Mataranaka will always make our list of best outback town for one reason: sandy-bottomed thermal pools! Imagine taking in the blissful natural, green surrounding in a cosy 30-ish degrees water. Arrive early and you have the water all to yourself!
Nearby the thermal pools is Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park and the Elsey Homestead Replica. You will also find great barramundi fishing in the Roper River. The township itself is small, but boasts a good local gallery, café, the Never Never Museum and in the very centre of town, the world’s largest termite mound.
Douglas and Daly Rivers
200km from Katherine is Douglas Daly and Daly River Region. In Douglas Daly, you can partake in a range of adventure-based activities from bushwalking and sightseeing gorges and wildlife, as well as fishing and swimming in hot springs. While there is only one place for accommodation (Douglas Daly Tourist Park) the surrounding area spoils you for choice.
Nearby you’ll find the Litchfield National Park, the Arches and the Waterhole, Butterfly Gorge, Douglas Hot Springs, and Oolloo Crossing.
In The Daly River Region, there are a few more accommodation options and it’s home to the Merrepen Arts Centre. The nearby river crossing is also known for large barramundi and the Daly River Inn has your pub meal and drinks sorted.
With a population of only 11 people, Barrow Creek may seem like an odd place to tick off a travel bucket list, but it’s well worth the journey. If you want to experience a truly outback town in all its remoteness, this is the place for you. The epic horror flick Wolf Creek was in fact inspired by a murder in this area in 2001.
Less disturbing and more refreshing is the quintessential Aussie pub that dates back to 1926. The original old bar and tin ceilings are still in tack and it’s also a roadhouse, and has accommodation including inside rooms and a caravan park. The Barrow Creek Hotel is iconic and full of character. The inside is covered in mementoes and signatures from all its international visitors over the years and the food is delish. It’s a well-known place for people on the road to stop for a great feed.
While visiting many of these areas is possible via booked tours, many travellers prefer to look at caravans or motorhomes for hire. These save money and mean you travel at your own pace. Renting takes the hassle out of maintenance and can be a great way to road-test a vehicle before you commit to a major purchase! So whether you’re embarking on an epic road trip of a lifetime, or passing through the centre of Australia - pick a route, pack wisely and see you up north!