Access and getting around

Nhulunbuy is located on leased Indigenous land. While residents and visitors are free to travel within Nhulunbuy and the Industrial Estate, a permit is needed if they wish to leave these areas for recreation or travel purposes.

The permits are designed to make Indigenous land accessible to tourists, visitors and workers. The permits ensure the privacy of the Indigenous communities, the protection of the environment and promote the safety of visitors. There are many areas considered sacred or significant and the system helps visitors to avoid causing offence or disrupting cultural activities.

Recreation permits are obtained from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation, and road transit permits for travelling the Central Arnhem Highway or ‘the track’ between Gove and Katherine are obtained from the Northern Land Council (NLC) in Nhulunbuy or Katherine.

To visit Ganarrimirri (Shady Beach), Garrai (Rocky Bay Beach) and Witimurru (Yirrkala Boat Ramp) an additional permit must be obtained from Yirrkala Dhanbul Aboriginal Corporation on (08) 8987 3433. To visit Gowupu (Catalina Boat Ramp) you require a permit from the NLC.

The table below lists the areas that require a recreation permit to visit from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation. Those marked with an asterisk (*) require an extra permit, also obtained from Dhimurru, which are charged at a daily rate:

  • Nanydjaka * (Cape Arnhem)
  • Garanhan (Macassan Beach)
  • Guwatjurumurru (Giddy River)
  • Ganami *(Wonga Creek)
  • Banambarrnga (Rainbow Cliff)
  • Wirrwawuy (Cape Wirawawoi)
  • Wupurr (Melville Bay)
  • Wathawuy (Latram River and Goanna Lagoon)
  • Gapuru* (Memorial Park)
  • Lombuy (Crocodile Creek)
  • Ganinyara (The Granites)
  • Daliwuy (Daliwoi Bay)
  • Baringura (Little Bondi)
  • Dhamitjinya (East Woody Island)
  • Nhumuy (Turtle Beach)
  • Rängura (Caves Beach)
  • Lurrupukurru (Oyster Beach)
  • Gumuniya (Buffalo Creek)
  • Gadalathami (Town Beach)
  • Yarrapay (Rocky Point)

It is a serious offence to move throughout the region without a permit, and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of the traditional Owners in this regard. Unauthorised entry onto Indigenous land can result in significant fines. Random permit checks are carried out by police and local rangers at recreational and other areas, and visitors without a current permit may be prosecuted.

Getting around

Please find below some tips for travelling throughout the Gove Peninsula.

Driving

Remember that during the wet season (November to April) some roads and tracks may become impassable. Check with the Northern Territory Government Road Report or with Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation for information on road access to recreation areas.

Caravans

The Central Arnhem Road is not recommended for caravans, only sturdy off-road camper trailers. Once in Nhulunbuy, you can either stay in the designated camping ground at the Walkabout Lodge or on private land. Camping on public land within Nhulunbuy or the Industrial Estate is not allowed. You must obtain a free permit from the Nhulunbuy Corporation to keep a caravan on private land.

Fuel and food

Nhulunbuy has a petrol station and a supermarket. Travelling on the Central Arnhem Road requires carrying fuel and basic food supplies. Fuel and refreshments are available at the Mainoru Outback Store, about 256km from the Stuart Highway. Carrying an emergency supply of fuel and food is a good idea wherever you are going. It is essential to carry plenty of water, at least 20 litres.

Fatigue

Distances in the Northern Territory can be long and fatigue is one of the most frequent causes of serious motor vehicle accidents. Make sure you take a break regularly.

Speed limits

The Northern Territory has no speed limit on the open road. However, the Central Arnhem Road is not recommended for speeds over 80 km per hour.Most roads in the East Arnhem region are of formed gravel and road conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Caution should be exercised.

Seatbelts

Seatbelts save lives. For this reason by law in the Northern Territory everyone in a vehicle fitted with seatbelts must wear it. The driver is responsible for ensuring all passengers are wearing a belt and fines are imposed for those found not wearing a seatbelt.

Road trains

The Northern Territory is renowned for its road trains, some of which can be three trailers (50m) long. They need plenty of room and if you contemplate overtaking them ensure that you have at least 1km of clear, straight road ahead.

Flooded roadways

Unless you are sure of the water depth, flow rate and any road damage do not attempt to cross flooded bridges or causeways. Most importantly, do not ignore signs.

Dust

Dust on outback roads can pose a danger, obscuring vision of the road ahead. It is best to wait for the dust to settle.

Lost or broken down

A missing vehicle is easier to locate than missing people, so NEVER LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE regardless of the circumstances. Economise on water if you are away from a main road. If you intend to leave a main road let somebody trustworthy know of your plans, your intended route and your expected time of arrival. Importantly, let them know you have arrived safely.

Four wheel driving

Driving on unsealed roads and tracks requires additional care and preparation. Driving a four-wheel drive does not mean you will not get bogged or that you can ‘go anywhere’. It does mean that you will be able to access more remote areas though and if you are new to four-wheel driving extra concentration will be required. Braking distances on unsealed roads are longer and four-wheel drive vehicles are more unstable than a conventional car, particularly at high speeds.

Entering pastoral properties

Pastoral properties (like Aboriginal land) are private property. If you are going off-road make sure that the road is a public access road or obtain permission to pass through from the relevant landowner. When passing through leave everything as you found it i.e. closed gates should be closed again and open gates left open.