The Northern Territory is going to get one hell of a Christmas present when Baz Luhrmann’s sweepingly romantic period film, Australia, opens this December. The film, set in 1942 and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, plays out against the stunning landscapes of the Northern Territory and many tourism players are expecting a revitalized interest in the region.
Bullo River Station in the Northern Territory offers tourists the opportunity to experience a working cattle station
Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, figures heavily in the film. The city’s heritage is a mix of ancient Aboriginal custom, rugged pioneer ways and modern influence from Asia. A seminal scene in the film is the recreation of the bombing of Darwin during WWII by the Japanese. Visitors can deepen their understanding of the region by visiting the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Another famous setting is Alice Springs. It makes a good base of operations for setting off to explore the outback. Alice Springs also has its trendy side, with lots of art galleries, boutiques and cafés.
Longitude 131º offers a stay in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The Northern Territory is home to one of Australia’s iconic sights, the immense Uluru/Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru, 264 miles southwest of Alice Springs, has great cultural significance for the Aboriginal people of the region. It’s possible to arrange walking tours with Anangu traditional landowners to learn about the local customs and flora and fauna.
Bellvue, WA-based tour operator Down Under Answers offers a variety of Northern Territory tours. One of these is the Kuniya Sunset Tour, in which Aboriginal guides host a walk through Uluru and through the caves at its base, where their Aboriginal ancestors created wall paintings. The tour also includes the culturally significant Mutitjulu Waterhole, and the Uluru Cultural Centre. The tour concludes with bush snacks while watching the sunset over Uluru. Cost is $152 per person.
Where to Stay
The film Australia centers on a cattle drive through the Northern Territory. As luck would have it, there are working cattle ranches in the region that also cater to tourists.
Bullo River Station is a working cattle station in the top northwestern corner of the Northern Territory in East Kimberley. The 500,000-acre property was established in the 1950s and has 12 rooms (two King Rooms, seven Queen Rooms and three Twin Rooms). The homestead and accommodations are situated on an open plain with views of the wilderness and Baobab trees. There’s also a swimming pool.
Bullo River receives guests February through November. The peak season is May through September; this is both the dry season and the time when guests can witness the most cattle activity.
All meals and beverages (including beer and wine with meals) are included for guests. Breakfast is served on the homestead veranda. Lunch is usually a picnic affair as part of an activity. In the evenings, guests return to the homestead to have dinner. Organic beef and fresh barramundi feature prominently on the menu and all dietary requirements can be attended to.
Activities include guided drives of the property, cruising Bullo River Gorge and exploring Aboriginal rock art sites. If a City Slickers-like adventure is more your client’s speed, they can even participate in seasonal cattle mustering or wild bull catching.
Animal lovers will get an eyeful, with chances to see wallabies, dingoes, wild buffalo, crocodiles and myriad native migratory birds.
Guests can also arrange a trip by helicopter to the Cascades waterfalls, which are high up in the escarpment. This is only accessible by helicopter, and guests land in a gorge between a series of cascading waterfalls on a private sandy beach.
Bullo River Station also offers air adventures via a Cessna 210 single-engine aircraft, with scenic flights over the Bungle Bungles, as well as a stop to explore the unique terrain on foot.
The Bullo and Victoria Rivers run through the property, and the hard-fighting barramundi fishing is some of the best in the world. Prime time for angling is March through May and September through November. You don’t have to be an expert to fish for barramundi—even novices are guaranteed an action-packed day.
Agents can direct inquiries to Janelle Sheehan, Bullo River Reservations (011-61-8-8354-2719, [email protected]).
Sixty miles east of Darwin is Bamurru Plains, whose major appeal lies in the wildlife viewing and inclusive touring available at the camp. Options include a river cruise to spot birds and crocodiles on the Sampan River (season and tidal conditions permitting), four-wheel drives in open-top safari vehicles, an airboat trip on the floodplains and a bush walk in the savannah woodlands that fringe the floodplains. Activities available at extra cost include fishing (barramundi), scenic helicopter flights, watching the seasonal buffalo muster on the floodplains or taking a day trip to Kakadu National Park.
The use of air conditioning is discouraged and the safari bungalows do not have TVs, CD players, minibars, telephones or Internet access. The three rooms closest to the lodge area have the option to be air conditioned. The air-conditioned rooms can sleep three people and are a good recommendation for small families. The bungalows at the far end of the camp are the most private. These also have a screened balcony with two chairs to sit, relax and watch the wildlife. All of the bungalows have great views out to the floodplains and of the savannah woodlands.
August is the busiest time for Bamurru Plains, so book at least four months in advance.The general manager is John O’Shea ([email protected]).
Agents with questions can contact reservations at 011-61-2-9571-6399, [email protected].
For more information visit Tourism Australia at www.australia.com.
Ayers Rock in Australia
Judith Kitzes of Torrance, CA-based All Travel has been to the Northern Territory several times. “Whenever I leave the Northern Territory, I weep like a baby,” she says. “It’s my spiritual home.”
If she had a client visiting the Northern Territory in search of an authentic experience, and cost wasn’t a factor, she’d begin with an outback camping trip led by experienced guides. She’d then book them into a stay at Bamurru Plains. Heading into the Central Plains, she’s a fan of Longitude 131°, a high-end property from Voyages Hotels & Resorts. South of Alice Springs, her clients would stay at Gunya Titjikala, an exclusive indigenous luxury tented camp resort within the traditional desert community of Titjikala. She’d wrap up her clients’ Northern Territory journey with a booking at Bullo River Station.
For more travel destinations in Australia, check out our coverage of Queensland and Tasmania.