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Tiwi Islands

Feel your cheeks hurt from so much smiling as you discover the beautiful Tiwi Islands, the ‘Island of Smiles’.

Take a trip across the water from Darwin to find a unique haven. With a thriving Aboriginal arts culture, fishing lodges, coastal landscapes with breathtaking sunsets, the Tiwi Islands promises to be a destination like no other.

The Tiwi Islands comprise of two main islands – Bathurst and Melville, which are 80 kilometres north of Darwin. Most of the residents are of Aboriginal descent and you’ll meet some of them on cultural and wildlife tours.

The people on Tiwi Islands are famous for their traditional lifestyle, stunning artworks, vibrant fabrics and textiles, plus an exuberant passion for football. Take a day tour from Darwin to the Tiwi Islands to find out why it’s nicknamed the ‘Island of Smiles’.

Things to see & do on the Tiwi Islands

Annual football and art sale

Australian Rules football is akin to religion on the Tiwi Islands. People from far and wide come each year in March for the football grand final and art. It’s a hugely popular and very special event, and the only day of the year when permits are not required for travel to the islands.

Take the opportunity and have a truly fantastic day out. The sale venue is the Tiwi Design Art Centre on Bathurst Island. Additional arts and crafts are on sale from Jilamara Arts and Crafts and Munupi Arts and Crafts on Melville Island.

Sales begin at 9am on Sunday and conclude around 1pm when the football starts.

This is a day you won’t forget and your cheeks will be hurting from so much smiling.

Art and culture

The Tiwi people are famous for their art, which hangs in galleries around the world. Everywhere you look you’ll see art decorating schools, on carved burial poles, adorning the altar of the white wooden church and in the islands’ renowned art centres.

Visit an art centre to meet the artists, watch them paint, weave, sculpt and carve and learn the story behind their distinctive pieces. You can purchase artworks directly from the artist at reasonable prices.

Sit down with the ‘morning tea ladies’ – a group of Tiwi women elders who serve damper and billy tea. Learn how to weave pandanus and get a feel for what everyday life is like. Then witness dancing and a smoking ceremony and find out the meaning behind these traditional rituals.

Adventure, Tiwi-style

Stay at a beachfront lodge or join a guided fishing trip from Darwin to experience the Tiwi Islands’ world-class fishing. Bluewater, reef and estuary options are all on offer in this pristine environment.

Diverse coastal landscapes

Join a tour led by a local Aboriginal guide to explore the islands’ different landscapes that range from tropical rainforest to clay-like cliffs, white-sand beaches, dense jungle and inviting rock pools. Swim in the clear, shady waterhole at Tomorapi Falls.

Sunrise over Katherine Gorge


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