Katherine Gorge - Nitmiluk
Updated: Oct 7
Have you been to Katherine Gorge? Well if you haven't had the chance, I can only suggest that you find a way to visit this iconic destination. It is breathtaking!
Katherine Gorge is located 30km northeast of the town of Katherine and 244 kilometres southeast of Darwin. The road is fully sealed and is a relatively easy drive in any vehicle. Katherine Gorge is part of the Nitmiluk National Park lying at the southern tip of Kakadu National Park. Check out Camps 11 to assist you when planning your visit.
Nitmiluk, pronounced Nit-me-look, is the Jawoyn name for Katherine Gorge. It means Cicada Place. The Jawoyn people believe that Bolung, the Rainbow Serpent, is able to control life itself and inhabits the depths of Katherine Gorge. Bolung watches over the world and can take the form of lightning or appear in the monsoonal floods.
Nitmiluk National Park is jointly managed by the Jawoyn indigenous people and the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission. The logo for the Nitmiluk National Park and Jawoyn Association is a painting by a deceased traditional owner of Nitmiluk. Find out more here or visit the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre at the gorge.
We visited the gorge in September and the day temperatures were already around 35 degrees! We booked a tour online through Nitmiluk Tours and chose the four hour, three gorge cruise. At the entrance to the gorge, you will find the Nitmiluk National Park Visitor Centre where you can grab a map and further information about the area. There is a café where you can sit inside with air-conditioning or choose to sit outside and enjoy the view. There are also toilet amenities, a picnic and barbecue area with plenty of shade.
Once we were checked in, we waited at the kiosk near the boat ramp. As we made our way onto the boat we were given water, fruit and a muffin. We also took some of our own snacks. The boat had a roof covering, so we were able to sit in the shade and as the cruise continued, we moved around to capture the best view...and photos.
The boat cruise took us along the 23 million-year-old Nitmiluk Gorge carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River. 13 separate gorges make up the gorge connected over 12km by rapids and rocky terrain, however, we only visited the first three gorges. We cruised through the first gorge for about 30 minutes before disembarking to view rock art, plants and gaze up at the amazing rock face. The Aboriginal art paintings, some of which date back thousands of years, were spectacular! From here there was a short walk along pathways, up steps and over rocks to the next gorge and a new boat. We were pleased we wore sturdy comfortable shoes, a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
The next gorge was a 20 minute cruise through the sheer cliff faces, viewing the deep crevices in the rock, vegetation and wildlife. Our tour guide pointed out interesting and informative facts along the way. We found the commentary about the wildlife and Aboriginal people of this land, the Jawoyn people, fascinating and one of the reasons we took this cruise. Another walk and a boat change and we were in the third gorge. It continued to be so impressive and in this gorge, there was an opportunity to just sit back and enjoy the experience in silence.
We returned to the second gorge after some time...we were so immersed in the experience that we lost track of time. Once back at the second gorge, we were able to swim safely in the cool waters near the rock pools. We didn't see any freshwater crocodiles, although there may have been some. In the wet season, there are saltwater crocodiles and swimming is strictly banned.
There are several options to see the gorge. Nitmiluk Tours offer boat cruises, helicopter flights and canoe hire to cover all aspects of the adventure and experience. Choose one or more to get the full experience.
Katherine Gorge - Nitmiluk is a cultural and spiritual experience with the opportunity to learn more about Australia, the landscape and its people.
Location - 30km northeast own of Katherine and 244 kilometres southeast of Darwin.
Getting there and getting around - the road is fully sealed and is a relatively easy drive in any vehicle.
Accommodation - Nitmiluk Caravan Park is right near the entrance to Katherine Gorge, however there are plenty of places to stay in the town of Katherine.
water & snacks are provided, however bring some of your own
wear sturdy walking shoes and in the dry season, bring swimming gear
wear a hat and use plenty of sunscreen
there are toilet facilities onboard the boat
Book your tours through Nitmiluk Tours. During holiday periods, you will need to book several weeks in advance.
The Nitmiluk Visitor Centre is a one stop shop for tour bookings and accommodation.