Top 5 things to do in Katherine, Northern Territory

Glenn Marshall — 8 April 2024
The Katherine region is an Australian outback gem, and it is one of the best places to experience the natural beauty of the Northern Territory.

This beautiful area of the NT is a wonderland of natural and cultural experiences. From ancient Aboriginal rock art and sacred sites through boat cruises and must-visit attractions, there's plenty to see and do. But to help you narrow it down, here are five of our top picks:

1. Katherine Outback Experience

Tom and Annabel Curtain created the Katherine Outback Experience to showcase the talents of Golden Guitar Winner Tom and provide an authentic look into outback Australia life. Not only has singer-songwriter Tom won plenty of musical awards, but he is also an excellent animal trainer with horses and cattle dogs as his specialty.

Once Tom has opened the show with one of his songs, a couple of comical bush yarns and an explanation of what you are about to see, the dust will fly as a young horse gallops around the ring, untrained yet easily harnessed by the skilled horsewoman. You’ll also watch trick horses perform their magic and cattle dogs working with goats — it is amazing to see what these animals can do.

Tom then jumps on his horse and plays the guitar, singing while riding around the ring, steering the horse with his knees, before standing upright on the saddle at the end of the song. The show concludes with a bit of whip-cracking by one of the ringers. Each show is different from every other, so it is always a new experience.

The Katherine Outback Experience has won multiple tourism awards and operates from 29 April to 5 October during 2024, with shows daily except for Thursday and Sunday. The kids will love patting Burnie the Buffalo and feeding some of the station animals while you have a chat with Annabel or Tom after the show. There is also a café serving coffee and cake during the day and pizzas in the evening. You can check times and book your tickets on the Katherine Outback Experience website.

2. Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge Dinner Cruise

Katherine Gorge is the highlight of the majestic Nitmiluk National Park and there are several ways you can enjoy its splendour and discover the stories and ways of the Jawoyn people. The Katherine River has carved out the sandstone gorge over thousands of years and you see it up close either on a boat tour, with sunrise and sunset tours offering stunning rock colourings. For a slower pace, you can hire canoes or bring your own canoes and experience the river from a different perspective.

The best experience at Katherine Gorge is the 3.5-hour Sunset Dinner Boat Tour. On the two-gorge cruise, you will enjoy a magical sunset, set amongst the backdrop of the gorge while enjoying a delicious three-course candlelit dinner with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine on board the boat. A selection of beer, wine and soft drinks can be purchased separately during the dinner.

The Nitmiluk Visitors Centre is the perfect place to head for tour bookings, camping and information on the walking trails. There is also a Display Centre and Heritage Museum where you can learn all about Nitmiluk via graphic displays, audio-visual features, photographs and Aboriginal artefacts. Jawoyn rock art can be found throughout the National Park but remember to look, don’t touch these special sites.

The campground is well-maintained with showers and toilets, powered or unpowered sites, a swimming pool, a camp kitchen and a bistro on site. Rooms at the Cicada Lodge and Nitmiluk Cabins are also available. Day visitors can enjoy a barbecue with tables and toilets available.

3. Cutta Cutta Caves

You’ll find the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park 30km south of Katherine along the Stuart Highway. This limestone cave system has been forming for millions of years and continues growing. It’s rare to find limestone caves in sub-tropical Australia, so accessing the Cutta Cutta Caves is a truly unique experience. Tours run by Nitmiluk Tours operate on the hour and besides the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites if you’re lucky you might even see one of five species of bat that reside in the caves or even a snake or two.

There is also a short Tropical Savanna Walk that highlights important local fauna with the help of information boards located along the trail. Having enjoyed a cave tour or the Tropical Savanna Walk, check out the kiosk for a cool drink or a souvenir of your visit. The park is open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm, however, during the wet season (October to March) the caves and park are closed.

4. Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery 

The Top Didj Cultural Experience allows you to meet with award-winning top-end Aboriginal artist Manuel Pamkal. He will teach you about Aboriginal culture, the significance of his painting style and his family history after playing a traditional welcoming tune on the didgeridoo.

Manuel has been painting since he was fifteen, working on didgeridoos, bark paintings and canvas, using both traditional pigments and acrylics. He has sold numerous paintings through the Art Centre at Manyallaluk (Eva Valley) and his work is in high demand with frequent commissions for special pieces. The session times are 9:30am and 2:30pm seven days a week from May to October. You can also enjoy this experience virtually on demand by purchasing the Cultural Experience On-demand through the shop and view it as many times as you like for seven days.

The Art Gallery has an excellent range of contemporary Indigenous art and crafts as well as authentic didgeridoos that you can view and purchase and is open from 9am to 5pm from May to October. Top Didj Cultural Experience & Art Gallery is located at 363 Gorge Road, on the way out to Katherine Gorge.

5. Leliyn (Edith Falls)

Located 60km north of Katherine via the Stuart Highway, Leliyn (Edith Falls) is one of the most picturesque sites in the Northern Territory. The Leliyn Trail is a short walk (2.6km) that loops from the car park, up to an escarpment to the upper pool and then down to the main pool before crossing the river and leading back to where you began. You are rewarded with an idyllic swimming hole below the falls in the upper pool and then another opportunity to cool down in the Edith Falls Plunge Pool. Two lookouts provide magnificent views of the waterfalls and the Edith River.

The campsite at Leliyn (Edith Falls) is one of the best in the region. Designated sites must be booked and paid for online before you get there. This is an extremely popular place during the cooler months and is also the completion point for the 62km Jatbula Trail that begins at Katherine Gorge. The campground is fully serviced with showers and toilets and all sites are unpowered, generators are not permitted, while the day visitor area has barbecues and tables. A good tip is to bring toilet paper as the toilets often lack it. This park requires visitors to the Northern Territory to have an NT Parks Pass.

Keep the adventures going

The Northern Territory has plenty of natural wonders, and its national parks are some of the best in Australia. Kakadu National Park is an iconic one to visit while in the area, and is only a short drive (1.5-hours, but in this part of Australia it's all relative) from Katherine. Elsey National Park is a shorter stint along the Stuart Highway and is home to the beautiful Mataranka Falls and Bitter Springs. Litchfield National Park is over two-hours away, but the drive is worth it. Explore its many stunning waterfalls,m including Wangi and Florence Falls.

And remember, always be croc safe as this part of Australia is home to an abundance of saltwater crocodiles.


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