One of the bigger and more well known areas to visit on a trip through the Northern Territory is the town of Katherine.
It is 320 kilometres south east of Darwin and is most popularly known for Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) and various places where you can swim in natural hot springs. This is another region where you could easily spend a week or more enjoying these aspects alone.
When we have visited previously we’ve toured through Katherine Gorge and it’s always a spectacular natural landscape to see but on our last holiday, we spent time discovering some new to us experiences and revisited some other favourite places.
Katherine now has quite a good regional arts scene including contemporary and traditional art. As you drive around town you will notice some street art which are collaborations between professional street artists and local community members.
Amongst them is a mural which depicts the Katherine flood of 1998, which was designed by a local resident Mandy Tootell and painted by Jordan Conrad and Kaff-Eine. Other murals around town celebrate significant and inspirational people from the region.
To see more locally produced Katherine region art, then a visit to the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre is a must. This modern building houses art exhibitions and also has a performing arts space. Paintings and art exhibited is for sale and there is also a gift shop to buy books, gifts and art from local and NT art centres.
Katherine has one of our favourite caravan parks in the Territory and it’s not hard to see why we keep revisiting the Katherine Holiday Park. The grounds are green, spacious and tropical and the swimming pool is outstanding. While we were there last time a fruit vendor also drove through the park and we were able to buy mangoes and more from him.
The park also has it’s own bistro where you can dine outdoors under a giant fig tree, but unfortunately on this trip it wasn’t open, due to the inability to get a chef at the time. Hopefully by peak season this will have changed. In general it seems the Territory is screaming out for workers, especially in the hospitality areas. This seems to be as a result of the impact of Covid restricting overseas visitors, with a lot of backpackers usually filling these types of jobs.
We were also lucky this time, to stay with a family member at a farm where he was living and helping to caretake with a mate. Not far from town, this farm stay was pretty rustic but we did have access to power and had the privilege of enjoying their hospitality which they dealt out in spades.
The farm property had a host of animals, including very productive chooks and a vegetable garden. Not being too far out of town it was fabulous to use as a base while we toured Katherine during the day and evenings were spent watching colourful Katherine sunsets and enjoying camp oven and campfire cooked meals under a big starry sky.
The property is not too far from the RAAF Tindal air base so the other daily entertainment is watching and in some cases only hearing, the roar of jets as they zoomed past at speed day and night. One evening we were treated to an air show as part of the joint Australian and US exercises that were taking place. Something along the lines of chase and intercept was happening with red lights appearing in the sky followed by the white light of a jet before the red lights disappeared. A mystery to me, but entertaining nonetheless.
Our farm stay was one of the more memorable parts of this trip and if ever it becomes an option open to others I’ll be sure to let you know.
The natural landscape of Katherine is always going to be the biggest feature of the region and two places I would say not to miss are Katherine Hot Springs and Leliyn Edith Falls. To visit the falls you have to drive 40 kilometres north of Katherine on the Stuart Highway, then take a 20 kilometre road out to this Jawoyn owned part of Nitmiluk National Park.
Once there you can spend the day swimming, going for scenic walks and having a picnic lunch or better still you can stay in the campground which is suitable for all campers right up to large caravans. Sites can’t be booked but we had a tip that if you want to stay it pays to line up at the entrance from 9am and then sites are opened up and allocated from 10am onwards. The cost to stay is $15 per head for adults and the grounds look shaded and green and there is a kiosk and small shop on site too.
There are a number of walking trails to take ranging from a 2.8 kilometre loop which takes around 2 hours due to some rocky and steep sections, right up to a more than 8 kilometre all day walk.
The Katherine Hot Springs are natural thermal pools that are easily accessible in the town and there is a terraced walkway with a few steps down to reach them. They look amazing and the temperature of the water is usually between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius. The main pool has a wheelchair access ramp and steps and rails make it easy to get into and enjoy. Above the springs there is a picnic area, playground for kids, toilets and a shipping container café.
The hot springs are open from 7am to 7pm daily.