Katherine Gorge Day trip from Darwin, Australia
Nitmiluk National Park. Some might know it as Katherine Gorge National Park, spans more than 292,000 hectares. The landscape is a little different to that of Kakadu National Park, but is still green and luscious. The name Nitmiluk actually means ‘Cicada Place’, named by the Jawoyn people who are the traditional custodians of the park.
When Jenna started researching things to see from Darwin, Katherine was up there on her list of things to see. It’s a shame that the research didn’t include double checking the best time of year to visit the Norther Territory, the timing certainly could have been planned better to maximize the experience. One of the first differences is that there was only a handful of tour companies operating at the time, and decided to book a day trip with AAT Kings (big coaches, which I’m not a fan of!). The flexibility of a rental car was considered and we would have booked one if we had an extra day in Darwin, but knowing we had a tight itinerary with quite a bit planned we needed something that will run to schedule.
The post will outline the day – but please feel free to contact us if you would like additional information on the day!
The AAT Kings Katherine Gorge tour had a few more stops and has slightly more driving than the Kakadu day trip (also with AAT Kings). The pickup at the hotel from Darwin was at 06:15 and the drop-off time was around 21:00.
The drive towards Nitmiluk National Park and Katherine Gorge is on the Stuart Highway – it is a lengthy drive, but we we were relieved when we stopped for some breakfast around 9:30 at the Emerald Springs Roadhouse. The food wasn’t extensive but the scones and jam were to die for, definitely the highlight of what was available!
Once we finished breakfast, it wasn’t too much longer until we reached our first stop for the day, which was at the Adelaide River War Memorial. This memorial is dedicated to the many men and women who lost their lives in the north of Australia during WWII. It is always a surreal experience and never ceases to amaze when you read just how young the soldiers were when they gave their lives to the country and for the greater good.
Albeit the cemetery is a surreal experience, I have no doubt that anyone who books this particular tour is after the various waterfalls and lakes. The first of the waterfalls is at Leliyn (commonly known as Edith Falls). Given the timing of our trip, which was near the end of a relatively dry wet season, the waterfall wasn’t as impressive as some of those images on Google! If you’re after a great experience at the falls or Gorge, make sure you visit in the middle of wet season. If you’re after wildlife, then towards the end of the dry season is best when the water levels are lower. Nevertheless, it was still gorgeous and the landscape was still well worth the visit.
In the dry season, you can also opt for a swim at Edith Falls. Evenhough we visited towards the end of the dry, wet season, the water levels were still high enough for the crocodiles to enter the area – we certainly had no intention of finding out if they were still there so we decided to keep out!
The area also has a kiosk available for a quick top-up if you weren’t quite satisfied at breakfast, or even better, an ice-cream or icy cold drink (which you will need!!).
It was then a short drive to our next stop for lunch, followed by a 2 hour cruise through Katherine Gorge!
Lunch was at a lovely the Nitmiluk Visitors Centre which included a wide selection as part of a buffet, drinks are available to purchase from the bar. Alfresco dining is an option and trust me, you know you’re in the Northern Territory when you sit in the heat looking out over the surrounding landscape. The alternative is to make the most of the air conditioning inside!
The cruise commences a short walk from the Nitmiluk Visitors Centre. Depending on the season, your boat ride could be either one boat, or two! Given the water levels at the time of our visit, we took one boat through gorge 1 and then we had a short walk to get to the second boat for the cruise up through the second gorge. The views are simply breathtaking! I won’t bore you with the details, instead check out our short video with some highlights!
After the cruise, it was the start of a very long drive back to Darwin. Normally, the tour would again stop at the Emerald Springs Roadhouse (where we had breakfast), but unfortunately for the owners, their generators were down, but luckily for us, we experienced another Northern Territory roadhouse, being the Adelaide River Inn. The atmosphere was decent and with the generous serving sizes we certainly weren’t complaining!
We arrived back in to Darwin at approximately 21:00.
The cost for this tour at the time of our post is $250 per adult and $125 per child.
To read more about our recent trip to Darwin and our itinerary, click here!
“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg