Northern TerritoryKatherine & SurroundsWhile its star attraction is undoubtedly the famous Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), Katherine and its surrounds include great fishing, hidden natural wonders and a rich indigenous and pioneering history.
The region stretches from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the West Australian border. Around 300 kilometres south of Darwin, Katherine is set on the banks of the Katherine River. This unique outback town of around 8,000 people is the region's major service centre. Katherine offers a wide range of accommodation, facilities and attractions, including museums, art galleries, character-filled pubs and historic sites. Other attractions within easy reach of the town include the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, the Katherine Hot Springs and Leliyn / Edith Falls. Ninety kilometres north of Katherine is the gold rush town of Pine Creek, a treasure trove of heritage bush buildings and mining sites. Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) covers an awesome 3,000 kilometres of magnificent escarpment country. Nitmiluk means 'cicada place' to the local Aboriginal people. The Katherine River flows through 13 separate gorges that carve their way through the Arnhem Plateau. You can canoe, cruise and swim between sheer cliffs to the sandy freshwater beaches of the main gorges and view ancient Aboriginal rock paintings high on the rock faces. Waterfalls and rock pools are found along over 100 kilometres of walking tracks, beginning at the park's visitor centre. An hour south-east of Katherine is Mataranka, where the famous Mataranka Thermal Pool is found. Travellers can enjoy a refreshing dip in the pools, which are surrounded by the rainforests of Elsey National Park. The Katherine region also offers excellent fishing. The Daly River area is a fishing hot spot, as is the Victoria River area, which includes the Gregory Nation Park and Keep River National Park. Nearby, the small historic towns of Pine Creek and Timber Creek are well worth a visit. The remote Gulf region also offers a fishing challenge. Anglers can base themselves at Borroloola and fish the McArthur River. Cape Crawford is also popular with anglers attracted by plentiful supplies of barramundi.
Relax in Katherine Hot Springs
Take a refreshing dip in Katherine Hot Springs. These natural thermal springs are situated on the banks of the Katherine River, within the Katherine township, and comprise of a series of clear pools framed by native vegetation. Once, the main pool was simply an indentation at the edge of the Katherine River, but now the area is a place to relax, enjoy swimming in the pools, the picnic grounds and scenic walking tracks.
Borroloola is a remote fishing community situated on the banks of the McArthur River in the Gulf of Carpentaria. This historic town has approx. 950 residents and is considered the gateway to the Gulf region and is famed for its excellent fishing. Borroloola can be accessed via the Carpentaria Highway and is 380km from Daly Waters in the Northern Territory, or on the road through Garawa Aboriginal Land Trust from Queensland. Once a frontier town, Borroloola is now the capital of the Gulf region. The town is remote, but the people are friendly and easy-going. Fishing and camping remain a way of life for locals and travellers chasing barramundi. King Ash Bay, a great fishing spot 50 kilometres from Borroloola, also attracts thousands of visitors each year. The Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands provides good reef fishing where red emperor, coral trout and parrotfish can be caught. Some of the beaches in this are nesting sites for turtles and resting stops for migratory birds.
Visit Elsey National Park
Elsey National Park is a haven for those wanting to relax in warm, crystal clear pools, explore historic sites or enjoy some river fishing. The serene Roper River meanders through this picturesque national park, with boat ramp access at 4 Mile and 12 Mile. The park also has a rich heritage and was the setting for Jeannie Gunn's 'We of the Never Never'. Take the Botanic Walk, an easy 1.5-kilometre loop and marvel at the park's diverse plant species, or enjoy the eight-kilometre Riverside Walk to Korowan / Mataranka Falls. Swimming is only recommended at the thermal pools. Mataranka Thermal Pool is a well-known feature of the Park. Rainbow Spring rises from underground at 300 litres per second at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius, which is then contained in a swimming pool. Also within the park, Bitter Springs is surrounded by ancient rainforest - the famous 'float down' is not to be missed. Elsey National Park may be inaccessible between November and April due to flooding.
Walk the Jatbula Trail in Nitmiluk National Park
Situated amongst the stunning ancient landscape of Nitmiluk National Park, the Jatbula Trail follows the route travelled by generations of Jawoyn people, from Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) to Leliyn (Edith Falls). Following the western edge of the Arnhem Land Escarpment, the trail traverses sandstone plateau scrub, woodlands, open forest, sandstone monsoon forest and riverine landscapes. The trail was named after Jawoyn Traditional Owner Peter Jatbula who was instrumental in securing land rights for his people and who walked the route of the trail with his family. Experiencing the Jatbula Trail is truly a must, however, it is essential to be well prepared to safely enjoy the walk.
Katherine is the third-largest town in the Northern Territory, with a population of around 8,000 and is located 300 kilometres south of Darwin. The town was named by the explorer John McDouall Stuart, after Catherine, the daughter of his benefactor. The region is home to the Jawoyn Aboriginal people. Katherine is often described as a place where ‘the outback meets the tropics’ and is well equipped with a range of accommodation and facilities. Travellers visiting Katherine may like to browse the Katherine Railway Museum, view the fine collection of Aboriginal art at Katherine Art Gallery, relax in the Katherine Hot Springs or gain an insight into the workings of a cattle station with a visit to the historic Springvale Homestead, built-in 1878.
Visit the Banks of the Victoria River
Known as Victoria River, Victoria River Crossing and the Victoria River Roadhouse, this tiny settlement is located on the Victoria Highway 194 kilometres west of Katherine. The settlement itself is little more than a roadhouse and campground, but the scenery along the highway as it winds past immense escarpments split by the mighty Victoria River ranks as some of the most stunning in the Territory. The roadhouse has a small shop and an accommodation complex on the banks of the Victoria River with shady campsites and amenities. Gregory National Park protects the area's colourful scenery featuring grassy plains, boab trees and majestic gorges carved out of sandstone escarpments. The Victoria River is renowned for great fishing and abundant birdlife.
Visit Drover's Rest Boab Trees
The Drover's Rest Boab Precinct is significant to the Territory's cultural heritage. Consisting of seven carved boabs, the precinct is associated with the early pastoral industry of the NT when cattle were driven overland along stock routes to meatworks at Wyndham and Vestey's Meatworks in Darwin. For more than 40 years the open flats of the East Baines River and Barrabarrac Creek junction provided a rest spot for drovers and their cattle after they negotiated long sections of rough and narrow gorges. While resting, some of the drovers carved their names, pictures and left messages on the surrounding boab trees. The collective result is a range of carving representative of those found elsewhere in the region.
Immerse yourself in the magic of Nitmiluk National Park
There are many ways to experience the spectacular Nitmiluk National Park and its world-renowned gorge system - you can walk, swim, canoe, boat or fly. Walks over the sandstone plateau range from one hour to five days and offer spectacular views of the gorge, as well as other landscapes. Some, like the 62-kilometre Jatbula Trail, take in most of Nitmiluk's landscapes - monsoon rainforest, stone country, upland swamp, woodland and river – while the shorter walks may not be quite so varied, but are always spectacular. You can hire canoes at the gorge, or bring your own. Commercially operated cruises of the gorge system are available, as are helicopter flights. Raging river currents from December to April can restrict activities, but there is always something to do. Swimming and canoeing are generally only activities for June to November - but are no longer available in the First Gorge. The cruises available vary between the wet and dry seasons. Leliyn (Edith Falls) is another spectacular part of Nitmiluk that is well worth a visit. Leliyn is accessed from the Stuart Highway about 45 kilometres north of Katherine.
Take in Nitmiluk by air
Nitmiluk Scenic Flights depart from the helipad located 3km from the Nitmiluk Centre within the spectacular Nitmiluk National Park. There are a variety of flights to choose from and all offer magnificent views from the air, with 'photo' or 'video' opportunities of Nitmiluk Gorge, the Arnhem Land escarpment and local wildlife. Whether it’s an intense 3 gorge buzz, a breathtaking 13 gorge flight or private journey to your very own waterfall or ancient Jawoyn rock art site. A Helicopter flight will give you a great perspective of the Nitmiluk Gorge system.
Fish the Daly River
The Daly River itself is a picturesque tidal river, home to both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, and a plentiful source of barramundi. Easily accessed from Darwin, this area is a popular destination for fisherman and easy weekend trips. The Daly River settlement, or the ‘Daly’ as locals fondly refer to it, has a population of around 560 and is located 110 kilometres west off the Stuart Highway. The Daly River crossing was traditionally a meeting place for the local Aboriginal people to trade and hold ceremonies. By the end of the 1800s, European farmers, missionaries, miners and pastoralists had arrived. The Merrepen Art Centre holds Aboriginal art and cultural festival every May or June. The festival includes art sales and an auction, traditional music and dance, bush tucker displays, and a sporting carnival. The Daly River itself is a picturesque tidal river, home to both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, and a plentiful source of barramundi. The Daly holds two major fishing competitions annually, the 'Barra Classic' and the 'Barra Nationals'. Bamboo Creek and Horseshoe Billabong are gorgeous spots to picnic and enjoy the company of rare birds and wallabies. Accommodation catering to all budgets is available at the Daly River Pub, the Banyan Farm Tourist Park, Daly River Highway Inn and the historical Daly River Mango Farm. A three-kilometre walk around the farm takes in various billabongs and the ruins of a Jesuit mission built in the 1800s.
Grab a beer at Daly Waters Historic Pub
A true blue outback pub - the Daly Waters Pub is a colourful pub, clad in corrugated iron, draped with bougainvilleas and crammed with decades of memorabilia. It began its current incarnation serving passengers arriving on the new Qantas airline in 1934 and was the first international runway and airport in Australia. As a popular watering hole along the track, the Daly Waters Pub holds a liquor licence that has been in continuous use since 1938. The pub is on the old droving track and was a watering hole for the drovers as well as travellers heading north and south. It was used as a staging post during the Second World War for the Australian and American Air force. There is a static historical display housed in the WWII hangar at the airport. An extensive menu includes a range of salads, steaks, lamb, chicken, and best of all fresh local wild-caught territory barramundi and threadfin salmon. Try the barra bites in a crispy pale ale batter or pancakes for breakfast. The world-famous beef and barra meals, with a selection of salads and hot damper, are served every night during the dry season, bookings are essential.
Explore Katherine by air
Take to the air on a helicopter safari for an awe-inspiring journey over wild rivers, spectacular gorges, waterfalls and rugged sandstone escarpments whilst hearing of the fascinating Aboriginal culture, Northern Territory wildlife and rich pastoral history. With helicopter bases all around Northern Territory's Top End, Coolibah Air is the NT Helicopter specialists. Coolibah Air offers scenic tours and experiences over some of the most beautiful and dramatic wilderness regions in the Top End from Victoria River to Nitmiluk, Katherine and Adelaide River, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu National Park and Darwin. There is a range of helicopter flights to suit all budgets and Coolibah Air package up helicopter tours with other fantastic on ground iconic experiences. Coolibah Air is named after Coolibah Station, home to 'The Joneses' a family who have become recent television stars after a reality documentary based on their life on the station called 'Keeping up with the Joneses' aired on national television.
Take the Escarpment Walk at Timber Creek
Located in the eastern section of the Judbarra / Gregory National Park, the three-kilometre loop Escarpment Walk provides panoramic views of the Victoria River Valley with its soaring red escarpments. Follow the Nungali-Ngaliwurru and Wardaman stories (through the interpretive signs) about the creation of the landscape as you meander up the hill, progressing from one magnificent view to the next. The walk is steep in places, but by stopping at the Garrarnawun Lookout and returning from there, you can avoid the more strenuous sections.
An adventure-drive in the Gulf Region
The remote Gulf area stretches east of Katherine to the Queensland border and meets the Gulf of Carpentaria, a shallow sea between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The area, home to four main indigenous language groups, includes many large Australian cattle stations. The Gulf is one of Australia’s most exciting fishing destinations. On the Northern Territory side of the Gulf, Roper Bar is the natural rock crossing separating the saltwater and freshwater sections of the Roper River. The township of Borroloola, located 600 kilometres south of Roper Bar on the McArthur River (both of which are renowned fishing hot spots), is the Gulf area’s main service centre. A range of services and a taste of Northern Territory hospitality can be found in this friendly town. King Ash Bay is a popular fishing spot 50 kilometres from Borroloola. Cape Crawford, 100 kilometres south-west of Borroloola, is another major base from which to explore the Gulf area. Surrounded by golden grasslands, rock escarpments, waterfalls and waterholes, Cape Crawford is within easy reach of Limmen National Park (Proposed). The area is home to a magnificent array of native wildlife. Another must-see destination is Barranyi (North Island) National Park, located in the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands. A haven for wildlife, the park provides a home to nesting turtles and migratory birds. Access to the islands is limited, and you must contact Parks and Wildlife NT before making the journey. The Savannah Way, an adventure tourism drive along the Carpentaria Highway, is a great option for exploring this unique region.
Marvel at Katherine Gorge
No visit to the Northern Territory is complete without visiting the spectacular Nitmiluk National Park, a region of rugged beauty, history and culture with the breathtaking 'Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge' as the centrepiece. Cruise, canoe, walk, fly, swim or embrace the indigenous culture, Nitmiluk has it all. Nitmiluk is 100 per cent indigenous owned and is the specialist agent offering a great variety of tours to explore the region. If you are looking for an experience rather than just a place to stay, Nitmiluk has a range of accommodation options in idyllic and relaxing settings.
The Mataranka township, 100 kilometres south of Katherine on the Stuart Highway, was the setting of the famous Australian novel, 'We of the Never Never', by Jeannie Gunn. Jeannie Gunn, ‘The Little Missus’, lived at nearby Elsey Station and her affection for the area has been immortalised in her book. Within Elsey National Park, you will find the grave of her husband and a memorial to the author at the Elsey Cemetery and Reserve. Elsey Station is now administered by the local Aboriginal people. The ancient Dreamtime stories of the Mangarayi and Yungman tribes describe a wind sweeping in from the east that created the area. The famous Mataranka Thermal Pool is a great place to unwind. The warm, crystalline waters of the natural pools have the power to soothe aches and pains after a long day on the road. The water is spring-fed, bubbling up at a fairly constant temperature of 34 degrees Celsius. The surrounding paperbark and palm forest filters the sun and leaves soft, dappled light playing on the water's surface. The area around the pools is a natural breeding ground for the little red flying fox, whose breeding season is usually from November to May, but often extends into the drier months. During the breeding season, there are ranger-guided talks available. Bitter Springs, a short drive north-east of Mataranka, is a relaxing alternative to the main thermal pools. Take your goggles, because small turtles and fish can often be spotted below the surface. The Mataranka township has a roadhouse with lodgings, police station, petrol station, cafe, restaurant, pub and general store.
Explore Litchfield by Helicopters
Helicopter flights over Litchfield Park to choose from or to customise two days a week. Available affordable flights around Wangi Falls and the Cascades, Wangi, Tjaetaba and Tolmer waterfalls, over to the Lost City. Additional flights and tours are available to Sandy Creek Falls and the Wetlands. Exclusive landing at Waterfalls for swimming.
Discover more in Northern Territory
- Alice Springs & Surrounds
- Arnhem Land
- Darwin & Surrounds
- Kakadu & Surrounds
- Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation
- Kata Tjuta / The Olgas
- Katherine & Surrounds
- Kings Canyon
- Litchfield National Park
- Mary River
- Mt Borradaile
- Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)
- Tennant Creek & Barkly Region
- Uluru & Surrounds