Seek different, sleep easy in the Top End

Seek different, sleep easy in the Top End

By Helen Hayes

March 22, 2023

Seeing the sights in the Top End doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on hotels or rough it camping. There is a very happy medium.

We cruise up the gorge, the orange-red textured rock walls almost shimmering with the light and reflection from the gentle wake of the boat on the otherwise mirror-smooth water. Explosions of green vegetation grow out of cracks and down walls, torrents of white from waterfalls tumble into the blue of the water, adding to the tropical, primal, feel. It is timeless. Ancient. Spiritual. And this cruise is just one of the experiences you can do in this special place.

Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge is one of 13 naturally-formed gorges carved out of sandstone in Nitmiluk National Park, 30km north-east of Katherine. Boat cruises aren’t the only way to explore the Park. Try a canoe (you can hire them) or chose one of the many trail hikes, ranging from the 8.4km Windolf Walk to the five-day, 62km Jatbula Trail.

No matter how you explore, don’t forget to stop to marvel at the rock art created by traditional owners, the Jawoyn people, along the way. Learn more about their ancient culture and the significance of the gorge, at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, at the entrance to the National Park, or join a cultural tour.

To really soak up the tropical and relaxed feel of the Top End, visit the small town of Mataranka, an hour’s drive south of Katherine, home to the legendary Mataranka Thermal Pools, where you can sit and ponder life in the mineral-rich pools fringed by paperbark, and palms. You can also get soaked in Bitter Springs, another pool, located 8km from Mataranka in the Elsey National Park.

To really dig deep into the Top End, venture underground – 15 metres underground – at Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park. Just over 30km southeast of Katherine, the limestone caves have millions of years of history, with hour-long tours showcasing the rich Indigenous culture, geography and modern European history, as well as the wildlife of the caves and the Park outside.


A different Discovery

A wonderful place to stay to explore all of Katherine’s delights is Discovery Parks – Katherine. Located just six kms outside Katherine en route to Nitmiluk Gorge, the Park itself is private and secluded, with lush surrounds giving you the tropical feel famous in the Top End. You can also book experiences for the region here.

Take your pick of a range of accommodation types with elevated studio cabins that can sleep two to four, ground-level studio cabins that sleep two to five, and large-powered sites for caravanners, motorhomes and campers. In the Park, amenities like the camp kitchen and swimming pool provide the perfect space to unwind at the end of the day.

Image credit: Tourism NT

Go troppo in Darwin

Nothing says Darwin more than the spectacular orange of the sunset over the Arafura Sea. Enjoy this natural showstopper from the iconic Mindil Beach, home to the famous Sunset Markets (which run Thursdays and Sundays between April and October), serving delicious international cuisine and homemade goods. Other wonderful sunset spectacle locations include Stoke’s Hill Wharf, with its array of restaurants, or set sail on a sunset cruise with Darwin Harbour Cruises.

After you have seen the museums and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and scared yourself silly swimming with a prehistoric croc at Crocosaurus, book a day tour out to Mary River Wetlands. Nature runs the show here with carpets of water lilies, a myriad of bird species, and the largest proliferation of saltwater crocs in the world.

Just three hours’ drive from Darwin, the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, is a pristine wilderness is like no other. Experience ancient rock art sites at Nourlangie and Ubirr that date back up to 20,000 years, see the cascading Twin Falls, Jim Jim and Gunlom waterfalls, myriad flora and fauna, do a tour of Yellow Water for more croc and bird spotting as well as buffalo, take a dip in the idyllic Maguk rock pool, go bushwalking, or take a scenic flight to try and capture Kakadu in all its outrageous beauty.

A visit to Litchfield National Park is another must, with its waterfalls, ruggedly beautiful landscape, fascinating termite mounds, and waterholes. Have a dip in the stunning natural lagoon at Wangi Falls, laze at Florence Falls, and have a dip at Cascades and Buley Rockhole. Walk around the rim to take in the beauty of Tolmer Falls, and to admire the views over the escarpment.


Darwin Discovery

An excellent place to stay that provides luxury on a budget, is Discovery Parks – Darwin, the closest caravan park to Darwin City. It is a shady oasis, with tropical gardens, swimming pools, and a range of accommodation options. There are a selection of cabins from standard to superior, and a range of powered sites from 12-30 ft. The cabins have all the creature comforts you need after a day of exploring including air conditioning, your own cabin balcony, and a pool lined by lush palm trees. Park facilities include a laundry, camp kitchen, kiosk, and a bouncing pillow to keep the kids entertained.

Like all of Discovery Parks locations in the NT, you can be assured of a comfortable, secure experience with a good choice of accommodation – the perfect places to base yourself to explore the great outdoors. 

You can seek different, but sleep easy.


This article is brought to you by Discovery Parks and Tourism NT. 

Enjoy 25% off sites with Discovery Parks in the Top End today!

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