Gove Peninsula, Northern
Territory - Australia
This trip will take you from Katherine, about 320 km south east of
Darwin, in the Northern Territory's north east through Arnheim Land,
the Parsons and Mitchell Ranges to Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The area has been the home of Aboriginal people for thousands and
thousands of years and was first discovered by the Dutch in the
Prepare yourself for a visit to one of Australia's remote but beautiful
areas. Whilst many of Australia's remote areas are located in desert
regions the Gove Peninsula is a contrast of fantastic countryside,
pristine beaches, excellent fishing and volumes and volumes of
Aboriginal culture to take in.
First set eyes on by the Dutch sailor, van Colster, in the early 1600's
not much exploration took place here until the mid 1930's when the
Aboriginal Land Reserve was proclaimed. During World War II the
peninsula played a vital role in Australia's defences from attacks from
The Gove Peninsula was named after a British airman called Gove who was
In the early 1970's bauxite mining commenced in the area by a company
called Nabalco. This displeased the local Aboriginal people greatly and
their displeasure eventually led to the Northern Territory Land Rights
Act in the mid 1970's, which effectively handed the region back to its
The trip is about 760 km, the longest stretch without fuel supplies is
about 450 km and can't be traveled in the wet season due to the heavy
rains and flooded rivers.
April to September are the best months. The later you leave during this
period means the shallower the river crossings will be.
The route is up the Central Arnhem Road through magnificent, remote
countryside, several river crossings and excellent fishing.
You will require a permit to travel the Central Arnhem Road, see the
contact details at the end, that will require you to complete the trip
in 24 hours, not take a caravan, camper trailer or motorbike. The
permit will also prohibit the carrying firearms and alcohol in your
vehicle as well as prohibiting hunting and fishing in the area.
Whilst this web page covers the trip from Katherine to the Gove
Peninsula other, additional, permits may be required if you plan to
deviate of the main route.
The best setting off point for this trip is a little south of Katherine
where the Central Arnhem Road branches off the Stuart Highway and heads
east. Just a few kilometers along this road and you are in Arnhem Land,
heading along the bitumen and heading for Wugullar, which more recently
has become known as Beswick a little over 60 km from the Sturt Highway
From Beswick the road is unsealed from here on as you head for Conway
and a little later Mainoru Store where you can camp, get provisions and
your last chance for fuel before Nhulunbuy, although some have said
that you can get emergency top ups at Bulman about 70km further on.
Before reaching Mainoru Store you will see what appears to be a major
branch in the road to the left, with what looks as though you should
continue straight. It's the other way around. Straight takes you to the
Mainoru Station Homestead, about 16 kilometers away, where you can get
accommodation and take part in the stations activities.
The Mainoru River runs through both of these places and fishing is a
common pastime. In fact you will cross the Mainoru River having just
left to continue your journey. Early on in the dry season this river
crossing, and others rivers that you will cross later, can be
interesting as the rivers still have water in them and, particularly
after a good wet season can be reasonably high.
Next you will pass through Bullman, where shortly after passing
through, you will come across the Wilton River that flows down to Roper
Bar. Stop and observe the water before you cross and assess its depth
and flow as it has been known to be a difficult crossing at times.
Once over the Wilton River your next target is Emu Springs, which is
just off the road and does have some good camping facilities, but
About 30km past Emu Springs is the Goyder River crossing. If you think
the two previous main river crossings were hard or treacherous then
take extra special care on this one. Have a look around and access the
best crossing point, which may not be the obvious one following the
road. If you can, talk to someone who has recently been through it for
first hand knowledge.
About 130 or so kilometers from Emu Springs, where you leave the
Mitchell Range and start entering the Frederick Hills, you will come to
the road turning south, and heading through the Bath Range, to Jalma
Bay, Blue Mud Bay and, ultimately Numbulwar, which is situated on the
western side of The Gulf Of Carpentaria.
10 kilometers on and you will again strike the bitumen, the local
airport and the turn off to Yirrkala. On a little way and you are in
Nhulunbuy, a clean and very friendly town that services the bauxite
mine in the area. You are at the northern end of the Gove Peninsula and
surrounded by the pristine Arafura Sea.
Once on the Gove Peninsula, and having obtained a permit from the
Dhimrru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, you will find many
areas for recreational activity as well as tours at the Nabalco Bauxite
mine in the area.
If you haven't had enough 4wdriving yet head back out of town, about
20km past the airport, to the turnoff to Cape Arnhem.
From here you drive through the bush towards, and onto, the beach.
About 10km further on you will come to the end of the drive at a gate.
The last few metres to Cape Arnhem are on foot, but it is worth it. If
you plan to stay around here for a day or so there are some excellent
Before you head out to Cape Arnhem get some local knowledge as to the
current condition of the tracks and beach. You will cross areas that
can be very soft and that require caution and, sometimes, skilled
There are several permits required for this trip, some of which can
take up to a couple of weeks to be processed.
Northern Land Council, for a permit to travel the Central
Arnhem Rd at Darwin (08) 8920 5100 or at Katherine (08) 8972 2894.
Dhimrru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation permit can be obtained
when you arrive at Nhulunbuy Ph (08) 8987 3992.
The information provided on this web page is for use as a guide only.
If you are planning to undertake this trip you must seek out other
authorative advice and information. Desert and Outback travel
can be very hazardous and should only be undertaken after lengthy and
careful planning. The owners of this website shall not be held
responsible for any damage or injury that you may experience during any
conventional vehicle or four wheel drive trip, desert or otherwise.
Distances between places mentioned on this page are as a guide only.
You must verify these details yourself using professional maps and/or
mapping equipment before you set out on a the trip. Do not attempt to
access desert or other remote regions in an ill-prepared vehicle and
without adequate communications equipment. Do not under estimate the
limited supply of fuel, water and provisions in these areas as well as
the possibility of encountering extremely harsh elements and conditions.