By Jade Johnston
Katherine Gorge is one of the highlights of any visit to the Northern Territory. It is located relatively close to the town of Katherine, and offers a peaceful eco tourism oasis in this tropical climate.
Katherine Gorge is located in Nitmiluk national park, which is the local aboriginal people’s name for the area. The park is a deeply spiritual place, and many of the Jawoyn’s traditional stories take place here.
A trip to Katherine Gorge is required for anyone interested in learning more about Aboriginal culture, walkers looking for a quiet escape, or even foodies looking for a gourmet dining experience while on a katherine gorge cruise.
Hiking In Katherine Gorge
There are several great day hiking options in Katherine gorge, and we will list the top 3 in terms of sights and ease of hiking. Please note that the temperatures can soar at Katherine Gorge, so make sure you take plenty of water with you. There are several points along the walking trails where you can refill your water bottle, and I recommend to take full advantage of that resource.
Baruwei Loop Walk
This loop is the shortest of the walks, and can easily be combined with one of the other walks. This is the only walk which can start either at the Nitmiluk campground, or at the visitor centre. The other two walks that I will speak about start and finish at the camp ground, so it is very easy to combine with this walk.
If you are going to do the Baruwei walk (either on it’s own, or combined with another walk) it is going to be much easier if you start at the campground and finish at the visitor centre. The reason for this being that the section of trail in between the first lookout and the visitor centre is steep and contains several steps – and it’s easier to go down the steps than up!
The walk along the cliffside between the visitor centre and the look out is the most visually appealing part of this walk. The section that joins this walk to the others is less interesting and can be quite exposed to the sun, so make sure you take plenty of water.
The Windolf walk is the second of the southern walks. It is a fairly easy walk, and there is a drinking water station near the point where the Baruwei loop walk joins with it.
The walk takes you past barren rocky ground, where it is ideal to view the hardy desert plant life. As you come to the end of the walk, there is an option to descend down to a cool rock pool which serves as a great place to stop for a rest and have a swim.
At the end of the walk, you will find yourself at a view point, looking over the second gorge.
Butterfly Gorge Walk
The Butterfly Gorge walk is the walk most recommended by the staff at the visitors centre due to the fantastic look out where you will emerge at the end of the walk. The walk is named Butterfly Gorge as it is not uncommon to encounter large numbers of butterflies as you hike towards the gorge.
The Butterfly Gorge walk ends at the point where the gorge bends at a sharp 90 degree angle, and the section of the gorge which is renowned for being the most picturesque. It is also at this point that the gorge is at one of it’s deepest points. This is the place where the local Jawoyn people believe is the resting place of the rainbow serpent.
There is another drinking water station at the midway point of this walk, and it is recommended to make use of it as the walk can be exposed to the sun in some areas.
Staying At The Nitmiluk Campground
With so much to do and see at Nitmiluk National Park, you will probably want to stay a day or two to soak it all in. The park has facilities for both powered and un powered campers, as well as their own little tent village and chalets. For those backpackers like myself who don’t want to carry about a tent and supplies, the tent village may be your best option.
The tent village consists of permanent canvas structures with two single beds inside. There is no electricity to bring a flashlight, or ask the visitor centre to provide one of their own. Bed linens are also provided.
On site are bathroom facilities, free laundry facilities, a pool, and a cafe/ restaurant which serves meals.
To book your stay at the tent village or one of the other accommodation options, please contact Nitmiluk tours.
My stay at the tent village was provided complimentary of Nitmiluk tours, but all opinons remain my own.