Katherine was named by explorer John McDouall Stuart in the late 1800s after the daughter of one of his expedition sponsors. The area was renamed 'Nitmiluk' - meaning 'cicada place' - in 1989 when traditional owners, the Jawoyn Aboriginal people, gained title to the land.
While its star attraction is undoubtedly the famous Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge), Katherine and its surrounds include great fishing, hidden natural wonders and a rich indigenous and pioneering history. The region stretches from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the West Australian border. Around 300 kilometres south of Darwin, Katherine is set on the banks of the Katherine River.
The Katherine River flows through 13 separate gorges that carve their way through the Arnhem Land Plateau. You can canoe, cruise and swim between sheer cliffs to the sandy freshwater beaches of the main gorges, and view ancient Aboriginal rock paintings high on the rock faces. Waterfalls and rock pools are found along more than 100 kilometres of walking tracks, beginning at the Park’s visitor centre.
Katherine offers a wide range of accommodation, facilities and attractions, including museums, art galleries, character-filled pubs and historic sites.
THINGS TO DO IN KATHERINE
Immerse yourself in Katherine's rich tradition of Aboriginal art, culture and heritage. A great selection of galleries in Katherine promotes local produced works that reflect the styles and influences of the Jawoyn, Warlpiri and Dagoman people.
Take a cruise or canoe along the magnificent Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk), and be dwarfed by the towering glowing cliffs of the gorge.
Katherine Hot Springs
Take a dip in the relaxing hot springs near Katherine Township. Situated near the Katherine River banks these beautiful clear pools of water are surrounded by beautiful native vegetation. Averaging at a mild temperature of 32°C, the hot springs are perfect during the cooler months.
The water in the hot springs flows from a larger main pool over to a smaller pool before flowing down and meeting with the Katherine River. The surrounding area is well grassed and has ample of shade spots which are perfect for a picnic. There are even great areas for sunbathing around them. There are even walk ways and bike paths along the stream for when you feel like stretching your legs a bit.
The Katherine Hot Springs are a well thought out recreational picnic spot. There are walking ramps for tourists to go see the source of the hot spring water from a viewing platform. The hot springs are easily accessible through the walk ways and even have wheelchair access ramps.
Katherine Outback Experience
Featuring Tom Curtain, Katherine Outback Experience offers travellers a unique insight into life on an outback Northern Territory cattle station, particularly with regard to the role of working dogs and horses in beef cattle production.
The 90 minutes show includes demonstration of horse training, working dog team working cattle and goats, live country music often performed on a horse back and loads more. Children are also able to interact with the animals including goats, ducks, dogs horses and even buffalos. Tom’s passion for working with and training animals has inspired him to combine his love of music with animals and provide a taste of outback life through the Katherine Outback Experience.
Situated just 7 kilometers from Katherine town, it is an experience not be missed and one that will leave you with a greater understanding of the everyday men and women in the outback.
The Jatbula Trail Walking Track
Nitmiluk National Park is home to one of the most popular and challenging walks in the Top End. The famous Jatbula Trail is a 58 kilometre track traversing a variety of landscapes from hot sandstone escarpment to wet paperbark forests and features waterfalls, cultural sites and deep sandstone gorges.
The Jatbula Trail commences at Katherine Gorge and culminates at Edith Falls, following the Edith Escarpment overlooking the Seventeen Mile Valley. Winding up and down through ever-changing environments and over undulating terrain, it takes around five days to fully experience the Jatbula Trail.
There are designated campsites at Biddlecombe Falls, Crystal Falls, 17 Mile Falls, Edith River Crossing, Sandy Camp Pool and Sweetwater Pool, each with natural swimming holes, waterfalls or wide rivers in which to cool off. Ideally, walkers should trek from first light until about 2pm, spending the remainder of the afternoon relaxing by a waterfall, swimming in a crystal clear waterhole or just gazing at the beautiful colours of the sheer sandstone cliffs in the afternoon light. A highlight of the Jatbula Trail is about halfway along the track; the Amphitheatre is a butterfly-filled lush pocket of rainforest featuring Aboriginal rock art.
Treks must be pre-booked. Call 08 8972 1886.
Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)
Just 32 kilometres from the town centre, the gorge system is the major natural attraction in the area - a visitor’s delight of 180,000 hectares of natural wonder. There are 13 gorges in the system, carved out of the rock by torrential summer rains over millennia. Three of the gorges are readily accessible by organised tour and boat cruise. Alternatively the visitor can hire a canoe, take a trek, or enjoy a scenic flight in either a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft over this vast ancient landscape.
Commercially operated two and four hour cruises are available, while breakfast and sunset dinner cruises are also a popular way to explore the gorges. Should you wish to experience the splendour of all 13 gorges, taking to the sky on a scenic flight is the best way to do so.
Within the Nitmiluk region there are many fine examples of Aboriginal rock paintings many thousands of years old. These art sites are amongst the most popular attractions of Nitmiluk National Park.
The Nitmiluk Gorge / Katherine River was the cultural and spiritual foundation for the first inhabitants of the area, the Jawoyn and Dagomen people, providing for food and water and for both spiritual and recreational needs. An ideal way to immerse yourself in this ancient knowledge and culture is to participate in an Educational Bushtucker Tour.
With a range of accommodation including powered and unpowered campsites, as well as self-contained chalets, Nitmiluk National Park is a must see in the Katherine region.
Parks and Reserves
The Katherine region has surrounding parks and reserves regularly maintained by Parks and Wildlife. Each area is unique to the Top End and will contribute to your holiday experience whilst travelling through the Top End. Click on the links below for extensive information about each area.
Katherine has a place to suit every camping need. Whether you prefer cabins or caravan parks, there is a place for everyone. Nitmiluk National Park offers some of the perfect spots for camping and caravanning. Also, its proximity to Niltmiluk (Katherine) Gorge offers you with enough activity options throughout the day.
Katherine River Cruising
Cruise along the Katherine River through Nitmiluk National Park and explore the stunning nature and meet the local wildlife around the Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. Whether you prefer a boat cruise or canoe, river cruising is an adventurous experience not to be missed.
Fishing in Katherine
With a number of species available to fish, Katherine River is the starting point of your Northern Territory fishing experience. Fishing in Katherine is excellent all year round though barramundi is active from March to May. There a number of great spots for fishing near Katherine like, Donkeys Camp, Knotts Crossing, near galloping Jacks or the low level bridge.
Open from 9am to 4pm every day, except Christmas Day. Entry fee applies.
The Katherine Outback Heritage Museum was originally constructed as an air terminal during World War II and now contains an eclectic collection of artefacts, photographs, maps and pioneer memorabilia in an informative museum. Outdoor and undercover exhibits illustrate a rich heritage of ingenuity in rural machinery and household equipment.
Cutta Cutta Caves
Open daily from 8.30am to 4.30pm subject to weather conditions. Entry fee applies.
Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park covers 1499 hectares of karst limestone landscape and caves. Guided tours of the cave system are conducted throughout the day. The Jawoyn Aboriginal people have a long association with this area, and evidence of their culture can be found throughout the Park.