Arnhem Land

Submitted: Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 09:47
ThreadID: 136071 Views:1039 Replies:3 FollowUps:18
We are travelling north from the middle of Aprill visiting Darwin, Kakadu and Arnhem Land. Our schedule is flexible. We are driving a Land Cruiser pulling a Nautilus trailer.
What recommendations are there for visiting Arnhem Land? Any recommendations as to the areas we should visit or times we should travel. I understand there are some times when festivals are held. Are visitors permitted to join these?
Are permits easily obtained?
Are we able to our Nautilus to all areas?
All advice very welcome.

Also, any suggestions on the earliest time we should reach the Kakadu / Arnhem Land area, preferably in front of the multitude of tourists (like us)!
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Reply By: HKB Electronics - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 11:19

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 11:19
If by Arnhem land you mean nhulumbuy you'll need the appropriate travel permits which can be hard to obtain from the local Aboriginal authority.

They do have one open day at the Garma festival at nhulumbuy which is for locals, we attended it this year, there was confusion as to if tourists were allowed and we couldn't get an answer so we tried our luck and they let us in.

You'll need permits for most of the camping areas, the popular ones book out fast so be quick, and some may be closed. Locals also turn up at the camping areas so even a booking does not guarantee you'll get a site. I would suggest you book a few days at nhulumbuy as a base and use that to explore where you want to camp. If attending at festival time you'll need to book well in advance as it is very popular time and accommodation can be scarce. Most camping areas are accessed by narrow tracks, a couple of places we would have liked to have camped we decided against as it would have been very tight getting our Vista in. One camping area had just had a make over and access was very good with good amenities and well laid out camping areas. Other camp grounds are fairly basic with some laid out areas and some bush camps.

Some of the beach areas have very dry powdery sand, we had trouble getting out of one area with just the Prado, talking to locals it is not unusual to get stuck where we did. Another camper told us it took him a day to get out of where we got bogged down, he was worried for his pregnant wife so called the local police who sent a car out to help, he managed to get out eventually and helped recover the police 4x4 on the way out that also got stuck!

We also found it was not possible to obtain permits to travel roads apart from the main road in and out of nhulumbuy, we would have liked to have done that as we were expecting to see lots of wet lands bird life etc which did not eventuate on the trip in. If we did that area again we would book a trip with one of the tour mobs who have access to those areas.

The road in as expected and hard going, we came across one camper that did not make it and another at nhulumbuy that required extensive repairs to get it out. I also discovered the lower bushes on the Vistas shocks had collapsed after the road into Smith point and then to nhulumbuy so was no great surprise.

I can't remember the name of the river off hand but when you reach the new bridge your there, there is a nice camp site on the river where the old river crossing is, you can access it via a road off to the right before you reach the new bridge but beware the crocs though as someone had left a note pinned to a tree indicating a big croc had been seen in the area, we didn't see any though.

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Follow Up By: Member - Bigfish - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 12:32

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 12:32
The new bridge you mention is the Goyder River bridge. Yes..there are some big lizards in the river. I do believe that the permit does not allow camping along the way in..at least it used to. Would pay to ask. When I had to work in the communities I did sometimes camp at the old Goyder crossing but normally slept on top of the roof rack of the troopy. Permits are for main road only. Allow 6 weeks for permits from Northern Land Council!! Carry 2 spare tyres and ensure a thorough mechanical check of the trailer is done. Dry season is the hardest for beach navigation as the sand is powdery. Expensive place to purchase from and sometimes fresh food can be a problem. Drive carefully and look out for idiots hurtling around as if they own the track!! 9SAME AS THE cAPE)...fANTASTIC PLACE AND WELL WORTH A VISIT. i,VE BEEN TO MANY REMOTE AREAS IN oZ AND eAST aRNHEM lAND IS DEFINATELY UP NEAR THE TOP..
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 12:52

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 12:52
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I think HKB hit the nail on the head when he referred to "tour mobs".
Access has changed in recent years as these tour companies, leading 20 or so vehicles, have commercialised Arnhem Land. They of course, have no trouble obtaining permits or camping sites as they almost certainly are using 'Palm Oil', and that does not come from a tree, wink-wink.
This also ensures that the desirable areas are reserved for their paying customers to the exclusion of the general tourists. They are also quite aggressive if you encounter them on the track!

The road in to Nhulunbuy is much improved these days, but for the reasons above, I will not bother to go there again. And there is no way I will join a convoy of 20 vehicles at any price.
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Follow Up By: Scout - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 12:54

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 12:54
Does anyone know of tours just in Arnhem Land. We can do Kakadu etc on our own.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 13:18

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 13:18
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Scout, just Google "arnhem land tours" and you will be presented with the 20 or so companies conducting these tours, although itineraries seem hard to come by for some reason best known to them. I think a couple do not include Kakadu but most do. Be prepared to fork out up to $10,000.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 17:25

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 17:25
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Well, there you go......... not everyone views it as I do.
Thanks Stephen, but you always are better organised than I.
Maybe it's not so bad after all if you do your homework. lol
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 19:37

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 19:37
Hi Bigfish

One question that I asked and you mentioned was were to camp along the way, to which the helpful Aboriginal lady in the NLC said that there are many fine spots along the way, which we did use.

Hi Allan

We found the drive most enjoyable and there is every type of driving conditions. Yes there are some very good corrugations, but unlike our favourite Anne Beadell Highway, where they go on for ever and day after day, the ones on the Central Arnhem Highway that we encountered only went for for a few hundred metres and then back to a great road.

Here are some images of the condition that we encountered last August. As you will see, in the dry, it is a very easy drive with ever changing scenery.


Cheers


Stephen











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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 20:00

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 20:00
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Great photos Stephen, as usual.

Did you offer a lift to that fetching hitch-hiker at the 'NH 370" sign? lol

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 20:03

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 20:03
Hi Allan

Thanks for that.

I was a little reluctant at first, but I could not leave here stranded on the side of the road......lol


cheers


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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:21

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:21
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Yes Stephen, girls appreciate that.......... being "a little reluctant at first". lol

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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 14:21

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 14:21
Hi Scout

If you are refering to the Nhulunbuy area, give yourself lots of time.

Keep an eye out here on the Blog section, as I am in the final stages of putting up a new blog just on the Central Arnhem Highway., which is a gret drive in itself.

The area is pushing hard for tourists to get there, as since the closure of the refinery and the processing plant, 2500 people lost their jobs overnight, so tourism is now the main focus to kept the town going ahead, and no you do not have to go with organised tours, as Fiona and I did it by ourselves, with our Ultimate in tow and our 2 boys...Rusty the Kelpie and Oscar the Red Heeler.

The Northern Lands Council are dead easy to deal with, and if you walk into their Katherine office, you will be on your way within 10 minutes with your free permit in hand.

Then there is the big but........

You must prove that you have approved accomodation when you get to Nhulunbuy and it will pay to book ahead at the Walkabout Lodge, as they only have 12 powered sites behind the motel complex.

All other areas require one of 2 permits from the Dimhurru Aboriginal corporation.

The general permit will give you access to most camping and tourist attractions around Nhulunguy, while the special permit will give to privilege to visit and camp at more remote places, with numbers strictly monitored.

The only area that was out to everyone last August, was Scout Camp where there was a very big crocodile causing a few problems and they shut the area to everyone to stop the croc having a free feed on tourists.

Like I said, keep an eye for my new blog that should be up by the end of the week.


Happy Planning and you will not be dissapointed.



Cheers



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Follow Up By: HKB Electronics - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 18:40

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 18:40
"The Northern Lands Council are dead easy to deal with, and if you walk into their Katherine office, you will be on your way within 10 minutes with your free permit in hand."

Unfortunately this was not the case when trying to obtain information, permits etc in Melbourne. We needed to co-ordinate permits for Nhulunbuy with our permits for Coburg peninnsula, it was near impossible to get anyone to return a call and usually the office was unattended. My partner spent many frustrating weeks trying to get things to happen, luckily she came across a very helpful staff member at Walkabout lodge who helped us out with information for permits etc.

Katherine office as you mentioned were helpful as was the Lands Council in Nhulunbuy when we got there.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 18:55

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 18:55
Hi HKB

I originally applied online in December 2016 and because of the time of the year, I thought they might been on annual leave and applied again in January 2017.

Still to email reply, I gave them a phone call and spoke to a very friendly Aboriginal lady and had my first permit within the hour.

Due to a few travel hold ups I was now now out by over a week for our intended travel dates. I then dropped into the NLC in Katherine and the staff there could not be more helpful.

The lady was saying she can not see why people do not bother to get their transit permits, as they are free and they know that very few people ever bother with getting the permit. That was when she was saying that they want to get more tourists there, to help Nhulunbuy stay on its feet.

Hope you had a great time there, as we thought it was unreal. In your reply above where you said you were have trouble in the sand, are you talking about the Cape Arnhem Track? I put my tyre pressures down quite low, as I went unprepared, travelling solo and no MaxTrax. We did come across two vehicles that said they were caught out overnight, being bogged, but when we got to the area that they discribed, I feel they were running far too high tyre pressures for the soft sand.



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Follow Up By: HKB Electronics - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 20:14

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 20:14
Getting through to someone was the hard part, many many calls were just answered by an answering machine and no one ever called back.

Yes was in to Cape Arnhem first track into the small bay covered in litter, I was running around 15PSI and got bogged down trying to get up the exit off the beach, dropped to around 10PSI from memory and was able to drive out with some effort.

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:01

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:01
Hi Again

Thought it must have been the Cape Arnhem track.

The litter on the beach is disgusting and I would have thought it would have made a great "Clean Up Australia " project by the locals.


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Follow Up By: HKB Electronics - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:12

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:12
You must have been there after they cleaned it up!

The entire beach was covered in plastic rubbish when we visited, it was very disappointing to see it like that. Makes you realise just how much rubbish is in the oceans.

Most of the other beaches we were quite clean, though judging by the piles of rubbish bags just before the beaches one would assume they had cleaned them up for the Gamma festival.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:30

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 21:30
Hi again

If that was cleaned up, it must have looked disgusting to see more rubbish on those beaches.

In the second bay, was the aboriginal meal there....the remains of the big sea turtle.


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Follow Up By: Shaker - Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 22:14

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 at 22:14
When we were at Nhulunbuy the whole place was like a rubbish tip, anywhere out of town was either blackened & burnt or still burning.
The only normal area was at the Walkabout Lodge.
As far as being to being able to go almost anywhere around town on a general permit, you couldn’t even go to the lookout!
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 at 08:20

Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 at 08:20
Hi Shaker

Not sure why you class Nhulunbuy like a rubbish dump just because many areas outside of the town have had Traditional Aboriginal burn offs carried out. Yes there are burn offs carried out, but this is typical of many areas right across the top end of Australia where Aboriginals still carry out Traditional burning.

We noticed this from the Tanami Track, through the eastern Kimberley and the top end. The only way not to see it like this is to see it in the wet season and everything is still green.

As for the Roy (Malpi) Marika Lookout, were they carrying out any maintenance on the lookout? as it clearly states in the general permit that the lookout is covered in the General Permit.

I know that we will all have very different views on any area that we travel, but for Fiona and I, Nhulunbuy is one place that we have at the top of our list for a re visit, as there is just so much to see.


Cheers


Stephen

Here are images of Traditional Aboriginal Burn Offs, from the Tanami, the Kimberley and the Arnhem Land area. It is a way of like and has been carried out for thousands of years and for me, did not make me dislike the areas.



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Follow Up By: Shaker - Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 at 09:54

Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 at 09:54
One man’s tribal burning is another man’s arson!
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Reply By: andy - Thursday, Jan 11, 2018 at 05:51

Thursday, Jan 11, 2018 at 05:51
We have been in Nulunbuy during May/June 2016. We enjoyed the trip very much, only a few travellers on the road and few people during our one week stay at Cape Arnhem. There was only a very small amount of litter on the beaches. It was very hot and humid and sometimes heavy but short rain falls.

Obtaining the permit from NLC at Katherine was very quick and their office very responsive to email. We were disappointed not to obtain a permit to travel directly to Maningrida. On the other hand we managed to get a permit to visit the art gallery and the community travelling through Oenpelli.

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