Central Arnhem Highway -
Katherine to Nhulunbuy (Gove) road
Passing near Barunga, Beswick, Mainoru Store, Weemol, Bulman,
Wilton River, Emu Springs, Ramingining turnoff, Goyder River,
Lake Evella turnoff.
This image is the end of the
line at East Woody Beach, Gove Peninsular , Nhulunbuy NT.
And we are pleased to say it was a wonderful trip in July 2004.
A 11 hour casual drive cruising at 80-100 kms hr along the
The distance is 710 km between Katherine & Nhulunbuy
through Central Arnhemland. Only one fuel stop 240 km from Katherine
at Mainoru Outback Store (500 km South of Gove). We had 2 Jerrycans
of fuel which would of just sufficed our Pajero 4x4. (However an
extra 20 Litres was taken incase of headwinds and those other things
that may happen).
You are on Aboriginal land and will need to obtain permits from
the Northern Land Council (But I actually wonder if all those we
passed had them) (It at one stage made me wonder if all the
bureaucracy was worth it)
Katherine to Bulman Community section 300 km
From Katherine there is 110 km of bitumen before it ceases at
Beswick Aboriginal Community. From then on it is a dirt road of
various condition. And for some reason it was the worst stretch
of road for the whole trip with lots of corrugations & dips &
washouts that have so far only been marked & not fixed. Still
very drivable at 80-90 kms/hr but as soon as you get speed you
also need to slow down again as some of the dips take their toll
on the shockies at speed. (Passed several Falcons & Holden
passenger vehicles of the Community people traversing between
Katherine & Bulman)
Picture is probably a smoother section
Mainoru store Phone 08 89754390
(240 km from Katherine) opens at different hours (like 10AM -
5PM) 7 days per week (apart from our return day when it was
closed for several days due to a wedding) (but as there was
warning of the closure the extra jerry can was purchased). Smoko
at the Mainoru river 200 metres past the store. Saw a 2 metre
croc under the shady tree (Freshie).
Mainoru River causeway (been a cement slab since
about 1999) Watch the approach to the cement as it is washed out
on both sides.
Bulman to Nhulunbuy section 410km
Just past Bulman you get to the first stumbling block of the trip
for most travellers.... the Wilton River. It was still showing
impassable on the NT Govt roads report, however it was very good.
Traverse it (this year) on the down stream side , it was just over a
foot deep all the way across. (The centre is still several feet deep
and catches a few people out).
Crossing the Wilton on the Downstream side
I understand this crossing is now a cemented causeway.
At this time you are in Central Arnhemland and for some reason
the road gets better in quality (overall) and improves the closer
you get to Gove. (A credit to Snowy Noakes who poured many lonely
hours of his life into building it back in the 1980's, giving
Nhulunbuy residents an option to drive in/out)
You pass Emu Springs and the Ramingining turnoff (for those going
that way to Maningrida etc do not get a shock when the 2 lane dirt
road suddenly ends into a 2 wheel rut "track" weaving in and out of
the trees) (Good old Government funding ran out back in the 90's)
The Goyder River is the next potential hazard (apart from the odd
piece of wreckage from vehicles that were driving a bit to fast).
Again cross the Goyder on the downstream side (this may change from
year to year, so if in doubt walk it) It was only a foot+ deep and a
let down after expecting the worse from the NT Road report website).
No camping allowed at the Goyder River.
Crossing the Goyder River on downstream side
Don't put your fan through your radiator at speed
There are plenty of gravel scrapes (borrow pits) along the way
that can accommodate an army, if you happen to get caught out late
along the road and need to pull up and camp. (Your permit allows an
Good quality formed earth road 300 km from Gove
Taller trees closer to Nhulunbuy
About 240 km from Gove (3 hrs ) there is a concrete table &
chairs alongside a small creek that is a designated rest stop (not
much in the way of signage on the way from the Gove side so it
sneaks up on you)
Not far up the road is the turnoff to Lake Evella (Gapiwiyak
Community) and also the goat track to Numbulwar (another great trip
done a few years back with Rossco)
The last 200 km to Nhulunbuy already has you in the tall
woodlands, with many of the creek crossings and dips actually being
overlayed with culverts making it a much more smoother road at a
The driving was good , Kids toured well with the long days, had
an hour each way at the Goyder River for a feed and another lengthy
stop at the Mainoru river. A recommended stop is at Flying Fox River
(very sandy and shady as the water flows through the paperbark
trees) Between Beswick & Mainoru.
Fuel stop at Mainoru is a welcome surprise nowadays as the road
has become more popular (Sorry to say that from 2009,
the Mainoru store is no longer in operation so please research your
fuel supplies & consumption)
It is not the road it was when I was living in Nhulunbuy back in
the mid 80's, it is 'almost' a super highway in comparison nowadays.
Crocodile at Mainoru River Crossing
And then theres the camping at Macassans Beach, fishing at
leisure, swimming at Little Bondi, Turtle Beach and the Latram
River. Unfortunately at our time of visit there had been several
deaths of the local Yolgnu Elders associated with "Cape Arnhem" and
therefore the Cape was closed and off limits to all people. Didn't
get to visit some of the old haunts like Caves beach & Twin Eagles,
but there is always next time. Had a fantastic time at the "common"
recreational areas around town.