Top End Dreaming

Editor in Chief Rhonda Bannister discovers the delights of the Northern Territory’s newest luxury lodge.

I have just returned from my very first (but most definitely not my last!) visit to the Top End stopping into Darwin for a one-night stay at the very stylish Sky City Resort before driving 300 kilometres down the Stuart Highway – which took a tad over three hours – to the township of Katherine and a taste of the fantastic adventures offered visitors to Nitmiluk National Park and to indulge ourselves in the Territory’s newest luxe accommodation offering, Cicada Lodge, situated by the banks of the Katherine River.

A couple of men learning how to use a whip in the middle of the woods at Cicada Lodge

Cicada Lodge was only completed in early April so we were one of the first to enjoy this 100% indigenous owned property which treads lightly on the land while offering magnificent isolation, peace and relaxation for world-weary couples.

All 18 rooms and suites are deluxe and expansive with panoramic windows and doors leading to a private balcony where you can sit and watch the wallabies hop past and the decor reflects the surrounding bushland with gleaming timber floors underfoot and walls painted in colours of muted green and earthy taupe.

Here, in the middle of the bush, we experienced a level of food and service usually only found in big city hotels, from our glass of French Champagne on arrival to our no-fuss check-in; our sunset drinks by the pool to our delicious fully cooked breakfast and divine picnic lunch by a waterfall and of course, the fab cuisine at dinner-time – all first-class.

But more than this, over the two days we were here, we discovered the spiritual heart of our country and gained an understanding of indigenous people, their culture, beliefs and traditions – which for a city slicker like me was a real eye-opener giving me an appreciation of the unique diversity of this beautiful country and for my husband – well he learnt how to throw a spear so he was pretty chuffed about that!

Aerial view of a river at Cicada Lodge

The traditional owners of Nitmiluk National Park and Cicada Lodge are the Jawoyn people with the Jawoyn Association heavily involved in the running of the lodge and Nitmiluk Tours which offers exclusive outings to guests of Cicada Lodge such as their Welcome to Country experience covering basket weaving, painting, spear and boomerang throwing and more.

Ancient cave paintings at Nitmiluk National Park

The highlight of our stay was the Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Cruise where in the late afternoon we made our way down the first two of Katherine’s 13 gorges with local guide Jamie who was a font of local knowledge about the landscape and local folklore. This was followed by a divine candle-lit dinner, the meal prepared by the lodge’s chefs and served with champagne and wine as we glided past the towering cliffs glowing in the light of the setting sun.

Next day was also amazing – a helicopter flight across this incredible, ancient landscape following the Katherine River across the highlands before landing by a hidden billabong for a swim and picnic right next to some incredible rock paintings – just like being in a natural art gallery – simply awesome!

Boat tours over the rivers of Nitmiluk National Park

As long weekends go, this one will go down as one of our best – who would have thought that we could experience and learn so much about indigenous life and our wonderful land in such a short time-span of only four days. Seeing and experiencing more of the Northern Territory has now gone to the top of my travel wish-list – maybe next time we’ll visit the Alice.

Painting classes at Nitmiluk National Park

To watch our visit to Nitmiluk go to

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