25% OFF all NT Experiences! BOOK NOW!
Travel must commence by the 30th of April 2024. Discount applied automatically!

Book your Top End Adventure Here

Katherine & Big Rivers

Water is the lifeblood of the Big Rivers Region with its vast wetlands and pristine river systems teeming with wildlife, sandstone gorges, crystal clear natural springs and rocky escarpments. The region’s natural environments are best experienced through nature based adventures, exploring a rich pioneer heritage along legendary outback stock routes and culture immersion through 65,000 year old Aboriginal songlines and walking routes linking important sites and locations. These experiences will captivate and connect with you, leaving you feeling different in every sense.

Connection to country
Whenever you travel in the Katherine Region, you’ll pass through country traditionally associated with different Aboriginal language groups. The first people of the area were the Jawoyn and Dagomen people. Aboriginal people are proud of their land and welcome visitors who come to learn about their country and culture.

The Katherine and Big Rivers Region stretches from Dunmarra in the south, to the Daly River region in the north. From east to west, it embraces both the Queensland and Western Australian borders and in total covers around 480,000 square kilometres. The region boasts the magnificent Nitmiluk National Park.

Katherine is a modern town located 317km south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway, an area the size of Victoria, it’s the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory. Katherine is often referred to as the ‘Crossroads of the North’, as the Explorer’s Way and Savannah Way lead north, south, east and west from this point.

Surrounding Katherine, you will discover such treasures as Borroloola and the Gulf Region across the Roper River – Elsey National Park, Mataranka Thermal Pools, the majestic scenery of the Victoria River Region, Pine Creek and the Douglas and Daly River areas.

Katherine Visitor Information Centre
A visit to Katherine should include a stop at the Katherine Visitor Information Centre located on the Stuart Highway. Here you can talk to a local expert for advice on what to do in the area.

Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts & Culture Centre
Godinymayin is a stunning arts and culture centre built to showcase the Katherine Region’s rich Indigenous and non-Indigenous art and culture. The annual program includes impressive visual arts exhibitions, exciting music/theatre/dance performances, informative education programs and special events.

History and WWII

Katherine Museum
The museum is located at the original Katherine aerodrome, on Giles Street. The museum displays are housed in the original terminal building and provide insight into the early history of the Katherine Region. The displays include interesting information about early pastoral activities, WWII and communication.

O’Keeffe House
O’Keeffe House is located along Riverbank Drive and was originally built out of bush materials by the officers of the army stationed here in WWII. It was originally a recreation hut which then became the Officers Mess. Check with the Visitor Information Centre for opening hours.

Railway Station Museum
This museum is located within the old Railway Station building on Railway Terrace. Built between 1924 and 1926, the Station, the bridge over the Katherine River and other structures, remain to inform visitors of the importance of the railway in the development of Katherine. The museum houses displays on wartime activities involving the railway and the local community. Check with the Visitor Information Centre for opening hours. Entry fees apply.

Legends of the Outback

The Katherine Icon
The Katherine Icon was the project of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association for 2002 – Australia’s Year of the Outback. This magnificent, one and a half times life size, bronze statue is Sabu Peter Sing, 1940 – 1993, member of the Wardaman tribe, skilled bushman, horseman and stockman who represents courageous pioneers and all who faithfully follow the trails they blazed.

Adventure the way you want it

Cutta Cutta Caves
Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park is located 27 kilometres south of Katherine. The park covers 1,499 hectares of limestone (Karst) landscape. The main feature of the park is the Cutta Cutta Caves, a limestone formation of stalactites and stalagmites. It is home to five species of bat, including the rare ghost and horseshoe bats. The harmless brown tree snake also inhabits the caves and can often be seen coiled upon cave ledges. About 170 species of birds have been recorded within the park, including the Hooded Parrot and the endangered Gouldian Finch. Guided tours are conducted daily. The park is generally open from March to December, however closures due to flooding may occur during Top End Summer rains.

Flora River Nature Park (Giwining)
This park is 122 kilometres south west of Katherine via the Victoria Highway. The last 36 kilometres is unsealed but generally suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles (not including hire cars) during the dry season. The park incorporates 25 kilometres of the Flora River and is an ideal spot for fishing and boating (under 15 horse power only). The river is spring fed, featuring crystal clear waterfalls and tufa dams. Visitors can view these interesting tufa formations at Djarrung and Kathleen Falls, located a short walk from the campground. Savannah woodland covers 85 percent of the park, with lush riverine forest along the river banks. The park protects a variety of wildlife, including the pig-nosed turtle. Freshwater and saltwater crocodiles inhabit the river. Check road access during Top End Summer rains.

Katherine Hot Springs
The Hot Springs are located just five minute’s drive from the centre of Katherine. The Springs consist of a number of crystal-clear pools winding through the trees and then out to the Katherine River. The grassy banks and huge trees surrounding these pools make it a pleasant picnic spot and a BBQ area is situated adjacent to the car park. Wheelchair access is available via Crocker Street. During the Top End Summer the springs can close due to flooding.

Katherine River
The Katherine River flows through the centre of town and is accessible at a number of different locations, including the Low Level Nature Reserve, the Katherine Springs, under the High Level Bridge and at Knotts Crossing. A cycle path runs between the Low Level Nature Reserve and Knotts Crossing on the southern side of the river, then along the northern side of the river between the Low Level Bridge and the High Level Bridge to complete the loop. This is a great way to sightsee, picnic and birdwatch.

Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge is located 30 kilometres from Katherine on a fully sealed road and consists of 13 natural gorges carved through sandstone by the Katherine River, with rocks and boulders separating each gorge.

Connection to country

The traditional owners of the land, the Jawoyn people of Katherine welcome you to Nitmiluk – the place of the Cicada dreaming. Our vision is to create authentic and unforgettable holiday experiences, sharing and sustaining the ancient cultures and stories of the Jawoyn people. To be leaders in driving Aboriginal tourism growth by taking a proactive and strategic approach to promoting the destination and the Northern Territory in its cultural context. Through sustainable and culturally sensitive business practices becoming advocates for showcasing immersive Indigenous and naturebased outback adventures. We welcome you to our land and our culture and invite you to experience and enjoy our outback tours and to learn the secrets and stories of our culture and our traditional lands.

Nitmiluk Visitor Centre
The Nitmiluk Visitor Centre is your base to explore the National Park. Here you’ll find informative displays outlining the geology, landscape and Aboriginal history. Experienced staff can help you with tour enquiries and general information. Parks and Wildlife Rangers are on site at the centre to assist with all enquiries regarding walks, camping, fishing and boating. The centre offers a souvenir shop, toilet facilities and a kiosk overlooking the Katherine River. You can contact the centre on (08) 8971 0955.

Adventure the way you want it

There are a number of different ways to explore the Katherine River Gorge system.

Boat cruises
Boat cruises operate through the gorge and offer guided commentary explaining its history. There are a variety of cruise options, which vary depending on the season, including high powered speed boats during the Top End Summer.

Bush walking
The park has over 100 kilometres of marked walking trails, leading to various waterfalls and lookouts.

Canoeing
Paddling up the gorge is a rewarding experience enabling you to encounter wildlife and travel at your own pace. Half day, full day or overnight trips, staying in one of the bush camps located along the gorge, are available. A permit is required for overnight canoe trips which can be collected from Nitmiluk National Park Visitor Centre.

Fishing and boating
Regulations govern fishing and the use of private boats and canoes in the gorge. Fish size, bag limits, locations and motor sizes are restricted and only lure fishing is permitted within the gorge. It is advised to check with Parks and Wildlife Rangers to maximise your enjoyment of these activities.

Jatbula Trail
The Jatbula Trail is an iconic five day walk, covering 62 kilometres of tropical bushland. The walk begins at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre and ends at Leliyn (Edith Falls). All walkers must register before completing overnight walks. Registrations open November and book out fast.

Leliyn (Edith Falls)
Leliyn (Edith Falls) is part of Nitmiluk National Park and is accessed from the Stuart Highway, 46 kilometres north of Katherine then following a sealed road for another 20km. Adjacent to the car park at the base of Leliyn (Edith Falls) is a large pandanus fringed plunge pool, which is a popular swimming area. The park offers a variety of walking tracks, including the Leliyn Trail which is a 2.6-kilometre round trip that climbs to the top of the escarpment and then down to the upper pools. The walk offers fantastic views over the waterfalls and the Edith River and swimming is allowed in the beautiful Upper Pool. A longer 8.6 kilometres return walk will take you to Sweetwater Pool, a beautiful secluded swimming hole on the Edith River. A picnic area and camp ground (non-powered sites only) are provided near the base of the falls. Both areas are well shaded and grassed. A kiosk offers food and drinks and accepts payment of camping fees. During the Top End Summer rains, the plunge pool may be closed for swimming and access to the park may be restricted at these times. No pets, fishing or generators.

Scenic flights
Helicopter flights offer a variety of options, depending on the extent of the gorge system you wish to see. These scenic flights provide an excellent view of the Arnhem Land plateau.

 

Mataranka and Roper River

 

Connection to country
Mataranka is the traditional country of the Mangarayi and Yangman Aboriginal people. Some of their artwork can be seen in the Stockyard Gallery in the township.
Mataranka is known as the ‘Capital of the Never Never’. This area was home to Aeneas and Jeannie Gunn. Jeannie wrote the famous book about Elsey Station titled ‘We of the Never Never’ which is now part of Australia’s folklore. A visit to the station cemetery and the homestead replica helps capture the sense of isolation and hardship confronting these early settlers.
Today, Mataranka is a modern town with all the facilities a visitor expects. A full range of accommodation, facilities, experiences and attractions means a two or three day stay is needed for this stop off along Explorer’s Way.
While in town, visit the historic Mataranka Hotel, the Museum and the giant Termite Mound at Stan Martin Park – where many of the characters from the book and film ‘We of the Never Never’ can be seen.
The thermal pool in Mataranka has lush palms and crystal clean 34°C waters, offers a beautiful pool that has been an icon for visitors for many years. The environmental walk and swimming at Bitter Springs Thermal Pool is a relaxing experience. Birdwatching is popular with red goshawk, hooded parrott and northern rosellas seen in the area.

History and WWII

Elsey Cemetery
21 kilometres south of Mataranka, gravestones mark the resting place of many of the characters written about in Jeannie Gunn’s book ‘We of the Never Never’. Follow the signs from the Stuart Hwy.

Elsey Homestead Replica
Located at the Mataranka Homestead, this is an authentic copy of the original hand-hewn cypress pine homestead. It was constructed for the film ‘We of the Never Never’ and now displays historic information and artefacts. During the dry season, the film is shown at the homestead for visitors.

The Never Never Museum
Located behind the Shire Delivery Centre of Roper Gulf Council Chambers in the centre of town, this museum displays information on Aboriginal history, the North Australian Railway, Overland Telegraph Line construction and WWII. The keys are available from the Rural Transaction Centre.

Adventure the way you want it

Bitter Springs
This tropical spring-fed and mineral-rich thermal pool is only two kilometres from Mataranka. A short walk from the car park amongst palm sand tropical woodlands will lead you to the main swimming area. A short walk takes you around the whole pool and informative signage explains the formation and vegetation of the local area. Toilet facilities, picnic benches and barbecues are available.

Mataranka Thermal Pool
A short walk brings you to this sandy bottomed pool surrounded by palms. A constant 34° Celsius it flows from Rainbow Springs at an amazing 30.5 million litres each day. The area around the pool is a natural breeding ground for the Little Red Flying Fox. Usually, breeding season is during the Top End Summer, however, it can extend beyond this. The chattering of these flying fox colonies along the banks of the Roper River adds tropical charm to the palm-fringed crystal-clear pools. The turn off is 1.5 kilometres south of Mataranka.

The Termite Mound
In the centre of town is the world’s largest manmade termite mound, where an audio recording provides some interesting facts on these fascinating natural features.

Fishing

Roper River
This is one of the world’s truly great rivers. The headwaters at Mataranka have crystal clear springs flowing into it all year and are the starting point for a 250km journey east to the sea. The river travels through the largest stand of Livistonia Rigida palms in the world and its beautiful emerald green waters are home to the famous barramundi. The river flows through Elsey National Park – launch your own boat at the 4 mile or 12 Mile Yards (maximum 15 horse power outboard) and catch barramundi. There are some great bushwalks in the national park. A moderate 8km return walk to Mataranka Falls (Korowan) takes you down the Roper River to the tufa dams that traverse it and form gentle rapids. Alternatively, take a picnic basket and enjoy the solitude of Stevie’s Hole, a short 1.2km walk from Mataranka Homestead

Start Planning Your Stay in Katherine

Receive Monthly Deals, News and Events!

Subscribe to our Newsletter to receive all of the above and more

Choose to Book with the Top End's Local Experts

Need a hand choosing or booking your Top End Adventure?