Elsey NP, NT

Elsey National Park’s glorious Bitter Springs. Pic: nt.gov.au

Whether you’re a NT local or an interstate visitor, you’ll no doubt be aware that the distances are big up here.

That said, Elsey National Park is a relatively mild 400km southeast of Darwin, and a 115km walk in the park from Katherine, making it pretty damn accessible for a long weekend mission.

The park protects the source of the Roper River, which, in the dry season, flows ponderously between waterholes and pools but transforms into one of the Territory’s biggest waterways in the wet season.

The fishing up here has to be experienced to be believed, with some of the best numbers of big barra on offer anywhere in the country.

The thermal pools at Mataranka certainly warrant a visit and are ever popular with the kiddies. The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, from April through September, and you really want to allow yourself a couple of days to see the whole park.


4WDING: Roads within the park are unsealed dirt, expect some pretty relentless corrugations. The drive in is generally fairly easy during the dry season, heavy rain causes the tracks to deteriorate quickly.

THE MATARANKA HOT SPRINGS: A must-see for all comers. Balmy 34-degree spring waters gush from underground and are contained in a flawless natural swimming pool ringed by swaying palms.

FISHING: Barra are the star performer up here, but hulking mangrove jack and threadfin salmon also patrol these waters.

Shallow diving minnow style lures trolled alongside the mangroves should see you score some action. If you prefer a slower pace of fishing, you can try casting a live mullet or herring out under a float.


LOCATION: 440km southeast of Darwin and 115km from Katherine. Take the Homestead Road turnoff from the Stuart Highway, approximately 1.5km south of Mataranka, and follow it for 7km to the park.

CAMPING is available within the park at the 12 Mile Yards campground. Flat grassy sites, hot water and toilets are provided, but no powered sites. Generators are not permitted.

FUEL is available at Mataranka and Katherine.

MORE INFO is available at www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au

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