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The best things to do in Katherine

Whatever your interests, you will find something to enjoy.

The Katherine region in the Northern Territory is a remarkable place to visit.  Here’s our list of the best things to do in Katherine and why you should put this trip on your ‘must do’ list!

Enjoy some of the most stunning sights throughout Australia.  Spectacular hiking trails, canoeing adventures, river cruises, thermal hot springs, beautiful water holes, Aboriginal cultural experiences and so much more.

Just 3 hours drive from Darwin with plenty of great places to stop and see along the way, this road trip means you won’t miss a single thing!  Pack your hat, sunscreen and camera and head out on the road-trip of a lifetime.

Whether you’re staying for a few days or a few weeks, you will find plenty of things to do.

Katherine is the gateway to Nitmiluk National Park

Bitter Springs

The History

Katherine takes its name from the Katherine River, which was so named by explorer John McDougall Stuart.  It began as a lonely outpost on the Overland Telegraph Line in 1872.  Since then, Katherine’s population grew with the gold rush in the late 1800’s and more recently with the increased tourism interest.

The Katherine Region, is 400,000 square kilometres and is double the size of Victoria.

Here are our 6 of our favourite things to see and do in and around Katherine.

Katherine Hot Springs

Katherine Hot SpringsKatherine Hot Springs are natural thermal pools in the centre of Katherine and a constant 25 – 30 degrees Celsius.

Comprised of a series of pools, the crystal clear pools are amid native vegetation.  There is a walking track that takes you from the springs to a nature reserve.  You will likely see plenty of birds and other wildlife.

On the banks of the Katherine River in a natural bush setting the springs are open all day, every day during the dry season – from April to November each year.  Make sure you visit while you’re in town!

Katherine Museum

A visit to the Katherine Museum is a must when visiting Katherine.

Learn more about the infamous Overland Telegraph Line and how the Australia connected to the world in the early days.  See the collection of centuries old traditional Aboriginal artifacts, and learn about Australia’s first flying doctor service and how it supported people across the remote areas of Northern Australia.

There are plenty of unique stories and historical collections to see in the Katherine Museum and while you’re there, stop for afternoon tea and order a serve of home-made scones!

Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge

A trip through Katherine Gorge is a must when visiting Nitmiluk National Park.  You’ll be impressed by the stark beauty and the spectacular cliff walls along the Gorge.

Locals tip:
The best vantage points for a Katherine Gorge sunset – visit Pat’s Lookout or Baruwei Lookout.

Nitmiluk National Park is located on the lands of the Jawoyn people and home to some of Australia’s most stunning scenery and spectacular bush walks.

Just 30 minutes to the Gorge, the walking trails commence sharing scenic highlights, wildlife, Aboriginal rock art and pristine waterholes.

Take a sunrise or sunset cruises to see the sheer cliff faces along the gorge as the colours change from vivid oranges, mauve’s to red with the reflections of the sun.

Nitmiluk Tours offer spectacular tours of the 13 gorges of Nitmiluk and other local experiences.  I plan to visit Cicada Lodge on my next visit later this year (it was closed during 2020 due to COVID).

Agile Wallaby

Agile WallabyThere are so many opportunities to explore Katherine Gorge – Enjoy them all.  Go canoeing, enjoy a romantic sunset dinner cruise, take a bush walk and go swimming in the clearest water you can imagine.

Edith Falls – Leliyn

best road trips northern territoryHead north about 60 kilometres from Katherine to visit Edith Falls, one of the NT’s many natural swimming holes.

Take a picnic lunch and enjoy a dip at Edith Falls or go for a walk to the secluded Sweetwater pool.  You will need a permit for the overnight walk to Sweetwater pool so book in early.

Known as ‘Leliyn’ in the local Jawoyn language, Edith Falls is a perfect camping location, with a number of campsites just perfect for spending the night, or longer if you decide to settle in for a few days.

Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park

Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, is located just 30 minutes south of Katherine and is a system of stunning limestone caves formed millions of years ago.  Descending 15 metres below the surface, guided tours take you through these ancient limestone formations.

‘Cutta Cutta’ is a local Aboriginal word used by the Jawoyn people to mean ‘many stars’, as the caves were thought by local tribes to be the resting place of the stars during the day.

Bitter Springs & Mataranka Thermal Pools

Bitter Springs

The Elsey National Park includes the beautiful natural thermal springs of Mataranka and Bitter Springs.  Just an hour south of Katherine, it’s worth traveling down to the springs for a swim.  Bring your bathing suit!

At 34 degrees all year round, these pools are a great place to unwind and relax tired muscles. There are also a number of walks in and around the Elsey National Park where you’ll see wallabies and other wildlife so don’t forget your camera!

Be sure to check that the springs are open for swimming, as they are sometimes closed in the wet season due to flooding.  Remember, no pets are permitted in National Parks.

Where to eat in Katherine

Local’s tip:
Go for the coffee!

Black Russian Caravan Bar:  You’ll find their charming retro caravan beside the Katherine Tourist Information Centre.  Treat yourself to one of their tasty toasted sandwiches, cakes and ice-cold drinks.

Pop Rocket Cafe: is a great place to stop in for breakfast, snacks, lunch or afternoon tea.  A funky little cafe with great coffee, and a fantastic contemporary menu.

Knotts Crossing Resort has a good restaurant with a choice of quality meals and especially good steak available.

Fig Tree Bistro was a great little discovery.  Tucked away in the Katherine Holiday Park, this bistro served ‘pub fare’ and a great menu range.

Where to stay

I have stayed in Knotts Crossing Resort on a number of visits to Katherine.  You’ll find a choice of motel rooms, suites and cabins are available as well as caravan and camping sites.

If you would like to view other options – try these accommodation options for Katherine.

Getting there

The town of Katherine is around 3 hours south of Darwin city.  Follow the Stuart Highway for approximately 300 kilometres, passing through the townships of Adelaide River and Pine Creek.  Need a break?  Edith Falls is a great place for a swim on the way though!

  • Drive:  Most of the region’s sights are only accessible by car or through an organised tours.  Our recommendation is to drive.  Hire a car in Darwin for the round trip into the Katherine region.

Air, Bus and Train travel options are also available.

  • Air:  Flights from Darwin & Alice Springs stop off in Katherine – check with your booking agent for flight options.  Short hops through the Northern Territory are often expensive.
  • Bus: Greyhound Bus lines travel through Katherine daily.  
  • Rail:  The Ghan is a travel option for something different.  The Ghan stops a few hours in Katherine to enable sight seeing.  Check the rail schedule.

When to Visit Katherine

    Visit Katherine most of the year round but between March and November the weather is cooler and dryer, so less humidity.  Tourist numbers are higher at this time of year.
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5 Essential Items to prepare for Katherine

  1. A Good Camera:  There will be plenty of great photo moments wherever you are so bring along a good camera.  I highly recommend the Sony a6000.  It’s light, compact and takes amazing photos!
  2. Walking Sandals:  The outdoor lifestyle in the Tropics means you will need some lightweight heavy duty walking sandals!  Treat yourself to a pair here.  I love mine.
  3. A super light Day Pack:  The Deuter Airlite Day Pack brings all around versatility and advanced ergonomics for optimal comfort when hiking.  Check out the ventilation system.  Perfect for bush walking in Australia!
  4. A Stainless Steel Water Bottle:  Stay hydrated in the harsh Australian sun.  Get yourself a Yeti Stainless Steel water bottle and refill as you go.  Tap water is drinkable across Australia – and free!
  5. Slap on a Sun Hat:  You will need a good sun hat for protection.  Here’s a Henschal Hat – Aussie Breezer.  A nice wide brim and great airflow on a hot day.

Permits

Camping areas especially in National Parks in the Territory will attract a small fee so, plan ahead and book in advance wherever possible.

If you want to enjoy some canoeing in Nitmiluk National Park, book ahead or obtain a permit if you are bringing your own canoe.  You will also need a permit if you are taking the overnight walk to the secluded Sweetwater pool at Leliyn (Edith Falls).

Stay Safe

Dress appropriately, wear a hat and use sunscreen.

Be sure to carry plenty of water and food if you’re doing any of the bush walks.

Make sure you let someone know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there.  See our post about staying safe.

Always be ‘crocwise‘ and pay attention to local warnings, particularly when swimming or boating or camping near water.  Only swim in areas that are clearly marked safe for swimming.  The NT ‘Where To Swim’ guide is a handy reminder, and ask a local if you’re unsure.

In the wet season, Katherine Gorge is prone to flooding so check with local authorities when heading out on long bush walks.

Have you explored the Katherine region yet? 

The Northern Territory is loaded with history, wildlife, vivid colours and so much natural beauty.   Trust me, it will take your breath away !