Mixing sport and culture on the Tiwi Islands

Players entering the field at the Tiwi Islands Football Grand Final
Players entering the field at the Tiwi Islands Football Grand Final

Looking for an Australian adventure holiday with a difference? Just 100km north of Darwin lie the unspoilt Tiwi Islands, ready to welcome you.

Known as ‘the islands of smiles’ for their welcoming people, the Tiwi Islands are part of the Northern Territory and are easily accessed by a 30-minute daily flight or thrice-weekly ferry from Darwin.

With a year-round tropical temperature, visitors are welcome in all seasons, however the cultural and sporting highlight of the year takes place this year on March 17, with the Tiwi Islands Football Grand Final and Annual Art Sale. This annual extravaganza combines the Islanders’ two loves – AFL, and art and design. This year marks 50 years since the Tiwi Islands Football League competition kicked off, so the event is promising to be a cracker.

The Tiwi Islands have a long and proud history of making art, with several local artists achieving international fame, including Kitty Kantilla. During the morning, take a leisurely stroll and peruse the art for sale at the three local art centres Tiwi Design, Munupi Arts & Crafts, and Jilamara Arts and Craft. Here you’ll find paintings, screen prints, wood carvings, jewellery, sculpture and pottery to take home with you. Birds play a crucial role in Tiwi mythology and wooden bird carvings proliferate on the Islands – some of the best can be seen at the Mission Heritage Gallery on Bathurst Island.

Players entering the field at the Tiwi Islands Football Grand Final

In the afternoon, get your sporting fix and join the island’s 3,000 inhabitants to watch the best two teams compete for the winner’s crown in the grand final of the Tiwi Islands Football League. With more than a third of the islands’ dwellers playing football, it’s the highest participation rate in Australia. In fact, several local Tiwi players have gone on to play in the AFL, including Norm Smith Medallists, Cyril Rioli and Michael Long.

If you’re after more than a day trip, stay a night or two to explore the island’s abundance of birds and animals not found anywhere else in the world.

So what are you waiting for? For more information about your next trip to the Tiwi Islands, click here.


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