Grab your pool noodle and join Julia as she explores the Northern Territory town of Katherine, a place chock full of things to do where the Outback meets the tropics.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Jawoyn people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The Top End’s Katherine is located 317km southeast of Darwin. It’s the perfect base for exploring Nitmiluk National Park (27km east), engaging with the world’s longest-living culture, and seeing how things are done differently in the Outback. From hiking with pool noodles to witnessing a dog on a horse, you’ll quickly realise that Katherine isn’t your average country town.

About Katherine

There’s much to do in the Northern Territory’s Katherine. Home to 9,000 people, the Top End town is a springboard to many natural attractions, including Elsey National Park and Mataranka, both frequented for thermal springs, Cutta Cutta Caves and Nitmiluk National Park. The UNESCO World Heritage site lures visitors with its many hiking trails, waterfall, and the almighty Nitmiluk Gorge (also known as Katherine), with 13 sandstone gorges carved on a 12km stretch along the Katherine River.

Closer to town, be wowed watching horse training and working dog demonstrations at the award-winning Katherine Outback Experience. Have a hands-on experience with local Aboriginal culture at Top Didj Experience & Art Gallery. With its mix of nature-based and cultural activities, we recommend spending at least three days in Katherine.


Manuel Pamkal on the ‘didge

Katherine History

Katherine has been a meeting place for thousands of years. The region is the convergence of several traditional landowners, the Jawoyn, Dagoman, and Wardaman people; their influence is scattered throughout with stories, rock art, and sacred sites.

Colonial influence came in 1862 when the Katherine River was explored by John McDouall Stuart. The explorer named it after the daughter of his patron, James Chambers.

Katherine’s future as a town would revolve around communication and transportation. After naming the Katherine River, the Katherine Telegraph Station and the Overland Telegraph Line were completed ten years later. The telegraph line was of huge significance, crossing Australia and would be the foundation for constructing the railway between Adelaide and Darwin. Construction started in Port Augusta in 1878 and continued to be built intermittently until 2004, when Darwin had its first passenger train. During that time, the township of Katherine moved twice due to it being less prone to flooding.


Top tip: time your walk to capitalise on the shade

How to Get to Katherine

Katherine is located 317km southeast of Darwin and is easily accessed along the Stuart Highway. Alternatively, travel by bus with Greyhound Australia with daily departures.

By car

The drive to Katherine from Darwin via Stuart Highway (National Highway 1) takes roughly 3.5 hours. Car hire is available from Darwin city centre and Darwin Airport.

By bus

Greyhound Australia offers daily departures from Darwin to Katherine. Journey time varies, taking approximately 4.25 hours with three ticket types available. Darwin departures are from Darwin Bus Interchange, with drop-offs in Katherine at the BP service station at 6 Katherine Terrace, Katherine.

By train

Premium all-inclusive train service, The Ghan, offers journeys from Darwin to Alice Springs and vice versa travelling via Katherine. Packages are from a minimum of two days, one night, with limited departures.

Where to Stay in Katherine

Katherine has many accommodation options to suit all budgets. For those wanting to call it a night under the stars, here are the best places to camp in Katherine.

Discovery Parks

Cost per night: Powered campsites from $53 (for two people)
Suitable for: Tents, motorhomes, camper trailers, caravans, and big rigs. Cabins available on-site
Facilities: Toilets, showers pool, camp kitchen, BBQs, laundry, dump point, power, phone reception, WiFi, dog-friendly

One of the best places to stay in Katherine is Discovery Parks – Katherine. The shaded campground is less than a five-minute drive from the town centre and 950m from Top Diji Experience & Art Gallery.

Nitmiluk Campground

Cost per night: Powered campsites from $25 per adult, unpowered sites from $19 per adult
Suitable for: Tents, motorhomes, camper trailers, caravans, and big rigs. Cabins available on site
Facilities: Toilets, showers, gas and woodfired BBQs, two outdoor kitchens, pool, Nitmiluk Café, laundry, power, phone reception

Spring out of your sleeping bag with adventures just outside your tent at Nitmiluk Campground. Located within Nitmiluk National Park, the 100% First Nations-owned and managed campground is a ten-minute walk from the start of the Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge system.

Big4 Breeze Holiday Parks

Cost per night: Powered campsites from $48 (based on two people), unpowered sites from $41 (based on two people)
Suitable for: Tents, motorhomes, camper trailers, caravans, and big rigs. Cabins available on site
Facilities: Toilets, showers, BBQs, camp kitchen, pool, spa, Fig Tree Bistro, kiosk, laundry, dump point, power, phone reception, pedal kart hire, dog-friendly

Choose to camp in Katherine at the family-friendly campground, Big4 Breeze Holiday Parks – Katherine. Set on 44 acres, the caravan park is surrounded by nature, close to a nature reserve and less than a ten-minute drive to Katherine Hot Springs. Big kids, ahem, adults can join in on the campground fun, with pedal karts available for hire.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace


Sunbathing spot = found (just remember the sunscreen!)

Where to Eat in Katherine

Whether you’re seeking nourishing pub grub or want to join the locals for a post-hot springs’ feed at a park shipping container, let me show you the best places to eat and drink in Katherine.

Pop Rocket Café

Shipping container eatery Pop Rocket Café is at the top of Katherine Hot Springs. It’s open for breakfast and lunch from Thursday to Sunday. Not just quirky with appearance, the café delivers zest on a plate with big bites such as morning roti, Cuban pressed sandwiches, and rice bowls, to name a few. Freshly roasted coffee, juices, and tropical fruit frappes are also available.

The Black Russian Caravan Bar

Craving a morning toastie? The town’s favourite caravan, The Black Russian Caravan Bar, is your go-to for gourmet toasties (I recommend the bechamel mushies!) and a freshly brewed cuppa. Open from 6:30am – 2pm daily, it’s the perfect morning pit stop to refuel the stomach before an action-packed day.

RJ’S Bar & Bohj Restaurant

Travel by the forkful at RJ’S Bar & Bohj Restaurant. While the menu heavily focuses on traditional Indian cuisines, you’ll also find other Asian specialities just as punchy with flavour, such as Singaporean chilli prawns. Yum!


Quality reflections at Leliyn Falls

Things to Do in Katherine

Katherine is the perfect springboard to unique experiences found nowhere else. With activities such as caving adventures, sunset cruises, hiking, swimming in thermal springs, and working dog demonstrations, you’ll find filling your days in Katherine easy.


Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner

The 3.5-hour Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner cruise combines journeying a remote section of the Katherine River in Nitmiluk Gorge, Dreamtime stories, and locating rock art with a three-course meal highlighting regional produce (pulled crocodile, anyone?). Come sundown, watch the bat migration fly overhead as you cruise through the gorge. A sensory overload and a must-do experience in Nitmiluk National Park.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Katherine Gorge at Nitmiluk National Park


Uhh can we come back tomorrow?

Bitter Springs

Pack your pool noodle and head to Bitter Springs, 110km southeast of Katherine, in Elsey National Park. The blissfully blue, au naturel lazy pool is shaded by tall palms and broadleaf paperbark trees. Just hop on your noodle and float with the gentle current along the thermal springs stream that takes 10 – 15 minutes to complete.


No judgment if you stay here all day

Cutta Cutta Caves

See what shimmers in the underground exploring Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, 28km southeast of Katherine. Entry to the caves is only permitted on a one-hour guided tour operated by Nitmiluk Tours, running on the hour from 9am – 3pm, between April and October. Go 15m deep and see twisty glittering limestone formations along a 250m boardwalk. Book in advance.


Top Didj Cultural Experience & Art Gallery

Take a Top Didj Cultural Experience & Art Gallery two-hour interactive workshop to better understand local culture, led by Dalabon man and Aboriginal artist Manuel Pamkal. Experience a smoking ceremony, cultural talk, didgeridoo performances, search for bush tucker, fire lighting, and spear-throwing demonstrations. Take home an artwork to create your own Indigenous-inspired artwork.


Oh the colours!

Katherine Outback Experience

Celebrate the Northern Territory’s rich pastoral history with a unique outback show. Led by musician and horseman Tim Curtain, the award-winning Katherine Outback Experience combines horse training and work demonstrations with live music performances and outback tales just moments from town.


The dog is not the only animal that gets up there… you’ll be surprised

Leliyn / Edith Falls

Experience the beauty of Leliyn, also known as Edith Falls, 60km north of Katherine. Have a splash in the large natural pool at the bottom of the falls, or take a short hike to the upper pool to avoid crowds. A cafe is located at the falls’ car park just 100m from the big, bottom pool, making spending a lazy day here even more enticing.

Read more: 9 Top End Waterholes That Are Perfect for Wild Swimming


Heaven IS a place on earth

Essential Gear for Katherine

You’ll soon discover that carrying a pool noodle to every hot spring or natural pool you visit in the Katherine region is almost essential. The foamy finger is handy at Bitter Springs, making it much easier to journey around the natural lazy pool. But don’t worry about packing it in your rucksack; pool noodles are available in town for roughly $5.

But besides a pool noodle, here’s our Katherine packing list for day activities.

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Electrolytes (if playing a whole day out in the sun)
  • Hat
  • Hiking boots (or sturdy walking shoes)
  • Marine friendly sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Bathers

What’s it Like to Visit Katherine

Katherine is unlike any Outback town. Firstly, it has its own hot springs, a popular pastime with locals on weekends. A must-do Katherine experience, it’s a great place to mingle while being soothed by nature. It’s perfect if your Katherine visit is post-adventure time and you need to relax the muscles.

Locals love to be outdoors, whether having a day trip to Nitmiluk National Park to hike or swimming in waterfalls; they’re forthcoming with their favourite spots. Just remember to bring you-know-what for a splash!

Read more: Staying Safe Around Swimming Holes and Waterfalls


Nitmiluk Gorge – Pats Lookout

Tips for Visiting Katherine

  • Plan your visit to Katherine in the Top End dry season (May to October) when moderate, comfortable temperatures are the norm. Temperatures average from 21°C to 32°C with lower humidity and minimal rain
  • As this is also high season, book campsites and tours in advance in the dry season to avoid disappointment. Also note when tours commence for the season, as some experiences start later than others
  • I recommend spending at least three days exploring Katherine and its surrounds to gain a decent overview of the area
  • Nitmiluk National Park requires a park pass to enter. A Park Pass permits access to parks and reserves managed by the NT Government

Day pass: $10 per adult, $25 per family
Two week pass: $30 per adult, $75 per family

Read more: How to stay safe in croc country


Nitmiluk Gorge is perfect for sunset cruisin’

FAQs Katherine

Where can I stay in Katherine?

There are plenty of accommodation options in Katherine. Some that we recommend include the Nitmiluk Campground, Discovery Parks Katherine and the Big4Breeze Holiday Park Katherine.

What are the best attractions in Katherine?

When it comes to attractions, different activities will appeal to different people, but some of the itinerary options we can recommend include the Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Cruise, a visit to Top Didj Outback Experience, and the Katherine Outback Experience.

What are the best natural attractions in Katherine?

There’s so much to see and do in Katherine but you can’t visit without stopping by Cutta Cutta Caves, Leilyn / Edith Falls, and Bitter Falls.

What’s the best time of year to visit Katherine?

Like much of the Northern Territory, Katherine can get pretty sticky in summer – it’s hot. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend aiming to visit during the dry season from May to October when more moderate temperatures are the norm.

How many days should I spend visiting Katherine?

This is up to you, of course. The minimum time we recommend to get the most out of your visit to Katherine is three days. This will give you enough time to see the sights, get a feel for the local culture, and of course, grab a pool noodle!

Are there crocodiles in the water in Katherine?

This has got to be the number one concern of visitors to the Northern Territory, and with more than 100,000 of them in the Top End (sorry, not sorry!) it’s a very valid concern and always a good question to be asking, especially before you get into any natural body of water. Yes, there are definitely crocodiles in Katherine. You can take cruises to see them or see them up close at Crocodylus Park.

Can I swim in Katherine?

Of course! Just because there are crocodiles doesn’t mean swimming is off the table! Be crocwise and you’ll be fine. While in Katherine make sure to only swim in areas that have signs saying that it is safe to do so. No sign = no swim. It’s as simple as that. The Northern Territory Government has tonnes of advice about this so that you can feel confident around any waterway you encounter.

Do I need any Park Passes for Katherine?

If you plan on visiting Nitmiluk National Park (where Katherine Gorge and Leilyn / Edith Falls are located) then yes, you’ll need a Northern Territory Parks Pass. A day pass is $10 for adults and $5 for children. You can also get passes that are valid for two weeks and another one that’s valid for one year. Take your pick!

What does Nitmiluk mean?

The word ‘Nitmiluk’ is the Indigenous name for Katherine Gorge. It’s literal translation is ‘Cicada Place’. To learn more about the Traditional Custodians of Katherine, the Jawoyn people, and the Nitmiluk National Park, make sure to plan a visit to the Nitmiluk Visitors Centre.