The Tiwis


Nicknamed the ‘Island of Smiles’ the beautiful Tiwi Islands is famous for its traditional lifestyle, art, fishing, beautiful coastline and love of AFL. The Tiwi Islands comprise of two islands – Bathurst and Melville, which are 80 kilometres north of Darwin and have become a key attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Its diverse coastal landscapes range from tropical rainforest to clay-like cliffs, white-sand beaches, dense jungle and inviting rock pools. The landscape itself takes your breath away and swimming in the clear, shady waterhole at Tomorapi Falls is something truly special.

Tiwi Indigenous Australians have occupied the Tiwi Islands for centuries, with creation stories suggesting they were present at least 7,000 years ago, this ancient history is still alive and flourishing today.

Here are some key island attractions, which we can get you to from Tiwi Island Retreat if you’re interested:

Annual Football and Art Sale

Attracting up to 3,000 spectators this is a cultural and sporting spectacle you have to see to believe! Visit Bathurst Island for this special day and a chance to view and buy Tiwi island artwork before watching the footy grand final.

The art sale begins at 9am and ends at 1pm when the footy starts. You can shop the sale at the Tiwi Design Art Centre with a gallery of additional arts and crafts from Jilamara Arts and Crafts and Munupi Arts and Crafts from Melville Island. This is a day you won’t forget and your cheeks will hurt from so much smiling!

Art and Culture

The Tiwi people are famous for their art, which hangs in galleries around the world. Everywhere you look you will see art decorating schools, on carved burial poles, adorning the altar of the white wooden church and in the islands’ renowned art centres.

Visit an art centre to meet the artists, watch them paint, weave, sculpt and carve and learn the story behind their distinctive pieces. You can purchase artworks directly from the artist at reasonable prices.

Sit down with the ‘morning tea ladies’, a group of Tiwi women elders who serve damper and billy tea. Learn how to weave pandanus and get a feel for what everyday life is like. Then witness dancing and a smoking ceremony and find out the meaning behind these traditional rituals. Click through to our tours and activities page to see the Indigenous art and cultural tours on offer.

Adventure, Tiwi-style

The beachfront accommodation at Tiwi Island Retreat is the best place to stay for adventure and fishing activities. Bluewater, reef and estuary options are all on offer to fish in this pristine environment. Click through to our tours and activities page to see the fishing and helicopter adventures on offer.