Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review. This month, I publish an Australia special, with the following hotel reviews: Park Hyatt Sydney (Sydney), Longitude 131° (Uluru), One&Only Hayman Island (Great Barrier Reef), and Cicada Lodge (Katherine Gorge).
Today (December 24, 2014): Hotel review: Cicada Lodge (Northern Territory, Australia).
Located some 300 kms south of Darwin and 32 kms from Katherine town centre, Cicada Lodge is situated in the heart of the Nitmiluk National Park, on the riverfront of the picturesque Katherine River. Cicada Lodge is privately and wholly owned by the entrepreneurial Jawoyn people. The lodge is within walking distance of Nitmiluk National Park’s visitors centre, Katherine Gorge’s boat departure point, and several hiking tracks. Easy access to a helipad is just a few minutes drive away.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip and slide show):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS WE LIKE
- Cicada Lodge enjoys an excellent location for those wishing to visit the Nitmiluk National Park, home to Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. The latter is one of Australia’s scenic highlights and comprises a system of 13 immense gorges carved over the millenia by the Katherine River through the ancient stone country of the region. More than a location of beautiful landscapes, the gorges also hold great cultural value for the Jawoyn people. For these traditional owners, Nitmiluk refers to a cicada dreaming place, the place where the spirits of creation abide.
- The lodge is also a perfect stop-over place for those traveling by car from the Red Center (Ayers Rock and/or Alice spring) to the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory (Darwin or Kakadu National Park, both a half day drive away).
- You can access all of the activities around the Nitmiluk Gorge (hikes, canoeing etc) by foot and without having to get in your car.
- The modern boutique design of the hotel blends in beautifully with the surrounding bush and landscape.
- Cicada Loge has a total of 18 well-appointed and sensibly designed rooms, configured as either double (1 x king bed) or twin share (1 x zip king). All rooms have nice wood floors, are air-conditioned, come with private balconies, and feature indigenous artwork from local artists – the rich colours blending with and complimenting the more modern design and fittings.
- WiFi is complimentary throughout the lodge.
- The lodge has a small pool to cool off in the heat of the summer days.
- The food – both breakfast and dinner – is superb and beautifully presented.
- There is a lot of wildlife around the lodge and in the gorge. Colonies of flying foxes are commonly seen as are freshwater crocodiles, turtles and water monitors. Bushwalkers are almost certain to encounter wallabies and antilopine wallaroos, as well as the occasional dingo.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The lodge has the ambiance of small, modern, intimate boutique hotel, and is highly recommended when you visit this part of Australia. Nevertheless, there are some things you need to know when considering a stay here:
- It feels more like an excellent 4 star boutique hotel than an exclusive 5-star lodge, so adjust your expectations.
- While the hotel is definitely enjoyable, it has no real wow factor nor is it one of Australia’s best luxury hotels & resorts. As such, I do not recommend it as destination hotel that should be on your bucket list, but rather as the place-to-stay when you want to visit the Katherine Gorge and/or when you are traveling by car from the Red Centre to the Top End.
- The lodge has no lobby. The dining room is the only common indoor space.
- The pool is small with a limited number of only 6 sun loungers (I don’t know what happens if the place is full).
- Lunch has to be booked in advance, otherwise you will not be able to have food between breakfast and dinner (at least, this was the case during my stay, in low season). That was a huge disappointment, given the excellent cuisine of the lodge and the lack of other restaurants in the area.
- Dinners feature a set menu, so dining options are limited.
- Bathrooms only feature a shower, not a bathtub.
- This is by no means a cheap place to stay. Dinners will cost you 80 AUD per person. While the lodge has reasonable rates during the wet, low season, the rates during the dry, high season are insanely expensive and within the same range of room rates at Australia’s most luxurious hotels & resorts.
- There is no view of the gorge from the lodge nor from its rooms.
- You can only swim in the gorge during the dry season once Parks & Wildlife have declared it free of saltwater crocodiles and safe to swim.
- Location: 7/10
- Design: 7/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,6/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Book a package inclusive of food as there are no other dining venues in the areas.
- Book a package inclusive of a Katherine Gorge boat trip, as it will cost you more to book it separately.
- Don’t go in high season as the room rates are too expensive for what you get.
- Save money: Read my tips for getting the best deal at a boutique hotel like Cicada Lodge. Book a room at the cheapest price and/or receive many free perks.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit the op End of Australia’s Northern Territory is the dry season, which runs from May until October. It is characterised by warm, dry sunny days and cool nights. Temperatures typically range from 21C (70F) to 32C (90F), and the humidity levels are quite low. The wet season spans from November until April and is characterised by increased humidity followed by monsoonal rains and storms. Waterfalls tumble, skies host incredible light shows, and the landscape turns a lush green, but for tourists it can mean a nightmare since conditions at this time of year can restrict travel to some areas.
HOW TO GET THERE
The lodge is located 300km south of Darwin and 32km from Katherine town centre. The drive from Darwin takes around 3.5 hours. If you do not have a rental car, the lodge also offers several options for transfers including private car, helicopter and coach transfer.