of fishing charters are available from half day to extended island safaris - or boat hire can be arranged for a self-guided trip.

The fishing in the region is all about options and something can be arranged to suit individual needs - talk to one of the licensed tour operators. Crystal clear waters are also perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling.

Aboriginal Arts and Culture

The strong Yolngu culture in the region is evident in the range of arts and crafts. Contemporary Yolngu art is available in the form of milkwood carvings (unique to this region), bark paintings, screen prints, woven baskets and mats. Traditional art can be found at one of Australia's most renowned community-based traditional Aboriginal art museums at Yirrkala.

Baringura - Little Bondi

Visitors to the Gove Peninsula will be amazed by the quality of the beaches, ideal for picnics, snorkelling and day trips. Daliwuy (Daliwoi Bay) is a popular fishing spot with the locals. Ngumuy (Turtle Beach) is a beautiful, sheltered sandy cove and Garanhan (Macassan Beach) has an historical link with the Macassan sea traders. Please note a visitor’s permit is required.

Nanydjaka - Cape Arnhem

Nanydjaka (Cape Arnhem), just a few of hours drive from Nhulunbuy, has long white sandy beaches, with sand dunes as far as the eye can see. The snorkelling is fantastic and you can fish straight off the beach. This is the perfect destination for absolute peace, solitude and relaxation. Note: A visitor’s permit is required.


Gayngaru is an area of lagoon wetlands extending some seven kilometres parallel to the beachfront. The lagoon, home to around 200 species of birds, has an over-water observation platform providing an ideal hideaway for keen bird watchers. A marked walking trail offers easy access for those on foot. Guided interpretive tours are available. Permits are not required here.

Rotary Marika Lookout

The Marika Lookout offers visitors the opportunity to take in the extensive panoramic views of the town and its surroundings. Take time to look over the lagoon wetlands with their abundance of birdlife, the activity on Gove Harbour, the coastline, the town centre and the Gove bauxite mining operation.

Wessel Islands, Bromby Islets, English Company Islands, Elizabeth Bay

Accessible by boat from Gove Harbour, these island groups and coastline offer unbeatable fishing opportunities. Here you will find outstanding bluewater and reef fishing, sports fishing, estuary fishing and excellent opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving in crystal-clear waters. Day and overnight camping trips can be organised by local charter operators.

Air Services

Qantas has daily jet services to Gove Airport from Cairns and Darwin with connections to anywhere in the world. The Cairns-Gove flight is one hour and 40 minutes and the Darwin-Gove flight is one hour and 10 minutes.

Aircraft are jets seating 73-80 passengers. There is also a turbo-propeller service from Darwin-Gove offered by Air North, seating 30 passengers. An airport shuttle bus meets every flight for transfers to accommodation houses in Nhulunbuy for a nominal fee.

Travelling Overland

To travel the Central Arnhem Road (4WD only) requires crossing many Yolngu clan lands and a permit from the Northern Land Council (NLC) is required. There is no cost for this permit but it is necessary to monitor the numbers of people on the road to maintain this region.

Contact the Northern Land Council in Nhulunbuy. Tel: (08) 8987 2602.

Visitors to the recreation beach and river areas require a visitor’s permit and should contact Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation. Penalties apply for travelling throughout the region without a permit and visitors are requested to respect the wishes of the Traditional Land Owners.

Arnhem Land is scenic and enjoyable. If you’re seeking adventure or simply a relaxing time, this is the place to visit.

Touring the Region

The pristine environment can be enjoyed overland with eco-tours encompassing Yolngu culture and art, birds, flora and fauna. A guided tour of the town lagoon wetlands includes birdwatching, wildlife and bush tucker. Other activities include a free bauxite mine tour every Friday morning, scenic flights over spectacular landscape, bushwalking, beachcombing, 4x4 driving, surfing and sailing.


Accommodation is available for visitors in Nhulunbuy and includes motel, hotel/lodge and budget accommodation. Currently there is an accommodation shortage in the region so ensure you make your bookings before you depart. Contact Walkabout Lodge Motel.

Camping or Caravanning

The town has no established caravan park or camping facilities, however bush camping without facilities are available in the recreation areas managed by Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation and a permit must be obtained.

Please note that the Central Arnhem Road is not recommended for caravans. The Northern Land Council will not approve a permit to tow a van into East Arnhem Land and Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation will not issue a Visitor Recreation Permit to anyone with a caravan.

This is to minimise the environmental impact of long term camping at recreational camping areas. Penalties apply for moving throughout the region without a permit and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of the Traditional Owners in this regard.

Alcohol in Arnhem Land

We'd like you to enjoy your stay whilst travelling through Arnhem Land. Find out more information regarding the alcohol restrictions within this area.