Katherine is often called the ‘Crossroads of the North’ as it is located on the junction of the Stuart Highway linking with the north and the south and the Victoria Highway to Western Australia.
The town of Katherine is the fourth largest in the Northern Territory, situated 320km south-east of Darwin on the beautiful Katherine River. The community has a population of approximately 6,300 people (2016 census).
Katherine has a sub-tropical climate and there are two seasons, the wet and the dry. From April to October, Katherine enjoys the dry season, which means hot days and cool nights with hardly any rain.
For the rest of the year (November to March), is the intense wet season, with steamy hot days relieved by thunderous storms in the evening – the water filling the local rivers and waterholes.
Katherine is located at the Stuart Highway and Victoria Highway junction, 314km south east of Darwin making it the gateway to the spectacular Kakadu, Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) and Gregory National Parks and Western Australia. The town has a population of 11,000 people and the major support industries are beef cattle, mining, horticulture and tourism. It is also an important regional centre for many government agencies.
Katherine is an important stop-over for the Ghan on its Adelaide to Darwin rail journey and a few kilometres south of the town is the strategic Tindal Air Force Base, the northern home of the new F-35A Lightning II and F/A-18F Hornet fighter squadron.
The new Katherine Fire Station was opened on 23 May 2019 and is responsible for supporting and training 4 volunteer fire and emergency response groups and several smaller Aboriginal community volunteer brigades. The fire station also provides fire safety education, building fire safety inspections and manages the hazard reduction programs in towns and communities throughout the region.
- Culture and history
The Katherine River was named by explorer John McDouall Stuart in 1862 after the second daughter of James Chambers, one of his sponsors, and appears on many early maps and documents as "Catherine". The first settlement in the area was about 2km north of the river and was known as "Emungalan". On completion of the railway bridge in 1926 the settlement moved to the south side of the river to its present site.
Katherine is the main town within the Katherine Fire Response Area. It is an export, meat, mining, tourism and light industry centre.
Katherine is situated approximately 320km south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway, and is also the crossroads to Western Australia. The surrounding country is fairly flat, backing onto escarpments and gorges. The soil is sandy loam with limestone outcrops becoming more prominent as you leave the district.
Katherine has a typical Top End tropical climate with a wet and dry season - the wet season is from October to April and the dry season May to October. The winter/cooler months are from July to September. The dry season temperature can be as low as 8ºC during these months. During the build up to the wet season, the temperatures can reach 43ºC with very high humidity. During the wet season the grass cover is mainly of the spear grass variety which can grow to heights of over 2m.
Katherine has a number of major exporting industries such as exporting meat and livestock. Katherine is also home to the CSRIO Research Centre and Department of Business Industries and Resources.
The population of Katherine is about 10,000 people, including Tindal Air Force Base 17km south of Katherine along the Stuart Highway. The total population of the district is approximately 17,400 people.
- Katherine High School
- St Joseph’s Catholic College
- MacFarlane Primary School
- Katherine South Primary School
- Clyde Fenton Primary School
- Casuarina St Primary School
- Kintore St School (caters for students with high support needs aged between 4-20yrs)
Katherine School of the Air
Katherine School of the Air is a Distance Education School, one of the three NT Distance Education Schools under the Northern Territory Department of Education. The school caters for isolated primary and middle school students who reside in the top half of the Northern Territory. The school also caters to urban students that require alternative pathways. Visit ksa.nt.edu.au for more information.
Child Care Centre operates year round with a break over Christmas and New Year. Advanced bookings are essential. There is also play groups.
- Health services
The Katherine Hospital is a non-specialist public hospital that services Katherine and the surrounding region and remote areas. It has 60 beds and the emergency department is open 2 hours. The hospital features a maternity ward, antenatal clinic, general medical and surgical wards along with a children’s ward, radiology and pathology departments and more.
- Amenities and services
Shopping in Katherine - Katherine features the Oasis Shopping Centre which has Woolworths and specialty shops. There is also a Target and Kmart – (K-hub) which has limited stock but can order in specialty items from other stores.
Cafes and restaurants - There’s no denying that Katherine’s foodie scene is abundant and healthy! There are a plenty of cafes, take-aways, restaurants and other eating places in the area, ranging from boutique cafes housed in old-fashioned caravans to five-star dining restaurants for the fine-dining experience.
Sports - The Katherine Town Council operates 2 large sport and recreation facilities, the Katherine Sportsgrounds and Aquatic Centre and the Katherine Showgrounds Complex that are the focus area for a wide variety of sport activities all year round. Katherine’s sports grounds are the playing fields for many sporting groups in the community, including rugby, athletics, BMX, soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball and netball.
News Agency are agents for Australia Post, they also provide other banking facilities.
Motor Vehicle Registry operates Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm.
- Recreation activities
Katherine is the gateway to the north, south, east and west. From Katherine you can travel to Kununurra or down to Alice Springs or across to Mt Isa. There are plenty of activities close by, including Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) – hire a cruise ship or canoe at your own leisure, or try a walking track. Edith Falls – a beautiful part of the Nitmiluk National park located only 66km north of Katherine.
Katherine has a golf course and lawn bowls club, tennis courts, netball courts and a swimming pool. Other active (Aussie Rules), fishing club. For children there is, soccer, tennis, Auskick, after schools youth centre, skate board centre, library activities and general social functions within the township.
Vast and diverse, the Katherine region is where the outback meets the tropics, adventure meets relaxation, and the outdoors meets ancient culture.
There are plenty of thrills, spills and leisure time to be had in Katherine. The Katherine region extends from the Gulf of Carpentaria near the Queensland border towards the Kimberley in the west.
See the mighty Katherine River flowing through Katherine Gorge (Nitmuluk National Park), or head our for camping and adventure in the Elsey and Gregory National Parks. The Daly River and Gulf Region are renowned as top fishing destinations, and Mataranka is rich in history – the Never Never Museum tells of local Mangarayi and Yangman people and customs, and the more recent settlement of Europeans.
Take part in one of the area’s colourful and quirky festivals and events. You can also explore the limestone Cutta Cutta Caves, or relax in the Katherine Hot Springs (a mere 5 minutes from town).
- Road access
Road access to Katherine is generally all year round with the exception of some local flooding which may cause short delays during above normal wet seasons; however, other areas may be inaccessible during the wet season (check with local police), for example Ngukurr, Lajamanu and Kalkaringi. The Victoria and Stuart highways may both be cut for short periods due to local flooding
Katherine is about a three-hour drive south-east of Darwin on the Stuart Highway. Katherine has an airport which caters for light aircraft and smaller commercial airline. One of the main air companies is Airnorth.
- Permits onto Aboriginal land
Permits are required for most of the aboriginal settlements. Permits are available from the Northern Land Council.
- Sacred areas
Sacred sites exist in Katherine. Permits to enter a Sacred Sites Trust can be obtained from the Northern Land Council. Strict guidelines must be adhered to, when entering these sites.
- Alcohol (any restricted area)
In Katherine there are 3 Aboriginal communities in an alcohol restricted area.