Town Profile : Katherine

Knotts Crossing - Katherine

Located on the river of the same name, Katherine is 320km south of Darwin.  It started out as an outpost between Adelaide and Darwin for the Australian Overland Telegraph Line.  These days, it’s a simple town with one major supermarket, a few pubs and acts as the ‘Crossroads of the North’.


Fast Facts

  • With a population of just over 10,000 and 60% indigenous, Katherine is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory.
  • It’s the closest town to the RAAF Base Tindal and provides services to Defence families.
  • Traditionally, Katherine was an important meeting place for the Jawoyn and Wardaman people.
  • In 1845, explorer Ludwig Leichhardt crossed what is now known as the Katherine River and is the first European to be recorded in the area.
  • On his 6th successful journey from the north to south of Australia, John McDouall Stuart crossed the Katherine River in July 1862 and officially named it.


We rocked up on Saturday morning, just in time for the markets.  We took advantage of the cheap food and listened to some music before getting down to business.  We found a van park to stay the night, did some work in the library, stocked up on fuel and food and then headed to the Stuart Hotel for cheap $10 jugs of TEDs.  Turns out the Stuart Hotel has a great tropical beer garden and we enjoyed the friendly guys behind the bar.  They also do food, claiming to be Katherine’s cheapest.




Points of Interest

Knotts Crossing

Located only 5km NE from the centre of town, Knotts Crossing is a lovely place to have a picnic and a splash in the waters.  If we had more time, we would have spent a whole afternoon here.   Knotts Crossing is actually where the originally settlement of Katherine started, when people came to work on the Overland Telegraph Line.


Knotts Crossing - Katherine


Katherine Hot Springs

A short drive SW from the centre of town brings you to the hot springs, a series of pools that sit at around 32°C.  We had a bit of a dip in the afternoon while we chatted with some other happy travellers.




Katherine Icon

Just behind the Information Centre is a bronze statue of Sabu Peter Sing, a stockman, horseman and bushman who represents all the men and women of the Outback. The erection of the statue was part of the Project of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association for 2002, Australia’s Year of the Outback.




Nitmiluk National Park

Accessible via Katherine Gorge or Edith Falls, Nitmiluk is the ‘jewel of the region’.  You’d have to spend a week in Katherine Gorge to do all the hikes, and also have the endurance because they can be tough.  We did three hikes there and were absolutely exhausted.


Edith Falls is a great place to camp and the plunge pool is wonderfully close to the campground.


Edith Falls


Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park

Located just 17km south of Katherine, the Cutta Cutta Caves are a unique attraction with beautiful rock formations.  Check out our post here.


Information & Accommodation

The Katherine Visitor Information Centre is located on the Stuart Highway at the southern end of town.


We stayed at Knotts Crossing Resort, very close to the actual Knotts Crossing, and paid only $24 in an unpowered site for the night.  Close by was a camp kitchen, amenities, and a restaurant bar.  We also had a long chat with some really nice Austrian guys, who filled us in on the non-existence of an Australian-Austrian working visa arrangement.


Katherine Gorge

Experience : Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge


Nitmiluk National Park got its name from the Dreamtime story about Nabilil, a creation being.  Nabilil was travelling across the land and camped at the entrance of Katherine Gorge and all he could hear was the song of the cicadas, “nit nit nitnit”.  Nabilil thus named the area Nitmiluk.


Camping at Nitmiluk National Park is a bit steep – $19 per person per night – but it does have its perks.  The toilets and showers are clean and relatively bug-free, there is a poolside bar that serves good-looking food and a fabulous range of alcoholic beverages, and friendly wallaroos can be seen grazing in the park.




After a couple of sneaky beers at the bar, we hit the hay fairly early so that we could get started on the hikes at dawn.  We started with the first half of the Baruwei Loop, which starts off with a steep climb to a lookout over Katherine River.  We were there at sunrise but it would have been even better at sunset.  We then continued along the path to find the beginning of the southern walks.




The first southern walk we completed was Butterfly Gorge, a challenging 12km return hike into a gorge filled with monsoonal rainforest.  There was a small, flowing creek and the population of butterflies grew as we got deeper into the gorge.  Katherine River is there to greet you at the end of the path, but we didn’t dare to get into the water to refresh ourselves out of fear of crocodiles.  We climbed the cliffs and found a nice perch to eat breakfast before heading back.


Katherine Gorge


We found the crossroad for Windolf Walk and took the turn, knowing there was a reward of a swim at the end.  It was a pleasant walk along a dried creek bed to a great lookout over the gorge.  We continue on to descend into the gorge and at the bottom is the Southern Pool that still had a trickle of water from above.  We got in for a swim with the fishes and met a few fellow travellers.  The steep climb out of the gorge called for another dip in a pool at the top of the gorge before heading back to the Troopy.




One of the best things about the Katherine Gorge walks are the water tanks that are dotted along the way.  The water is drinkable so you can refill your drink bottle and wash the sweat from your face.  We decided to only do the first three walks on offer at Nitmiluk, but if you’re a keen hiker, there are several longer tracks available, even overnight hikes.  There’s even one that goes all the way up to Edith Falls!


We really enjoyed our time at Nitmiluk. The hikes were great exercise and it always feels good to finish a long walk with a swim in a natural swimming hole.  You can also grab a canoe and paddle your way through the gorge, hop on a guided cruise or get to da chopper and hit the skies.


Katherine Gorge


Edith Falls

Experience : Edith Falls (Leliyn)

Edith Falls


A part of Nitmiluk National Park, the turn off for Edith Falls is only 46km north of Katherine and is a must-see destination and a great place to camp for the night or week.


At only $10 per person per night to camp, we were more than happy with what we got.  It was a great camping ground that had plenty of access to drinking water, flushing toilets, clean showers, BBQs, and there were a great selection of shady spots with lush grass.  Another awesome thing about camping at Edith Falls is that no generators are allowed so it’s guaranteed that you’ll have a quiet night.  Having the water taps nearby was really convenient for refilling drink bottles, cooking and washing up. The women at the kiosk were absolutely lovely and the kiosk they ran had outdoor sitting area with buntings and Devonshire tea on offer.


Edith Falls


The biggest highlight of Edith Falls was only 150m from camp – a huge plunge pool of cool water, perfect to cool yourself off at the end of the day, with Edith Falls in the background.  Grab your snorkel and check out the various fish species that swim around, or watch the cliffs turn red at sunset.



In the morning, we set off to do the 2km hike to the upper pool. The walk starts with a climb up the mountain with a few spots to stop and enjoy the view.  Once you get to the top, there is another rocky and turbulent pool with a great waterfall.  While we couldn’t swim in the waters, we sat by the waterfall and had breakfast.


Juz went back to the plunge pool after our hike and snorkled.  She didn’t venture far from the stairs because she was there by herself and she was paranoid of being eaten by a crocodile, even though the chances were fairly slim.  Those warning signs had really left a mark on her psyche.


If we were in the area, we would definitely stay there again, and for longer.
Edith Falls

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