I had visited the Northern Territory once before, and like a teenage girl at a boy-band concert, I fell instantly and powerfully in love. The heady heat, endless openness and vibrant colours pierced my heart and infected my imagination. Second time round, I was coming back to share this magical place with another love of mine, my mum. We began our epic Northern Territory driving holiday in Katherine and surrounds, exploring the Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park. What we saw in this beautiful part of Australia took our breath away.
Getting to Katherine
Katherine is 320 kilometres from Darwin, where you will most likely pick up a car for the drive down. The town is popular pivot point for visitors making their way towards Kununarra to the west, south to Alice Springs or southeast towards Mount Isa. Check in at the Visitor Information Centre for maps and information before your trip, stop in to browse the local art galleries and pick up any additional snacks and supplies you might need before exploring the must-see places below.
Cutta Cutta Caves
Formed millions of years ago, the Cutta Cutta Caves are an underground tropical wonderland. The limestone walls sparkle, and the rock formations are spectacular. Our tour guide provided not only great insight into the natural environment, but also shared tales of the history & meaning of the site for its traditional owners. You won’t need to look far to find wildlife either. Without even trying we spotted rock wallabies, a brown snake, lots of bats, lizards and plenty of beautiful bird life.
Details: The Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park is 27km south of Katherine, off the Stuart Highway. The park is open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm. The caves are closed at times during the wet season due to flooding.
What to wear: Wear comfy outdoor clothes, including either runners or light hiking shoes. No sandals or thongs. Bring a hat, sunscreen & a bottle of water.
Katherine Hot Springs
This place is so great we visited twice. The natural thermal springs run along the banks of the Katherine River, and at a temperature of about 32 degrees, they are soothing and calming in equal measure. Sit in the natural spa-bath at the top of the springs, and when you’re done there, let the current carry you along the winding creek bed to the main water hole. Once you’ve sufficiently soaked, find yourself a shady spot under a tree and doze away the day.
Details: Katherine Hot Springs are part of the Katherine River bed, and can be accessed off the Victoria Highway, about 10 minutes from the centre of town.
What to wear: Swimmers, towel, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and a picnic if you’re planning to spend the day.
Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Cruise
Late in the afternoon we boarded low-lying boats to cruise Katherine Gorge as sunset. To describe this experience as spectacular sells it short. The mighty cliff-faces rising from the sparkling depths of the gorge project a million different shades of orange. Minute-by-minute as the sun fell slowly from the sky. We spotted rock-wallabies, an awesome array of bird-life, but by far the most impressive local was the fresh-water crocodile sunning himself on a rocky outcrop. We got within just a couple of metres of him. Unforgettable. A quick boat-swap later and we were onboard our dinner cruise. We washed down a tasting plate with sparkling wine, followed by a delicious main, all cooked on a BBQ onboard. As the final fingers of the outback sun disappeared behind the cliff-tops, we watched as thousands of bats tore through the sky, heading to wherever bats go after-dark. This evening was narrated by an awesome guide, who hit the mark with the perfect mix of fun facts, local knowledge and indigenous insight.
Details: The tour departs at 4:30pm from the boat ramp, just a five-minute stroll from Cicada Lodge, 40 minutes drive from Katherine.
Cost: $AUD164.50 Adults / $AUD119.00 6-15 yrs
This place is an oasis in the desert, in the most wonderful way possible. Just a twenty-minute walk from the car park, Edith Falls are a series of cascading waterfalls, punctuated by deep, cool and calming rock-pools. The bush walk in and out is equally as rewarding as the waterfalls themselves. Along the path, vantage points pop-up unannounced, providing gorgeous glimpses across the sprawling red dessert. Look up into the trees, and an entirely different perspective is unveiled. Edith Falls is the perfect place to spend a day. Pack a picnic, perch yourself on a rock, and while away the day swimming and sunning yourself.
Details: Edith Falls is about 63 kilometres or 50 minutes drive from Katherine.
We stayed at the stunning luxury, eco-resort, Cicada Lodge during our time in Katherine and toured Katherine and the stunning surrounds, including the Nitmiluk National Park with Nitmiluk Tours.
The Fit Traveller was a guest of Nitmiluk Tours and Cicada Lodge during our stay in Katherine. As always, the opinions, words and images are authentically our own.
Gabrielle Boyle is a reporter for Nine News Australia, based in Sydney. With fifteen years experience in television reporting and presenting, Gabrielle specialises in breaking news, and thrives on the adrenalin which comes with covering breaking national and international news.
In her spare time, you will find her enjoying the great outdoors, whether it be bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, kayaking on Sydney Harbour or camping out in the Royal National Park.
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