Frequently Asked Questions
Flying from Darwin or Cairns into Nhulunbuy (Gove) is the easiest way. There are daily flights from Cairns and Darwin to Gove with Airnorth.
It is also possible to drive to Nhulunbuy during the dry season via the Central Arnhem Road that connects with the Stuart Highway south of Katherine. This is a significant undertaking and requires a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, an access permit through the Northern Land Council and a certain amount of planning.
Arnhem Land is a remote area and as such costs are significantly higher than in and around urban areas. Also its a little like the ski season in that tours to Arnhem land are very much seasonal, and operators must make their income in a relatively short space of time. However the most important factor is that Lirrwi Tourism is a not for profit Aboriginal Corporation, and all income beyond operational costs go towards training, business development, employment of Yolŋu people and other related activities. As well as having an extraordinary experience in Arnhem Land, you will be making a real difference to the lives of Yolŋu people.
Lirrwi Tourism works with Yolŋu homelands to provide visitor experiences on-country. These are generally by negotiation through Lirrwi. Mostly this is on a tour basis, being driven by a Yolŋu guide in a Lirrwi vehicle. However there are some tag-along self drive options available to some homelands by negotiation. Please contact us directly for more information.
Yolŋu culture is both complex and beautiful at the same time, and would take a lifetime to fully understand. Maintaining cultural integrity is paramount to the Yolŋu people, even at times over tourism activities. It would be impossible to begin to list the differences between western culture, as there are many. The secret for the visitor is to be open, respectful, and ask questions, as the Yolŋu love to share their view of the world. For example, when it comes to taking photographs, of people and places, always ask first. Nine out of ten times it will be OK, but every now and then you will be lucky enough to pass by a sacred site, at which photography will be out of bounds.
Nhulunbuy was originally built in the 1970s to support a bauxite mine and refinery, the town is an important destination for visitors as a base from which to explore the area. It is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory and has a range of services and retail outlets to provide for most daily needs.
Nearby Dhimurru Recreation Areas may be explored independently once a Dhimurru visitor permit has been obtained from the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation office in Nhulunbuy. Fishing and Eco Tour experiences may also be arranged once in Nhulunbuy.
Places to stay
There are two commercial accommodation properties in Nhulunbuy. The Walkabout Lodge has 40 ensuite motel rooms and 20 camping sites. It also has a tavern and licensed restaurant. The Gove Peninsula Motel has 19 ensuite motel rooms. Demand for rooms is high year round on week nights. Weekends usually have better availability.
Buku Larrnggay Mulka in the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala 18km from Nhulunbuy and 7km from the airport is arguably the best Aboriginal art centre in Australia. Buku is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and Saturdays from 8am to 12noon. Closed Sundays. The centre supports hundreds of artists across the East Arnhem Region and contains a dazzling array of Indigenous arts and crafts of the region as well as a fascinating historical display.
There are some areas such as the Dhimurru Recreational Areas where visitors may self drive after purchasing a permit. All homelands require a permit from the Northern Land Council which must be signed by the senior traditional owner. Lirrwi may act on behalf of some homelands in relation to permits. Essentially, Yolŋu do not want outsiders just driving into their homelands unannounced or unescorted.
The East Arnhem Region offers both blue water and river fishing experiences. The Gove Peninsula is located near the confluence of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Arafura Sea. Blue water fishing charters are available in Nhulunbuy with the best times being March/April and October/November. Visitors wanting fish on inland waterways will need to have their own boat and require a permit from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation or the Northern Land Council.