Katherine is a charming town located in the Northern Territory of Australia. Situated at the junction of the Katherine River and the Stuart Highway, this small town is often referred to as the gateway to the Top End, and for good reason.
From the stunning natural wonders of Nitmiluk National Park to the rich cultural experiences offered by the local Indigenous communities, Katherine has something to offer every type of traveler.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a combination of the two, Katherine is sure to delight and inspire you with its unique blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and friendly hospitality.
Cutta Cutta Caves
Today we had to leave awesome Mataranka hot springs and head down to Katherine.
As we made our way to Katherine, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit Cutta Cutta Caves, a stunning limestone formation that boasts an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites.
Unlike the many other caves we had visited on previous trips, Cutta Cutta Caves was uniquely different in its size and geological features, leaving us surprised as we admired its natural beauty. But it wasn’t just the rock formations that amazed us – the cave is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including five species of bats, two of which are the rare and elusive ghost and horseshoe bats.
The harmless brown tree snake also inhabits the caves and can often be seen coiled upon cave ledges. Our guide said that one day after the rain season they saw a 6 metres python sitting along the rocks at the bottom of the cave.
The name “Cutta Cutta” means “many of”, “lots of” and it relates to many little stones glittering on the cave ceiling. The ceiling itself is very high in some spots. The cave length is about 650 metres, but we visited only the first 200.
It was different from what we have seen before. The rock is made of limestone which formed beautiful shapes, but it was certainly interesting. When you shine a light onto the limestone it illuminates the dazzling rocks. The Aborigines consider them sacred because they believe that the star constellations are locked safely away.
Katherine – the Crossroads of the North
Nestled at the confluence of the Katherine River and the Victoria River, the picturesque town of Katherine is often referred to as the “Crossroads of the North,” due to its strategic location as a major hub for transportation and commerce in the Northern Territory of Australia.
As the fourth largest town in the region, Katherine has a vibrant and diverse community of over 6,700 people, who call this thriving regional center home. Despite its relatively small size, Katherine is a bustling metropolis that offers a wealth of services, amenities, and attractions to visitors from around the world.
Katherine was the first town after Port Augusta where fuel and diesel were at a reasonable price (currently $1.55). Normally I was paying from $1.75 (Alice Springs) to $1.95 (Burrow Creek) per litre. Our first feeling was that it is a tourist town. There is a very big Information Centre with a big car park to support all incoming tourists.
While Katherine shares similarities with Mataranka in terms of its close proximity to natural hot springs, the true gem of the region lies in Nitmiluk National Park and its stunning Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge.
A visit to Katherine Gorge is a must-do activity for anyone traveling to this part of the Northern Territory. The park is home to an impressive collection of orange sandstone cliffs, sparkling waterfalls, and lush vegetation that are sure to take your breath away.
You can spend a day exploring the many walking trails that wind through the park, or take a relaxing boat tour of the gorge to get a closer look at its towering walls and crystal-clear waters.
Katherine Hot Springs
After spending a good hour in the caves we drove directly to Katherine. Luckily, our campsite was a 500-meter walk downhill to the hot springs, but unfortunately, the way back was more tiring when we walked up the hill.
The picturesque Katherine hot springs are a lot larger than the ones in Mataranka and also because they are located in more public areas there were packed. The springs are surrounded by lush green vegetation that spreads all around the springs. Simply beautiful.
Katherine Hot Springs are located just a short distance from the town center. These natural pools of warm, mineral-rich water offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, surrounded by picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.
We spent there a good hour mostly sitting and splashing with Nell in the shallows and after that, we dried off and headed back to the campsite.
Katherine Gorge – the majestic sandstone country
Nestled 30 km northeast of Katherine, Katherine Gorge is a spectacular natural wonder that forms part of the larger Nitmiluk National Park.
This expansive park has a total of 13 stunning gorges, each offering a unique glimpse into the unique beauty of the Australian wilderness. Katherine Gorge, in particular, is a must-see attraction that draws visitors from all over the world.
With its towering cliffs, shimmering waters, and abundant wildlife, this ancient gorge is a true wonder of nature. Tourists can explore the gorge on foot, taking in the breathtaking views from the many hiking trails that wind through the park.
Alternatively, you can opt for a relaxing boat tour of the gorge, which provides a close-up look at the towering sandstone walls and the vibrant flora and fauna that call the park home.
Located on the opposite side of Nitmiluk National Park, Edith Falls is another breathtaking natural gem that is well worth a visit. A popular spot for both day-trippers and overnight guests, this idyllic location offers a range of activities for visitors to enjoy, including swimming, hiking, and camping.
The highlight of the area is undoubtedly the stunning waterfall, which cascades down into a crystal-clear swimming hole, perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there are plenty of walking trails that wind through the surrounding bushland, offering glimpses of the park’s diverse flora and fauna along the way.
While only a small portion of Nitmiluk National Park is open to tourists, Edith Falls is a shining example of the park’s many wonders, showcasing the breathtaking beauty and natural diversity that make this region such a popular destination
Thus, the next day in the morning we headed to Katherine Gorge and we went on a boat cruise.
The two-hour cruise through Katherine Gorge was a truly awe-inspiring experience that left us speechless. As we floated along the tranquil waters, surrounded by towering cliffs and stunning rock formations, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder and amazement at the sheer beauty of our surroundings.
With cameras in hand, we snapped hundreds of photos, each one capturing a different angle or perspective of the breathtaking scenery. Two massive, striking red rocks loomed above us on either side of the gorge, while another jutted up from the middle of the water, creating a dramatic and unforgettable sight.
The gorge walls, towering over 30 meters high and we felt privileged to be able to witness it up close. In that moment, surrounded by the raw, untamed beauty of the Australian wilderness, we felt small but connected, part of something greater than ourselves.
It’s no wonder that this natural wonderland has captured the imagination of artists, adventurers, and filmmakers alike. In fact, the gorge was used as a filming location for the popular movie “Rogue”, a thrilling adventure about a group of tourists who find themselves stranded in the outback and forced to confront a massive and deadly crocodile.
During the cruise, the temperature soared to 32 degrees and we were tempted to cool off with a dip in the water. However, given the presence of saltwater crocodiles in the area, we quickly abandoned that idea. While the rangers do their best to remove all crocodiles from the river before tourist season begins, there is always a chance that one might be missed. As such, we didn’t want to take any chances with our safety. It’s just another reminder of the unique challenges and risks that come with exploring the Australian wilderness.
Following the cruise, we enjoyed a delicious barbecue lunch before embarking on a short walk to the lookout point. The walk was well-maintained with sturdy safety railings, and once we reached the top, we were treated to a breathtaking view of the gorge from above. The scenery was absolutely spectacular and well worth the effort of the climb.
Aside from its natural beauty, Katherine Gorge is also known for its cultural significance, particularly for the Jawoyn people, who are the traditional owners of the land. The Jawoyn people have lived in the region for over 40,000 years and have a rich cultural heritage, including their rock art sites.
There are several rock art sites in and around Katherine Gorge, where visitors can see ancient paintings that date back thousands of years. These paintings depict stories of the Jawoyn people, their way of life, and their connection to the land.
We learned that there is a long and scenic walk around Katherine Gorge, which takes you to several stunning waterfalls including Northern Rockhole, Biddlecombe Cascades, and Crystal Falls before reaching 17 Mile Falls. However, as it is a 20 km one-way trail, we decided not to attempt it at this time given that Nell is still quite young. The trail even extends a further 15 km from Sweetwater campground all the way to Edith Falls, which would be quite the adventure for experienced hikers. Jatbula trail is also on our bucket list. Perhaps someday in the future…
Entering the best tropics attractions in Australia
As we left Katherine and headed north towards Darwin, we were entering one of the most captivating tourist regions in Australia – especially if you’re fond of the tropics.
This area is home to many attractions, including the stunning Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks, the vibrant city of Darwin, and many other hidden gems. We planned to stay in the region for one to two months, giving us ample time to explore and soak up all that it has to offer.
We decided to stop at Edith Falls. As previously mentioned, this picturesque location is part of Nitmiluk National Park and has a nice camping ground, serene walks around the falls, and several crystal-clear plunge pools that invite for a refreshing swim. We remained flexible with our itinerary and looked forward to seeing where our travels would take us.
But for now we hit the Stuart Highway again, heading north towards Darwin.
From red dirt to tropical rainforest. Ten places anyone should add to their bucket list. Subscribe and receive ten colourful infographics.
Please subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter
Enjoy outdoors with Tentworld equipment
4WD Equipment Checklist
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places