Tom and Annabel Curtain on their wedding day at Katherine Outback Experience. Image by Lisa Hatz Photography
Tom and I met in southern Western Australia in 2015 after my father picked him up off the side of the road while hitchhiking. What started as a friendship soon blossomed into a romance and a year later I threw in my city life and successful urban planning career to take a leap on love.
I moved to Katherine in outback Northern Territory (sight unseen) where I took up the reins of managing Katherine Outback Experience and Tom Curtain Music. In 2018 we got married at our beautiful property on the outskirts of Katherine surrounded by family and friends who travelled from all over Australia to celebrate our special day. (See Annabel’s Territory wedding featured on Polka Dot Bride here)
When we are not busy performing shows or touring Australia, we take every opportunity to explore the phenomenal Top End and immerse ourselves in everything that makes this place so unique.
The Top End to us is about unplugging, getting back to nature and doing as the locals do. The place is whatever you want it to be – it’s adventure territory, but it’s also about slowing down and removing yourself from the hustle and bustle of city life. The opportunities of the Top End are boundless.
YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE THAT ONLY LOCALS KNOW ABOUT
Image “Edith Falls at Sunrise” via Tourism NT/ Mitch Cox
Our favourite place is Edith Falls, just 60 kilometres north of Katherine, Northern Territory. Edith Falls is three natural fresh water pools intersected by waterfalls. We always encourage visitors to take the 1.2-kilometre hike to the Upper Falls (known as middle pool by locals). If you want to continue exploring, you can continue hiking around to Sweetwater Pool.
There is a great little kiosk and caravan park near the Lower Pool. If you are there at the right time, there may even been live music entertainment at the caravan park. I recommend making the most of the glorious mornings in the Top End when it’s cooler and a bit quieter. The lighting at this time of the day is also beautiful.
YOUR FAVOURITE POPULAR PLACE THAT IS A CROWD PLEASER FOR A REASON
The Mindil Beach Sunset Market has a surreal vibe. It is relaxed yet vibrant, modern and multicultural. There is no better way to spend an evening at the market than watching a magic Top End sunset from Mindil Beach before meandering through the aisles of stalls and trying the various cuisines on offer. With over 200 specialty food and fashion stalls, the market operates every Thursday and Sunday from 4:00pm and 9:00pm from late April to the end of October.
YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANT
If I am honest, I am very much a brunch person, and fortunately there is no shortage of funky brunch spots serving up the goods within the Top End including Laneway in Parap, Besser Kitchen and Brew Bar in Winnellie and Pop Rocket Café in Katherine to name a few.
However, I feel honeymooning is the perfect excuse to dress up and dine out (at least once)! My favourite restaurant for such an occasion is Pee Wees at the Point in Fannie Bay, Darwin. I cannot speak highly enough of the delicious food and fantastic service. The setting is sensational and there is a certain calmness about looking out over the picturesque Fannie Bay and watching the small waves roll in. I recommend making reservations well in advance though as it is very popular.
YOUR FAVOURITE BAR
Being from southern Western Australia, I love my wine so cannot go past Stonehouse Wine Bar and Kitchen in the heart of Darwin. Set in a stunning old heritage building, Stonehouse is Darwin’s first official wine bar and caters for a broad audience. Stonehouse has an extensive list of over 300 national and international wines and serves an array of tasty tapas. The non-wine drinkers are also well-catered for with beer, spirits and cocktails available. Stonehouse is open daily.
YOUR FAVOURITE STORE
I cannot go to Darwin without stepping foot in Messa Living on Smith Street. This is a lady’s dream (sorry gents, but they do say happy wife, happy life). Messa Living has a range of stunning homewares, fashion, accessories, beauty and kitchen-wares. The store is beautifully presented and provides endless inspiration. It’s more than a shop, it’s an experience and is one of those stores that just makes you smile from the moment you enter. The added bonus is Smith Street is home to a number of other fabulous fashion boutiques for both ladies and gents, together with trendy cafes.
YOUR FAVOURITE HOTEL
Given the special occasion, for a truly unique, luxury and outback experience, I recommend staying at Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park, just 30 kilometres from Katherine. The multiple award-winning lodge has 18 rooms nestled amongst the native bush overlooking the spectacular Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. Sunset drinks and native food tapas are served each evening on the pool deck prior to dinner in the national award-winning restaurant. Opportunities for couples are endless from relaxing by the pool to enjoying a gorge cruise, hike or exploring other local attractions (including Katherine Outback Experience of course!).
THE BEST WAY TO SPEND TIME OUTDOORS
There are so many outdoor activities in the Top End including swimming, hiking, fishing, canoeing and camping to name a few. Whether it is the Dry Season or Wet Season, the Top End is about water. You can follow the hot springs through Douglas Daly, Katherine and Mataranka or spend a day exploring the waterholes and waterfalls at Litchfield and Kakadu. If getting wet doesn’t float your boat, enjoy a cruise through the phenomenal Nitmiluk Gorge, take in the sites of Darwin Harbour with Darwin Harbour Cruises, or take a scenic flight out to Tiwi Island with Airborne Solutions.
THE MOST INTERESTING PERSON YOU HAVE MET IN THE TOP END
Tom Curtain of Katherine Outback Experience with his beloved working dogs.
I pondered this question for quite some time. There are so many interesting characters in the Top End but then I realised the most interesting person I have met is undoubtedly my husband! It may seem cliché, but after all he is the very reason I was lured to this stunning part of the world. He is an accomplished singer/songwriter, horseman, entrepreneur and spokesman for rural health, living and working in outback Australia.
He is one of few Australian Country singers who generally lives the stories he sings about and has an amazing sense of compassion. He created our award-winning tourist attraction ‘Katherine Outback Experience’ out of adversity, despite many telling him it would never work. He is the most positive person I know and has an uncanny ability to make those around him feel valued.
IDEAL DATE NIGHT
The ideal date night is a picnic under the stars. It is an experience that money cannot buy and there is nothing better than sharing it with the person you love. There is something special about the stars in the outback. It’s hard to put into words, you have to see it to appreciate it. For us, it’s about grabbing some cushions and beanbags, our favourite bottle of shiraz, some cheese, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and olives, and of course some chocolate for later in the night. Little Pickers & Co in Katherine create beautiful picnic hampers perfect for a surprise date night under the stars.
OTHER THINGS THAT HONEYMOONER NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TOP END
We have two distinct seasons in the Top End – the Dry and the Wet. The dry is our winter months, every day is around 26-30 degrees and perfect for adventuring, camping (or glamping), exploring and getting back to nature. You will need a jumper for those cooler Top End nights from June to August.
As the name would suggest, the Wet Season/Tropical Summer is our magic waterfall season, nature comes alive and everything is lush and green. You can also get some amazing deals as it is low tourist season. You will need to plan ahead and travel smart by utilising the early mornings, staying hydrated and ensuring accommodation is air-conditioned. A number of attractions, national parks and swimming holes do shutdown over the summer months.
Stick to cotton and linen clothes and always carry a hat, water and perhaps some lollies or hydrolytes (particularly if you are out adventuring). As great as it is to unplug and be out of phone service, always make sure someone knows where you are and when to expect you back in service. Try to avoid driving after dark if you are in the outback due to livestock on the roads.
Ms Zebra Says: I have dreamt of visiting the NT for longer than I care to admit – after reading this, I’m definitely locking in that trip!
About Annabel Curtain: I moved to Katherine in the Northern Territory in 2016 to be with my now husband, Tom Curtain. Tom is a national award-winning singer/ songwriter and horseman, and we own and operate the tourist attraction Katherine Outback Experience which was launched in 2013. Katherine Outback Experience is a national award-winning outback show that celebrates life on the land through real horse-starting and working dog demonstrations, live music and humorous bush tales.
To plan your own Top End wedding or honeymoon visit, https://northernterritory.com/weddings