The ultimate Northern Territory road trip: Exploring Katherine to Darwin like a local

3 min read

While not as well-known as iconic NT locations like Uluru-Kata Tjuta or Kakadu National Parks, Katherine is an absolute gem and local favorite– and for good reason. Katherine is a bustling tropical town teeming with things to do. With art, markets, food and waterside attractions, it's the perfect place to get a locals-only style experience while on vacation in Australia

Getting there

From Darwin, head 3.5 hours south and you'll find yourself in Katherine (population: around 6,000). On your drive along the historic Stuart Highway, you'll pass through the quaint townships of the Adelaide River, Burrundie and Pine Creek.

When you get there

Upon arrival, head to the Katherine Tourist Information Center. This is your one-stop shop for all things Katherine, including maps, what local events are happening and recommendations from friendly staff on local dining, touring and more.

LOCAL TIP: Katherine's coffee is especially sought-after in Australia's Northern Territory and you can enjoy your first (of many) cups at the Katherine Tourist Information Center.

Black Russian Caravan Bar is a great spot to grab lunch. Here you can enjoy tasty grilled sandwiches, cakes and ice-cold drinks aboard a charming retro caravan.

After lunch, hop in the car and the adventure truly begins. A one-hour drive will take you to the township of Mataranka for a swim in the famous sandy-bottomed Mataranka Thermal Pool. For those looking to spend more time in the area, Bitter Springs is an unexpected and largely secret treasure within Elsey National Park. It's a relaxing place to unwind after a long day of driving, where frolicking in crystal-clear, ninety-degree pools is the only thing on the agenda.

LOCAL TIP: Before you leave Darwin for Katherine, grab a pool noodle – the soft, bendy pool toy – to take with you to Bitter Springs. You can float downstream until you reach an exit ladder at the pedestrian bridge. If you're hungry, head to the shady gardens of the Stockyard Gallery to enjoy a refreshing mango smoothie.

Where to stay

After your first day of adventuring, take a load off at Knotts Crossing Resort. They offer generous suites and cabins along with camping and caravan sites depending on your travel style.

In the mood for a hearty Aussie dinner? The Savannah Bar features crocodile spring rolls, barramundi, and pork in sherry sauce. After a refreshing beverage and some time reflecting back on your fun-filled day, head to Knotts for a good sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s pre-dawn start.

Exploring Katherine

There’s nothing like sunrise at Nitimiluk (Katherine) Gorge. We would try to explain it to you, but it has to be seen to be believed. Take our word for it.

LOCAL TIP: The best viewpoints and photo ops are at Pat's Lookout or Baruwei Lookout.

Join Nitmiluk Tours and explore the region’s 13 gorges. While the natural beauty is breathtaking, the gorges and surrounding landscape have great ceremonial significance to the local Jawyon people. Joining a tour will give you the chance to learn about a beautiful part of Australia and its people.

Your afternoon will be complete with a visit to Katherine Hot Springs. Located a short drive away from town (where you can stop and grab a picnic lunch), these springs pump from deep within the earth at an energizing 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Comprised of a series of clear pools, there’s a walking track that takes you from the springs to a nature reserve with shady spots aplenty – just ideal for a local picnic.

After your visit to Katherine Hot Springs, it's time to get back on the Stuart Highway and return north to Darwin. Your quick trip to Katherine, full of adventure, enjoyment and local fun, is complete. Now you can pass on these tips (and new ones of your own) to the next traveler looking to experience Australia like a local.

Click here to explore more of the Northern Territory with adventures in Uluru and the Outback.


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