What started as an outback resort known as Wrotham Park Station in far north Queensland was bought by Indigenous Business Australia, dismantled, and loaded on 18 triple road trains (each roughly the length of three semi trucks) for the journey 1,740 miles across rain forest and desert to the Northern Territory's Mary River Wetlands, about an hour and a half from Darwin, adjacent to Kakadu National Park. Safari tents from Kenya were added to the modern “Habitats” and restaurant and bar to complete the immersive Australian wilderness retreat. Like the world’s best safari camps, Wildman Wilderness Lodge has a spacious wooden deck with an infinity pool and daybed-style lounge chairs that encircle a fire pit. This is the place to watch the sun set and look for the area’s wallabies, dingoes, water buffalo, wild pigs, native birds, and two resident saltwater crocodiles known as Big Arse and Fat Arse.
The Mary River Wetlands are known for having the highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world, and the lily-studded floodplains are prime habitat for barramundi, which the restaurant often cooks for dinner. Open March through November, the lodge treads lightly on the landscape and is culturally connected to the native Limilngan, Unwynmil, and Wulna people, who have lived in the area for thousands of years.
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Originating about 1,500 years ago, the Mary River Wetlands are floodplains that ebb and flow with the Northern Territory monsoons. They’ve become important habitat for such birds as black-necked storks, white-bellied sea eagles, and kingfishers, and they boast the largest population of saltwater crocodiles in the world. The waterfalls and rock art sites of Kakadu National Park are within a short drive, as are the sacred sites of Arnhem Land, accessible only with an Aboriginal guide. The Bowali Visitor Centre and Warradjin Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Kakadu are worth a stop, and the town of Jabiru offers a bakery, art studios, and helicopter flights back to Wildman Lodge.
Need to Know
Rooms: 15 safari tents and 10 air-conditioned habitats. From $457, including breakfast and dinner. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 10 a.m. Dining options:The Wildman Restaurant offers Australian specialties, sourced from around the country and sometimes right off the property. It doesn’t get any better than having the on-site chef prepare the barramundi that guests catch during their billabong tour, seasoned with indigenous herbs or even lilies, which taste like water chestnuts. The nightly menu might feature grilled kangaroo or marinated crocodile skewers seasoned with lemon and bush spice. Spa and gym details:There is an infinity pool attached to the bar and lounge area as well as several walking and hiking opportunities within the vicinity.
Who's it best for: Travelers who like to explore nature by day and retreat to a sumptuous bed at night. Our favorite rooms: The air-conditioned Habitats are recommended for earlier and later in the season when it’s more humid. They have sliding-glass doors that open to wooden decks, and showers with views of the wetlands. The Safari Tents are less structured but more modern on the inside. Each has polished wood floors and a minimalist blond-wood headboard, and is equipped with reading lights. Tents also have wooden decks for taking in the views. Good to know:The lodge is quietest in March when the billabongs are still receding after the monsoon floods. The wetlands are spectacular in this muggy period when guests are few. This is also a great time for barramundi fishing and riding on a fan-propelled air boat, which only run during the first few months of the season. Heli-fishing is another not-to-miss opportunity offered all season long.