Katherine is a small regional town in the Northern Territory of Australia with a population of less than 10,000 people. Sweeping from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the West Australian border the diverse landscapes and unique ecosystems set the scene for outback adventure activities like fishing, canoeing, bushwalking, birdwatching, camping and four-wheel driving. The township is situated on the banks of the Katherine River, which flows down from the world-renowned Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk National Park) about 300 km south of Darwin. It's the third largest settlement in the NT after the capital Darwin and Alice Springs.
In recent times tourism has gained in importance, and the town is now a significant tourist destination, and contains all the associated tourism facilities. Attractions like Katherine Gorge drawn large numbers of tourists in the peak (dry) season.
It is a relatively remote destination with abundant waterways including gorges, rivers waterfalls and the ocean. It's these characteristics that attract an influx of adventure seekers all year round.
Its most well-known watercourse is the Katherine River, which flows through the famous Katherine Gorge. The Gorge, 30 kilometres from the town of Katherine, within the Nitmiluk National Park, is actually 13 separate gorges connected over a stretch of 12 kilometres by rapids and rocky terrain.
This is an adventure playground for visitors who canoe, camp, bushwalk, and helicopter their way around the Park. Further downstream, extended canoe trips with overnight camping in the peaceful bush is the best way to experience the Katherine River - a serene water way that supports a rich eco-system of native animals and birds.
Bushwalkers are well catered for in Katherine with over 100 kilometres of walking trails in the Nitmiluk National Park alone, ranging from half to five-day treks.
One of the most famous is the Jatbula Trail - a challenging four to six-day, 58-kilometre bushwalk from Katherine Gorge to Edith Falls that takes in diverse scenery, plunging waterfalls and Aboriginal rock art.
The region's other big rivers provide opportunities for serious fishing adventure. The Daly, Roper, Victoria and McArthur Rivers are prime barramundi haunts, and anglers can bring their own boat, hire one or join a guided safari to add landing a big barra to their list of conquests.
The best way to access Katherine is to fly in to Darwin, and drive south down the Explorers Way.
Four wheel driving is the best way to get around Katherine, helicopters and small planes are great ways to take in the vast landscape and travel from place to place.
Via the Stuart Highway. Katherine is around 3 hours drive and around 300 km south of Darwin. Bear in mind that all cars rented in Darwin will have per day kilometre restrictions, unlimited kilometres rentals are unheard of in Darwin (unless hiring a campervan).
Greyhound bus services Katherine. Their office is located at BP Travel North on Katherine Terrace.
The Ghan  train travels north twice weekly to Darwin from Adelaide via Katherine, and is one of Australia's most spectacular rail trips. It is a tourist train rather than a means of transport. Expect it to be the slowest and most expensive way to Katherine. It does stop in Katherine for long enough to take a tour.
Darwin International Airport  is the closest airport to Katherine.
Airborne Solutions  phone - +61 (8) 8972 2345, fax - +61 (8) 8972 2535 prices range from AUD $920.00 to $2320.00
The best way to get around Katherine is by car as most of the attractions of Katherine are not within walking distance of the town centre.
This really leaves car (private or hire) or an organised tour as the only ways to get around. The roads to all the major attractions are sealed but subject to flooding during the Wet Season.
Northern Rockhole - Jatbula Trail, Nitmiluk National Park
- Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal  with its F/A-18 Hornets is located 17 km south of Katherine. Katherine is situated just south of the humid environs of the tropical 'Top End' but still north of the main central Australian desert regions.
- Katherine School Of The Air, Giles Street, Katherine, Northern Territory, 0850, Australia, Telephone +61-8-8972-1833, . The Katherine School of the Air located in Giles Street, Katherine, is a distance education school, making it a living example of an historic outback schooling tradition. The School caters for isolated students residing in the top half of the Northern Territory or temporarily travelling in remote areas. Curriculum materials are delivered to the students via correspondence and high frequency radio. Radio broadcasts can be clearly heard as far away as Germany and the Antarctic. The Katherine School of the Air currently delivers education to children in an 800,000 square kilometre radius. Travellers can stop by and experience the School for themselves, watching and listening as the pupils participate in lessons. This is a great opportunity to gain insight into a unique part of life in the most remote outback areas, and to learn about the vision that made the School of the Air possible. Entry fees apply
- Katherine Art Gallery, 12 Katherine Terrace, Tel: +61-8-8971-1051, . The Katherine Art Gallery holds an excellent collection of Aboriginal Art. Presenting a portfolio of artists from the region, the gallery reflects the cultural diversity and influences of the Jawoyn, Warlpiri and Dagoman Aboriginal people, who have lived in the Katherine area for thousands of years. The gallery also houses a range of collections from regions of Arnhem Land, the Central Western Desert, and areas in Western Australia. Clients from all over the world maintain contact with the gallery to purchase the didjeridus, artefacts and paintings from the friendly characters who come to produce their work on the premises. The Katherine Art Gallery also offers fantastic rates for public Internet access. There is something for everyone and every budget in the Katherine Art Gallery. Whatever you decide to do, just watch out for the saltwater crocodile. Free entry
- Katherine Museum, 3 km outside of town on the Katherine Gorge Road. Displays including a room on the Overland Telegraph Line, another on the Chinese in the Territory, plus detailed history of the changes of the town from the first settlement at Knots Crossing to the building of 'The Katherine', to the modern settlement.
- Katherine Region Tourist Association, Corner of Stuart Highway & Lindsay Street, Tel: +61-8-8972 2650. Good first stop to get free info, maps, etc.
Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk National Park
Nitmiluk National Park
- Katherine Gorge  - located in Nitmiluk National Park about 30 minutes northeast of the town. There are many ways to experience the spectacular Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) and its world-renowned gorge system - you can walk, swim, canoe, boat or fly. Walks over the sandstone plateau range from an hour to 5 days and offer spectacular views of the Gorge, as well as other landscapes. Some, like the 58 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 2, 4 and 8 hour cruises are available, as are helicopter flights. Rivers rising during December to April can restrict all activities but there is always something to do. Swimming and canoeing are generally only activities for May to November. The cruises available vary between the 2 varying seasons. Free entry
- Leliyn/Edith Falls - http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/parks/. Leliyn/Edith Falls is located on the western side of Nitmiluk National Park You can enjoy swimming in the paperbark and pandanus fringed natural pool at the base of the falls most of the year, although it may be closed to swimming a t times during November and April. The lush, grassy campsites in this scenic bush setting make Leliyn/Edith Falls an idyllic spot for camping. The area is also great for bushwalking. The 2.6 kilometre Leliyn Trail is a steep, rocky loop, offering a challenging walk. There is a chance for a refreshing swim in the upper pool of Leliyn/Edith Falls half way around the trail. You can also enjoy the longer 8.6 kilometre return walk to Sweetwater Pool, a tranquil swimming hole. Leliyn/Edith Falls is the finishing point of the 58 kilometre Jatbula Trail walking track, which begins at Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) headquarters.
- Jatbula Trail - Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). The 58 kilometre Jatbula Trail features stunning scenery, waterfalls and Jawoyn Aboriginal rock art. The trail is a 4 to 5 day walk that is only marked in one direction, from Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk Centre) to Leliyn/Edith Falls. Walkers need to make their own arrangements for transport to the gorge and from Leliyn/Edith Falls, or alternatively, contact Nitmiluk Tours for transfers. The Jatbula Trail is a long and potentially difficult walk, however, adequate preparation will ensure a safe and pleasant trip. There is a ferry service across the Katherine River as part of the walk on the first day. Free entry
- Cutta Cutta Caves National Park  about 27 km south of Katherine via the Stuart Highway. Daily guided one hour tours of the unique cave system plus 20 minute 'Tropical Woodland Walk' directly off car park. Check tour times before you visit.
- North Australian Helicopters  - Lot 1224 Victoria Highway. Tel: +61-8-8972-1666. Scenic flights.
Smitt Rock, Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk National Park
- Swim Seek local advice from the tourism information about swimming in Katherine, as crocodiles are present in these parts. Popular swimming spots like Low Level Crossing and pleasant for cooling off, but watch out for the current, and for snags. The Katherine river is patrolled for crocodiles in the dry season and it is usually safe to swim in the Katherine Gorge in the dry season.
- Mataranka is a small township that sits on the upper reaches of the Roper River, an hour’s drive south-east of Katherine.This tropical wayside stop is on the Explorer’s Way tourism drive, the main artery that connects Adelaide and Darwin, and is renowned for its thermal pool – a sandy-bottomed lagoon fringed by palm forest and a rejuvenating swimming spot for weary travellers up and down ‘the track’. You can swim in the hot springs, which are dammed to form a swimming hole. You can also swim in the river where the springs flow into the river, giving a 30cm hot layer on top of an otherwise quite cold river. There’s a good range of camping grounds, accommodation and a supermarket. Attractions around town include the Stockyard Gallery that exhibits local Aboriginal art, barramundi hand-feeding tours and the Never Never Museum that displays the local Aboriginal history.
- Douglas Hot Springs are around 130 km north of Katherine, and are a deviation off the road north to Darwin at Hayes Creek. The springs where they flow are too hot to swim, but you will see people sitting where the hot water meets the cold river. For a idyllic place to swim cross the hot stream, follow the path across the next small river, and continue on and you will find a large natural pool, at a constant 31 degree temperature, which is deep, still and surrounded by tropical vegetation. Five star hotels have spent millions trying to build a lagoon pool like this, and here is it, naturally formed.
- Jurrasic Cycad Gardens, Katherine Gorge Road about 4 minutes outside of Katherine, Tel: +61-8-8971-0335, . Nursery and botanic garden enterprise concentrating on Cycad living fossils and featuring some of the rarest plant species on earth.
- Groceries and other supplies for the independant travellers can easily be purchased with Katherine having a large supermarket in town
- Digger Den Tavern , 7 Victoria Highway. Tel: +61-8-8971-0422.
- Fair Dinkum Cafe, 102 Third Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-3390.
- Katie's Bistro, Cameron Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-2511.
- Katherine Country Club, Pearce Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-1276. Restaurant, tropical beer garden, poker machines, 9 hole golf course, bowls and air conditioned club house.
- Kirby's Restaurant, Katherine Terrace. Tel: +61-8-8972-1622.
- Kumbidgee Lodge Tea Rooms, Gorge Street, Tel: +61-8-8971-0699.
- Main St Cafe & Takeaway, 22 Katherine Terrace, Tel: +61-8-8971-0688.
- Paraway Motel Restaurant, Corner of O'Shea Terrace & First Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-2644.
- Regent Court Chinese Restaurant, 25 First Street, Tel: +61-8-8971-1555.
- Fran's Devonshire Tea House, Stuart Highway, Larrimah, Katherine Region, ☎ +61 (8) 8975 9945. Fran's Devonshire Tea House, in the old Larrimah Police Station and Museum. Fran serves delicious fare, including homemade camel and buffalo pies, sausages, pasties, sausage rolls, apple pie, waffles, scones and Devonshire teas, as well as fascinating historical information for Larrimah and the Northern Territory. Fran's Devonshire Tea House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
- Kumbidgee Lodge Tea Rooms, 4739 Gorge Road, Katherine, ☎ +61 (8) 8971 0699. Enjoy genuine Territorian hospitality set in tranquil bush surrounds.
- The Stockyard Gallery, 9 Roper Terrace, Mataranka, Katherine Region, ☎ +61 (8) 8975 4530. Delicious Devonshire teas, light snacks and mango fruit smoothies are served in the shady tea garden. Local paintings and sculptures, as well as Aboriginal artefacts, Territory books, gifts and souvenirs are for sale in the gallery and there is a great deal of information on the history of this interesting area, made famous by the book We of the Never Never.
- Katherine Country Club, Pearce Street, Katherine, ☎ +61 (8) 8972 1276. The Katherine Country Club offers superb dining for lunch or dinner. There is a nine hole golf course, lawn bowls, a tropical beer garden, an airconditioned club house, a children’s playground, poker machines, TAB, Keno and Sky Channel gaming. The club is a great place to relax after a days touring.
Working cattle stations are a unique way to experience the outback and all provide various accommodation and touring packages.Pungalina and Lorella Springs in the Gulf region and Bullo River Station in the west boast sandstone escarpments, rugged gorges, crystal clear rivers, natural springs and mysterious limestone caves.
- All Seasons Frontier Caravan Park and Frontier Inn, Stuart Highway, Tel: +61-8-8972-1744. Near the town centre with restaurant, swimming pool and tennis court.
- Beagle Motor Inn, Corner Fourth Street & Lindsay Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-3998.
- Best Western Pine Tree Motel, 129 Third Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-2533. Restaurant and swimming pool.
- Crossways Hotel Motel, 23 Katherine Terrace, off Main Street, near the centre of town, Tel: +61-8-8972-1022, . 19 air conditioned units. Beer garden. Licensed restaurant.
- Katherine Hotel/Motel, Katherine Terrace, Tel: +61-8-8972-1622, . Swimming pool, restaurant and lounge bar. Next to Oasis Shopping Centre.
- Katherine Low Level Caravan Park, Shadforth Road, Tel: +61-8-8972-3962 or +61-8-8972-2239.
- Katherine River Lodge, Corner of Stuart Highway and Victoria Highway, Tel: +61-8-8971-0266, . Motel accommodation with Cheeky Croc Restaurant (open daily for all meals), swimming pool and internet cafe.
- Knotts Crossing Resort Caravan Park and Resort Motel, Corner of Giles Street & Cameron Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-2511, . Motel rooms, cabins, caravan sites and camping. Air conditioned bistro style restaurant on site. Two unheated swimming pools, one in a lagoon style.
- Maud Creek Country Lodge, 6 km from Katherine Gorge., Tel: +61-8-8971-1814, . Bed and breakfast.
- Palm Court Kookaburra Backpackers, Corner of Third Street and Giles Street, Tel: +61-8-8972-2722. Air conditioned dorms, twins and double rooms. Ensuite bathrooms, colour TVs and lockers. 5 minute walk to Post Office and shops.
- Red Gum Caravan Park, 42 Victoria Highway, Tel: +61-8-8972-2239.
- Riverview Tourist Village, 440 Victoria Highway, Tel: +61-8-8972-1011, . Motel rooms, various kinds of cabins, backbacker rooms, powered and unpowered camping sites. Swimming pool, cafe, convenience store, internet kiosk and Caltex roadhouse. Communal backpacker kitchen and TV room. Pets allowed except in motel rooms.
- Shady Lane Van Park, 1828 Gorge Road, Tel: +61-8-8971-0491, . Quiet with large swimming pool. No pets.
- Springvale Homestead Tourist Park, Shadforth Road, Tel: +61-8-8972-1355. Situated 7 km from Katherine township on the banks of the Katherine River, historic Springvale Homestead was built in the 1880s and is the oldest standing homestead in the NT. Shady parkland environment, grassed caravan and camping sites, budget motel accommodation, licensed bistro and kiosk, swimming pool and children’s waterslide.
- St Andrews Serviced Apartments, 27 First Street, Tel: +61-8-8971-2288, . 14 air conditioned two bedroom self-contained apartments set in landscaped tropical gardens.
- Darwin was founded as Australia’s most northerly harbour port in 1869, and its population rapidly expanded after the discovery of gold at nearby Pine Creek in 1871. World War II put Darwin on the map as a major allied military base for troops fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. Described as 'the gateway to the Northern Territory, Darwin makes a great base for exploring the wonders of the 'top-end'.
- Alice Springs was established by the early explorers and remains as the centre of activity in this region. Often referred to as the heart of Central Australia is comprised of cavernous gorges, boundless desert landscapes, remote Aboriginal communities and a charming pioneering history.
- Uluru- Rising from the broad desert plain in the deep centre of Australia. Uluru Ayers Rock is Australia's most recognisable natural icon.
- Nitmiluk National Park Covering more than 292,000 hectares, Nitmiluk National Park is located north-east of Katherine. The impressive gorge walls and white sandy beaches can be explored on foot, by canoe or on a cruise and are stunning from the air on a scenic helicopter flight.
- Daly River is located between Darwin and Katherine and begins where the Katherine and Flora Rivers intersect and flow west to the Timor Sea. It encompasses many unique ecosystems, including hot springs and gorges, making it a fantastic spot to camp and bushwalk.
- Victoria River The Victoria River Region is located south-west of Katherine and is most often visited en-route between Katherine and the Western Australia’s Kimberley region. The small township of Timber Creek, 285 kilometres west of Katherine, is the region’s main centre and home to about 70 people. Fishing is Timber Creek's biggest drawcard and the beautiful Victoria River, running through deep valleys and gorges, is one of the Northern Territory’s most scenic places to catch barramundi.
- Gulf region Travelling east from Katherine takes you to the Gulf of Carpentaria - the shallow sea between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The area is home to four main indigenous language groups- Yanuwa, Mara, Kurdanj and Karawa. Its early pastoral areas were opened up by the ill-fated German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845, and today the Gulf region encompasses some of Australia’s largest cattle stations – several the size of small European countries.
- Matranka a small township sits on the upper reaches of the Roper River, an hour’s drive south-east of Katherine. This tropical wayside stop is on the Explorer’s Way tourism drive, the main artery that connects Adelaide and Darwin, and is renowned for its thermal pool – a sandy-bottomed lagoon fringed by palm forest and a rejuvenating swimming spot for weary travellers up and down ‘the track’.
Swimming - The Northern Territory has many safe places to swim, including local nature reserves, public swimming pools and in some national parks. Swimming at Northern Territory beaches is not recommended due to the presence of box jellyfish. If you choose to swim at the beach, take vinegar as a precaution as it is known to sooth the sting.
Salt and freshwater crocodiles are found in most Top End billabongs and rivers, and are occasionally seen on remote beaches. The accessible rivers and billabongs are generally sign-posted if saltwater crocodiles are known to inhabit the area, but if you are not sure, don’t swim.
Travellers should always wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses and at least an SPF 30+ sunscreen when outdoors. You should also be sure to drink plenty of water; a minimum of two litres per day is advised.
Insects - The Territory is home to mosquitoes and other biting insects, so a reliable insect repellent, mosquito coils and appropriate clothing will make travelling more comfortable. If camping, keep your tent zipped and tap your shoes out before putting them on.
Outdoor activities like bushwalking and camping are must-have experiences in the Northern Territory. Here is some travel information and safety tips to remember:
Carry and drink plenty of water; at least one litre of water for every hour of walking in very warm weather.
Take notice of all signs – especially ‘no swimming’ signs at waterways inhabited by saltwater crocodiles
Be mindful that snakes inhabit most areas of the Territory, so be cautious when walking through long grass
Ensure you have an adequate fitness level for the bushwalk you plan to undertake
Carry appropriate safety equipment, such as an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), satellite phone and first aid kit
Avoid walking in the hottest part of the day or walking alone
Register with the overnight bushwalking register if you plan an extended walk
Wear sun protection and take insect repellent for both walking and camping
Never camp near the water's edge
Carry a map of the area you're walking/camping in and know how to read it
Tell someone your plan and when you expect to return
Shake out your shoes in the morning to remove any 'critters' that have settled in during the night
Always camp in designated areas
Only build fires in the pits provided and take care to completely extinguish the flame when finished
Limit the use of fire and be aware of fire bans in certain areas of the Territory
Wear sturdy shoes, thick socks, a hat and sunscreen while bushwalking
Some areas require permits to enter so check this before setting out
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