Image by Deam McMenamin via Flickr
Driving between Darwin and Katherine presents some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Australia. You’ll simply be spoilt by the amount of waterfalls, gorges, swimming holes, and lookouts that this part of the Northern Territory has to offer. We recommend 25 hours to complete this trip, but that’s the absolute minimum – you’ll probably want much more time to discover everything along the route before reaching Katherine, NT.
Most of the route will be along the Stuart Highway, with frequent turn-offs and side trips. It is possible to complete the road trip from Darwin to Katherine using a 2WD vehicle, but we recommend you make sure your engine has plenty of power to match the speed limit of 130 km/h and overtake frequent road trains.
Points Along the Route
The start of the route, the city of Darwin, has lots to offer. So, do make sure you spend some time exploring Darwin before setting off. Also, use this time to ensure that your vehicle has been serviced properly and is in an adequate position to get going along the highway for the 25-hour route. Not only should your car be ready, but make sure that you and your travel party have stocked up on necessary supplies.
- Litchfield National Park
Once you’ve taken in all that Darwin has to offer, it’s time to hit the road! Your first stop should be Litchfield National Park. The scenery here is amazing, and it lies just 31km off the highway. At the park are four amazing waterfalls definitely worth a visit.
- Tjuwaliyn Hot Springs Park
If all those waterfalls were tempting, but you were too afraid of the crocs to take a dip, then you can go swimming at the next stop south. There are some spots where the naturally steaming water blends into the Douglas River, making for a perfect soaking temperature.
- Pine Creek
One of the most historical places in the Northern Territory, this town was at the pinnacle of the gold mining rush after it was discovered there in 1871. At Pine Creek, you can take a look at the Grove Hill Heritage Museum and National Trust Museum to look at the relics preserved from the early miners that flocked to the area nearly 150 years ago.
- Umbrawarra Gorge Nature Park
After traveling for nearly 22 hours – a journey that should have taken you 3-4 days, allowing for stops – the last place to visit before Katherine in the Umbrawarra Gorge Nature Park. This is a truly impressive gorge surrounded by red rock cliffs with a calm river that includes a sandy river bed. It’s a great place to sit back and relax for a while, but if you’ve got the energy to hike up to the top of the cliffs, the views are spectacular.
From Umbrawarra Gorge to Katherine, it’s just a 3-hour drive to reach Katherine. At this point, you should be ready to check into your Katherine NT accommodation, as the town has several options to suit all budgets. After such a long road trip, many travellers take the opportunity to splash out a bit into luxury, and we wouldn’t blame them given the decent options on offer in Katherine.
Once settled in Katherine, most visitors make their way out to the famed Katherine Gorge, which is located in Nitmiluk National Park, and only a short drive from the town. It has several picturesque swimming holes and ancient rock paintings that capture the imagination. There is also plenty else on offer by way of bushwalking, canoeing, and fishing all around Katherine.