Katherine – Overview & Things to See and Do
Katherine is a small regional centre that services the local pastoral leases, tourism and the Air Force Base in Tindal. Air Force personnel and their families make up over 10% of the population.
Located on the Katherine River, Katherine’s main attarction is the famous Katherine Gorge. As a destination its attractions are worth a couple of days exploration but they are usually overlooked because of the more developed and popular tourist destinations further North.
The traditional home of the local Aboriginal people for thousands of years, the river was discovered by Europeans and named in 1862. Its significance as the first permanent river north of Central Australia was not lost on the explorers. Like most towns on the Stuart Highway the overland telegraph line cemented the original settlement and the first pastoral lease at Springvale Homestead quickly followed.
The Railway from Pine Creek was officially opened in 1917 causing the town to move to its current location. During World War II Katherine grew dramatically with over 100,000 troops passing through on their way to the front line.
Katherine survived an enormous flood on Australia Day in 1998 which set back many businesses in town but has not dampened the resolve of the people to get past the financial set back and move forward.
Things to See and Do
Katherine Hot Springs : Part of the well presented and developed park land on the banks of the Katherine river. The springs pump at a mild, rather than hot temperature of 32C which makes for ideal swimming especially in the cooler months.
Recent landscaping has improved both the access and the appearance of this area. Tourists can see the source of the spring water via a viewing platform. The area is well grassed with shady spots and sunbathing areas. The springs continue to flow along a number of attractive plunge pools which further adds to the beauty of this area. A walking/ bike path takes you a few kilometres to the Katherine Low Level Nature Reserve
Katherine Low Level Nature Park : Continuing on from the hot springs, is a well presented and easy to access nature park, consisting of manicured and well vegetated grounds. It is the town’s most popular swimming spot, and with water depth only around 4-5 feet makes it ideal for families.
Bush walkers have an opportunity to explore and observe the abundant natural attractions close to the town. Fishing enthusiasts and canoeists are well catered for. Visitor facilities include landscaped picnic grounds with barbecues, tables and toilets.
Katherine Museum : Katherine Museum is just before the old town site at Knott’s Crossing. Inside are displays relating to Katherine’s history, including early medical instruments and a biplane from the time when the building did duty as a Flying Doctor base.
Knott’s Crossing : Knotts Crossing is the site of the original Katherine River Crossing. Today it is basically a big weir holding back the Katherine River. The shallow sandy pool is a good place for a swim or you can look downstream or upstream for a secluded area to swim.
The area is a very popular with canoeists. Starting at the crossing canoeists are usually picked up picked up at the High Level Bridge (in Town) or a few kilometres down at the Katherine Low Level Park.
O’Keefe House : Originally constructed as an officers mess in 1942, this is a classic example of bush architecture using timber, corrugated iron and flywire. Located in Riverbank Drive, it has sustained damage in the recent floods and is under repair.
Springvale Homestead : Springvale Homestead, is a Caravan Park based around the oldest homestead in The Territory, built in 1884. There are free, half-hourly tours of the homestead and the local Jawoyn people perform light-hearted Corroborees twice a week in the dry.
Flora River Nature Park : The principal attraction of the Park is the River with it’s waterfalls and picturesque cascades that result from natural Tufa dams. Tufa forms when fresh spring or stream water saturated in calcium carbonate flows over obstructions such as tree roots or rocks. The rapid movement and turbulence causes a chemical reaction and the release of solid calcium carbonate from the water. The calcium carbonate builds up making natural dams.
Recreational opportunities include fishing, canoeing and boating. Fisherman are required to use lures only, to help protect the local turtle population. There are saltwater crocodiles in this river so if the temptation to swim overcomes you be very careful. Safe swimming spots are available.
The 43 km drive from the Victoria Highway into the park is suitable for 2WD vehicles. The park may become inaccessible after heavy rain.
The Wardaman people have a rich cultural history in the area and ceremonies are still conducted in and around the sacred sites located in the Park by senior custodians.
Two short walking tracks originating from near the campground lead to viewing points that look out over several of the many waterfalls
Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park : Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park covers 1,499 hectares of Tropical Karst (limestone) landscape, which is limited to only a few isolated locations in Northern Australia. Associated with the extensive Tindall limestone, a cavernous rock formed some 500 million years ago, unusual and spectacular erosion features occur in these low limestone ridges.
Tower-like masses of limestone, with some supporting large boulders, and various surface depressions are a few of the intriguing features of this landscape. The caves themselves consist of a series of limestone caverns connected by narrow passages. They provide park visitors with a first hand experience of limestone cave formation and associated activity. The continued management of this park contributes to the conservation of the representative samples of Tropical Karst country and its associated flora and fauna in the Northern Territory.
Mataranka & Elsey National Park: Located 100km south of Katherine Mataranka themal spring and Elsey National Park where the book “We of the Never Never” was written about. are highly regarded attractions by those that visit them. For more information refer to the Mataranka link.
Katherine Gorge : Located 30km from Katherine, Katherine Gorge is the major attraction in this region