Home' Caravanning Australia : Autumn 2012 Contents 136 • Caravanning Australia • Autumn 2012
This is a great spot for walking, and a network of hiking
trails lead to the magnificent Katherine Gorge. For hardcore
trekkers, the best way to take in the park is via the Jatbula Trail,
a 58-kilometre walking track that encompasses the entirety
of Nitmiluk, arcing northwest to reach Edith Falls. The four- to
five-day walk is well marked out, beginning at Katherine Gorge,
barrelling through lush monsoon rainforests, savannah grasslands
and rocky gorges dotted with examples of Aboriginal rock art,
with most treks ending with a soak in a one of the park’s many
picturesque waterfalls or gorges.
Swimming and canoeing in Katherine Gorge and the
surrounding waterholes is safe in the dry season – freshwater
crocodiles occasionally loiter in the vicinity but don’t approach
people and aren’t considered dangerous. The park’s rampant
waterways are something to behold in the wet season, but all
water-borne activities are restricted as the less friendly saltwater
crocodile makes its way down from the coast. For those not
wanting to break a sweat but still take in the panorama, the
Nitmiluk café balcony perches obligingly above the scenery;
cruises also run up and down the river, but can get slightly
A 100-kilometre jaunt south-east along Highway 1 (known
as ‘the track’ in World War II, when it was a dirt road connecting
Alice to Darwin running alongside the Overland Telegraph) ends
at Mataranka, the southern extremity of the Top End and a quiet
service town to outlying cattle stations, within arm’s reach of
Elsey National Park.
The area was the setting for Jeannie Gunn’s autobiographical
novel We of the Never Never, written about the struggles of
a woman relocating to this isolated region in the early 1900s
and described as a ‘minor masterpiece of Australian letters’ by
Penguin’s New Literary History of Australia. It was also the setting
for the 1981 film of the same name. The Mataranka Homestead,
in which the film was shot, sits on the boundary of Elsey National
Park, a short drive south-east of town. The homestead is open to
all, built solely for the film to replicate the setting of the novel.
Contained within Elsey National Park are the Mataranka
Thermal Springs, popular crystal-clear thermal pools where water
jets into a landscaped lagoon from an underground spring at a
temperature of 35 degrees. Shaded by native Livistona Palms, the
mineral-rich waters are replenished at an average rate of 16,000
litres per minute, flowing out into the rivers that dissect the park.
Elsey is one of the Territory’s most popular national parks due
to its compact nature (under 150 square kilometres), proximity to
Highway 1 and the interactive activities available. For most, the
attraction lies in the easily-accessible thermal pools and Bitter
Springs (also good for a dip). The park has a fine picnic area, a
good base for the whole day, but the setup also lends itself to
short stopovers to soak travel-weary bones. There’s also excellent
fishing, boating, canoeing and a range of short and longer hikes.
As evidenced by recent house sales, which bucked Australia-
wide trends during the December quarter, rising by 22 per cent in
Darwin while slipping by 0.2 per cent elsewhere in the country, Top
Enders are growing in number. Travellers should be wary of the
possibility that once they check in they may never check out. ●
Mataranka Homestead is a great place to rest and
unwind. The Mataranka Hot Spring is just a short
walk from the campgrounds and the homestead
offers everything you may need. The most popular attraction
is the crystal-clear thermal swimming hole at Mataranka.
The privately run camping ground at the homestead is just a
stone’s throw from the pool, with a bar, bistro, entertainment,
shop and laundry/toilet facilities.
The Homestead borders Elsey National Park and is situated
between two rivers, the Waterhouse River and the Little Roper
River, which abound with Barramundi and other fish species.
Freshwater crocodiles can be seen basking on the banks of
the Waterhouse. Mataranka Homestead is also the home of
Maddie and our other orphaned wallabies, which have been
hand raised at the homestead.
The movie We of the Never Never was filmed here, and the
replica of the original homestead is still part of the attractions
The Homestead is open all year round and during the
high season (Easter weekend–late August) we have live
entertainment six nights a week. Meals are available seven
days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we also have
a large reception area that provides essential items, plus a
large range of souvenirs and fishing gear. Sit down and enjoy
a cold beer at Malukas Bar, and have a yarn with some of the
(Pets are negotiable – Inform us when booking and we will
do our very best to accommodate)
A 5-cent discount on fuel is offered to all customers that
stay at the Homestead, camping or in motel/cabins.
All year rates
Fully Self Contained Cabins (10)
Cost: 2 x Adults $115.00
plus $17.00 each extra Adult
$9.50 per child (5yrs to 12yrs) Children under 5 years old are
FOC (Free of Charge).
Motel Rooms (23)
Cost: 2 x Adults $89.00
plus $17.00 for an extra Adult & $9.50 per child (5yrs to 12yrs)
Children under 5 years old are FOC (Free of Charge).
Cost: 2 x Adults $27.00
Plus $10.00 each extra adult
$ 6.50 per child.
Children under 5 years old are FOC (Free of Charge).
All you need to relax and unwind
316947E_Mataranka | 1770.indd 24
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