At One with Nature
Berkeley River Lodge
This place feels different. Very different.
And little wonder. Perched atop sand dunes on the north coast of Western Australia overlooking the Timor Sea, right at the mouth of the Berkeley River, this is probably the most remote resort in Australia.
There are no roads here from ‘the outside world’, so we arrive by light aircraft from Darwin, providing the opportunity to see the resort and its spectacular surrounds from the air before arrival.
After landing we’re whisked by open-sided 4-wheel drive through the dunes up to the resort to enjoy a drink and a chat with other guests while soaking in the panoramic views from the poolside balcony.
I’ve left freezing mid-winter Sydney to visit here in July, with temperatures hovering around a balmy 27 degrees, which I’m just loving, so I’m pleased when we head off again in the 4WD for a scenic tour and walk along the beach front.
Our guide is local legend Bruce Maycock, who has lived in this area for most of the last 20 years, including numerous lengthy stints camping and exploring by himself - no mean feat in such harsh country. Bruce has literally seen things that no other white man has seen - which in a world of information overload is not something many of us can claim - and there’s not much he doesn’t know about life in the Kimberley, so it’s fascinating to hear his detailed observations of what we see.
It takes a while to work out what’s different about this place, then you realise it’s the stillness, the tranquillity, a feeling of timelessness. The light is also quite different, even more so as the sun sets and the sky becomes bathed in a surreal orange glow that has a dream-like quality to it. Am I dreaming? Is this real?
I snap back to reality when Bruce suggests we have a snack and a cool beverage from the esky that he thoughtfully packed in the Land Cruiser. Over the next few days, this magical, bottomless esky will have a habit of appearing at just the right time, luckily for us.
The Food & Family
When we return to the resort, we enjoy an excellent dinner comparable with any fine dining restaurant in Sydney, a bit surprising given the remoteness of this location. The dozen or so people who arrived on our flight are seated together at a long table, a formula which worked well for our 3-day stay as we became more familiar with each other.
Then it’s a short stroll along a sandy path to our twin-share villa, one of only 20. Each villa comprises a large bedroom and balcony with water views. In another unusual twist, the ensuite is open-air, surrounded by a brush fence for privacy, which works really well in such balmy weather and adds to the sense of being close to nature.
There’s not much point coming all this way just to sit by the pool, so over the next few days we have a full agenda of outdoor activities. Our first choice is a bush walk, again with an excellent guide, taking in the sights - towering cliffs, amazing rock formations, Aboriginal rock paintings and topped off with a dip in one of nature’s most spectacular swimming pools.
One of the most exciting aspects to this area is the prevalence of crocodiles, which are such fascinating and formidable creatures, but the flipside is that swimming is therefore mostly off-limits. However, there are numerous croc-free streams and water holes, even in the Dry Season, and for me, these were the absolute highlight of this trip – beautiful beyond words!
The second day was spent mostly on a river cruise, and the third day on a fishing trip – which were a lot of fun and hugely educational, especially about crocodiles, but the freshwater swimming holes and waterfalls still stole the show for me on both these days.
Other guests paid extra to take helicopter scenic tours and raved about the views, but hey I’ve got to leave something for my next visit.
A stay at the Berkeley River Lodge is an indulgence price-wise, but when you consider it includes all meals, beverages, tours, and transfers - all of which are high quality - it represents good value. So if you enjoy outdoor adventuring, but prefer doing it in style with first-class meals and accommodation, and you want to experience a truly unique part of this country, then you definitely need to put Berkeley River Lodge on your bucket list!
Mary River Wilderness Retreat
On our way to Kakadu National Park, we stayed at this great family-oriented eco-tourism property located halfway between Darwin and Kakadu. It offers budget to deluxe accommodation, licensed restaurant, as well as caravan and camping sites, including campers’ kitchen. We stayed in a poolside bungalow which was basic but comfortable - and the pool was great! This is a good central spot to use as a base to fish and explore the Mary River area. We went out in a boat croc-spotting at nearby Corroboree Billabong and saw an amazing number of crocs.
Berkeley River Lodge
Mary River Wilderness Retreat