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Caroline’s Outback Immersion: A Top End Itinerary

BLOG | As part of our Innovative Itineraries series, this itinerary was created by Senior Travel Designer Caroline Densley. Venture to Australia’s Top End and immerse yourself into a diverse, authentically Australian range of cultures, landscapes, and experiences.

This customised journey was created by one of our Senior Travel Designers, Caroline Densley, for a couple and their adult son seeking a private access Top End itinerary, weaving authentic Aboriginal cultural engagement with a level of luxury threaded throughout. Combining both private air and scenic overground travel, this two-week trip was fashioned through Caroline’s own exceptional knowledge of the area, utilising destinations to immerse guests into the environment, facilitate enjoyable and informative dialogues with locals only accessible through her connections, and actively have fun and engage with the landscape with authenticity, taking them through a range of destinations ranging from humble and remote communities, to high-end local-owned lodges. Caroline’s passion and career history with Aboriginal engagement, teamed with dynamic landscapes and interwoven, continual sense of place elevates this journey to a seamless, educational experience, inviting guests into one of Australia’s most vast, remote, and varied landscapes.  

"The scenery is stunning – escarpment country, flood plains, gorges, waterfalls, tidal rivers."

Caroline Densley - Senior Travel Designer

The Top End encompasses the northern edge of the Northern Territory, fringed by the Kimberley to the West and our overseas neighbour of Indonesia to the North. This stunning region teems with National Parks, varied and continuing Aboriginal cultures, abundant wildlife, and dynamic landscapes. Merging adventure and culture, the Top End is a traveller’s favourite, and certain to leave a lifelong impression.  

 

Dive into the finest experiences the Top End has on offer with this custom-made itinerary, taking you to remote communities, ancient rock art sites, and idyllic billabongs in absolute comfort and style.

Destination 1: Darwin

Darwin - Mindil Beach Sunset Markets © Charlie Bliss

Roll up your sleeves upon touchdown in Darwin—its tropical air is warm and welcoming. A gateway city to the Territory’s remarkable Arnhem Land, Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, Darwin is a multicultural hub and harbour city, offering tropical, good-natured ambiance and bustling activity. Enjoy modern waterside dining, beach markets, and local art galleries within walking distance of your waterfront accommodation before departing into genuine country.

Morning light will escort you south as you embark into one of Australia’s most expansive and compelling regions with your hosts from Venture North, who will accompany you throughout your journey and provide privileged access into the regions to come. At your first stop of Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park, you’ll have your first brushes with the Top End’s unique flora and fauna. Explore the thirteen gorges, rapids and falls of this park that follow the Katherine River from its source in Kakadu. Hike the loop of the falls, and enjoy a picnic lunch upon the banks of the river. Depending on your travel season, you’ll experience a different side of the Top End: Dry Season may involve swimming in the waterhole while freshwater crocodiles lazily sun themselves nearby, while Wet Season may have you enjoying lush scenery while observing saltwater crocodiles from a safe distance. Further down the track, take a dip into the Katherine Hot Springs and luxuriate in clear, thermal waters surrounded by lush vegetation.

With one toe dipped into your journey, continue south-east where you’ll head off-track and venture into truly remote territory to your first stop at Wugularr/Beswick.  

Experience 1: Darwin has accommodation for three nights.

Destination 2: Wugularr (Beswick)

Wugularr - Mason Art Gallery © Tourism NT & Mason Art Gallery

Upon the banks of the Waterhouse river approximately 116 kilometres south-east of Katherine, you’ll be welcomed to Wugularr: a remote Aboriginal community with a population of 531. Culturally rich with connections from all across Arnhem Land, this community is home to people from multiple language groups including Dalabon, Rembarrnga, Mayali, and Rittharngu/Wagalak, and shares the community spirit of working on country with kin and culture.

Upon arrival, embark on a local history walk around the community billabong and learn about your home for the next two nights. Experience true cultural immersion ‘out bush’, as you venture out with locals and experience community activities, linking traditional knowledge with modern enterprise. Different each time depending on time of year, you may seek out ‘sugarbag’ (honey from native stingless bees), learn ancestral basket-weaving techniques with pandanus and colour them with natural bush dyes, enjoy scenic touring and much more—all with a local’s perspective and guidance. Be sure to explore the community-run Djilpin Arts’ Ghunmarn Culture Centre and Gallery, where you may engage with local artists, browse the gallery, and buy authentic art.

Destination 2: Wugularr/Beswick has accommodation for two nights in a local cabin.

Destination 3: Nitmiluk National Park

Nitmiluk - Cicada

Return to Katherine and head into Nitmiluk National Park, named in the Jawoyn language as the place of cicada dreaming. Carved with the deep gorge of the picturesque Katherine River and filled with lush, sand-sandstone covered landscapes, you’ll take a helicopter ride and soar over the park’s thirteen gorges, and touchdown in a remote spot to visit historic rock art sites and dip into a private swimming hole fed by a waterfall. Enjoy a charming picnic lunch before continuing via 4WD to Cicada Lodge, your home for the next few nights.

100% owned by the local Jawoyn People, Cicada Lodge perches upon the bank of the river. The lodge is designed around the sights and sounds of the bush, combined with the comforts of modern living. Lush and richly designed with Aboriginal artwork made by local artists with storytelling threaded throughout the lodge’s design, your stay at Cicada merges luxury with remoteness while maintaining authentic connection to the landscape it rests within.

Cicada has their own touring company, run by a team of local Jawoyn people and Aboriginal people from surrounding clans. Committed to authenticity and cultural immersion, you’ll be guaranteed that every activity and experience is community-owned in commitment to sharing their unique knowledge, and carrying on generation legacies with first-hand cultural discoveries. Take a cruise down the river with your local tour guide to the rainfed first gorge, and discover the geology, geography, and local names of the flora, fauna, and gorge itself, including visits to rock art sites upon the cliff faces. On-site, you may enjoy cultural engagement on their cultural Footsteps tour—hear local stories, enjoy hands-on activities, and view artefacts.

For dinner, you’ll enjoy the exceptional flavours of native Australian foods that have been carefully incorporated into a contemporary, invigorating menu. Enjoy a blend of traditional fruits, herbs, local produce and innovation with the creativity of their Head Chef for a truly unique dining, award-winning dining experience.

Fall asleep to the sounds of the bush before embarking north. Nitmiluk will continue to buzz around you as you cross the boundary into the enormous, striking Kakadu.

Destination 3: Nitmiluk National Park has accommodation for two nights at Cicada Lodge.

Destination 4: Kakadu National Park

Anbinik - Venture North

The highway will lead you through 20,000 square kilometres of World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, significant for both the rich cultural history of the Bininj and Mungguy Aboriginal people, and the exceptional biodiversity of the landscape.

Nestled in the north-eastern corner is Jabiru—the main township and Heart of Kakadu, and your perfect base to venture deep into the landscape. Stay at Anbinik Kakadu Resort, nestled within wetlands and lush greenery with safari-style structures, owned and operated by the Djabulukgu Association representing the Traditional Custodians of Northern Kakadu and parts of West Arnhem Land.

Timeless, vast, and magical—Kakadu’s remarkable diversity is sure to impress. You’ll visit waterfalls and swimming holes with remarkable aqualife, flora, and other wildlife, including special permit access to Moline Rockhole (Ikoymarrwa) and nearby Gunlom Falls offering panoramic views from its naturally occurring ‘infinity pool’, and sparkling Maguk Waterfall cascading down carved gorge walls.  Enjoy early morning climbs up sloping sandstone at Nawurlandja Lookout to watch the morning sun trickle across Arnhem Land escarpment, including Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) Rock, one of Kakadu’s oldest Aboriginal occupation sites. Venture over to see ancient rock art, vibrant birdlife, and tranquil bushwalking through savannah and paperbark forest. Finish your time with a sunset cruise upon the Anbangbang Billabong, absorbing the lush surroundings of one of Australia’s most remarkable National Parks.

Adventure continues in transit, as you’ll traverse Cahill’s Crossing upon departure—the only road access point between Kakadu and Arnhem Land. This spot is notorious for its high-water flow and abundance of saltwater crocodiles awaiting a feed of fish as the tide turns. Curve through West Arnhem Land, and enjoy a scenic drive past bird life, water lilies, and rugged escarpment until you reach the boundary of the Cobourg Peninsula, one of the Australian North’s most remote landscapes.

Destination 4: Kakadu National Park has accommodation for two nights at Anbinik Kakadu Resort.  

Destination 5: Cobourg Peninsula

Cobourg Peninsula - Venture North

Follow the winding track into Garig Gunak Barlu National Park upon the Cobourg Peninsula, joint managed by the Arrarrkbi people with Northern Territory Parks & Wildlife. With only a few family outstations and small establishments permanently residing along the coast, this remote peninsula is where elemental diversities meet: chiselled coastline abundant with marine life, robust flora and fauna diversity, tropical coastal breezes, and the traditional fire land management of the Arrarrkbi people.

Only accessible through your hosts, arrive at the exclusive coastal camp of family-owned and run group Venture North, where you’ll meet your exceptional campsite hosts and relax throughout the afternoon. At low tide, you’ll experience the first of many aqua discoveries that make the Cobourg Peninsula so special. You’ll walk to the ocean directly in front of the camp to shuck oysters fresh off the rocks, and enjoy late afternoon canapés on a clifftop with sunset viewings over Port Essington. Every meal is a highlight, with a special ‘Cobourg-style’ cooked breakfast each morning, and leisurely fishing afternoons turning into your dinner for the day.

Being a coastal region, you’ll traverse one of Australia’s 65 RAMSAR wetlands, with freshwater paperbark swamps and billabongs only 100 metres from the eastern coastline. Explore the Northern Territory’s largest Marine Park by boat, and discover abundant marine life including six of seven species of marine turtle, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, crocodiles, mud crabs, and copious fish, mingled alongside early colonial ruins. At low tide, explore coral reefs and rock pools, go mud crab hunting, and visit traditional ‘grinding holes’ not open to public. At night, keep your eyes peeled and spotlight on while at camp to spot small and elusive nocturnal mammals scurrying nearby.

After your time here, you’ll depart via private charter back to mainland Arnhem Land, trading remarkable wetlands for compelling woodland.

Destination 5: Cobourg Peninsula has accommodation for three nights at Cobourg Coastal Camp.

Destination 6: West Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land - Davidsons

Across 700 square kilometres, a remote and exclusively-leased Safari Lodge is nestled against registered Aboriginal sacred site Mt. Borradaile, surrounded by idyllic billabongs and escarpments. Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Camp is an eco-tourist destination and collaboration between the Amurdak people and the Davidson family, born from a long-time partnership which blossomed into an official lease and into the camp as it exists today.

The camp is respectfully slotted between escarpment and stone country, with modern comforts and a large outdoor area designed to take in the landscape. The perfect place to explore the history of the area, this will be your base camp to get to know the on-site team, who will help navigate your exploration into this space.

Over the next few days, you’ll engage in personalised touring. Culture lovers will visit ancient Aboriginal rock art sites for interpretation and depiction, and engage with artefacts in catacombs and grottos, while animal and nature lovers enjoy scenic wildlife tours, bush tucker and medicine walk, and barramundi fishing. Visit the best-known ‘Rainbow Serpent’, a fundamental part of Aboriginal Creation stories, lore, and Country known by many different names by various Aboriginal groups. Enjoy leisurely afternoons, creek cruises, keeping an eye out for crocodiles and waterbirds skimming across the water and venture through rainforest and floodplain via 4WD. Mt. Borradaile offers an abundance of things to do, and your exceptional hosts will ensure it will be a time to remember.  

When the sun sets on your time here, it is only a short transfer to Mt. Borradaile airstrip before your charter flight to the Island of Smiles—the Tiwi Islands.

Destination 6: West Arnhem Land has accommodation for three nights at Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Camp. 

Destination 7: Tiwi Islands

Tiwi Islands - Aerial view of beach at Tiwi Islands © Tourism NT & Elise Cook

80 kilometres north of the Northern Territory mainland rests the Tiwi Islands where island leisure and pleasure flourishes. With a thriving Aboriginal arts culture, abundant fishing, coastal landscapes and breathtaking views, your stay here will truly highlight why these islands are nicknamed the ‘Island of Smiles’. 

Nested upon the mouth leading into the Timor Sea alongside winding rivers upon the remote South West coast of Bathurst Island rests Tiwi Island Retreat. This beachy paradise, accessible for all ages and interests, lays off-the-beaten-track and showcases an exclusive beach front location, outback and fishing adventures, wildlife encounters, and Aboriginal arts and cultural tours.

Engage in mud crabbing boat tours, remote swimming hole adventures via helicopter, and a private Aboriginal Art and Cultural tour by heading to Wurrimyanga to Tiwi Design on the western edge of Bathurst Island. After a Welcome to Country, you’ll take a guided tour and make your own screen-printed tea towel while browsing the remarkable art and community space for the people in the area.

Two unforgettable nights in remote and intimate beachside paradise will propel you into your final destination. Accessible via private air charter, an aerial perspective is the only way to introduce the truly enormous, incomparable Bullo River Station.

Destination 7: Tiwi Islands has accommodation for two nights at Tiwi Island Retreat. 

Destination 8: Bullo River

Bullo River

Located on the edge of the East Kimberley and the Top End, the working cattle station and homestead Bullo River Station is spread across 500,000 acres of privately-owned countryside, resting near where the Victoria and Bullo rivers meet, where savannah and lawn merge with fences fringed with eucalypts and boabs.

The beautiful guest rooms offer respite from the adventure of the station, with ensuites, inviting beds and extended windows that open out onto shady lawns. Drawing upon historical bush craft skills and traditional trades that go hand-in-hand, the design of this space complements the magnificent landscape with lush earth tones and natural materials. Communal areas are embedded with rustic charm and encourage interaction, with freshly-baked goods, beverages, and refreshments available at your leisure, combining comfortable informality with authentic excellence.

Over the next four nights, you will be absorbed into vibrant working station life in the Top End. Home to approximately 4000 Brahman-cross cattle, the station is abundant with activity, including horseback riding, calf feeding, cattle runs, and even seasonal mustering for the bold-hearted. Delving into the landscape, abundant fauna can be spotted on hikes and helicopter tours, swimming in waterholes, fishing upon the river, and discovering ancient rock art inscribed onto escarpment, sourced back to many thousands of years ago from several different Aboriginal cultures in the area.

Your four nights at Bullo will acquaint you into authentic bush craft, combining vast landscapes, pioneering station life, marvellous history and nature’s splendour. Return back to gateway city Darwin via air, taking in the remarkable landscapes you’ve traversed over the past two weeks as you return to city pace.

Destination 8: Bullo River has accommodation for four nights at Bullo River Station Homestead.

Why you love this itinerary?

"I love lying in a cave or overhang absorbing the rock art on the roof and walls of the cave or overhang."

Caroline Densley - Senior Travel Designer

Where to next?

One of Australia’s most expansive, ancient, and compelling landscapes, the Top End’s allure lies between its mystery and immersion. Forge your own connection to landscape with authentic dialogues across robust and remote communities, established campsites, and historic homesteads spread across one of Australia’s most striking regions.

Which areas of the Top End call to you? What’s your preferred destination? Be sure to let us know.

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