Australia – New airport resort enriched with Aboriginal art

Airport hotels have generally been viewed as ‘pit stops’ – somewhere to rest your head before or after you’re about to catch a plane – but that has all changed with the launch of a new resort concept created out of the Novotel and Mercure hotels at Darwin Airport.

Novotel & Mercure Darwin Airport Resort is set to become the perfect tropical oasis for touring the Northern Territory’s Top End following a $30 million reimagination and dramatic integration of the adjoining hotels. The hotels are owned by the Airport Development Group (ADG), which also owns Darwin Airport. The resort is located on the lands of the Larrakia Nation, the traditional custodians of the greater Darwin area. Indigenous engagement is an integral component of the hotels’ redesign.

ADG’s visionary $30 million investment in the project has produced a remarkable transformation of the hotels, with the progressive refurbishment of existing rooms and the creation of new pool villas, suites and bungalows perfectly capturing Darwin’s tropical environment. Previously, the two hotels had separate receptions, but now a combined reception area has been opened, along with a new Olympic-plus sized/one million litre swimming pool, poolside cabanas, children’s aquatic playground, and new poolside dining, set in extensive tropical landscaping.

A feature of the resort is the diversity of rooms available to guests as part of the 423-room inventory. New-look Novotel and Mercure hotel rooms boast sleek interior designs, and guests can also choose family suites, freestanding bungalows, and new 5-star tropical villas with their own plunge pools. Offering outstanding comfort, the Tropical Pool Villas have been meticulously crafted for indulgent stays. The interior design and Indigenous-inspired features provide an authentic feel of the tropical Top End environment. The villas offer a plush king-sized bed, large LCD TV, Nespresso coffee machine, and large spa-like bathroom with a rejuvenating rainforest shower. Sliding doors reveal a spacious pool with sun lounges, overlooking the picturesque Rapid Creek bushland, creating an idyllic setting for unwinding and soaking in the serene surroundings.

Capturing their connection to Larrakia country, each of the villas is named after a leading Territorian, with their story outlined for guests to read. Individually designed and decorated Resort Bungalows are ideal for longer stays, with a veranda and additional space to relax and enjoy the tropical experience, while two-bedroom apartments are available for family stays.

The resort now offers two poolside dining options. The new Splash café and bar joins the laid-back Cossies Poolside Bar & Bistro, which is situated in tropical gardens and showcases the Territory’s famous barramundi as well as grills, salads, pizzas and burgers. Tropical cocktails and mocktails are created by experienced bartenders to complement the poolside atmosphere.

The Darwin Airport hotels are a pioneer in Indigenous engagement. As part of the hotel redevelopment, extensive Indigenous art has been incorporated in the design, including two massive murals on the Novotel exterior, while the 41-metre water tower in front of the hotels has been decorated with a striking Indigenous mural designed to give visitors their first connection to Larrakia people and tell their story.

Its official title is the Water Tower Welcome to Country Project – though already known locally as the ‘Darwin Didgeridoo’ – and is part of ADG’s vision to provide visitors with an exceptional gateway experience to the Northern Territory’s unique lifestyle, ancient cultures and stunning landscapes. Reflecting this, ADG is dedicating each section of the property to different NT regions, each represented through colour palettes, artwork, and landscaping. Information boards enhance the visitor’s experience and understanding of Aboriginal culture and the history of the Territory.

The hotels are planning to introduce the Gurambai Cultural Experience to give guests an immediate appreciation of Larrakia culture. Gurambai is the Larrakia name for the area known as the Rapid Creek Conservation Reserve which features Darwin’s only natural freshwater creek, just a short walk from the airport hotels. The experience will be curated by Larrakia guides who will deliver a one-hour guided walking tour that will include information about the area’s cultural and historical significance, their connection to the land and freshwater, information about some of the Reserve’s seasonal bush tucker.

A priority of the hotel operation is to employ as many Indigenous staff as possible, and to achieve that goal ADG has established an Indigenous Training Academy to deliver nationally recognised qualifications in the hospitality and tourism sectors. The ADG Training Academy offers traineeship and apprenticeship qualifications, Vocational Education and Training in-school programs, and a mentor program to support students.

Darwin Airport Resort General Manager, Chris Chaffe, says that guests arriving at the resort will be immediately immersed in the Northern Territory’s unique lifestyle, ancient cultures and stunning landscapes. “Integrating and recognising Larrakia Indigenous culture and heritage has been an integral component of the project,” he said. “The new resort is enriched with Aboriginal art and themes, inside and out, providing an appropriate reminder that this pioneering world-class resort is on the lands of the world’s longest-surviving culture. Visitors wanting to explore the Top End will be able to enjoy a complete resort experience, including one of the largest city hotel swimming pools in Australia.”

“The resort is the perfect base for Top End getaway. It’s an easy 15-minute drive to the city centre and just over an hour’s drive to Litchfield National Park, one of the Top End’s most popular attractions. It is also very convenient for flights to destinations such as the Tiwi Islands, Kakadu and West Arnhem.”