Reaching a hand out into the Arafura Sea, the fingers of the Cobourg Peninsula in Arnhem Land, NT represent the most northerly point of the Australian Mainland after Cape York. Seven Spirit Bay and its luxury safari lodge holds the key to seeing this magical part of Australia.
It’s about a 45-minute flight from Darwin For the the little 4-seater Cessna 210, it’s a 45-minute flight from Darwin to the landing strip at Vashon Head on the Cobourg Peninsula, around 60kms from the Tiwi Islands.
The views are astonishing from the windows of our little plane that our pilot Simon refers to as the ‘workhorse of the Outback’. Though to us it’s more like a Mini Cooper with wings.
Whether it’s Simon’s skills or our little workhorse’s own alacrity, the landing on the unsealed bush airstrip pointing out to the opalescent sea is smoother than our Qantas flight to Darwin hours earlier.
Check out our video walkthrough of Seven Spirit Bay Lodge:
From the ‘airport’, our hosts and expedition leaders Jess and Rick drive us the 14-or-so kilometres through the dense tropical forests that cover the peninsula.
At one point, we even come to a low-burning bushfire, which has crept right to the edge of the dirt road. It’s safe for us to get out of the 4WD and have a closer look, but it’s another nudge telling us where we are.
In fact, Outback Spirit is the only tour company granted permission to bring visitors through Arnhem Land by the traditional owners, Yolngu, who call this land Miwatj (‘morning side’ or ‘land of the first sunrise’ in Yolngu Matha).
Seven Spirits Bay Lodge—the habitat rooms
We arrive at the luxurious safari-style Seven Spirit Bay Lodge and check into one of the 24 ‘habitat’ villas that reach out either side of the main lodge along the Yellow Brick Road—the paved pathway that leads guests through the forest.
We settle in, trying to absorb just how beautiful this room is.
The giant bed acts as the centrepiece to this six-sided villa, facing out towards the large timber-decked veranda and the view of the brilliant blue bay through the trees.
Shelving behind the bed gives space for clothes, suitcases and a small minibar (though we’re always too full and well-watered to ever need it), and lovely touches like bug spray and biccies. There’s also a gift of placemats for us to take home with photos of the lodge and its bay.
The bathroom is at the back of the ‘habitat’ with twin sinks, Earth Therapy amenities and a big shower room.
But it’s the walls that are most impressive here.
When we arrive, the air conditioning is working hard against the afternoon heat, but the room’s quite dark. We realise that the walls are made of internal plantation shutters that lock to make solid surfaces or angle to let light and air in. On the other side of the shutters are some hardcore fly screens that keep the cabin a sealed unit.
The first night, we sleep with the shutters down and the air-con running, but subsequent evenings, we just have the shutters open and the ceiling fans on. Even this far north the night air is cool in September and October, and the breeze off the sea is wonderful.
Seven Spirit Bay—the lodge
In truth, we don’t get to spend much time in our villa besides bedtime. For the most part, we’re in the main lodge either eating, drinking, swimming or just hanging out, or on expeditions around the peninsula and its coast.
Views from the lodge are unbelievable; the white curve of the sandy bay and the gentle lapping waters of the turquoise sea are so enticing. But swimming in the water or walking along the sand here is tempting an all-too-real fate. Saltwater crocodiles, sharks and deadly irukandji jellyfish preside in the depths, so we stick to the lawn and the lodge’s divine rainforest pool.
You’re presented with this amazing landscape as you come through the main doors into the entrance hall, its wide doors framing the scenery perfectly. To the right, along a timber-decked walkway is the library; a cool, quiet spot full of comfy sofas, maps, books and artefacts found around the property like crocodile skulls, shells and fossils.
To the left of the entrance are the lounge, bar and dining rooms.
The lounge is scattered with comfortable lodge-style cane furniture, polished wooden floors and a lofty white ceiling with enough fans to lift the whole building. You can also help yourself to more bug spray, sea sickness tablets (there are a few boat rides involved here), rehydration salts, SPF, torches and other amenities to make your stay safe and fun.
The bar is generously stocked and—like all of Journey Beyond’s venues—part of your package. We experienced this excellent perk when we recently travelled on the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide and when stayed overnight on the incredible ReefSleep, a giant pontoon moored corals of the Great Barrier Reef.
Even more generous though are the meals, artfully expedited from a kitchen that shows not a single sign of strain from the obvious challenges of being so far from the nearest shop.
Our First Evening At Seven Spirit Bay Lodge
Once we’ve settled into our cabin, we head to the lodge for dinner. This evening’s meal is set to take place on the lawn looking out over the bay.
Meals here are all communal, and we find a seat at one of the tables, where we’re introduced to the group who have been travelling together on an epic 13-day journey right across the top of Arnhem Land.
This 13-day Arnhem Land Wilderness Adventure with Outback Spirit begins with a flight from Cairns to Gove Airport in Nhulunbuy, a small town in north-eastern Arnhem Land. This is followed by an all-inclusive overland exploration through some of the most remote landscapes in Australia with the only tour company with permissions to journey here.
Outback Spirit also run the Seven Spirit Bay and Darwin Short Break , which is what we’re doing: simply flying to and from Vashon Head on the Cobourg Peninsula.
The travellers on the Arnhem Land Wilderness Adventure are only a small group (the maximum size is 22 people) so with us there bringing the number up to 19, we soon get to know everyone.
Graham and Pam, Harriet and Jonas, Greg and Lynne, Margaret, Keith and his son Gary, Graham, Carol and Peter, Tony and Heather, Tess and Rod, and Christine all make us feel like part of the group, readily sharing their adventure with us.
As we chat, the table becomes evermore laden with delicacies from the kitchen. Tonight’s meal is a seemingly never-ending parade of cleverly crafted canapés.
It’s a kind of bush omakase. Food arrives and you convince yourself to eat just one more morsel before you realise just how full you’ve become. We’re served dainties like duck confit and plum gel, Korean barbecue ribs, bacon cream and plum dust, a cheese platter and even a sumptuous chocolate caramel tart for dessert.
Wine, conversation and laughter pour freely among us, and the night passes swiftly until we make our way, sated and sleepy, to our room down the Yellow Brick Road.
Tomorrow, the real fun begins!