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

Sunday Territorian - - TRAVEL -

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

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