The fourth largest town in the Northern Territory, Katherine is a regional centre that has retained its importance due to the growth in regional tourism. The town is the place from which to explore the stunning natural attractions of the region, which include Katherine Gorge, Edith Falls, Cutta Cutta Caves and Douglas Hot Springs.
Location: 340 km south of Darwin; 1,184 km north of Alice Springs.
Katherine town and surrounds provide plenty of park and garden areas. Dakota Park, Giles Park, Jurassic Cycad Gardens, Jukes Park and O Shea Park are in the town. Attractions include Nitmiluk National Park and Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park (27 km south), Kintore Caves Nature Park (15 km north-west) with its populations of endangered cycads and Aboriginal rock art, Low Level Nature Park, Springvale Homestead and Katherine Hot Springs.
Fishing for barramundi, tarpon and sooty grunter is also popular along the Katherine River. The low level Nature Reserve and the hot springs are regarded safe to swim. Both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles inhabit the river.
In summer, the Katherine region is one of Australia's major mango producing areas. The Northern Territory in general produces early season (September November) mangoes; this is fortunate, as it helps avoid competition with the Queensland market as well as the wet season which is damaging to fruit. The Kensington Pride is a notable cultivar grown in the NT. Mangoes are a major primary industry in the territory and generate substantial revenue, despite susceptibility to fluctuations from year to year. Katherine mangoes are amongst the highest quality fruit in the Australian market.
Katherine is one of only two scheduled stops (the other is Alice Springs) on the Ghan railway between Adelaide and Darwin. During the 3 hours stopover, guests can take an around-town tour, taking in the attractions in and around Katherine, or Nitmiluk National Park, and visit Katherine Gorge. Katherine was originally connected to Darwin via the North Australia Railway, a narrow gauge railway which was completed in 1926. It fell into disuse and was eventually closed and the tracks lifted. In 2003 the line was replaced with standard gauge as part of extending the line to Alice Springs north to Darwin. The Ghan, run by Great Southern Railway, operates on this track.
Katherine School of the Air: Join a tour to discover how remote students are taught using satellite and internet technologies. Entry fees apply. Location: Giles Street, Katherine. Ph (08) 8972 1833
Top Didj Cultural Experience & Art Gallery: A must for anyone interested in Australia s first peoples. Artists and storytellers host interactive sessions to demonstrate the lifeways and cultural legacies of both Desert and Top End Aboriginal peoples. Top Didj & Art Gallery is located 7 kilometres from the Katherine Post Office on Gorge Road at Lansdowne.
Long Hole: Long Hole is one of the better swimming holes around town as it is larger and more extensive that the rest. Here you can even dive in a some points but, as always, check the depth first. There's even a little beach where you can rest and sunbake awhile.
Railway Station Museum: Learn about the history of the rail in the area and how Katherine developed around the railway line. Housed in the original station building (1926), the museum also has displays on wartime activities involving the railway and locals. The Railway Station served Vestey s Meatworks during their operation in Darwin and was a major hub of transport during World War II. Location: Railway Terrace, Katherine. Open 1pm - 4pm, Mon - Fri, May - Oct.
Springvale Homestead: Springvale Homestead is the oldest original homestead in the Northern Territory. The homestead was built in 1878 and managed by Alfred Giles, an ex-Overland Telegraph linesman, who brought sheep and cattle up from Adelaide to stock the station. The homestead displays many photographs and information on the early history of the property. The area around the homestead is home to abundant birdlife and animals such as wallabies. A feature are the amazing Indian rain trees that Mary Giles planted in 1879 - one for each of their children. The homestead is 7km out of Katherine on Shadforth Road on the banks of the Katherine River. Springvale Homestead offers a range of accommodation, a licensed bistro and kiosk, live entertainment, a swimming pool and waterslide, all in a natural parkland setting. Phone: (08) 8972 1355.
Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk National Park, is a must-see for visitors. During the dry season, boat tours are conducted up two of the numerous gorges through which the Katherine River flows. Visitors can also kayak the gorge (half, full day and overnight trips) or walk along the cliff tops via the Park's 100 km of marked walking trails. These trails also lead to various waterfalls and lookouts. Scenic flights in helicopters or fixed wing aircraft give a unique perspective to the area's extensive gorge system. More information Ph (08) 8972 1886.
Flora River Nature Park
The park incorporates 25 km of the Flora River and an ideal spot for canoeing, fishing and boating. Djarrung and Katherine Falls are a short walk from the campground. Pig-nosed turtles, freshwater and saltwater crocodiles i8nhabit the area. Location: 122 km south west of Katherine via Victoria Highway.
Katherine Hot Springs
A short drive from the centre of Katherine, these springs consist of a number of crystal clear pools winding through the trees, at an idyllic 32 degrees celsius. The reserve has barbecue and picnic facilities.
Jurassic Cycad Gardens
1.4 km of self guided walking trails wind through 5 acres of prehistoric gardens. The Gardens feature collections of rare living fossil cycads, cacti, succulents and exotic plants. The complex has a coffee shop. Entry fees apply. Location: 61 Morris Rd. Katherine. Ph (08) 8971 0335.
Origin of name
Explorer John McDouall Stuart passed through the area in 1862 on his sixth and successful journey across the continent. On 4th July 1862 he crossed the Katherine River and recorded in his diary: "Came upon another large creek, having a running stream to the south of west and coming from the north of east. This appears to have been named 'Katherine', in honour of the second daughter of James Chambers Esq." Chambers was a South Australian pastoralist who had become obsessed with the idea of an Overland Telegraph link with Europe and had sponsored the first five of Stuart's expeditions. Stuart reciprocated by naming a number of places in the Northern Territory after members of Chambers' family. There is some argument over Stuart's spelling of the name, as Chambers' wife's name was Katherine but, according to most sources, his daughter's name was spelt Catherine.