Located on the junction of the Victoria and Stuart Highways, Katherine is at the crossroads of the Northern Territory. Whilst many just pass through while heading north to Darwin, south to Alice Springs, west to Kununurra or east into Arnhem Land, there are many hidden treasures just waiting for you to explore.
1. Chase waterfalls
Located 60km north of Katherine via the Stuart Highway, Leliyn/Edith Falls is one of the most picturesque sites in the NT. The Leliyn Trail is a 2.6km loop walk from the car park that leads you up an escarpment to the upper pool and then down to the main pool before crossing the river and leading back to where you began. You are rewarded with an idyllic swimming hole below the falls in the upper pool and then another opportunity to cool down in the main pool. There are also two lookouts the provide magnificent views of the waterfalls and the Edith River.
The campsite at Leliyn/Edith Falls is one of the best in the region. Sites are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and fees can be paid at the onsite kiosk. This is an extremely popular place during the cooler months and is also the completion point for the 62km Jatbula Trail that begins at Katherine Gorge. The campground is fully serviced with showers and toilets and all sites are unpowered, while the day visitor area has BBQs and tables. A good tip is to BYO toilet paper.
2. Cave in to it
You’ll find the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park 30km south of Katherine along the Stuart Highway. This limestone cave system has been forming for millions of years and continues to grow even now. It’s rare to find limestone caves in sub-tropical Australia, so being able to access the Cutta Cutta Caves is a truly unique experience. Tours run on the hour and besides the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites if you’re lucky you might even see one of five species of bat that reside in the caves or even a snake or two.
There is also a short Tropical Savannah Walk that highlights important local fauna with the help of information boards located along the trail. Having enjoyed a cave tour or the savannah walk, why not check out the kiosk for a cool drink or a souvenir of your visit. The park is open daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm but may be closed occasionally from December to April due to flooding.
3. Hot spring hunt
If you want to enjoy some hot springs without the massive crowds, why not check out the Katherine Hot Springs hiding only five minutes from town? Located on the banks of the Katherine River, these natural springs with a water temperature averaging 32 degrees are a great way to while away the day and relax in the clear pools lined with pandanus.
Recent beautification works to the area have raised the enjoyment of the experience with elevated walkways, concrete seating and steps and stainless-steel rails making it easier for those with limited mobility to access the water. A nearby picnic area is grassed with loads of shade, just perfect. The Katherine Hot Springs are closed between November and April due to the high risk of floods.
4. The Outback Experience
Created by multiple Golden Guitar winner Tom Curtain and his wife Annabel, the Katherine Outback Experience provides an authentic look into Australian Outback life. Annabel describes the experience as the “raw and real side of an outback show” and you will see that for yourself with each show being different than every other.
Who doesn’t love watching cattle dogs being trained, especially the puppies? If you’ve never seen a horse being saddled and ridden for the first time, here’s your chance. Watch trick horses perform their magic, pat Burnie the Buffalo or just cuddle a fur baby, there is something for everyone. Add some live music and comical bush yarns and you’ll see why the Katherine Outback Experience has won multiple tourism awards.
The Outback Experience runs from April to October with shows daily except for Thursday and Sunday. You can check times and book your tickets on the Katherine Outback Experience website.
5. Best ‘til last
Katherine Gorge is the highlight of the Nitmiluk National Park and there are several ways you can enjoy its splendour. The Katherine River has carved out the sandstone gorge over thousands of years and you see it up close either on a boat tour, with sunrise and sunset tours offering stunning rock colourings. For a slower pace, you can hire canoes or BYO canoe and experience the river from a different perspective.
The Nitmiluk Visitors Centre is the place to head for tour bookings, camping and information on the walking trails. There is also a Display Centre and Heritage Museum where you can learn all about Nitmiluk via graphic displays, audio-visual features, photographs and Aboriginal artefacts. Jawoyn art can be found throughout the national park but remember to look, don’t touch these special sites.
If you prefer to explore by foot, the Buruwei Lookout Walk (1.8km) and the Baruwei Loop Walk (3.7km) both offer great views of the western end of Katherine Gorge and 17 Mile Valley. The challenging Jatbula Trail is a 62km one-way hiking trail that takes you along the western edge of the escarpment and deep into Nitmiluk National Park eventually finishing at Leliyn/Edith Falls.
The campground is fully serviced with showers and toilets, with powered or unpowered, a swimming pool, camp kitchen and bistro on site. Safari tents or chalets are also available. Day visitors can enjoy a BBQ with tables and toilets available.