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Barunga Festival dance performance main arena

Barunga Festival & Katherine3-day itinerary


Be inspired by this 3-day itinerary highlighting the best of the Barunga Festival as well as all the things to do around Katherine. Held over the June long weekend, this vibrant family-friendly festival celebrates Aboriginal culture and community with a fun festival vibe.

3 days, 2 stages, 1 incredible Aboriginal cultural festival. Barunga Festival is a vibrant celebration showcasing the diversity of the Territory through Aboriginal music, art, sport, workshops and cultural presentations. This exciting annual festival presents a rare opportunity to experience traditional dance, didgeridoo playing, bush medicine, spear throwing, cooking weaving and storytelling.

In between the fun and games of the festival explore Katherine and the surrounding area. Just over 3 hours’ drive (300km) south of Darwin, Katherine is where the outback meets the tropics, where gorges are carved by waterfalls and ancient Aboriginal cultures are shared through storytelling.

Barunga is a small town approx. one hour southeast of Katherine on Jawoyn land which is not usually accessible to visitors outside of festival time. With limited tourist facilities, self-sufficient camping is the best way to enjoy Barunga Festival. Don’t feel like camping? Hotels, motels and holiday parks are located at Katherine and Mataranka.


Day 1


Day 1: Barunga Festival


Start your first day at the festival with a swim in the creek a short walk from the camp ground. There are shower facilities if swimming in a natural swimming hole is not your thing. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at one of the popup food venues or cook your own festival-worthy feast at the campground’s communal fireplaces. Learn about the community on a walking tour with Barunga Junior Guides who study local history, bush medicine and bush tucker as part of the school curriculum.

Pop into the Festival Tent to pick up the latest program, purchase festival merchandise or register for one of the many workshops on offer. Don’t miss the festival’s traditional welcome ceremony and official opening formalities on Jawoyn country. Jawoyn references the language, people, culture and territory of Aboriginal peoples across a large area of the Top End, including Barunga.


Barunga’s ART Market is a festival highlight with Aboriginal artists from across the Territory exhibiting original art works. While the ART Market runs through the entire festival, we recommend you shop early for the best chance of purchasing your longed-for piece of unique Aboriginal art.

Spend the afternoon attending workshops themed around creative pursuits like weaving, fabric dyeing and painting. Other workshops hone in on traditional Aboriginal interests. Join in the fun and test your skills in spear throwing and didgeridoo sessions, learn about bush medicine or participate in a storytelling circle. Whichever workshop you attend, you’ll be sure to gain a deeper insight into Aboriginal culture and possibly learn a new skill to boot!


As the daylight fades and the setting sun casts a golden glow across Barunga, the festival settles into an easy rhythm with entertainment for all ages. Indulge in delicious food, try some bush tucker or enjoy fireside camaraderie of the campground. Sporting teams compete for glory across softball, Aussie rules football and rugby league codes, then later, live music keeps the energetic vibe belting out beneath star-spangled skies.

A couple admire the escarpment view from Baruwei Lookout Nitmilulk National Park

Day 2


Day 2: Barunga Festival


Katherine is the perfect road trip destination with plenty of free activities for all ages. Head to Katherine Hot Springs waters where a series of natural thermal spring water pools on the Katherine River are surrounded by native bushland.

Further afield is Nitmiluk National Park, just 32km from the hot springs. Start your gorgeous (see what we did there?) adventure at the park’s central hub at Nitmiluk Gorge Information Centre for access to all the gorges. Katherine River carves a swathe through a series of 13 gorges known collectively as Nitmiluk Gorge. Dive into the cool waters for a swim, paddle a kayak on the tranquil waters or hike the walking trails between gorges.

Less than an hours' drive north of Katherine, Leilyn (Edith Falls) is another natural waterfall and swimming hole where pretty plunge pools are fringed by paperbark trees and spiralling trunks of pandanus palms.


Return to Barunga Festival in time for an afternoon and evening of rhythmical foot tapping, dust stomping traditional song and dance. The entertainment on day 2 is an absolute highlight of the festival so make sure your cameras are charged and your energy levels are activated. Sporting competitions continue as athletes from across the Territory compete for all-important bragging rights, so be sure to nab a front row seat to get up close and personal to all the action.


The singing and dancing and cultural interaction continues until well into the evening with some of Australia’s best Aboriginal bands gracing the stage. Dine under the stars at one of the popup food stalls and take in the energetic after dark vibe of the festival atmosphere.

Woman floats on sunloung at Bitter Springs credit Lets Escape Together

Day 3


Day 3: Barunga Festival


No visit to the Katherine Region is complete without a visit to Mataranka Thermal Pool and Bitter Springs, part of Elsey National Park. The crystal clear waters of these natural swimming holes hover around 34°C, creating a tranquil palm-fringed tropical oasis in the heart of the Outback. Walking trails wind a path beneath towering Livistona palms (also known as cabbage tree palms) with their glossy, circular fronds that span up to 2m across.


Spend time in Katherine to visit Katherine art galleries of Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Cultural Centre (GYRACC), Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre and Mimi Aboriginal Arts and Crafts to gain a deeper insight into Aboriginal art. If you didn’t pick up a piece of art at Barunga Festival you’ll be sure to find a treasured memento at one of these Katherine galleries.


Participate in Barunga’s memorable closing ceremony, relive festival highlights and celebrate the incredible performances as some of the Territory’s most talented performers take centre stage for the last time. Capture your final photographs as you reflect upon the captivating culture and enchanting traditions experienced over the past 3 days. After enjoying Barunga Festival and Katherine you’ll have collected treasured memories to last a lifetime.

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