Katherine & Surrounds 7 day itinerary
With seven days to discover the beauty of the Katherine, you'll see how this region is prime adventure territory. Discover gorges, waterholes, waterfalls and thermal springs and find out about the traditional owners at galleries, rock art sites and on cultural tours.
With Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), Mataranka Thermal Pools and Elsey National Park only a stone’s throw away, your days will be jam-packed with activities.
Start your engine
The town of Katherine is only a 3.5 hour drive south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway, with many great things to see and do along the way.
Take in the history at Adelaide River
The Adelaide River Inn is the perfect place to refresh with a cool drink and meet ‘Charlie’ the Buffalo who shot to fame starring in Crocodile Dundee. It is also worth visiting the War Cemetery, a reminder of the impact of WWII on the Territory and commemorating military and civilian casualties.
Discover the Pine Creek pioneers
Further along the road is Pine Creek, a town with pioneering and gold mining history. Visit the National Trust Museum and wander around Pine Creek Railway Precinct, an important transport hub during the 1870s mining boom and WWII. Afterwards, stop in for lunch and a cool drink at one of the great spots. Be sure to check out the uniquely carved images of local wildlife onto the termite mound mud brick structure of the Lazy Lizard Tavern.
Experience the wonders of natural thermal springs
Next stop, a dip in the Katherine Hot Springs – a series of clear pools fed by natural thermal springs. On the banks of the Katherine River, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic.
Rest your head in Katherine
There are many options for where to lay your head in Katherine, including central hotels, backpackers, campsites and executive suites.
Spend the morning immersed in art
Call in at the Aboriginal art galleries in Katherine to browse or invest in some original pieces by artists from the region and beyond. You may even be lucky enough to meet the artist.
A top art and cultural experience
The Top Didj Art Gallery and Aboriginal Cultural Experience offers the chance to meet with local Aboriginal artists. You can also get involved and create some of your own artwork and learn traditional painting styles, or try your hand at spear throwing using a woomera. Guests can also have to opportunity to try a traditional way to start a fire using two sticks.
Eat like an outback stockman
Dine under the stars at Marksie’s Stockman’s Camp Tucker Night which is conveniently located at the same site Top Didj. In surroundings reminiscent of an outback stockman’s camp, you will feast on traditional outback tucker cooked using a range of Aboriginal spices to develop unique tastes. Partake in a scavenger hunt, or sit back and enjoy humorous yarns and stories with your host, Geoff Mark.
Start your day at Nitmiluk Visitor Centre
Just 30kms up the road is the world-renowned Nitmiluk Gorge. The Gorge is a network of 13 gorges carved by the Katherine River from billion-year-old sandstone country. Start the day at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre for advice on the many ways you can experience the spectacular gorge – you can walk, swim, canoe, boat or fly!
There's a restaurant at the visitor centre where you can take a break and appreciate the views overlooking the gorge or you can wander through the many cultural displays.
Grab a paddle, or cruise along
If you're feeling adventurous, hire a canoe and experience Katherine Gorge from a completely different perspective. Fasten your life jacket. Lie back and let yourself drift off on an unforgettable journey surrounded by the dramatic cliff faces of the gorge. Take a packed lunch and enjoy a break near some fresh rock pools. You can even camp out under the stars if you wish.
If you'd rather kick back, relax and be guided comfortably through Katherine Gorge, check out one of the many boat cruises on offer – the dinner cruise is highly recommended. A guide will provide commentary on the local flora, fauna and ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, and share the culture of the traditional owners, the Jawoyn people with you.
Explore by foot
Another great way to see this country is on foot. Follow a well-marked track over the sandstone plateau for a short walk, or embark on a multi-day hike. The 60 kilometre Jatbula Trail takes in most of Nitmiluk’s landscapes – monsoon rainforest, stone country, upland swamp, woodland and rock pools with waterfalls.
Spend the night in accommodation that suits you
There are many diverse accommodation options to choose from tonight. Pitch a tent in the camping area in the park, relax in a self-contained chalet, or treat yourself to a luxury experience at the Cicada Lodge in stunning Nitmiluk National Park. Dining options are available within the National Park including buffet breakfast or lunch as well as an al-a-carte menu at Sugar Bag Café in the Visitors' Centre, or in season, (May – October) relax at Jatti Poolside Bistro for a refreshing drink or relaxing dinner.
Take in the views from above
Nitmiluk National Park extends north to Kakadu National Park and is part of the magnificent Arnhem Land escarpment. If you are feeling adventurous, a great way to get a sense of its size and beauty is from the air. Helicopter flights take off year-round (weather dependent) from the helipad near the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre or from near the gorge at Maud Creek airstrip and offer unforgettable experiences including exclusive landings at ancient rock art or spectacular waterfall swim sites.
Catch a must-see show
A must-see while in the region is the Katherine Outback Experience with Tom Curtain. Tom is equally renowned for his award-winning music skills as he is for his horseman abilities. Watch in awe during his 90 minute show as you witness authentic horse-breaking and a working dog demonstration.
Go underground at the Cutta Cutta Caves
Prepare yourself for something truly spectacular. Travel 27 km south of Katherine to the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park. The Park covers 1,499 hectares of limestone landscape, with the main features being impressive limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Formed millions of years ago, the caves are still growing today and are found about 15 m below the surface. Guided tours are conducted daily.
Have lunch on main street
Head back into town for lunch. On the main street of Katherine Terrace you'll find popular cafés and eateries to tantalise your taste buds. Spend some time browsing the local shops.
Experience cultural diversity at Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre
This afternoon, get immersed in local culture at Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre (GYRACC). The centre is a new crossculture enterprise that aims to showcase the cultural diversity and artistic richness of the region. The centre aspires to become a ‘model for reconciliation’ in the community through the presentation of exhibitions and performances of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultural expression together. Take home a ‘piece of Katherine’ from the gift shop that stocks stunning local arts and crafts.
Take a day trip to Mataranka
Today you take off for Mataranka, a small township about 106 kilometres south-east of Katherine and great a place to spend the day. The area was made famous by the 1902 novel ‘We of the Never Never’ – a book written about nearby Elsey Station by Jeannie Gunn. You can visit the graves of the book’s characters in the Elsey Memorial Cemetery or wander through the replica Elsey Homestead, made for the filming of the movie. Visit the Never Never Museum to learn about local Aboriginal history.
Feel rejuvenated with a swim in the thermal pool
Take a rejuvenating swim in the Mataranka Thermal Pool. Fed by spring water from the Daly and Georgina basins, it has a sandy bottom, is surrounded by a palm forest, and its waters are a constant 34 degrees Celsius.
Get up-close to the turtles and wildlife
The beautiful Bitter Springs Thermal Pool is also worth checking out, and is very close by to Mataranka. If you take a snorkel and mask and look among the roots of the pandanus along the banks, you'll come face to face with northern yellow-faced turtles and long neck turtles.
Complete your afternoon at Djilpin Arts
On your way back to Katherine, make a detour to Beswick to visit Djilpin Arts. It's approximately 40 minutes drive along the Central Arnhem Highway, off the Stuart Highway. Here you can view some great local artwork on display and listen to stories of family and culture told through dance and song. Learn about the Walking with Spirits Festival, held at this location annually, a traditional corroboree that celebrates the community’s culture and heritage.
Plunge into Edith Falls
Today your journey back to Darwin takes in Leliyn/Edith Falls, where you can have a cooling swim in the huge, pandanus-fringed plunge pool fed by waterfalls.
Go for a bushwalk and finish with a swim
The area is great for bushwalking – challenge yourself to walk the 2.6 km steep rocky loop that is the Leliyn Trail. Your reward is a refreshing swim in the upper pool of the falls halfway through the walk.
Take a trek to Sweetwater Pool
Pack a picnic lunch and head up to Sweetwater Pool – a large tranquil swimming hole on the Edith River that can be reached by walking the 8.6 km return track from Edith Falls. The walk includes a steep climb at the start and scenic lookouts along the way. The early morning or late afternoon light at Sweetwater Pool creates stunning reflections.
Time to head back
From here, head off on the 293 km stretch back to Darwin.
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