This itinerary is jam-packed with waterfalls, waterholes and hot springs but is best to do in the early Dry Season (May-June) for the freshest water.
Day 1 –
Get up early, pack a decent lunch and hit the Stuart Highway towards Katherine. The turn off to Umbrawarra Gorge Nature Park is just past Pine Creek. Once you arrive, walk along the creek for about 1km, enjoy swimming spots in the creek along the way. When you come to the Gorge you’ll be hit with the striking red cliffs where you can set up for the next couple of hours on the sandy banks and enjoy this majestic little pocket of the Top End.
Next stop, Edith (Leliyn) Falls. Just over an hours drive from Umbrawarra is Edith Falls, which is a lush green bush setting that has a campground and kiosk (if you need to stock up on snacks). But, our local’s tip is to venture to the Upper Pools (via a 20-or-so minute walk) and set yourself up there for a couple of hours. You need to climb around some rocky areas, but there are plenty of spots to swim, relax and revel in the cascades of the upper pools.
Once you’re satisfied with your waterhole-hopping for day one, hit the road to Katherine and check into your accommodation for the next two nights.
Our tips for dinner in Katherine are:
– Give Finch Cafe a call and see if they’re open for dinner. Some Friday nights they have pizza and live music in the large grassy backyard.
– The Katherine Country Club bar and restaurant has the most extensive menu and large grassy lawns for kids to run around on.
Day 2 –
Pack your pool-noodle because today you’re going to venture south to Mataranka. But, before you go it’s essential you swing past the Black Russian Caravan (next to the Katherine Visitor Centre) to stockpile on caffeine and the best toastie in the Top End, the Reuben! Thank us later.
Once you’ve satisfied your stomach, travel south for just over an hour to Mataranka Thermal Pools. Take the beautiful boardwalk path into this thermal pool oasis set only amongst the natural tropical bushlands. Swim, wade, bathe, paddle and float until you’ve nearly had enough because you’ve got another thermal pool on the agenda for today.
Head back to town and just a short drive north until you reach the Bitter Springs turn off. Climb into the top of the crystal clear springs (noodle in hand), and let the current slowly float you downstream. Lay back and look up at the towering palm trees and tropical surrounds. When you reach the ladder, exit the springs, walk up the path and do it all over again, and again and again.
Once it’s time to call it a day, head back to Katherine. Our tip for tonight is to drive into Katherine (Nitmiluk) Gorge and walk to the top of Barawei Lookout for an epic sunset. You’ll be blown away by the view of the gorges and roaring red sky!
Day 3 –
Today’s adventure will take you back into Katherine (Nitmiluk) Gorge to visit the secluded Southern Rockhole. You can either hike your way in (approximately 8km return) or catch the ferry down the river and get dropped off on the banks for a very short, but rocky, trek in. Southern Rockhole is so special because you can usually only swim there for a few months of the year (due to water flow), so make sure you check if it’s open for swimming before you go! The sheer beauty of this waterfall and its secluded location makes it 100% worth the walk!
Eventually you’ll need to tear yourself away from this hideaway and make your way back to Katherine for an afternoon swim at the Katherine Hot Springs. Deceptively located right in town, you can walk to the very top of the path and climb into a large natural pool area. From there, swim your way downstream through the crystal waters discovering this natural wonderland.
If timing is right, stop in at Pop Rocket Cafe located directly at the entrance of the springs. This local haunt is a great spot for a late afternoon drink.
Finish your day with another night of unwinding in Katherine town and reflect on your last three days of waterhole-hopping adventures!
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