Katherine is a well-known region in Australia’s Northern Territory full of gorges, thermal springs and waterfalls. Previously named Katherine Gorge National Park, the 2,947km² landscape offers some of Australia’s most recognisable and rural views.
With so much to do, here’s my list of the best things to explore while in the area;
🚤 Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge is the heart and centerpiece of Nitmiluk National Park, it’s what people come to see. The deep gorge has been carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River. There’s a few different ways to view the Gorge – by boat, kayak or helicopter. Kayaking offers more exclusivity, but by boat you can explore with more coverage from the sun.
Our boat tour started at 9am, we walked through the visitors centre and down a short 5minute path to the boat dock. It was a full boat, and of course all of the earlier guests had taken the seats up front. On the way through the first and second gorge the skipper made a few stops providing information about the local flora, fauna, history and Indigenous stories and culture. It’s better to sit in the shaded seats for this journey, and up the front for the return trip as there are less stops and you’re able to enjoy the sounds of nature. Once you reach the end of the first Gorge there’s a small walking trail over to the second Gorge and then you board another boat from there. Then you head to the end of that Gorge and return the same way. Because of the varying seasons, there are always different levels of water within the gorges, so when the water levels are lower, this is the only way to get through.
Note: I visited in April 2021 and found that the Kayaking tours had been discontinued due to Covid-19s effects on the tourism industry. They may return, but the date is yet to be determined.
🏊🏼♂️ Edith Falls (Leliyn)
About 45minutes north of Katherine you’ll find Edith Falls. Here you can either relax and enjoy a picnic by the base of the falls and its huge waterhole, or you can take the 1hour loop trail around the upper pools and swim up there. There’s a small cafe/kiosk and a few BBQs around for people to use as they like, as well as the campgrounds.
When we visited the waters edges were blocked off due to the higher water levels brought on from the wet season. Access to the higher pools was open though, so there was still plenty to see and do.
😅 Baruwei Lookout
The perfect place to take in the views over Katherine’s first Gorge, it’s a short but steep walk up to the lookout that overlooks the river. We made our way here for sunset, and the view was way better than I had expected. It gave panoramic views over Katherine’s first gorge and there were plenty of rocks to sit on and enjoy the view (if not from the platform).
🪨 Southern Rockhole
Accessible by a seasonal ferry or a 8km return hike, the Southern Rockhole is a must see while in Nitmiluk. After a short scramble over the rocks you reach a hidden waterfall haven nestled amongst Katherine Gorge.
If travelling by ferry I recommend taking the earliest ferry out at 9am, and the latest return ferry back at 12:30am. We took the earliest return ferry and found that it didn’t leave us very much time to enjoy the spot with the included travel time.
The boat pulls up right at some rocks, and then you have to find your way from there. There’s no proper pathway, but the easiest way to get there is to follow the sand bank around and eventually you’ll see some footprints to follow. There are some small trail markers hanging from the trees but they are quite difficult to spot. The journey takes about 10-15minutes, but you should allow time to walk back to the ferry as well.
The falls themselves are beautiful, probably the highlight of my trip to Katherine. There are a few rocks by the base of the falls where you can stand and let the water rush over you, but the rest of the pool is quite deep. The water is cool but not too cold, and there’s plenty of warm flat rocks to relax on around the waterhole.
🧖🏼♀️ Mataranka Thermal Pools & Bitter Springs
Though located in Elsey National Park, when visiting Katherine it’s not worth missing! An hours drive away, the pools have crystal clear and bright blue waters to swim around in and relax. The temperature is like that of a warm bath, but still cooling compared to the temperature of the air.
Entry to Mataranka Thermal Pools is through a camping ground, restaurant and pub. Entry was free, but it’s also quite small – so on a busy day it would be hard to find a spot. The pools had some small rock edges underwater that you could sit on.
Bitter Springs was a very short drive away, but straight away we noticed this spot was much more rural and bushy – less man-made. Here there was a metal staircase leading into the water but the waters edge was surrounded by bush and moss so you could swim but not sit. This spot was also a lot quieter, you could enjoy nature here without the hassle of crowds.