Mataranka & Roper River
Mataranka is known at the ‘Capital or the Never Never’. This area was home to Aeneas and Jeanie Gunn; Jeanie wrote the famous book about Elsey Stations titled ‘We of the Never Never’ which is now part of Australia’s folklore. A visit to the station cemetery and the homestead replica helps capture the sense of isolation and hardship confronting these early settlers. It is claimed that once you visit Mataranka you’ll Never Never leave! Today, Mataranka is a modern town with all the services a visitor expects. A full range of accommodation, facilities, experiences and attractions suggests a three or four day stay is needed.
The Thermal Pool at Mataranka Homestead with its lush palms, crystal clean (34°C) warm waters offers a beautiful swimming pool that has been an icon for visitors for many years. The free Barramundi feeding at the Territory Manor (9.30am & 1pm) is a must see – you won’t believe fish can be caught with your bare hands! The environmental walk and swimming at Bitter Springs Thermal Pool is a relaxing experience. Birdwatching is popular in the area, with the rare Red Goshawk, Hooded Parrot and Northern Rosellas found in the area.
This free tour is not to be missed! You can watch a large Barramundi being hand fed each day at the Territory Manor at 9:30am and 1:00pm. Hear how these interesting fish live and breed in our Top End rivers and oceans.
This tropical spring-fed and mineral-rich thermal pool is only 2km from Mataranka. A short walk from the car park amongst palm sand tropical woodlands will lead you to the main swimming area. A short walk takes you around the whole pool and informative signage explains about its formation and the vegetation of the local area. Toilet facilities, picnic benches and barbecues are available.
Located 21km south of Mataranka, gravestones mark the testing place of many of the characters written about in Jeannie Gunn’s book ‘We of the Never Never’. Follow the signs from the Stuart Highway.
Elsey Homestead Replica
Located at the Mataranka Homestead Resort, this is an authentic copy of the original hand hewn cypress pine homestead. It was constructed for the film ‘We of the Never Never’ and now displays historic information and artifacts. The film is shown daily at the resort for visitors to enjoy.
Mataranka Thermal Pool
A short walk from Mataranka Homestead brings you to this sandy bottomed pool surrounded by palms. A constant 34°C, it flows from Rainbow Springs at an amazing 30.5 million liters each day.
The area around the pool is a natural breeding ground for the Little Red Flying Fox. Usually, breeding season is during the tropical summer, however can extend beyond this. The chattering of these flying fox colonies along the banks of the Roper River adds tropical charm to the palm-fringed crystal clear pools. The turn off is 1.5km south of Mataranka.
The Never Never Museum
Located behind the Council Chambers in the centre of town, this museum displays information on Aboriginal history, the North Australian Railway, Overland Telegraph Line construction and World War II. The keys are available from the Rural Transaction Centre Monday to Friday.
The Roper Bar is 180km along the Roper Highway and well known as a great place to catch Barramundi. It is where Leichhardt’s expedition of 1845 crossed the Roper River which was named for John Roper, a member of this party. The bar was built in the early 1900’s as part of the supply route for the Overland Telegraph line. Accommodation, camping, fuel and a store are available. Turn east from the Stuart Highway, 7km south of Mataranka.
This is one of the world’s truly great rivers. The headwaters at Mataranka have crystal clear springs flowing into it all year and are the starting point for a 250km journey east to the sea. The river travels through the largest stand of Livistonia Rigida palms in the walk and its beautiful emerald green waters are home to the famous Barramundi. The river flows through Elsey National Park – hire a canoe, launch your own boat at the 4 mile or 12 mile yards (max. 15hp outboard) and catch Barramundi or just enjoy a swim. There are some great bushwalks in the National Park – to the Mataranka Falls and Tufa Dam, a 1.5km botanical walk along the John Hauser Drive, take a picnic basket and enjoy the solitude of Stevie’s Hole, just a short walk from the Mataranka Homestead.
Mataranka is the traditional country of the Mangaraya and Yangman Aboriginal people. Some of their artwork can be seen in the Stockyard Gallery in the township. While in town, visit the historic Mataranka Hotel, the museum and the giant Talking Termite Mound at Stan Martin Park – where many of the characters from the book and film ‘We of the Never Never’ can be seen.
The Termite Mound
In the centre of town is the world’s largest man-made termite mound.
Rural Transaction Centre
The Mataranka Rural Transaction Centre in the main street provides various services including a full postal service, an internet centre, video hire, Medicare and Centrelink access points and a library.