Katherine and Glen Helen

Katherine's GorgeThis gorgeous gorge is near the town of Katherine, along the Katherine River, in the northern part of the Northern Territory. Check out the rafting trips offered.

Even off season, the area is worth a visit; you can also check out nearby attractions such as the Cutta Cutta Caves, Edith Falls, and the old Elsey and Springvale Homesteads.

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There's no speed limit on the road to Katherine.

The town of Katherine is on the famous Stuart Highway, about 250 miles SE of Darwin. And no kidding — there really is no speed limit on the road to Katherine. See signs at left.

When we inquired at the tourist office, the bloke just replied, “Well, what can you do?”

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The Hot Springs at Katherine

There’s not much to see or do in the town itself, but don’t miss the beautiful and inspiring local hot springs. (A waitress told us how to find them.)

I think I mentioned the time we went to the hot springs at sunrise, and were surprised to find it deserted except for an elderly local man who was bathing in the nude and singing the Lord’s Prayer! That’s Outback Religion.

(We’re pretty sure everyone who lives in the Outback has a side to them that only the Lord can understand.)

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

The famous attraction outside of town is Katherine Gorge (“Nitmiluk”). It’s a series of six gorges, each about a half mile long and about 30 yards across, carved 25 million years ago by a river into 1,600 million-year-old sandstone.

At the bottom of the gorge we disembarked and hiked over the escarpment past sandstone cliffs the height of a 25-story building, waterfalls, and Aboriginal rock paintings, then enjoyed a picnic lunch and a much-needed swim in a cool waterhole, welcome relief from the blistering heat. . .

Freshwater Crocodiles Inhabit This Area...

Freshwater Crocodiles Inhabit This Area...

After which our guide pointed out the freshwater crocodiles nearby. They’re meant to be harmless to humans, and only about 2-3 meters (8 feet) long.

(“Meant to be” is an Aussie way of saying “are” without absolutely commiting to the statement, as in, “They’re meant to be harmless. . . .”)

Anyway, “freshies” sit on the bottom during the heat of the day, and only come out in the early a.m. or p.m. to feed; we were never told what they eat.

Glen Helen is a remont outpost ...

Glen Helen is a remont outpost ...

Glen Helen is an outpost roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. It sticks in our memory because it’s the place I accidentally locked the keys in the rental car. Locals suggested we just throw a brick through the window (life is so simple Down Under).

Anyway, the car rental company had to send someone from Alice with a spare key, and it took hours (and it was really, really hot), and Jim will never let me forget this one tiny little mistake I made, probably because I make so few and it’s the only one he can remember.

Just outside the Glen Helen All Seasons Homestead

Just outside the Glen Helen All Seasons Homestead

Waiting for the car keys to be delivered, Jim chatted up the waitress at the All Seasons Glen Helen Homestead (as I recall, he was not speaking to me at that time), and expressed his disgust over the several hundred flies crawling on the outside of the window.

“Awwr that’s nothin’, mate!” she said. “In the summer they completely cover every window, so no light comes in at all. Keeps the place cooler that way.”

Just south of Katherine are the Cutta Cutta Caves, a fantastic subterranean world of limestone corridors, sparkling calcite crystals, grottos, flowing “shawl” formations, stalactites and stalagmites.

Jim, being a little claustrophobic, waited outside while I searched the caves for Ghost bats, brown tree snakes, black-headed pythons, blind shrimp (which have evolved to become completely eyeless and colorless), and my favorite, glowworms.



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