The best Northern Territory glamping experiences for getting back to nature include everything from Bamurru Plains’ safari-style bungalows on lush floodplains with grazing wallabies and buffalo to the luxurious Longitude 131º tented pavilions with their views over red sand dunes and scrubby desert to majestic Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
While travellers on African safaris and hunting expeditions have stayed in tents decked out in rattan furniture, four poster beds and Persian carpets for well over a century, the term glamping, a portmanteau of ‘glamorous camping’, was only coined in 2005, although it took a couple of years before the glamping trend really took off.
Considered a passing fad by many at the time, glamping hasn’t gone away. In fact, glamping has flourished and looks set to boom post-pandemic. Why? Because there are few things as restorative as spending time in nature, yet not everyone wants to pitch their own tent. After spending much of 2020 staying at home, air-conditioned hotel rooms have lost their appeal for many aspiring travellers.
Glamping accommodation, on the other hand, which offers comfort and luxury in the great outdoors, has never been more alluring than it has right now for so many of us who have been cooped up inside for much of the year. We all need that lift that getting back to nature can provide.
At their simplest, glamping lodgings could be as modest as an unadorned safari-style tent with a proper bed, table and deck chairs, and basic bathroom in a national park. At their most luxurious, that ‘tent’ might be a mini-villa with a canopied roof, decked out in antiques and bric-a-brac, with a writing desk, vintage suitcases strewn about, art and photography on the walls, and a private plunge pool or claw-foot bath on the balcony.
But great glamping is about more than the accommodation, it’s about the whole glamping experience and a little barefoot luxury in the outback – like being welcomed with fragrant face towels and a refreshing drink after a dusty drive, enjoying afternoon tea on an air-boat on a crocodile-filled river, or sipping sparkling wine and nibbling on canapés as you watch the sun set go down before sitting down to a gastronomic degustation menu in the swanky lodge.
Over coming weeks, we’ll be compiling guides to the best glamping experiences in Australia and Asia, beginning with some of our favourite Australian destinations, the Top End and Red Centre. These are our picks of the best Northern Territory glamping experiences for getting back to nature.
Best Northern Territory Glamping Experiences for Getting Back to Nature
Bamurru Plains – Mary River Floodplains, Top End
Panoramic views from your bed of wildlife on the wetlands, and a soundtrack to send you to sleep of wallabies and buffalo grazing on their supper outside your safari tent, make Bamurru Plains one of the best Northern Territory glamping experiences for getting back to nature. Expect to gaze at gobsmacking landscapes – lush mangroves, monsoonal melaleuca forests, savannah woodlands, and serene billabongs dotted with water lillies – and get up at dawn for nature-based activities: exhilarating airboat rides, wildlife safaris, sunset drives, and bush walks for some of the best birdwatching in Australia.
Not long after arriving at Bamurru Plains, a working buffalo station a three-hour drive from Darwin, we were bouncing through the bush in the back of a 4WD on a wildlife-spotting safari (we saw crocodiles, wild boars, brumbies, and dingoes) and downing icy beers as we savoured the golden late-afternoon light from the vehicle on a track that turned out to be the flood wall between the lodgings and floodplain. Airboats dock in the same spot during rainy season when the plain transforms into a lake. Soon after, we were sipping Aussie wines and nibbling on canapés of native ingredients by the fire-pit on the timber deck beside the infinity swimming pool. (Everything is included in the price.)
Guided by environmentally sustainable principles, solar-powered Bamurru Plains is as about as eco-friendly as luxury glamping lodgings get. There’s no air conditioning in the bungalows, which boast a quirky sense of outback style, but there are ceiling fans and breezes through the floor-to-ceiling shade-cloth ‘windows’. The ‘bedspreads’ are made from the brown weather-beaten leather of drovers’ swags. There are also big bathrooms with corrugated iron walls, tree trunks for soap holders, and fragrant natural soaps. And thoughtful extras such as binoculars, insect repellent, lanterns, and bedside reading material.
Getting to Bamurru Plains from Darwin, whether by rental car or a 30-minute charter flight to Swim Creek Station airfield, marks the start of a Top End adventure you’ll treasure. While Bamurru feels remote, that sense of isolation is part of the appeal. The advantage of self-driving is that you can stop off on your drive from Darwin to Kakadu National Park at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, enjoy your stay at Bamurru, then explore Kakadu National Park before looping up to Litchfield National Park on your return, or heading south to Katherine, Alice Springs and Uluru.
Book Bamurru Plains with our partner booking.com
Wildman Wilderness Lodge – Mary River Wetlands, Top End
Located on the lush Mary River Wetlands, off Point Stuart Road (the same road you take if you’re driving to Bamurru Plains), Wildman Wilderness Lodge is a couple of hours’ drive southeast of Darwin. While it may not be as far-flung as Bamurru Plains further north – indeed it’s situated close to some of the area’s most popular fishing spots – it still has that sense of isolation you want, and it’s another one of the best Northern Territory glamping experiences for getting back to nature.
Wildman Wilderness Lodge offers two types of accommodation. The glamping option includes spacious fan-cooled safari tents, while there are also air-conditioned freestanding ‘habitats’ (i.e. fancy cabins), constructed with recycled materials from deconstructed buildings from Wrotham Park Station in Central Far North Queensland, which were transported all the way to Mary River by road train. Both the safari tents and ‘habitats’ boast king size beds with luxurious bedding, quality furnishings, and private bathrooms.
Unlike Bamurru Plains’ luxury tents, which have a distinctly outback sense of style, the luxury tents and ‘habitats’ at Wildman Wilderness Lodge have a modern look and feel, including hardwood floors and contemporary timber furniture. What also distinguishes Wildman Wilderness Lodge from Bamurru Plains is its inclusivity. Bamurru feels very exclusive thanks to its remote location, hefty price, and that it’s adults-only, making it the best option for a honeymoon or anniversary. By contrast, Wildman caters for everyone, with five tents configured for families of four.
A brilliant example of how to recycle building materials, Wildman Wilderness Lodge (as with Bamurru Plains) also takes pride in its minimal-impact environmental credentials, from its use of solar power to its water treatment. Tours are also environmentally sensitive and guides wherever possible come from the local indigenous communities. There are a variety of scheduled tours and activities that guests can do, including wildlife drives, mountain bike rides, a boat cruise to Mary River Rockhole, and airboat wetlands safaris. An abundant of wildlife can be seen on most tours, including crocodiles, buffaloes, and birdlife, including magpie geese, jabirus, and gallahs.
Book Wildman Wilderness Lodge with our partner booking.com
Longitude 131° – Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, Red Centre
Set amongst the rust-red dunes overlooking the magnificent ochre rock that is Uluru, the spiritual heart of Central Australia, and striking Kata Tjuta, the luxurious Longitude 131°, pictured above, is another of the best Northern Territory glamping experiences. These elevated luxury pavilions with canopy-style roofs are some of the most sleek and stylish around.
The light-filled suites, beautifully decorated with walls featuring wonderful indigenous art, boast floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping views of the spectacular desert landscape and monumental Uluru and magical Kata Tjuta. The gorgeous glamping suites are kitted out with every state-of-the-art mod-con and amenity imaginable, from fantastic sound systems to fab coffee makers and complimentary in-suite mini-bars, and beaut day-packs, bathrobes, and slippers.
Outside are timber decks with plunge pools and day-night beds, where you can snuggle up under a traditional swag to sleep under the stars if you really want to get back to nature and ‘rough it’ a little at one of Australia’s most luxurious glamping lodgings.
Inspired by a traditional Aussie outback homestead, The Dune House has a spacious guest lounge, restaurant and bar where you can sip cocktails and sample superb Aussie wines, before sitting down to a sumptuous dinner made from Australian produce including native ingredients.
Bookings can only be made online at www.longitude131.com.au
More of the Best Northern Territory Glamping Experiences
These glamping lodgings may not be as luxurious as our top Northern Territory glamping picks, above, but they are still very comfortable, much more affordable, and offer nature-based activities and tours.
Banubanu Beach Retreat – Bremer Island, East Arnhem Land
The breezy safari tents, called ‘beachfront bungalows’, at Banubanu Beach Retreat on the northernmost point of Bremer Island overlook a stunning crescent of sandy beach and the pristine azure waters of the Gove Peninsula on the east coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Located within the Aboriginal-owned East Arnhem Land, you’d need permits to do the epic 1,018-kilometre or 11-hour drive here from Darwin, making the flight with Air North to Gove Airport at the town of Nhulunbuy much more practical. From there, it’s a 15-minute flight to the island. Book one of the safari tents closest to the beach so you can fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping against the shore or the stylish elevated Penthouse Bungalow, which has a large wooden deck and wonderful views out to the Arafura Sea. There’s a fine seafood restaurant, small swimming pool, and plenty of activities, including cultural experiences with the local Yolngu people, fishing charters, scenic flights, bush walking, birdwatching, and the chance to get involved in some beach conservation. Or you could borrow a book from the library and retreat to the nearest hammock.
Book Banubanu Beach Retreat with our partner booking.com
Mary River Wilderness Retreat – Mary River Crossing, Top End
It may not be as special, but Mary River Wilderness Retreat is much more accessible and also more affordable than Banubanu, Wildman Wilderness Retreat and Bamurru Plains. Located at Mary River Crossing, just off the Arnhem Highway, and only 75 kilometres from the Stuart Highway, it’s not far from some of the area’s most popular barramundi fishing spots, including Mary River itself, as well as Hardies Lagoon and Shady Camp. The Retreat has boats for hire and while you don’t need a licence note that these are crocodile-filled waters, so you’ll need to be confident and ‘croc-wise’. There are also nature buggies for rent, along with meandering bush walking and cycling tracks through bamboo forest and remnant monsoon rainforest, where you’re sure to spot wallabies and bird life. Along with comfortable safari tents that are furnished with a sofa, table and chairs, a refrigerator, and ensuite bathroom, there’s an array of accommodation to suit every budget, from camping and caravan sites to various kinds of bungalows and cabins, along with two swimming pools, and a restaurant.
Book Mary River Wilderness Retreat with our partner booking.com
Do let us know if you stay in one of the best Northern Territory glamping experiences for getting back to nature that we’ve recommended. We’d love to hear about your stay.