Arnhem Land

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.

Arnhem Land and the neighbouring Gulf Coast lies in the north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory. In 1623 Dutch East India Company captain Willem van Colster sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape Arnhem is named after his ship, the Arnhem, which itself was named after the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands.

The area extends from Port Roper on the Gulf of Carpentaria around the coast to the East Alligator River, where it adjoins Kakadu National Park. The major centres are Jabiru on the Kakadu National Park border, Maningrida at the Liverpool River mouth, and Nhulunbuy (also known as Gove) in the far north-east, on the Gove Peninsula.

Its vast sub-tropical savannah has been described as a national treasure trove depicting ancient human occupation, and a pristine wilderness area hosting myriad ecosystems and wildlife inhabitants. Arnhem Land has been occupied by indigenous people for tens of thousands of years and is the location of the oldest-known stone axe, which scholars believe to be 35,500 years old.

Gove is the site of large-scale bauxite mining with an associated alumina refinery. Its administrative centre is the town of Nhulunbuy, the fourth-largest population centre in the Northern Territory.

Declared an Aboriginal Reserve in 1931, Arnhem Land remains one of the largest Aboriginal Reserves in Australia and is perhaps best known for its isolation, the art of its people, and the strong continuing traditions of its Indigenous inhabitants. Northeast Arnhem Land is home to the indigenous Yolngu people, one of the largest Indigenous groups in Australia, and one who have succeeded in maintaining a vigorous traditional indigenous culture. The Malays and Macassans are believed to have had contact with the coastal Aboriginal groups and traded with them prior to European settlement of Australia.

How To get There

Kakadu National Park

This iconic Northern Australian National Park boarders Arnhem Land. Kakadu is situated 250km by a sealed road from Darwin. Permits are not required to visit the National Park.

If you plan to travel to the region by road, please note all Arnhem Land is Aboriginal land and visitors require permits to enter.

East Arnhem Land

By air: Qantas Link provide daily jet services to Gove Airport from Cairns and Darwin with connections to anywhere in the world. The Cairns - Gove flight is only 1 hour and 40 mins and Darwin - Gove flight is only 1 hour 10 mins.

By road: The Central Arnhem Road leaves the Stuart Highway 52 km south of Katherine. The first 30 km is sealed but from then on the road is corrugated, slippery with loose gravel and in some places heavy with bull dust.

More information

Best Time To Go

The climate of Arnhem Land is tropical monsoon with a wet and dry season. The Wet Season, between December and March, brings heavy rainfall almost daily, high humidity and cyclonic weather.

During The Dry Season - between May and September - there is little rain, the maximum temperature hovers around 30 degrees C. and evenings are balmy. This is the peak tourist season.

September to November is when humidity, air and water temperatures are building up to the start of the wet.

Temperatures do not fluctuate widely throughout the year, though it can range from overnight lows of 15 degrees Celsius in the dry season (April to September) to daily highs of 33 degrees Celsius in the wet season (October to March).

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