Escape Mary River
Not far from Darwin lies a magical place where you can discover your very own Attenborough adventure. And whether you want bush camping or glamping, it’s got a spot for you
STORY BREE NEESHAM
Marco … Polo … come the cries from the pool at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat. The irony being that some 150 years ago one of Australia’s most influential explorers, John McDouall Stuart, passed right through this area during his epic south to north expedition.
Using the Mary River as a guide, he reached the northern coastal floodplains and was the first to successfully cross our great continent.
I inch around the pool to explain the historical significance of Stuart’s journey to these kids. To point out to them that Stuart’s perseverance, tenacity and careful management of his team lead the way for Australia being connected to the rest of the world. But I felt like a bit of a fish out of water. John …. McDouall Stuart ... just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Mary River National Park, located 150km east of Darwin, is a bit of a Territory enigma. Not a regular on the tourist circuit, it’s better known to diehard fishos who flock in their thousands to its mecca — Shady Camp. During these pilgrimages they hope to catch the elusive barramundi, either by tinny or flicking lines/prayers at the barrage.
But Mary River is more than just a fishos’ paradise; it is a majestic national park and, for a wide range of animal life, the floodplains, billabongs, woodlands, mangroves and monsoonal forests are home.
Escaping from the city, down the Arnhem Highway, it’s not long before you feel the big smoke slipping away and begin to notice how spectacular the river looks at dusk, and how bright the stars are out here.
Mary River National Park is the perfect destination to reconnect with the bush, interact with our history and disconnect from the trappings of the city.
While some of the names in the area leave a little to be desired — Mistake Billabong and Brian Creek, I’m looking at you — the quality of these spots make up for their lacklustre names. Mistake Creek is not a mistake at all, but rather a pleasant track through the bush which leads you out onto a platform overlooking a billabong brimming with water lilies and birds hopping from leaf to leaf. Spend some serious time here and chances are you’ll spot anything from a croc to a water buffalo going about its daily business.
Part museum, part nature-park, part pub — the Bark Hut Inn is not to be missed. This quintessential outback drinking hole, built from local ironwood and sheet metal, is an experience that will stay with you for years. Have a coldie literally off the wood, and
The Wildman Wilderness Lodge is a great getaway for folks visting the Top End