Top 10 things to do around Katherine
The Outback meets the tropics in Katherine, a big country town three hours’ drive south of Darwin on the mighty Katherine River. The jewel of this area is the Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, but there’s so much more to see and do. Here are 10 ideas to help you plan your Katherine adventure.
1. Explore the mighty Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge
There are many ways to experience world-famous Nitmiluk Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park. Canoe up the gorge spotting hidden waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and wildlife, or board a peaceful cruise. Swim between sheer cliffs to camp on sandy freshwater beaches, or jump in a clear-nosed helicopter for the ultimate view of the 13-gorge system. The excellent Nitmiluk Visitor Centre explains this icon’s significance for the Jawoyn Aboriginal people.
2. Conquer the world-famous Jatbula Trail
Lace up your boots for one of the world’s best bushwalks, the five-day, 58km Jatbula Trail that takes in waterfalls, monsoon rainforest, stone country and Aboriginal rock art, camping alongside swimming holes. The trail starts at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre and ends at Edith Falls where the palm-fringed plunge pool is a fitting reward for the trek. Permits to hike the trail sell out, so book in advance.
3. Enjoy an authentic cultural experience
Join a two-hour cultural experience with local Aboriginal man Manuel Pamkal at Top Didj in Katherine. Learn the Rarrk painting (cross hatch) technique and paint your own artwork to take home. You’ll learn how to light a fire from sticks and try your hand at throwing a boomerang and a spear. Afterwards, wander through the Katherine Art Gallery, which has one of the area’s best Aboriginal art collections.
4. Try the Katherine Outback Experience
Join award-winning country music artist and horseman Tom Curtain for this 90-minute show that will give you a taste of life on a real outback Australian cattle station. Watch Tom break-in a wild horse and see how his clever working dogs muster cattle. During the show, Tom performs his country music and tells colourful stories about the bush.
5. Explore Elsey National Park
Dip your toe in Australian literary history at Elsey National Park, an hour’s drive south of Katherine, best known as the setting for the Australian novel We of the Never Never. Soak in the warm turquoise water of nearby Mataranka Thermal Pool, surrounded by pandanus, paperbarks and palm forest. Then take the walk into Bitter Springs, another spring-fed thermal pool set among palms and tropical woodlands.
6. Go underground at the Cutta Cutta Caves
Take the winding boardwalk down through the Cutta Cutta Caves, one of Australia’s only tropical limestone cave systems, a short drive south of Katherine. See fascinating stalactites of all shapes and sizes sprouting from the ceiling and crystals that look like spun sugar adorning the walls. The caves shelter the rare ghost bat and horseshoe bat. Guided one-hour tours run daily.
7. Relax in the Katherine Hot Springs
After a busy day exploring, relax your muscles in the clear water of Katherine Hot Springs on the banks of the Katherine River, just outside the Katherine township. Take the raised walking path to a viewing platform where you can see the source of the spring water, which is a constant average of 32°C – perfect for swimming in all year round.
8. Discover old treasures
Housed in an original World War II air terminal, the charming Katherine Museum preserves a wide and eclectic collection of Aboriginal artefacts, photographs, furniture, maps, tools and pioneer memorabilia. See the Overland Telegraph display of objects dating back to 1872, the planetarium made by a Russian peanut farmer and the first flying doctor, Dr Clyde Fenton’s De Havilland Gypsy Moth plane he flew in the 1930s.
9. Find the perfect souvenir at Mimi Aboriginal Arts & Crafts
Buy Aboriginal art ethically at Katherine’s Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft, an Aboriginal-owned, not-for-profit art centre. Paintings star in this excellent gallery, which represents artists in the vast Katherine region of 380,000km2. There’s a range of locally designed luggage items as well as didgeridoos, wooden plates, boomerangs, fabric pieces and postcards. The gallery is named after the Mimi Spirits, an important part of Aboriginal beliefs.
10. Take the family or go with friends to Barunga Festival
Pack up the car and head to Barunga Festival, a three-day community celebration held annually in June.The event brings together local and interstate musicians, local sporting clubs and displays of Aboriginal art from the region. The town of Barunga is located 80km south-east of Katherine.
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