East Arnhem Land travel guide and things to see and do: Nine highlights


East Arnhem Land is made up of hundreds of Indigenous communities and even though it stretches across 90,000 square kilometres, it is home to less than 20,000 people. You can fly to Nhulunbuy and Groote Eylandt, or take charter flights to smaller communities. You can also drive there (with a permit), but roads are flooded in summer. Located 90 minutes drive out of Nhulunbuy, where two perfect beaches meet at a rocky island, Lonely Beach is dead-set from a film set. Although there are crocodiles all along the coast, the water is so crystal-clear you can take a quick dip (though travel with a guide to be completely sure). See eastarnhemland.com.au/lonely-beach


Trevor Hosie and Helen Martin discovered tiny Bremer Island off the Gove Peninsula while running a fishing charter business and have spent 16 years turning it into one of the country's most charming eco-sensitive island retreats. Take a nature walk, go fishing, watch turtle eggs hatch and eat in a pavilion overlooking the water with rooms right beside the sand. See banubanu.com


Gove Boat Club is the best place to go to meet eccentric locals an… Gove Boat Club...

Gove Boat Club is an iconic Territory watering hole. Located 12 kilometres out of Nhulunbuy, it's a sailor's gateway to the Northern Territory and it's where local yachties come to drink cheap cold beer with the best water and sunset views in town. Expect many tall stories. And the food's pretty good too. See goveboatclub.com.au


Aboriginal artists at Maningrida Arts and Culture.<br /><br />Arnhem land's Maningrida Arts and Culture represents more than 700 artists who work with bark paintings, timber sculptures, fibre art, didgeridoos, regalia, prints and bronze sculptures. tra14-eastarnhem
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Local artists at Maningrida Arts and Culture. Photo: Tourism NT

Located 500 kilometres east of Darwin, Maningrida has over 100 clans and 12 unique languages. Per capita, it might be the most multi-lingual community on earth. It's also one of the best spots for art and artists. National and internationally significant artworks have been collected here since the 1970s and are displayed at Maningrida Arts & Culture. The centre supports hundreds of local artists, including some of Australia's biggest Indigenous art names such as John Mawurdndjul. See maningrida.com


It's the gathering spot for locals – the coffee's always good and there's more vegetarian treats for breakfast or lunch than you'd figure in a mining town such as Nhulunbuy. There's oodles of rustic charm served up with your meals, and the Buddha Bowls are legendary. See facebook.com/TheRefineryCafeNhulunbuy/


Garig Gunak Barlu National Park is located at East Arnhem Land's far north-eastern corner, incorporating the entire Cobourg Peninsula and the surrounding waters of the Arafura Sea and off-shore islands. The landscape ranges from white sandy beaches and off-shore reefs to the ruined Victorian Settlement, England's attempt to settle the Top End. Only 15 vehicles per day are permitted to enter. See northernterritory.com/arnhem-land/see-and-do/garig-gunak-barlu-national-park



Fishers on boat charters are the travellers most likely to venture to the wilds of Groote Eylandt, off the eastern coast of Arnhem Land. But it's here you'll find one of the Territory's best kept secrets – Groote Eylandt Lodge. Stay in a waterfront bungalow in a property that claims 25 hectares of beach frontage, connected by boardwalks. See grooteeylandtlodge.com.au


You don't have to trek far from Nhulunbuy to find impressive walks. You'll find over 200 bird species – as well as ancient Indigenous middens (of shellfish and oyster shells) at the Gayngaru Wetlands Interpretative Walk, just 700 metres from town. The lagoon is a favourite hideaway for bird species – and the odd croc. See eastarnhemland.com.au/gayngaru-wetlands


Take part in a four-day celebration of Yolngu culture in Gukula - a 30 minute drive from Nhulunbuy. Everyone camps at Australia's largest Indigenous festival held each August, organised by the Yothu Yindi Foundation. Tents and meals are supplied - join in traditional dancing, music and arts at the Territory's largest cultural gathering. See yyf.com.au


You can't come to East Arnhem Land without wetting a line, but you'll need a permit, or better yet, go with a fishing operator who'll show you the best places to snag your dream fish. The blue-water fishing off the Cobourg and Gove peninsulas is among the world's best, while marlin are plentiful off Groote Eylandt. And don't forget the barra living in the estuaries.

The writer was a guest of Crooked Compass Tours, see crooked-compass.com