Groote Eylandt is owned by the local Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC), the island’s Indigenous population who have been well-funded by royalties from the local manganese mining operation. Locals and miners make up the majority of the island’s population, but a new wave of visitors is coming, lured (pun intended) by the world class fishing opportunities.
Visitors to this island of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory will see the impact the mining operation has the moment they land, once at Groote Eylandt Lodge all is forgotten, with the vista of emerald sea and white sand a sign they have come to one of the most remote places in the country.
The landscape that hasn’t been touched by mining, which occurs inland, is as pristine as is possible. However, it’s what’s in the water that is of most interest to the new breed of visitor. Being surrounded by waters protected by indigenous treaty, this is a fisherman’s paradise.
It used to be called a resort, but general manager Dennis Winchester made the smart move to rebrand as a Lodge, as that captures the sense of adventure that a stay here is all about.
The adventure begins the moment you board the Air North connecting flight from Darwin using E120 twin engine turboprop aircraft. An hour and a half later you land in what could only be described as a rustic airport. But that only adds to the charm. A short drive later you can be sipping a cold beer or wine on the verandah of a well-appointed bungalow situated on Groote Eylandt Lodge’s hectares of sculpted bushland admiring the view across the Arafura Sea thinking about the 50 odd species of fish that could be on the end of your fishing line in the near future.
This is where Nick Darby comes in. A professional fish guide, he is a dab hand at just about everything you can imagine from horticulture to engineering. He’s
the sort of bloke who will single handily rebuild civilisation from the ground up post apocalypse. In the meantime he’s happy take you out fishing on board the Lodge’s two custom built twin 150hp boats complete with eye catching indigenous paintwork.
Nick is just at home with sport fishermen looking to snag billfish the size of a small truck, to those that don’t know one end of the rod from another. And wherever you fall on the spectrum, you won’t return to shore empty handed. In fact you will more than likely be groaning under the weight of the day’s catch. Barramundi, GTs, Queenfish, Salmon, Emperor, Cod, Snapper, Mackerel, Coral Trout, Barracuda just to name a few are seemingly forming an orderly queue in the depths below for the privilege of being pulled up onto the boat.
This isn’t a case of catch and release though. This is your supper, as the Lodge’s head chef Benjamin Howell is more than happy to showcase his sashimi skills back on dry land at the Lodge’s Seagrass Restaurant.
This is a bucket list destination for small incentive groups of up to 20 who want to immerse themselves in an environment like no other, and well away from worldy distractions. The Lodge also has a dedicated conference suite ideal for board meetings and small group functions with the capacity to cater for functions of up to 80 people.
If you get tired of living your Hemingway fantasies, you can also head inland, with the Lodge offering locally guided tours of stunning rock art in the bush and the community’s cultural activities. You can even include a round of golf at the Alyangula Golf Club, five minutes from the Lodge.
Exclusivity is a prized attribute for many incentives, and they don’t come more exclusive than this destination. Groote Eylandt is the sort of place that feels you stumbled on by accident on a long sea faring voyage. That you can get same day connections from Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne makes it all the more remarkable.