Groote Eylandt and Dugong Beach Resort
It’s one of those places that pilots should visit, just because they can! If you’re up in the Top End, do yourself a favour and sneak across the pond for a night on the understated Groote Eylandt.
Although tourism has only recently been encouraged here by the Aboriginal Land Council, we’ve ensured the island is quite civilized and, as usual, we won’t be landing you in a place without a decent wine list, internet coverage and those blissfully slidey hotel sheets.
Lying just 50nm off the western shore of the Gulf of Carpenteria, Groote was originally discovered and named by the Dutch (its name means “Big Island”) and its ownership has now returned to the resident Anindilyakwa people.
It’s the largest island in the Gulf (about 50km x 60km), a high achiever in the world of manganese mining and its population is therefore mostly miners – a cheerily filthy and bloody thirsty lot.
The airstrip, at nearly 2kms long, will give none of you any stress; aerodrome operator Groote Eylandt Mining Co has catered for much heavier and faster hardware than ours dropping in. ERSA has all the details you’ll need to operate safely in and out of here.
Away from the bustling shipping port of Alyangula, where the loot is loaded onto massive ships from impossibly big road trains hurtling back and forth along adjacent roadways, Groote hides some beautiful untouched beaches and bays along its shores, particularly vista just made for pilots, like the stunning archipelago up on the north coast, around Northwest Bay and inside of Chasm Island.
Dugong Beach Resort
As a group of 13, we found welcome respite from world at the brand new Dugong Beach Resort. As I said, Groote hasn’t made it onto the list of hot tourism destinations yet, so you’ll not be greeted with an overflowing choice of accommodation options. None of that matters though because you’ll be happy at the Dugong.
Brand new and superb, the Dugong Beach Resort offers sophisticated luxury accommodation right on the beach, about half an hour’s drive from the airport. Transfers are easily arranged with the resort.
You’ll pay a bit more (remote never means cheap) but you won’t be thinking about that as you soak off the steam in the tropical outdoor pool, and are treated to a complimentary spectacular sunset that evening on the deck. There’s a great indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar for all meals and the staff will gladly help you with internet access and island tours. There are plenty of reasons to spend a few days up here, not the least of which is to put your feet up in an enviable tropical setting; and then there’s the outstanding sport-fishing. The stars of the show up here are the big fellas, so if you’re into fishing, brace yourself (literally) for a date with some very agitated locals like Marlin, Sailfish, Bluefin tuna, Spanish Mackerel and Giant Trevally. So if you can swap the headset for a road and tackle, then I’d strongly encourage a workout on the back of an offshore fishing boat.
From here up to the Gove Peninsula, and all around the Gulf coast actually, you’re in God’s own country. Purpose built, ET’s Escape Sportsfishing Lodge, right next door to the Resort, caters well for big or small groups of angelers. Have a look at their website for accommodation and charter options.