Nhulunbuy | Love 14 Days of Adventure, Culture and Pristine Beaches

Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula in Northeast Arnhem Land is the Northern Territory’s most remote community. A place of Aboriginal culture, tropical landscapes, red dirt, pristine beaches and most of all, adventure. Our 14 day Nhulunbuy camping and self-drive itinerary takes you to all the best spots and is sure to excite you.

Chika beach gove2

Nhulunbuy is dog friendly. Bring your dog, pack your 4WD, your and your dog’s camping gear, and come with us on a trip of a lifetime to remote, unspoiled locations that will surely take your breath away.

Nhulunbuy General Information

Where in Australia is Nhulunbuy?

Nhulunbuy (pronounced Nool-oon-boy), Yolngu country almost due east from Darwin on northeastern Arnhem Land, is one of Australia’s most remote communities. Surrounded by the waters of the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria 

Nhulunbuy is a remote township on the Gove Peninsula established when a bauxite mine and associated alumina refinery began operations in the 1960s.

What is the Best time of the Year to Visit Nhulunbuy?

May to September is the dry season when there are no stingers, is the best time to visit Nhulunbuy. The peak months are June, July and August and will likely require bookings for campsites well in advance.

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Our visit to Nhulunbuy was in September 2021. There were a steady number of travellers however numbers were noticeably lessening with more availability at campsites. 

Driving Distances

To drive from Katherine to Nhulunbuy is 736 kilometres or 9 hours.

The drive from Darwin to Nhulunbuy is 1050 kilometres or 11 hours.

Is the Road to Nhulunbuy Sealed?

The road to Nhulunbuy, the Central Arnhem Road is dirt and stretches 663 kilometres. It begins about 50 kilometres south of Katherine, off the Stuart Highway. 

The roads in the township of Nhulunbuy are sealed and in excellent condition. Otherwise, roads to recreational areas, beaches and so on are dirt and or sandy. 

Do you need a 4WD for Northeast Arnhem Land?

It is best to have a 4WD. Many of the roads in the area are sand or dirt with corrugations, ruts, holes and bulldust. A 4WD is preferable in these conditions.

Take your Caravan to Nhulunbuy?

Two things to be considered when deciding to take your caravan to Nhulunbuy:

  • The Central Arnhem Road conditions vary and there is always a risk of damage to your caravan.
  • Gove Boat Club and Australia Walkabout Lodge are the only campgrounds caravans are allowed.

Plenty of travellers take their caravans to Nhulunbuy. We chose to leave our pop top caravan in storage at Manbulloo Homestead Caravan Park in Katherine and we took our tent instead. 

Is Nhulunbuy Dog Friendly?

Nhulunbuy is hands down one of the most dog friendly places we have been to on our travels around Australia. There are no signs with rules and restrictions about dogs around town, on beaches or anywhere else. Instead, there is an attitude of dogs being welcome nearly everywhere.

The exceptions to where dogs are permitted are in shops, where people sit to eat, playgrounds and public buildings. 

Your dog is going to love Nhulunbuy. You are going to love the freedom that comes with the few restrictions on your dog. Be a responsible dog owner. 

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Is Nhulunbuy a Dry Community?

Yes. East Arnhem Land is a dry region. Drinking in most public spaces is prohibited.

Are there Crocodiles in Nhulunbuy?

There are saltwater crocodiles called “Baru” in most waterways in and around East Arnhem Land. Crocodile attacks are likely to cause severe injury or death, so it is essential to be “croc wise”.

Can you Swim in Nhulunbuy?

Crocodiles, stingers and sharks make many of the waters and waterways in Nhulunbuy and the Northeast Arnhem Land unsafe for swimming. Swimming is possible in the dry season when the stingers are not around and in some selected spots. 

The safest spots for swimming are in the fresh waterholes and Gaḏalathami (Town Beach) when patrolled by the Gove Peninsula SLC. From time to time, the SLC will patrol other beaches, contact the club for more information.   

What shops are in Nhulunbuy?

A central hub for the East Arnhem region, the town is larger and more resourced than most visitors think. There are schools, a hospital, government departments and an array of shops. 

Nhulunbuy has a Woolworths supermarket, butchers, bakery, fuel, hardware store, discount store and most other shops needed for day to day living.

Camping Nhulunbuy

Permit Information

Do I need a permit to visit Nhulunbuy and Northeast Arnhem Land?

Yolŋu are the owners of Northeast Arnhem Land under Australian law and you are their visitor during your stay. Dhimurru an incorporated Aboriginal organisation governs and cares for the land on behalf of the Yolŋu people.

To visit Yolŋu country, you will need to know your travel dates and have the following permits before visiting the area:

Transit Permit

To travel the Central Arnhem Road, a Transit Permit is required. Applications are to the Northern Land Council via an online portal here and are free.

There is a 10 – 14 day processing time, so some plan ahead. 

Nhulunbuy Visitor Access Permit

Not all areas within Nhulunbuy require a Visitor Access Permit. It is very restrictive where visitors can go without one so having one is highly recommended. 

Visitor Access Permits incur a fee and are available for different lengths of time. Applications are online here and are issued to your email once the payment is processed. 

Nhulunbuy Beaches

The recreational areas requiring a Visitor Access Permit (shown as orange signs at each location) are:

  • Guwatjurumurru (Giddy River)
  • Wathawuy (Latram River & Goanna Lagoon)
  • Daliwuy (Ḏaliwuy Bay)
  • Garanhan (Macassan Beach)
  • Ŋumuy (Turtle Beach)​
  • Baniŋura (Little Bondi Beach)
  • Baṉambarrŋa (Rainbow Cliffs)
  • Gumuniya (Buffalo Creek)
  • Gaḏalathami (Town Beach)
  • ​Ganinyara (Granite Islands)
  • ​Wirrwawuy (Cape Wirrawoi)
  • Dharrpamiwuy (Middle Beach)
  • ​Gäluru (Easty Woody Beach)
  • Ḻombuy (Crocodile Creek)
  • ​Nhulun (Roy Marika Lookout)
Dog friendly Nhulunbuy

Nhulunbuy Camping Permit

Several of the Dhimurru Recreational Areas also have camping. The Visitor Access Permit will allow you to camp with a booking:

  • Baṉambarrŋa (Rainbow Cliffs) 
  • Bariŋura (Little Bondi)
  • Binydjarrŋa (Daliwuy Bay)
  • Gaṉami (Wonga Creek)
  • Garanhan  (Macassan Beach)
  • Ŋumuy  (Turtle Beach)
  • Guwatjurumurru  (Giddy River) 

There are also four areas which are camping only, meaning no day visitors. These require an additional Camping Permit:  

  • Manaŋgaymi (Scout Camp)
  • Gaṉami (Wonga Creek)​
  • Gapuru (Memorial Park)
  • Wanuwuy (Cape Arnhem)

There is no free camping. Book and pay for all camping online here.  

Liquor Permit

To purchase takeaway alcohol in Nhulunbuy or bring in alcohol, you will need a Liquor Permit issued by the Nhulunbuy Liquor Licensing Office. Applications should be submitted 1 to 2 weeks before visiting the region.

Alcoholic drinks can be bought and drunk on licensed premises without a permit.

How Much Money to Visit and Camp in Nhulunbuy for Two Weeks?

A budget of $3500 – $5800 would cover the expenses for two people camping, participating in most paid experiences available, plus fuel, food, drinks and incidentals.

For budget travellers $1500 – 2000 would cover expenses for two people camping, fuel, food and 1 or 2 paid experiences.

Here are some costs to keep in mind when deciding your travel budget for Nhulunbuy: 

  • Visitor access permit (2 week option) | $49.40 per person
  • Camping | $420 – $560 for two weeks
  • Boat hire | $190 – 270 per day plus fuel and bait
  • Fishing Charter | from $450 (half day) or $700 (full day) per person
  • Scenic flight | $550 for 30 minutes for up to 4 people
  • Cultural Tours | cost $275 – 990 per person
  • Bremer Island Day Visit | from $120 per person
  • Fuel | $500 – 700 (based on our usage and costs, includes the drive from and to Katherine)

Additional amounts would be needed if travelling with children.

East Arnhem Land | 14 Day Self-Drive and Camping Itinerary

The itinerary below is a suggestion only and includes Dhimurru campgrounds not accessible to caravans. The other option is to camp at one of the two campgrounds that allow caravans and do day trips instead. 

Take the time to ensure you are prepared and have what you and your dog need. The suggested itinerary outlined below includes remote camping and does not get to the township of Nhulunbuy for five days. Therefore you will need to have sufficient food and water supplies before leaving Katherine. 

Day 1 | Mainoru Store

Katherine to Mainoru Store Campground | 250 kilometres or 2 hours 40 minutes

Today is pretty relaxed and covers enough of the drive to Northeast Arnhem Land to ensure tomorrow’s drive is manageable. Also, a calm demeanour will be most fitting for this road trip to a tropical paradise where the locals are chilled and friendly. 

Camp: Mainoru Store Camping is first-rate. A spacious oasis by the river with lush green grass (something we did not see much of in the NT!) as well as shade trees, this is a beautiful place to camp. There is even a lovely swimming hole to enjoy. Powered and unpowered sites are available, the ablutions block is new and there is fuel and basic supplies at the store. 

Day 2 | Gapuru (Memorial Park)

Driving distance Mainoru Store to Gapuru | 406 kilometres or 4 hours 30 minutes

After packing up your camp at Mainoru Store, head off to Gapuru to be the first stop on Northeast Arnhem Land. Our itinerary starts with a treat, exclusive camping at a spectacular waterhole with cascades. 

Camp: Gapuru (Memorial Park) is exclusive camping with only one booking, with up to five vehicles permitted. It is a large flat cleared area with a drop toilet, fire pit and table. The track is narrow and has some speed bumps. 

Day 3 | Gapuru (Memorial Park)

Awaken to your first day by a crystal clear stream and waterholes separated by cascades. Today is about relaxing and swimming in one of the few safe swimming holes in Northeast Arnhem Land and enjoying the exclusive use of this magical place. 

Camp: Gapuru (Memorial Park)

Day 4 and Day 5 | Binydjarrŋa (Daliwuy Bay), Garanhan (Macassan Beach), Ŋumuy (Turtle Beach) and Bariŋura (Little Bondi)

Unspoiled beaches and bays with turquoise water and white, soft sand are the pride of Northeast Arnhem Land. For the next two days relish time in paradise, visiting and camping in some of Australia’s most pristine and secluded beaches. 

Our suggestion is to camp at one of the beaches listed below for two nights or two for one night each but visit all four (two each day). The turnoff to each is well signposted. Yes, as a reminder, all four beaches are dog friendly and off leash is permitted. Chika loved all the beaches and being off leash. 

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Binydjarrnga (Daliwuy Bay)

Binydjarrnga was my favourite place in the afternoons when the sea breeze came, the shade fell across the sand and the ambience made for a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere. I sat and read my book, Daryl fished and Chika ran about on the sand. Later, together we stroll, checking out the small crabs inhabiting many of the shells. 

A small pod of dolphins came by, swimming into the bay and a majestic sea eagle came to fish. Neither stayed long, but both were brilliant to see. 

There is also a boat ramp. 

Camp: The Binydjarrnga Campground is two areas not too far from each other well away from the water. It is flat, large and dusty with drop toilets and fire pits.

Visit Nhulunbuy

Garanhan (Macassan Beach)

A stretch of white sandy beach alongside a rugged coastline of exposed red rock shelves, Garanhan is picturesque. Spend some time rock fishing, cooling off in one of the small rock pools and spotting sea turtles. There is also a swing in a tree.  

Located near Garanhan is the fascinating Wurrwurrwuy Stone Pictures, a 200m walk depicting the centuries of trade between the local Yolŋu people and the Macassans from Sulawesi (now Indonesia). 

Camp: The Garanhan Campground makes the most of a coastal breeze and some shade. There are composting toilets, bins, and fire pits. 

Ŋumuy (Turtle Beach)

A small beach set back in a small cove aligned with trees, Ŋumuy feels intimate and wonderfully isolated. On the day we visited, the protected crystal clear water was too alluring to resist. A quick few minute dip to cool off was divine. We would have swum for hours if there was no risk of crocodiles. If you do swim here, it is at your own risk and uses extreme caution. 

Camp: Ŋumuy Camping Area is set back from the beach and has only two sites. There are drop toilets. 

Nhulunbuy NT

Bariŋura (Little Bondi) 

Bariŋura is the farthest beach. Thankfully nothing like Syndey’s Bondi Beach. Bariŋura is a stretch of tropical paradise. 

On the day we visited Bariŋura, Gove Peninsula Surf Lifesaving Club had set up to patrol for the day. Locals and visitors came for a day of safe swimming, snorkelling along the rocks and picnicking on the beach. It was brilliant and so bloody fantastic to be in the azure, tepid water on what was a calm, sunny day. 

The last section of the two-way track to Bariŋura is sandy and narrow. Driving onto the beach is permitted. It is advisable to stop at the drop toilet before proceeding onto the beach, check if vehicles are coming out at speed to get through the sandy track.

Camp: Camping at Bariŋura is on the beach, with five sites available and a drop toilet. 

Day 6 | Nhulunbuy Township

Start today with panoramic views at the top of Roy (Malpi) Marika Lookout overlooking much of Nhulunbuy and the summit of Nhulun. The lookout tower stands on Yolŋu sacred site, now destroyed. Take the time to read the information boards that tell the importance and history of the site. Chika walked up the tower because where we go, she follows. Be mindful that the steps and the height may not be for your dog. 

Roy (Malpi) Marika Lookout

Next, head to the Gayŋaru Wetlands (Town Lagoon) unexpectedly right in the middle of town for a walk. The 3 kilometre loop track meanders through a paperbark tree forest and offers views over the freshwater wetlands. Our favourite section of the walk was the farthest point, where the magpie geese had flocked together. It was spectacular to see so many birds. 

Not too far away is Gadalathami (Town Beach), the closest beach to town. It is also where the Gove Peninsula Surf Lifesaving Club is and on weekends during the SLC patrols the beach. If they are on the day you visit, take the opportunity and go for a swim! 

Also, while in town take the opportunity to restock up on food and fuel.

After lunch, head over to Galuru (East Woody Beach) and Dhamitjinya (East Woody Island),  joined by a narrow sand spit. Such a fantastic spot for you and your dog to explore and walk. Do the easy climb up the summit on Dhamitjinya and take in the panoramic views. Walk as far as long the 3.6 kilometres of beach as you like or to Cape Wirawawoi, the northern tip of the Gove Peninsula. 

Lombuy (Crocodile Creek Beach)

If you are not ready to retire to your campsite, we highly recommend a late afternoon visit to Lombuy (Crocodile Creek Beach) to see the sunset. Be aware of crocodiles, as locals told us this is the most likely place crocodiles will be. Stay out of the water and you will be fine. 

Camp: Manyimi Campground at Gove Boat Club is small with only 22 grass sites and water views. All have power, potable water and are flat. The ablutions and laundry are modern and clean. The camp kitchen is new however lacks a fridge and most other items so, it is not very useful. Kids love the playground. It is best to ring, not use the website, to book.

Day 7 | Go Boating on Melville Bay

Admittedly it was hard to see all the turquoise water and not be able to swim. So why not get out on a boat on Melville Bay?

If you do not have a boat, you can hire one from Gove Boat Hire. Gove Boat Hire is at Gove Tackle and Outdoors and the folks there will be happy to help you out.

On Melville Bay, in a boat and with your dog you can:

Go Fishing

The folks at Gove Boat Hire will help you out with local tips and knowledge. They will let you know where to head for your best chance of fishing success.

Visit the Ganinyarra (Granite Islands)

The beautiful uninhabited Ganinyarra in Melville Bay is a tropical island paradise. Break up your day in the boat by exploring the islands and stopping at the largest to enjoy a picnic lunch (there is a picnic table). You will likely end up having the place entirely to yourself!  

Camp: Manyimi Campground, Gove Boat Club

Nhulunbuy Camping Gove Boat Club

Day 8 | Do a Day Trip or Tour

Option 1 | A day trip to Dhambaliya (Bremer Island)

Indulge yourself at Eco Resort and Banubanu Beach Retreat on Dhambaliya for a day. Delight in a meal and or drinks at the retreat’s Sea Breeze Restaurant and Pool Bar. Swim in the pool, relax in tropical surrounds or if you would like a bit of activity in your day, walk any of the four marked bushwalking trails, fish and or bird watch.

Day tours to Dhambaliya from Gove Harbour are popular and require booking in advance. The boat trip is approximately 45 minutes each way.

Alternatively, take your own or hire a boat to Bremer Island for the day. Bookings to land are done online and are permitted between 10 am and 4 pm daily. A landing fee applies. Dogs are allowed on the island, excluding the resort. BYO alcohol is not allowed.  

Option 2 | A cultural tour

Lirrwi Tourism is a distinguished indigenous, owned and accredited tourism operator that runs cultural tours in North East Arnhem Land. Join one of their authentic tours to learn about culture, history and visit some unique places.

Option 3 | Play golf

Gove Peninsula Country Club has a ” 9 hole all grass course with alternate tee positions to make up a Par 72 (ACR 71) course of 6110 metres”. The club lists their comps and games for the week on their website.

Daryl had a hit. He liked the course and highly enjoyed playing with the locals.

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Highly recommended | A Scenic Flight

Daryl and I very generously received and accepted an invitation on a scenic flight during our stay in Nhulunbuy. The scenic flight was outstanding! We have done a few now since we started travelling four years ago and it was by far the best yet. There was something magical about seeing the vast untouched wilderness and coastline from the air. The contrast of colours between the ocean, the red land and bushland is exceptional.

Camp: Manyimi Campground, Gove Boat Club

Day 9 | Nhulunbuy Surrounds 

Today’s itinerary is a mixed bag of breathtaking seascapes, stunning Aboriginal artworks and swimming, safe from crocodiles!  

Baṉambarrŋa (Rainbow Cliffs) 

Today we suggest visiting:

Baṉambarrŋa (Rainbow Cliffs) is an exposed sheer cliff face with an array of colours that resembles an outback rainbow. Rusty reds, pale whites, sunshine yellows and luscious purples are the colours we saw. Go, see for yourself and discover what other colours there are. We saw sea turtle tracks on the beach and numerous turtles swimming at high tide. 

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka, Yirrkala Art Centre is an indigenous run and operated art gallery. It is free to view the artworks with many for sale. See bark paintings, carvings, jewellery and woven items on display, created by local indigenous artists. All the cultural artworks and crafts are of outstanding quality, well worth viewing. 

For the remainder of the day, go out to Wathawuy (Lathram river and Goanna Lagoon) for an afternoon of relaxation and swimming. The freshwater stream under the shade of the eucalyptus trees is brilliant for swimming and getting out of the direct sun. And best of all, there are no crocodiles. There are a few spots to swim, so explore a little. Why not have a go on the swing that is over the water? 

Camp: Manyimi Campground, Gove Boat Club

Cape Arnhem

Day 10 and Day 11 | Waṉuwuy (Cape Arnhem)

Waṉuwuy is paradise. Pristine, untouched beaches and breathtaking landscapes make this a place like no other in Australia. 

On a peninsula 50 kilometres from Nhulunbuy and with only ten vehicles per day are allowed to visit, Waṉuwuy is truly a special place. Our suggestion is to enjoy two unforgettable nights camping, fishing, relaxing, beach walking, stunning sunrises and sunsets and taking in the surroundings. At the right time of the year, you could witness turtles nesting. 

The track is strictly 4WD only and no caravans are allowed. The first half of the track is dirt, rough and narrow and the second half is over dunes and along beaches. 

Be croc wise. And unfortunately, the peninsula is exposed to rubbish, mostly plastics washing up on its shores. So, please help out by collecting what you can and taking it back to Nhulunbuy for disposal. 

Camp: Waṉuwuy (Cape Arnhem) has a few camp areas; one has a drop toilet. Note there are no other facilities, including no potable water or phone reception. 

Day 12 | Manaŋaymi (Scout Camp)

In the morning, pack up and drive back out along the track from Waṉuwuy (Cape Arnhem) and head to Manaŋaymi for a final night camping on North East Arnhem Land. Camp and spend the day here alongside a running creek with a small waterfall and a freshwater hole suitable for swimming.

Manaŋaymi is 50 kilometres from Nhulunbuy for those needing to restock up on supplies or fuel before starting the return journey back to Katherine or Darwin. 

Camp: Manaŋaymi (Scout Camp) allows only four vehicles per day. There is a composting toilet, picnic tables and fire pits. 

Day 13 | Mainoru Store

Driving distance: Managaymi* (Scout Camp) to Mainoru Store |

It is time to commence the return journey back to Katherine or Darwin. Again, we suggest staying at Mainoru Store to break up the trip. 

Camp: Mainoru Store 

Day 14 | Katherine (or Darwin) 

Drive distance Mainoru Store to Katherine

Complete the drive back to Katherine or Darwin. 

Where to Next?

Our travels from Nhulunbuy took us back to Katherine and from there we continued on to The Kimberley region in Western Australia.

Alternatively, head south from Darwin or Katherine along the Stuart Highway and Australia’s outback and red centre.

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Nhulunbuy Itinerary

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1 thought on “Nhulunbuy | Love 14 Days of Adventure, Culture and Pristine Beaches”

  1. Such complete itinerary guide you have here! And of course the lovely dog pics are great 🙂 Appreciate the breakdown of expenses so we can somewhat estimate our budget. Thanks!

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