Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory
When Is The Best Time To Visit Katherine Gorge?
Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory: typical rugged Australian Outback country.
Red rocks and escarpments, dry bushland with pockets of rainforest along streams and water holes. The wildflowers have to be seen to be believed...
Wherever there is water the area is teeming with wildlife: lizards, insects, birds, and even freshwater crocodiles.
But Katherine Gorge and the Northern Territory change dramatically with the seasons. A visit to Katherine Gorge, NT in May will be a very different experience to one in October...
Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory, Climate
Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory, like all of northern Australia, has a tropical climate. That means nearly all of the rain falls during the hot and humid wet season, which in Australia is from November to April. During the dry season, May to September, you should have clear blue skies every day.
(The reality is a bit more complex. The page about the best time to visit Kakadu National Park applies to Katherine Gorge National Park as well. I has more detailed information about the ether through the seasons.)
The uneven distribution of our rain throughout the year has dramatic effects, and it affects what you can and can't do at Katherine Gorge.
You often read that thirteen individual gorges make up the Katherine Gorge in the Northern Territory. These thirteen gorges can also be described as sections of one and the same gorge that become separated by rock bars and boulders when the water level drops during the dry season. On the other hand the waters go wild during the wet season, turning the dry sections into raging rapids. Obviously boat tours and canoe trips depend on the water level in the gorge...
The other thing to be aware of are the temperatures. Especially the end of the dry and beginning of the wet season are extremely hot. Not a problem if you want to canoe and swim. A different story if you want to go on longer bushwalks... On the other hand the nights during the dry season can get quite cold. Something to remember if you plan overnight camping trips in the park...
And last but not least: I feel nothing is much fun during the peak of the tourist season—mid June to mid August&mdashwhen everything is packed. But maybe that's just me...
Here is a bit of a summary of what to do when:
Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory, Activities
Katherine Gorge Cruises:
The popular cruises through Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory, operate all year round but are subject to weather and conditions. That means there is no guarantee they will be operating at any given day during the wet.
Our wet seasons are unpredictable. There may be extended dry periods with only little rain. But we also get cyclones with torrential rains for days, extended flooding, and you won't even be able to get to the park. During the wet season you have to take it as it comes and be flexible. Keep an eye on the weather reports when you get here.
At certain times of the year the shorter cruises will be available, but not the longer ones. Reason would be the water level being too high (dangerous rapids) or too low (dry sections exposed).
Katherine Gorge Canoe Trips:
Same as above. In theory canoe hire is possible all year round. In real life the gorge gets closed to canoes once the rapids become too dangerous. After the big wet season and the floods in 2006 it took until June before the gorge was considered safe for canoeists and swimmers again!
I prefer to go on canoe trips later in the dry season when the weather already warms up again. For starters there are fewer tourists. But I also can't stand cold weather after living up here for so long. Heat is not a problem if you are in a canoe, just slide over the side into the water...
Also, the river doesn't flow as hard. I'd rather drag my canoe over some rocks occasionally than having to paddle real hard all day. But early in the season is of course a great time, too. Still warm, and what's left of the rapids is quite fun and exciting...
Hiking in Katherine Gorge National Park:
Most of the walks will be inaccessible during the wet season. They usually reopen gradually some time in April/May. The best time for hikes in my opinion is as soon as the tracks are accessible. Many of the pools and waterfalls along the walks dry up quickly, and so do the wildflowers and everything else. May is the best time for just about anything in Katherine Gorge or the Northern Territory...
The very best way to experience the park is to go on an overnight canoe trip or overnight walk. Be prepared for the cold nights if you go during the middle of the dry season! Going earlier or later in the year means you have to take less stuff. Important when walking as you have to carry everything...
Flights you can do any time. If you can't get to Katherine Gorge because the road is flooded, there are flights available that leave from Katherine. As elsewhere in the Northern Territory, the Katherine Gorge scenic flights are the only way to experience the waterfalls in the park in their full glory.
Find out more about Katherine Gorge and Nitmiluk National Park