Bathurst Island Australia

The Tiwi Islands – Bathurst and Melville Islands

Located 100 kilometres north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands known also as the islands of smiles where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. The Tiwi Islands comprise of Melville Island (Australia’s second largest island after Tasmania), Bathurst, and nine smaller uninhabited islands: Matingalia, Harris, Seagull, Nodlaw , Irritutu, Clift, Turiturina, Buchanan and Karslake.

The Tiwi Islands – Bathurst and Melville Islands

Bathurst Island Australia

The Tiwi Islands can only be visited on a pre-arranged tour with an Aboriginal guide and you will need a permit to visit. In this truly unique and remote part of Australia you’ll experience the cultural differences between the Polynesian-influenced Tiwi people and the indigenous people of Arnhem Land just across the water. Most of the Tiwi Islands population live in the settlements of Wurrumiyanga; Pirlangimpi (Garden Point) and Milikapiti (Snake Bay) on Melville Island.

The Tiwi Islands have few tourist facilities. There is no car hire and very few places to stay with the exception of a couple of remote fishing lodges. The Tiwi Islands are renowned for their excellent fishing. You can stay at one of the fishing lodges or join a deep-sea fishing expedition.

Take the opportunity to buy unique Tiwi Island arts and crafts which include batik and silk-screened clothing, woven bangles, painted shells, wood carvings and pottery of high quality. Many of the wood carvings by the Tiwi people depict birds from Tiwi mythology, which have sacred meanings. Some excellent examples are displayed in the Mission Heritage Gallery on Bathurst Island. At Tiwi Designs art centre local artists create, showcase and sell their works.

One of the Tiwi Islands most famous crafts are ‘pukamanis’, which are richly decorated burial poles that tower up to three metres high. Burial sites marked with pukamani poles are dotted across the islands, adding splashes of colour to the landscape. At the Patakijiyali Museum in Wurrumiyanga you can learn about the history of the Tiwi Islands and its people.

The Tiwi people describe three distinct seasons in the islands. The wet season from November to April brings storms and the highest rainfall in the Northern Territory.

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