Three hours south of Darwin, by road or rail, Katherine is a delightful pit-stop and gateway to the stirring Nitmiluk National Park. If you're travelling by train, book a whistle-stop tour on the Katherine Gorge cruise (pictured above), the national park's showpiece attraction.
Boarding the cruise on the Katherine River, sit back and relax as you drift past the fortress-like sandstone cliffs. The Gorge has been carved out by the river on its long journey from the Timor Sea to Arnhem Land, over thousands of years. This hauntingly tranquil place is steeped in Aboriginal mythology.
The local indigenous population, who have co-managed the national park since 1989, will not journey through the gorge, as they believe it is the domain of a revered serpent. Ancient Aboriginal rock art is painted on some of the sandstone walls. The rainy season ( November to April) is the life force for a beguiling array of plant life that speckles the vertiginous sandstone walls.
The informative commentary enlightened me on all manner of plants that seem to cling impossibly to the sandstone ridges, including spinifex grass, pandanus, lofty paperbark trees and hardy shrubs like grevilleas. The sunlight plays wonders with the sandstone hues, which range from dark mud brown to butter yellow. I absolutely loved my fleeting foray with the Katherine Gorge, and your camera will get a serious work-out on this sun-kissed, photogenic watery passage.