The town of Katherine is Northern Territory’s largest settlement after Darwin. Located 320 kilometers south-east of Darwin and nested along the magnificent Katherine River. Its location intersects the north and south of the Stuart Highway, as well as the Victoria Highway. It is also called the Crossroads of the North. And to no surprise, it strategically served as a meeting place for indigenous people.
For an area as big as the state of Victoria, it is a flourishing regional centre that provides services to communities from the Western Australia border to the Gulf of the Northern Territory. On the 2011 Census, Katherine had an urban population of 6,094. And on the 2016 census, Katherine had a population of 6,303 people.
Katherine was first inhabited by Indigenous Australian tribes: Dagoman people, Jawoyn people and Wardaman people. Traces of these encounters can be seen over the region through sacred sites, information centres, ancient art, and tours that convey the places and stories of Aboriginal significance. The town of Katherine has become a special place like it is today due to the amazing history of ancient indigenous culture following the accommodation of Europeans. Katherine East, a suburb of Katherine, has become a designated community from Walpiri People from the Victoria River District and Tamani Desert.
Katherine, the perfect meeting place for the aboriginal people is now one of Australia’s top destinations to experience Aboriginal culture. The region is famous for Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), Edith Falls, Top Didj and Art Gallery. Visitors are also recommended to visit Katherine Hot Springs, Mataranka thermal pools or Bitter springs, Sabu Sing, Cutta Cutta Caves, and Katherine Museum.
Recommended cultural events in Katherine are: Barunga Festival which happens around June, and Walking with Spirits Festival that happens in July.
Weather in Katherine is generally hot all year round. Best time to visit is around April to late June and early July to late September.
The most ideal way to get around Katherine is by self-drive since many of its attractions are town centre. Checkout Camper Travel Campervan Hire for rates and vehicles.
Image Attribution: Sardaka [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
The easiest way to get to Katherine is by flying to Darwin, and drive south down to Stuart Highway.
Katherine is around a three-hour and a 300-kilometer drive south of Darwin.
Cars directly rented from rental companies in Darwin have kilometre restrictions per day. You can also checkout Campervan Hire in Darwin.
For a more affordable option, book through travel wholesalers like Territory Discoveries and Flight Centre.
For a cheap and comfortable ride from Darwin to Katherine, the Greyhound Minibus service is ideal. The service runs daily, and it stops in both city centres.
Experience one of Australia's most spectacular rail trips by riding The Ghan. The train travels north twice every week to Darwin from Adelaide via Katherine. Visitors can enjoy a selection of off-train tours.
The Tindal Airforce Base is situated south of Katherine which serves as its airport. Air North flies three times a week to Katherine (Mon, Wed, Fri) from Darwin, Alice Springs, and Tenant Creek. Visitors can also charter an aircraft in and out of Katherine.
John McDouall Stuart, a successful Scottish explorer of the Australian inland, crossed a river on the 4th of July 1862. Stuart wrote this event in his diary and named the river after James Chambers’ second daughter, Katherine. James Chambers was a South Australian pastoralist who financially supported Stuart’s expedition.
Ten years after Stuart’s discovery, the Overland Telegraph Line was established in the town. The Katherine Telegraph Station was opened on the 22nd of August 1872. The first Stationmaster was James Stapleton, the man who chose Katherine as the location site for the Telegraph Station. This telegraph station laid the groundwork for the Adelaide to Darwin railway. The encouragement from John McDouall Stuart persuaded the pastoralists to arrive in Katherine. In June 1879, Alfred Giles, Alfred Woods and 40 other men arrived near Katherine River with their livestocks. The journey took these men 20 months and they built a homestead called ‘Spring Vale’. This place shows the early colonial architecture with its thick limestone walls and buildings constructed of timber. In 1889, gold was discovered on Mt. Todd 50km north of Katherine but mining was stopped during the year 2000. Another significant piece of Katherine’s history is the boom of peanut from 1950-1956. The growing season in Katherine yielded 41 percent of peanuts in the whole Northern Territory. However, competition with other Queensland farmers, poor understanding of environmental complexities and labour problems led to the downfall of the peanut industry. During the Second World War, the town was bombed by the Japanese forces on the 22nd of March 1942.
In 1967 the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, a reserve of limestones, was officially established. The town’s progression did not stop there, a Woolworths supermarket opened on the mainstreet of the town in 1988. In the same year, a Royal Australian Air Force base was established in town.
Katherine Town Council
Open between the hours of 8:00am - 4:15pm Monday - Friday.
Physical Address: Civic Centre, Lot 1865 Stuart Highway, Katherine NT, 0850
Postal Address: PO Box 1071, Katherine, NT, 0851
Phone: (08) 8972 5500
Fax: (08) 8971 0305
Email: [email protected]
Visitor Information Centre
Address: Cnr Lindsay Street & Stuart Highway
Phone: (08) 8972 2650