Travel the Top End
WellBeing|WellBeing #196
Immerse yourself in the eerie colonial ruins of Victoria Settlement and experience the rugged tropical landscape of Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, fringed with white beaches and teeming with all manner of birds, fish, crocodiles and unique Aussie wildlife.
CATHERINE LAWSON

Back in 1838 when the British Government boldly built the Victoria Settlement, they had no idea that isolation, malaria, cyclones and sunken supply ships would bury a quarter of its pioneers on this utterly faraway Top End coastline. The settlement’s survivors lasted just 11 years before weighing anchor and fleeing their nightmare existence, and today the Victoria Settlement crumbles atop lofty limestone cliffs, shaded by moptop cabbage palms and paperbarks.

With a rich mangrove river on one side and lovely white sand beaches on the other, this idyllic spot that the Madjunbalmi people called Murrumurrdmulya overlooks the calmest of Port Essington’s bright, blue bays. Today it looks like a kind of paradise, but life in 1838 — without regular supplies of food, medicine and bug spray — was extremely challenging and survival precarious. In the first year of settlement, a cyclone claimed 10 lives and levelled all buildings. Gardening efforts failed, supply ships arrived weeks and months too late, malaria was rife and few children survived. In all, a quarter of the population lies buried in the cemetery.

The Madjunbalmi people most certainly supplemented the pioneers’ diet with their bush tucker, receiving clothes and tobacco in exchange, but they paid for it with their lives when malaria broke out, perishing in similar numbers alongside the settlers who occupied their lands. Today, they are survived by traditional clans of the Iwaidja-speaking people who jointly manage Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, which protects the ruins and much more.

To call this destination remote would be a vast understatement. Its location, a rugged seven-hour drive east of Darwin, guarantees that only the truly determined discover its magnificence. Moreover, visitor numbers are limited to 20 vehicles at a time to preserve both the pristine coastal landscapes and its serenity.

The national park is enormous — over 4500 square kilometres — but the vast majority of it is either off limits to visitors or inaccessible without your own boat. If you have the chance, tow a boat here, or join an indulgent, fully guided tour to really see Garig Gunak Barlu at its best.

Remote and pristine, it’s worth the effort to find yourself this far away

Mud crab it ain’t, but we give the long bums a try anyway

Living remote and loving it, Robbie and Dani Risk are raising a family in their kind of paradise

The Victoria Settlement crumbles atop lofty limestone cliffs

To call this destination remote would be a vast understatement. Its location, a rugged seven-hour drive east of Darwin, guarantees that only the truly determined discover its magnificence.

Reaching Victoria ruins We arrive under our own steam after a four-day sail from Darwin, and push a further 14 nautical miles deep into Port Essington’s gaping blue cove. There’s no one else on the water and the Victoria Settlement ruins are deserted too, bar the enormous buffalo we spook grazing in the grasslands which takes off at a sprint, grunting and snorting.

Our easy circuit trail loops lazily past the chiselled stone of Victoria’s tiny homes, hospital, stores and kilns, and we spot middens from the traditional Madjunbalmi people too. The walking distance is small — just 3.7km — but we manage to spend three hours poking about, unearthing porcelain and glass fragments, and reading tragic cemetery headstones before returning to watch the sun set over towering limestone cliffs at Adam Head.

Here, an old tamarind tree flourishes by the beach, left by Macassan traders from Indonesian Sulawesi who arrived a hundred years before the British. They came to harvest sea cucumbers and left behind the wild cattle known as banteng that now overwhelm the national park.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM WELLBEINGView All

The Comfort Bake

recipes - THE COMFORT BAKE

5 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

Where the wild things are

From Sulphur Creek to Narawntapu National Park and everywhere wild in between, we discover the richness of life scattered across Tasmania's rugged coastline.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

The negativity trident

There is a prevailing feeling that things are just getting worse and worse, but then humans have always tended to feel that, even when things are getting much better. So why do we tend to think the sky is falling, and what can you do about it?

7 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

You can beat autoimmune disease

Autoimmune disease tends to be viewed as a life sentence without a cure. However, as many have proved, you can recover and go on to thrive. In this comprehensive report we examine the causes of autoimmune disease and how it can be overcome.

10+ mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

Yoga for happy hormones

Are your hormones happy? Do you get up in the morning boosting with energy and vitality or feeling somewhat "meh"? Discover how yoga can balance your hormonal system.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

Natalie Kyriacou Inspiring curiosity

When Natalie Kyriacou first entered the business world, she was frequently dismissed working in the environmental sector was commonly viewed as "fluff" work. Now a multi-award-winning founder and CEO, she is determined to help educate and empower young people about wildlife conservation.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

Create a future-proofed home

Learn how to future-proof your home to survive years of use and shift with your changing life stages and needs.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

It wasn't me

From seemingly innocent white lies to fibs embellished with wild abandon, both kids and adults alike tell lies. For our children, lying is a natural part of development. Here, discover how to look beyond the lie and encourage truth-telling.

9 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

Debunking beauty myths

The beauty sphere is riddled with myths and misinformation, especially when it comes to the clean beauty movement. We dive into the murky waters of what makes a product "clean" with the help of cosmetic chemist Michelle Wong to debunk and demystify the ever-evolving world of skincare.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198

All about breadcrumbing

Breadcrumbing is on the rise in the domains of dating, friendship and careers. We speak to relationship coach Katie O'Donoghue on what it is, why it happens and how to stop following deceptive crumb trails.

6 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #198
RELATED STORIES

It's Only My Opinion

Daytime's most outspoken columnist!

4 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
May 16, 2022

Locke'd Out, YOUNG AND RESTLESS

When hen Ashland signed Victor's agreement relinquishing his claim on Newman/Locke, plus annulling his marriage to Victoria, for a $500 million payoff, the fuse was lit on a storyline powder keg packed with nearly a year of lies, deceit and manipulations and the resulting explosion was bombastic.

4 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
May 16, 2022

At Patti Ann's, the Kids' Menu Is the Only Menu

Pigs in a blanket and chicken-fried pork chops just like Mom never used to make.

5 mins read
New York magazine
May 23 - June 05, 2022

Young and restless

BACK TO LIFE - Diane advises Phyllis to mind her own business but Phyllis refuses.... Jack tells Nikki that Diane is alive. Nikki pays Diane a visit and warns Ms. Jenkins that she won't find the redemption she's seeking in Genoa City.... Jack welcomes Kyle and Harrison home.... Jack gently informs Kyle that his mother is alive. A rattled Kyle struggles to process it.... Kyle admits to Traci that he's unsure of how to proceed with the mom who let him think she was dead for all of these years.... Phyllis fills in Amanda about Diane. Later, Phyllis berates Diane for leaving her suite and roaming around town.

2 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
May 09, 2022

Hot Plots Preview!

What will Happen

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
May 09, 2022

Y&R: IS VICTORIA HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT ASHLAND?

late-breaking news

1 min read
Soap Opera Digest
April 18, 2022

Y&R'S ASHLAND TO VICTORIA: I NEVER HAD CANCER

After convincing Ashland that she is ready to leave Genoa City with him for good in order to distance themselves from her family's interference, Victoria lowers the boom and reveals she has no intention of going anywhere with him.

2 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
April 25, 2022

young and restless

FULL FORCE - Chelsea becomes emotional when Rey reassures her that she’s a good mother, despite the challenges she’s going through with Connor.... Chance experiences more flashbacks to the explosion in Spain, which he recounts to Dr. Huffman.... Chance informs Abby that his shrink is encouraging him to return to work at the GCPD. After a heart-to-heart, Abby supports his decision.... Abby shares with Ashley that Chance may return to work, while Chance convinces Rey that he’s ready to come back to the force. They agree to speak to Paul about it.

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
April 11, 2022

Thumbs up! and down!

Best Of Show Oi Worse For Wear? Digest Decides.

4 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
April 04, 2022

Quick Take with Sean Dominic (Nate, Y&R)

Devon's a billionaire so Nate could always borrow money from his cousin - Sean Dominic

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
March 28, 2022