Toasting nature at the Top End’s Finniss River Lodge

Finniss River Lodge
Finniss River Lodge

At Finniss River Lodge, the Top End’s newest luxury retreat, escape to a diverse wilderness oasis on a working cattle property.

Viridescent floodplains meeting the distant cobalt sky engulf my vision. Sweeping black patterns circle the sky and head down to their plentiful feeding grounds. Breathing in the overwhelming sight, sounds and freshest air, I feel blessed that the third-generation Venturin family opened their magnificent natural wonderland for a maximum of 12 guests in May 2022.

A life-long family dream and three years in the making, Finniss River Lodge seamlessly blends within the Venturin’s 35-year-old, 200-square-kilometre working cattle property, Finniss River Station, now managed by Robert.

While you feel a million miles from anywhere, Finniss River Lodge is only a 90-minute drive or 25-minute helicopter/charter flight from Darwin. All creature comforts are at your fingertips, from the luxe country-style suites to the freshly prepared meals, selected wines and two daily activities included in your stay.

Authentic experiences

Bordering Litchfield National Park and stretching to the Timor Sea, Finniss River Station is a diverse wilderness oasis. Resident wildlife and survival expert Andrew Ucles heads the experienced guide team, matching each guide to the bespoke morning or late afternoon activities.

My guide to Emu Creek was award-winning local Indigenous woman, Chase Johnston. Her strong connection and passion for the land and interpretations of the diverse wildlife and landscape gave additional life to the passing savannah woodlands, termite mounds, paperbark forests, wetlands and pockets of monsoonal rainforest from our comfortable, open-air all-terrain vehicle. Multiple stops ensured excellent photo opportunities to capture the scenery, prolific birdlife and animals.

I felt even more privileged to encounter a muster in progress on our way back to the lodge. The working dogs and station hands on their quad bikes, majestically operating in tandem, rounding up the massive Brahmans.

All activities are governed by the seasons and may include an airboat ride and crocodile education on Sweets Lagoon, sunrise and brunch on top of Jarrold Ridge, four-wheel driving to Top Swamp and Quartz Hill, the property’s highest point, or a red rock coastal beach sunset and fire-cooked dinner.

I indulged in a Cows ‘n’ Canapés sunset hosted by Robert Venturin in the nearby Bull Yard. Sipping champagne, and devouring mouth-watering crocodile with smoked tomato and mini kangaroo burgers while patting the young brahman cows and hearing more of Robert and his family’s life here as the fiery sun dropped between intermittent pandanus, was an unforgettable experience.

Design notes

The lodge’s architecture doesn’t overwhelm but accentuates the surrounding nature and its changing seasonal colours. Set on the edge of the vast floodplain, the floor-to-ceiling picture windows and doors integrate the indoors and outdoors, providing uninterrupted views to the horizon – whether from the main Long Room, infinity pool deck or the indulgent suites.

Incredible photographs of the property adorn the walls. If you don’t want to miss any action, even when you have a drink in hand, view the live webcam of wetland billabong in the Long Room.

In-room Li’Tya products nourish your body, whether soaking in the stone bath or under the separate double-brass shower. Meaning ‘of the earth’ Li’Tya is formulated from wild harvest, Australian botanicals and organic ingredients, integrating Indigenous herbal knowledge and aromatherapy principles.


Because of its proximity to Darwin, the property operates on mains power with an on-site backup generator. You’re also never out of mobile phone or internet range, allowing you to share about your activities, nature and food.

Hot water is all solar, and huge tanks collect rainwater which is filtered and non-chemically treated for guests to drink. Wherever possible, waste is recycled, and greywater maintains the gardens.

The signature metal water bottle issued on arrival is refillable and a wonderful reminder of my unique stay. The Finniss River blended teas from native plants around the property are superbly refreshing.

Chef Travis Crane’s ethical food philosophy and creative natural menus are inspiring. He learned how to source local produce, forage for wild plants, butcher in-house and cook on an open fire at Belgium’s Michelin Star restaurant In De Wulf, skills he now uses at Finniss River Lodge to produce exceptional fine dining.

“My menu starts with what the property and nature offer seasonally, not a recipe,” says Chef Crane. “I love using paperbark for roasting and smoking vegetables; even water lily stems from the wetlands like the local Indigenous do when cooking. I want guests to experience the region’s story through my food.”

As the intense sunset matches the fiery cocktail in my hand, I toast to nature’s beauty and the Venturin family for sharing their slice of Top End paradise with us.

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