While Darwin may not receive as much attention as other Australian cities such as Melbourne and Sydney, this underrated destination is a prime pick for nature lovers. From tropical wetlands to forests and bushland, Darwin is truly a gateway to the majestic outback. Discover its incredible wildlife and explore the landscapes in unparalleled luxury at these four destinations.
Finniss River Lodge
A riverfront retreat in a breathtaking tropical savannah
One of Australia’s newest luxury retreats, Finniss River Lodge overlooks the breathtaking tropical savannah of the Northern Territory’s wetlands. This safari lodge is located within a 200km² Brahman cattle station that’s been operating since 1987.
The grub: Epicurean dining is central to the Finniss experience. At their signature event, called Cows & Canapes, guests get to savour exquisitely crafted bites and meet the locals – both the station crew and the cattle! The event also showcases craft beers, boutique spirits and wines of the region.
The draw: The savannah and wetlands surrounding the lodge support an impressive array of wildlife including brolgas, magpie geese and Northern Territory’s most famous fish: barramundi. If you’re lucky, you might also spot the fearsome saltwater crocodile. Birdwatching is another draw, and guests can look forward to taking fabulous sunset and sunrise photos across the savannah.
Don’t miss: While there’s plenty of wildlife to witness from your doorstep, airboat tours, 4WD adventures and ATV expeditions allow you to get closer to the action. Scenic helicopter excursions to the nearby Litchfield National Park are also available.
How to get there: A 90-minute drive from Darwin
Yellow Water Villas
A Kakadu lodge with excellent birdwatching opportunities
Set within the World Heritage–listed Kakadu National Park, Yellow Water Villas is a sustainability focused eco-lodge that blends functionality and luxury. Each of the villas here is elevated on stilts to minimise the impact on the native bushland and its wildlife.
The grub: Yellow Water Villas celebrates the beloved Australian tradition of barbecue by offering guests a hearty cook-up not just for dinner, but breakfast as well. Guests also have the option to dine at the nearby Mimi’s Restaurant & Barra Bar, where the menu marries Indigenous flavours and locally foraged ingredients with modern techniques.
The draw: The villas here are exceptionally spacious, each offering a luxurious king-sized bed, two daybeds and an alfresco dining area. There’s also an outdoor standalone bath at the private balcony that offers an immersive bush-bathing experience.
Don’t miss: A third of all Australian bird species call the Top End – the northernmost region of the Northern Territory – their home, which means especially good birdwatching opportunities. Guests can also learn about Aboriginal culture at Kakadu’s Ubirr outdoor rock art gallery before ascending to its sandstone peak for a panoramic view of Arnhem Land and the Nadab floodplain. Those seeking further adventure can hike to Maguk, one of Kakadu’s largest waterfall, and stop for a dip.
How to get there: A three-hour drive from Darwin
African-inspired luxury in one of Australia’s most biodiverse ecosystems
Set amidst a rugged bushland setting, Bamurru Plains offers a luxurious African-style safari experience that allows you to get close to nature without missing out on all the trappings of civilisation. The villas are situated along the coastal floodplains of the Mary River in Kakadu National Park, where native wildlife abounds.
The grub: At Bammuru Plains, the lodge’s chef incorporates native and locally sourced produce to create exquisite dishes. The highlight here is a fully hosted three-course dinner that you’ll enjoy while being serenaded by the resident frogs. And, as an all-inclusive experience, you’ll have access to an open bar with a selection of Australian wines, beer and spirits.
The draw: To experience the outback in superlative luxury, opt for the Kingfisher Suite. Thrice the size of the regular safari bungalows, it offers a king-sized bed and a private dining space. Floor-to-ceiling mesh walls help to truly immerse you in the lodge’s incredible natural surroundings.
Don’t miss: The lodge’s 300km² of land is home to a spectacular variety of wildlife. Each of the safari bungalows is designed so that guests can enjoy watching creatures emerge to feed across the floodplains. There’s also an extensive touring programme that takes guests further away from the lodge. These programmes include airboat tours across the wetlands, river cruises in search of crocodiles basking under the sun, birdwatching expeditions, astronomy evenings, overland safari drives and guided wilderness walks. The lodge can also arrange day trips for guests who wish to view ancient rock art and learn about Indigenous culture in Kakadu and Arnhem Land.
How to get there: A three-hour drive from Darwin
Luxe villas overlooking the Katherine River in the Nitmiluk National Park
Open all year round, Cicada Lodge is the perfect base to explore Katherine and its surrounding region. The 18 luxury villas overlook the Katherine River and allow guests to experience the sights and sounds of the bush from air-conditioned comfort.
The grub: The onsite Cicada Lodge Restaurant showcases native Australian cuisine presented in a contemporary style. The menu focuses on seasonal produce with inspiration from the Jawoyn people. For a truly special dining experience, embark on the Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Tour, which offers a mix of sightseeing and Jawoyn storytelling. While aboard, guests will enjoy three courses of fresh Australian produce against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.
The draw: Each of Cicada Lodge’s accommodations offer views of the bushland and its native wildlife. Additionally, the lodge’s feature a spacious private pool and deck – perfect for enjoying sundowners. The lodge can also help with arranging for experienced Jawoyn guides to show you ancient rock art sites and teach you about Aboriginal skills and cultural traditions.
Don’t miss: For adventures further away from the lodge, explore the iconic Nitmiluk Gorge by way of boat cruises or helicopter. The helicopter tours also allow you to take a swim in private water holes accessible only by air.
How to get there: A 3.5-hour drive from Darwin
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