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The owner of the Northern Territory’s three main airports and one of Darwin’s largest private landowners has shown enormous confidence in the NT’s future by developing one of Australia’s first “airport resorts”.

It’s a standalone attraction for visitors and a luxury jumping off point for the Top End.

Airport Development Group has invested $30 million on giving the two hotels next to Darwin International Airport a spectacular facelift.

This was the culmination of a vision that started in 2021 when ADG saw the opportunity to buy the Mercure and Novotel hotels and combine the two properties to create a tropical oasis in the heart of the Darwin airport precinct.

The vision was underpinned by the need to use the hotels to see Darwin celebrate its rich cultural heritage and be recognised as the gateway to Aboriginal cultural tourism.

ADG Manager of Major Projects William Bligh says: “We see the completion of this project as an important step toward the realisation of the Darwin International Airport 2023 Master Plan, which provides an exciting road map of vibrant growth and development over the next 20 years.

“The project team and resort management have done an amazing job.

“We invite locals and visitors alike to enjoy the tropical-style resort pool, the biggest of its kind in Australia, complete with a kids’ imaginative splash and play area and a premium bar café for mum and dad.

“We continue to see the Territory having a very positive economic outlook for both the short and long-term and we see this project as a meaningful step towards our continued investment in the NT.”

The complex is managed by global hotel company Accor and has been named Novotel and Mercure Darwin Airport Resort, although that may change as investment and development continues. Project Manager Megan Dugdale is proud of the resort and sees her work as a labour of love.

“A project manager is like the conductor of an orchestra,” she says. “You know what the wind instruments should sound like even though you can’t play them. You bring them together to make the right music.”

Nobody doubts that the right music has been achieved at the resort.

ADG, which owns Darwin, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek airports, used about 20 subcontractors, nearly all of them local, for the project.

“The only people we brought in from interstate were specialists who couldn’t be found locally,” Ms Dugdale says. “ADG has a policy of using local subcontractors whenever possible.”

Airport Development Group’s Indigenous Engagement Strategy outlines how assets such as the airport hotel will integrate, pay homage and showcase the world’s oldest living culture to connect visitors to Aboriginal cultural tourism experiences.

Key elements of this include Mamalina, the striking Larrakia Welcome to Country water tower mural, and three beautiful murals on the hotel buildings themselves, by Larrakia artists Jason Lee, Anthony Duwan Lee and Joanne Nasir.

The inclusion of the murals changes the face and experiences of those arriving in the Territory.

They are a tourist attraction in their own right and include QR codes on the mural sign boards to provide a platform for guests to connect to Aboriginal cultural experiences and other tourism offerings in the palm of their hand.

The four-star resort is only a few minutes walk or a short buggy ride on a 24-hour shuttle from the airport, but is not on the flight path.

Its 423 rooms come in 12 types, from standard to 12 two-bedroom apartments and 14 luxury tropical villas with their own plunge pool. Each of the villas is named after a leading Indigenous Territorian.


The resort has two restaurants, two cafes, a bar and an eye-catching 60 metre-long swimming pool, which holds one million litres of water and is one of the largest city hotel pools in Australia.

The resort is a good choice for business guests and holidaymakers.

Manager Chris Chaffe, who has worked in the hotel industry for 20 years, says: “We’ve got rooms to suit everybody – from apartments for families and long-stay visitors to rooms for the more budget-conscious guests.”

There are nine distinctive venues for dinners, conferences, business networking events and cocktail parties.

The resort’s specialist team is renowned for delivering creatively themed functions for conferences, making the most of the hotel’s tropical surroundings.

Security is excellent – entry is through a single reception.

“Darwin doesn’t have anything like this resort,” says Mr Chaffe, who used to run Kakadu Tourism, managers of the Crocodile and Cooinda hotels.

He says the vision is to provide resort guests with an experience that reflects all the Territory has to offer – “our unique lifestyle, ancient cultures and stunning landscapes”.

ADG has also set up an Indigenous Training Academy in tandem with the reimagining of the airport hotel precinct.

Indigenous Territorians are being trained to work at the resort, airport and the wider Territory tourism and hospitality sector.

“The redevelopment has produced an outstanding integrated resort property that is a true trailblazer in the Australian hotel sector,” says Mr Chaffe.

“Integrating and recognising Larrakia Indigenous culture and heritage has been an integral component of the project.

“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 land of the world’s longestsurviving culture.

“Indigenous businesses have been used extensively in the resort development and we are a pioneer when it comes to employing, training and nurturing Indigenous staff.

“We want this to not only revitalise Northern Territory tourism – we want it to be a powerful showcase for Indigenous engagement and advancement.”