There's something buzzing in Katherine right now!
Top left: Barunga Festival c/o John Skuja, Top right: Baby Chinos c/o Black Russian Caravan, Bottom left: Cakes c/o The Finch Cafe, Bottom right: Live Music c/o The Finch Cafe
About 3.5 hours down the track from Darwin you will find Katherine. The main draw card around these parts for visitors is the truly spectacular Katherine Gorge in Nitmuluk National Park, as well as Mataranka Thermal Pools in Elsey National Park. But there's way more to Katherine for families as local Phoebe Quilty, mamma and owner of the hip Finch Cafe reveals. So, stop and linger for a while because there are lots of other little gems to discover for the whole gang.
Thanks heaps Phoebe!
What are the best bits about living in Katherine with kids?
It’s really easy to connect with nature. You don’t need too head far in any direction to be in the bush. My girls are growing up with crocodiles in their backyard, a pet dingo and the occasional injured bird or antechinus to care for!
c/o Phoebe Quilty
What are you favourite things to do in Katherine with kids?
Most involve getting outside! There are loads of beautiful places to go for bushwalks and picnics. Low Level Nature Park is a great place for a picnic with kids.
The Pop Rocket Café at the top of Katherine Hot Springs is a really great little pop up in the Dry Season, where you can grab a coffee or lunch and settle in for a day in the springs.
Perfect for families is the river bike ride in Katherine which takes you across the old railway bridge, alongside the river, across Low Level crossing and back into town past the hot springs. You can hire bikes from the Pop Rocket Cafe. Spear Grass Bike Tours is a bike tour offered by young Aboriginal fellas local to Katherine. They’ll give you the locals’ tour! Ask about these guys at the Katherine Visitor Centre. It's really early days for this little venture, so have patience.
Katherine Outback Experience is also great. They do a show with working dog demonstrations, horses and music. Kids love it.
Katherine Riverlink Trails, Low Level Nature Park,
What are your top places to eat/drink coffee with kids in Katherine?
The Finch obviously! We have a large enclosed back garden with heaps of room for little people to explore. We make everything in house so its healthy and home made fare.
The Finch Cafe. c/o Finch Cafe Facebook Page
The Pop Rocket Cafe is favourite! The Katherine Museum also offers Devonshire Tea in the museum gardens in the dry. The museum also has some big planes which kids like. Marksies Camp Tucker Nights can also be fun. The Black Russian Caravan, is another great pop up which is open during the dry near the visitors centre has space, good coffee and great toasted sandwiches.
Pop Rocket Cafe c/o Pop Rocket Cafe FB Page, The Black Russian Caravan c/o The Black Russian Caravan FB Page
Any shops, museums, art galleries you suggest a worth a sneak peak?
The Godinymayin Arts and Cultural Centre is a brilliant gallery and performance space well worth checking out when in Katherine. It has national touring performances and exhibitions. Djilpin Arts Centre in Beswick (about an hour from Katherine) is also worth a trip. Mimi Arts, an Aboriginal art centre in town is also a nice thing to do, especially if you get the chance to see what the artists are up to.
Katherine landscape c/o Phoebe Quilty, Godinymayin Arts and Cultural Centre c/o Godinymayin Arts and Cultural Centre
What are your favourite day-trips, and weekend getaways from Katherine?
Nitmuluk (Katherine Gorge) is a nice day trip and a lovely spot for a picnic. The kayaking in the gorge is fabulous with kids, and there are some nice little walks as well. There are tours Nitmuluk Tours of the gorge which are fantastic. The caravan park at the gorge is happy to let people use the pool (for a few dollars) if you feel like a swim. They have a little cafe as well.
Katherine Gorge CC Amy Berlew Flickr, Southern Rockhole. CC miss_jane2 Flickr
Edith Falls is always lovely, especially the top pools which are well worth the effort with kids. Mataranka Hot Springs are also fun. A little less well known, and really beautiful are Bitter Springs. Make sure you get a swimming noodle from one of the shops in Mataranka and then you can float down the stream which is really fun. There are also a few not so well-known camping spots within an hours drive, but I’d be in big trouble for advertising them!
Southern Rockhole (Nitmuluk) in the late wet/early dry is a great bushwalk and there is a beautiful swimming hole. As a family we tend to walk in in the morning, swim and then catch a boat ride home. Call the Nitmiluk Visitor’s Centre for ferry times. The walk back can be hard going for little ones when it gets into the hotter part of the day.
Bitter Springs, Mataranka c/o Libby Larsen, Upper Edith Falls c/o CC njbawden Flickr
Do you know of any cool places to stay that you’d recommend for families with kids in tow?
The camp grounds (Big4) at Low Level are really spacious, with a large pool and it's an easy walk to Low Level. For something a bit different you can head to Beswick Aboriginal community and stay in some amazing accommodation designed by Insideout Architects. They are rented via their Airbnb Page. You can visit the Ghunmarn Culture Centre and do cultural tours when you stay.
Djakanimba Pavilions - Airbnb in Beswick by Insideout Architects
Are there any festivals or annual events in that you love?
The Katherine Show (mid July), any of the rodeos, Territory Day Festival and of course Barunga Festival, a festival in Barunga Aboriginal community with music, sports and heaps more.
Barunga Festival c/o- John Skuja, Katherine Rodeo. credit - ABC
Can you share with us a little about how the The Finch Cafe came to be?
From a conversation with another mum at our kids school! We thought the town needed a good little café and thought we’d give it a go. Katherine is a town of exciting opportunities!
Thanks heaps Phoebe for giving us some tips. We'll see you at The Finch Cafe!
*Make sure you check the opening hours of the places mentioned in this article so you don't get disappointed! Some of the cafes and other businesses are seasonal (like the Pop Ups), or being community-owned and operated, their opening hours may be limited for a whole range of reasons.
You can find The Finch Cafe at the Country Womens Association (CWA) Hall on Katherine Terrace (rear entry via Cinema carpark). It's open Wednesday - Friday 8.00am - 2.00pm and Saturdays 8.30am - 12.00pm. Make sure you check out their Facebook Page because there are heaps of interesting events and happenings here as well from music nights to story telling and much more.
Libby Larsen - Growing up Troppo
Growing up Troppo is about providing honest and independent travel advice for families. I live in Darwin in the Top End of Australia. I have fallen in love with most things about life here; the sunset picnics, the relaxed outdoor lifestyle, interesting people and amazing landscapes. I'm not sure about you but when I'm heading somewhere a good friend has been to, I always ask, "Where did you stay? What are the best places to eat with kids? I trust their advice and insights.