Things To Do In Arnhem Land—the wilderness of Australia’s far north

Visiting Arnhem Land and the very top end of the Top End is an adventure in and of itself, but what is there to do once you’re there? Here’s what we got up to at Seven Spirit Bay on the Cobourg Peninsula, the NT’s most northerly point.

Things to do in Arnhem Land and Seven Spirit Bay

We peer out from under the wing of our four-seater Cessna 210 as our pilot Simon concentrates on his landing approach.

The last 45 minutes have ‘flown by’ as we watch the landscape below us swap busy streets of Darwin City for the glistening waters of the Arafura Sea. Glancing off the edge of the Tiwi Islands, our flightpath leads inevitably to the remote Cobourg Peninsula.

Soon, the dense eucalypt scrub and deep red dirt of this distant realm of Arnhem Land gives way to a natural clearing: the shelf of an ancient coral reef where the seas once lapped long ago. It now serves as the perfect landing strip that Simon now aims for.

Things to do in Arnhem Land - Cessna 210 scenic flight

This is one of two scenic flights in and out of the Cobourg Peninsula we get with this Seven Spirit Bay & Darwin Short Break. We later head back to Darwin in a slightly bigger 14-seater plane—an SA-226 Merlin III.

Check out our video wrap of the things you can see and do with Outback Spirit in Seven Sprit Bay.

We leave Simon taxiing back up the dusty runway and hop in the waiting Landcruiser bound for Seven Spirit Bay Lodge; home for the next four days.

The dust from the unsealed road billows behind us, mixing with the smoke from an encroaching bushfire. Its slow-moving low burn kindles fascination more than fear in us.

The fire also pushes wildlife out into the open, and we’re lucky to see two young Banteng—endangered wild ox brought over from Indonesia over the eons. It’s a worthy introduction to what will be one of those indelible travel experiences that punctuate our memories.

Things to do in Arnhem Land and Seven Spirit Bay

Experiences At Seven Spirit Bay, Northern Arnhem Land

We’ve made it. We’re on the Cobourg Peninsula, the second most northerly point of mainland Australia. But now what?

Seven Spirit Bay Lodge and Outback Spirit have a range of options for you while you’re here—even if you just want to sit, relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this elegant safari-style resort.

You can check out our full review and video walkthrough of Seven Spirit Bay Lodge here.

Victoria Settlement Historical Expedition

Things to do in Arnhem Land - Victoria Settlement

Hidden in a sheltered bay a couple of promontories from Seven Spirit Bay Lodge, the 19th Century ruins of Victoria Settlement (aka ‘VicSet’) hide in the coastal jungle of Arnhem Land.

The ghostly rocks and tumble-down walls of this British outpost tell tales of what life must have been like for the 11 years that white people resided here from 1838.

The two hours it takes to walk the loop around the settlement, hearing our guide describe the hardships the community faced, tells a fascinating story of the residents’ tough lives here. Click here for a fact sheet on VicSet from the NT Government.

Fishing Trip in the Arafura Sea

Things to do in Arnhem Land - waters around Cobourg Peninsula Things to do in Arnhem Land - fishing, Jim holding giant herring

It’s a rare treat to fish in the Northern Territory. We go out on a half-day fishing trip around the various headlands of the peninsula. Sadly, it’s not barramundi season, but golden trevally and mackerel are always here.

Christina pulls in the first catch of a day: an angry, sharp-toothed barracuda. Next it’s my turn to snag one. It’s a mystery fish that we later ID as a giant herring, but our haul is almost secondary to just being on the water here, admiring the unique coastline.

Birdlife here is also fascinating. At one point, we even see a pair of white bellied sea eagles paddling in the shallows of a deserted beach.


Things to do in Arnhem Land - safari track

Seven Spirit Bay Lodge already sets the scene with its game lodge vibes, but going out into the bush in an open-sided ATV spotting all kinds of birds, beasts and flora brings that safari feel into even sharper focus.

Watching water buffalo and banteng seep like shadows into the brush is one thing, but then exploring on foot along pebbly shores strewn with shells and driftwood is another.

It feels like the watchful eye of our guide is the only thing protecting us from the saurian gaze of crocodiles that surely must be lurking everywhere. At one point, Christina spots a fin in the water. We think it’s a shark at first, but it turns out to be a sawtooth—a highly endangered kind of ray with a long beak like a hedge trimmer.

The safari ends with a delightful long-table lunch by the beach at Vashon Head in the shade of a great tree.

Guided Bushwalks

Of course, hiking in this part of the world can be dangerous. Apart from the various and sundry animals able to bring about your demise, it’s easy to get lost in the bush. However, guides are always on hand to take us round the area.

We learn about how the indigenous people of the region, the Yolngu and Bininj, use the plants and landscape. We also keep an eye out for agile wallabies and eagles, snakes and crocodiles as we roam this stunning coastal wilderness.

Things to do in Arnhem Land - secret beaches Things to do in Arnhem Land - Christina on a bushwalk

Darwin Sunset Cruise

The last night of our trip with Outback Spirit is back in Darwin. The coach from our hotel drops us off at the busy Stokes Wharf. We board the Charles Darwin pleasure boat and sail out along the coast while the sun flames crimson and gold into the far watery horizon.

And as night falls, the lights of the city take over the sun’s mantle and sparkle across the water. Soon, the turning lights of the ferris wheel on Stokes Wharf—part of the temporary Skyline Precinct dry-season installation—welcome us back to dry land and the end of our Arnhem Land adventure.

Things to do in Arnhem Land - Jim and Christina on sunset cruise in Darwin

We visited Arnhem Land and Seven Spirit Bay Lodge as media guests of Journey Beyond, but our opinions and experiences remain our own.

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