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Across the Top End 22
In agriculture, the north of Australia is hot in more ways than one

21 Aug - 5 Sep 2022


Agriculture in Australia’s north is booming. New developments in dryland and irrigated cotton and other crops; large horticulture developments finding ready markets in Asia and, of course, the beef success story of recent years.  And there is no more beautiful place on earth.

Agricultural highlights include:

  • The Atherton Tableland, one of the most varied, beautiful and successful agricultural regions in Australia;
  • Pioneering cotton farms around Mount Garnet;
  • Northern Territory farmers who are getting great results growing cotton. We should arrive at or just before picking and get an update the on plans for a cotton gin in the area;
  • Near the WA border, we will visit big cattle stations with a long history of Kimberley development; and,

A full day of visits in the Ord irrigation area.
There will be plenty of opportunity to sample the best scenery, landscapes and activities the north has to offer. For instance:

  • Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land and the magnificent Banubanu Island Retreat (https://www.banubanu.com);
  • The best of Kakadu;
  • Lake Argyle and cruising down the Ord;
  • Air tour of the north Kimberley coast;
  • The magical gorges and waterfalls of the Kimberley; and,
  • Cable Beach and Broome.

Exciting add-on to Cockatoo Island and the Kimberley coast

At the end of the tour there is an option to spend the next 3 days exploring the spectacular Buccaneer Archipelago, based on Cockatoo island and including the Horizontal Waterfalls, Silica Beach, Croc Creek and more.

Because group members will be arriving from all parts of the country, the tour is priced out of Cairns. Airfares (or other means of travel) to Cairns and out of Broome are additional. We are happy to help arrange these.

$8950.00 per person twin share
Single supplement $1800.00

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View or Print Itinerary

Day 1

Sunday 21 Aug

Arrive in Cairns, the gateway to northern Australia. Transfer to the hotel before a get together with drinks and nibbles as the sun goes down.
Of course, there’s always the option to arrive early and spent some time at Port Douglas, on the reef or in the Daintree. There are plenty of options.

Pullman Cairns International
17 Abbott Street Cairns 0740 311300 view website

Day 2

Monday 22 Aug

We leave Cairns and climb up to the Atherton Tableland along the famous Gillies Highway with a brief stop at one of a chain of beautiful crystal clear crater lakes once we reach the top. Then it’s time for a cuppa as we visit the Nerada tea plantation, the biggest in Australia. We’ll have a tour of the tea plantation and the factory which supplies all of the Nerada tea in Australia, then a well earned Devonshire tea.
At nearby Malanda, we’ll have lunch at the biggest timber pub in Australia, built in 1911 where we will meet up with local farmer Dougal Millar before we tour his plantation of 5000 avocado trees.
Later in the afternoon, we’ll continue through to the Undara Volcanic Park where we will have a guided tour of some of the most impressive larva tubes in the world.

Day 3

Tuesday 23 Aug

We take a short drive to the property St Ronan which is being developed by Gwydir Valley based Sundown Pastoral Company as a cattle and cropping operation with an emphasis on pioneering cotton production in the region.
It will be lunchtime when we leave and luckily, just up the road is Pinnarendi Station Stay & Cafe whose homemade sourdough pizzas and other delicacies are renowned across the north, and they boast of having the best coffee anywhere. We shall see.
In the afternoon, we will continue through to Atherton with maybe a farm visit on the way. This evening we get the chance to sample that icon of Australian country town culinary excellence – the Chinese feed. Gluten free options available.

Day 4

Wednesday 24 Aug

In the morning we will catch up again with Dougal Millar who will show us around for the day. The first visit will be with Laurie Masasso who farms a variety of crops and also runs a packing shed operation for other clients including Dougal. Laurie will give a great insight into the operation of the supply chain from north Queensland farms to southern supermarkets. The range of crops grown on the Atherton Tablelands is truly amazing.
There are 39 large agricultural industries on the Tablelands including sugarcane, bananas, avocados, dairy and beef cattle, mangos, potatoes, citrus and papaya, with cotton emerging as a potential new crop.
On the way to Mareeba, we’ll visit a client of local farm supply company Nutrien. Thisfarmer has built a major farming operation from nothing to become one of the biggest pawpaw suppliers in the country.
We will have lunch at Kuranda where we will take the world famous Kuranda Skyrail, over the tropical rainforest with spectacular views of the Barron River and a different perspective of the lush jungle, as we wend our way back to Cairns. Free evening to sample some of the classic Cairns restaurants.

Pullman Cairns International

Day 5

Thursday 25 Aug

A leisurely start before we head to the airport for a flight across the peninsula and the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove (Nhulunbuy) in north east Arnhem Land. Nhulunbuy is the home of a large bauxite mine but is also the traditional homeland of the Yolgnu people who are especially renowned for their art and music. It is often acknowledged as the birthplace of the didgeridoo and the group Yothu Yindi.
When we land at Gove, we will split into two teams because our island retreat is so exclusive, it can only take 12 at a time.
Team A will go into town and take a boat offshore (15 minutes) to the remote Banubanu wilderness retreat.
Team B will travel to the world famous Yirrkala Art Centre before some touring around this amazing part of the world and then dinner overlooking the Arafura Sea.

Day 6

Friday 26 Aug

Time to swap around today.
Team B: Anyone who has opted for a half day of fishing will have an early departure to the Nhulunbuy boat ramp (6.30am) and be dropped off at the island in time for lunch with the whole group. Those not going fishing will have a more leisurely transfer to the island (8.30 departure) along with Team B’s luggage.
Team A: Relax in the morning, then lunch with Team B before departing back to the mainland (3.30pm arrival) and transfer to the Walkabout Lodge.

Day 7

Saturday 27 Aug

Team A: will have a morning exploring Nhulunbuy then travel to the Yirrkala Art Centre with a picnic lunch before transferring to the airport for the flight to Darwin.
Team B: can relax on the island for a little longer, before transfer back to the mainland at around midday and then to the airport with a packed lunch to eat on the way.
If, by some miracle, all these arrangements work, we will all join up again at the airport for the flight to Darwin.
We will have time to settle in at our hotel on the revamped Darwin Waterfront before we head to the Darwin Sailing Club for a spectacular tropical Darwin sunset over the water and dinner.

Day 8

Sunday 28 Aug

We’ll organise a morning tour to the agricultural precinct of Humpty Doo with lunch at the famous Humpty Doo Hotel.
Alternatively, you can opt for alternatives such as Kakadu tours, crocodile jumping tours on the Adelaide River or beautiful Litchfield National Park.
Free evening, and our hotel is located near to a swag of good restaurants. The famous Mindil Beach markets are also open for anyone who has any energy left, although Sunday is not the best market night.

Adina Apartment Hotel

Day 9

Monday 29 Aug

Time to look at some more farms. We will make an early start to visit famous Tipperary Station and look at their cattle and cropping operations including their recent foray into cotton production.
After our packed lunch under the shade of a suitable tree, we will visit and talk to other pioneering cotton growers in the region and visit the new gin in the area.

Day 10

Tuesday 30 Aug

8am departure for the morning cruise on the Katherine Gorge then a farm visit near Katherine before we head west and watch the country change into a Kimberley landscape and then enjoy some real country hospitality at Timber Creek. The area has some amazing history and nearby is the Victoria River, one of the most beautiful in Australia.

Day 11

Wednesday 31 Aug

We will visit the massive Auvergne cattle station near the Western Australian border. Auvergne covers over 414,000 hectares and along with the associated Newry and Argyle Downs Stations, can carry about 50,000 head of cattle. Several watercourses run through the property including the Bullo River, Baines River, East Baines River, Blackfellow Creek and Snake Creek with the Victoria River forming the northern boundary.
Auvergne was established in 1886 and has a colourful history. One of the first station managers was shot dead in 1892 during a game of cards and the perpetrator was the first person legally executed in the Northern Territory.
We’ll spend the morning at Auvergne and after another packed lunch under a shady tree, we will cross the Western Australian border (turning clocks back 90 minutes) and continue to the massive Lake Argyle to get a panoramic view of the lake and maybe a visit to the Durack Homestead museum which was dismantled and rebuilt stone by stone as the lake waters rose, before an afternoon cruise down the Ord River to Kununurra.

Day 12

Thursday 1 Sep

The East Kimberley is not only home to Lake Argyle and the Ord Irrigation Area, it is a base to explore arguably the best scenic areas of the Kimberley.
This morning we will visit some of the highlights of the Ord such as Ivanhoe Crossing and a visit to the Research Station which has been the focus of much of the agricultural development.
NOTE: An alternative this morning would be to take a flight to the Bungle Bungles.
After lunch, we’ll board our charter flights for a two hour aerial tour which gives a birds-eye overview of the irrigation area, Lake Argyle and the diversion dam, the Lower Ord and Wyndham with the late afternoon sun giving an unforgettable panorama of the Cockburn Ranges.

Hotel Kununurra

Day 13

Friday 2 Sep

Full day of farm visits in the Ord, including the latest Stage 2 area. We will discuss cropping opportunities with a range of local farmers and other experts.
We’ll talk with Kimberley Agricultural Industries, the developers of Ord Stage 2, visit a Sandalwood plantation and catch up with farmers growing crops such as hay, corn, cotton, rockmelons, honeydews, pumpkins, chickpeas, Borlottis – just about anything.
A highlight (for some) will be lunch at The Hoochery, a rum distillery developed by local farming legend Spike Dessert who passed away 4 years ago. The award winning distillery is the ultimate in farm diversification and is still operated by Spike’s family.

Hotel Kununurra

Day 14

Saturday 3 Sep

We fly to Broome this morning. After a quick lunch at an iconic Broome eating spot, we take a tour of this historic town including the wharf, the Japanese cemetery and Gantheaume Point.
Later we will freshen up at our hotel before dinner at Zanders restaurant which has the best possible view of the sunset over Cable Beach.

Day 15

Sunday 4 Sep

This morning, we head north of town to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm nestled on a tropical inlet of the Indian Ocean. You will learn about the collection and spawning of oysters in the purpose-built hatchery, appreciate the delicate operations of seeding and harvesting oysters and understand the value of pearls and the creation of stunning jewellery.
A highlight of the tour will be cruising Willie Creek’s calm azure waters and view live oysters suspended in their natural environment.
After lunch, we will head back to Broome with options such as the Pearl Luggers tour, a visit to the dinosaur footprints or just some shopping for a wonderful Kimberley Pearl. Dinner at the Mangrove Hotel, overlooking beautiful Roebuck Bay.

Unfortunately, the proposed add-on to Cockatoo Island will not be possible, due to some complicated local and cultural politics.
Instead, we are suggesting a full day tour to Cygnet Bay and the Horizontal Waterfalls (https://horizontalfallsadventures.com.au/tour/broome-full-day-tour/).
This will be the last day this tour is possible before the neap tides. It will be an early start to drive up Dampier Peninsula with a visit to the Beagle Bay Shell Church (if it is open) on the way to Cygnet Bay for a fascinating tour of Australia’s oldest pearl farm. Then enjoy a low-level sea plane scenic flight across the Buccaneer Archipelago with a spectacular landing in the calm waters of Talbot Bay, right next to the Horizontal waterfalls.
The experienced skipper will guide the 900hp fast boat through the incredible Horizontal Falls where steep cliffs meet powerful tides and nature defies logic. Relax and enjoy the tranquillity as you cruise untouched bays and creeks nearby and cool off in the clear warm waters of the Indian Ocean in the safety of the marine viewing enclosure before another spectacular takeoff and flight back to Broome.

The Mangrove Hotel

Day 16

Monday 5 Sep

Depending on your departure flight times, you may be able to fit in the Pearl Luggers tour or just explore the streets of Broome and possibly invest in a Kimberley pearl. Alternatively, you could stay on for an extra day or two.
It is a hard place to leave and you will always want to go back.