If you haven't been to the Outback before it might surprise you how many amazing swimming spots and water holes there are out there in the dry and arid landscape. There are so many in the Northern Territory that make for an amazing wild swimming experience and if you have a float or inner tube even better!
Similarly the Top End, crocodile dundee territory, may also not spring to mind when you're thinking about going for a dip. Whilst there definitely are crocs in the Top End and you need to be sensible, in the right area and right season you can enjoy these pools safely. Always heed the signs and when in doubt ask the national park staff.
We visited the Outback and Top End primarily to go hiking so after clocking up the hot and sweaty kilometres we were always looking for somewhere to cool off. Here are our favourite NT wild swimming spots:
1. Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia
Ormiston Gorge is a local favourite swimming spot near Alice Springs and you'll see why when you get there! It's the perfect waterhole to swim in on a hot day. As you can see we took tractor tyres which we borrowed from our accommodation (Glen Helen Homestead) and it was an experience not to be missed.
It's worth noting that the water in almost all the pools in this list is pretty cold so if you want to stay in the water for an extended period of time you might want to have a float with you.
Ormiston gorge is just over 15 mins drive from Glen Helen Homestead and when you arrive it's just a 5 minute walk to the water hole. We spent a couple of hours happily floating past the magnificent red rock. We took our friend who was visiting from London and it was her favourite experience in the whole of Australia!
2. Gunlom Falls, Kakadu
Ever been in a free and completely natural infinity pool? Even if you have you'll want to be adding this one to the list. If you're looking for an epic swimming spot in Kakadu with an incredible view, then this is the one for you. There is a short but steep 500m hiking trail to reach these falls, best not hiked in flip flops unless you are really steady on your feet.
You will then reach a series of water holes with the largest having the spectacular infinity style views. The road to get to these falls is pretty nasty, think heavily corrugated for many kilometres so it really is best in a 4wd, though we did see a few smaller cars manage the journey.
3. Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park
Florence falls is a real beauty and is one of the more popular swimming spots near Darwin with a lot of day-trippers choosing to come all the way just to this spot. There are two short walking tracks you can reach them by which means you can make a circuit. It's a wonderful place for a dip in the dry season.
Be warned they get pretty busy, if you want them to yourself best to visit just after sunrise - be warned it is pretty cold but very refreshing!
4. Redbank Gorge, Central Australia
If you're looking for swimming spot near Alice Springs all to yourself, then head over to Red Bank Gorge. As you can see this was another place we took the float, we were there in winter so it was essential this time.
The 1 km walking track to get to the falls takes around 20 minutes and does involve picking your way over quite a few rocks so closed shoes are probably more comfortable.
When you arrive the gorge is majestic. no other word for it, this one is a must!
Where to stay: Unless you were camping, we'd recommend Glen Helen Homestead. Full of character and Outback charm.
5. Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park
Wangi Falls is probably the most popular swimming spot near Darwin, however it's so big that you'll always have space to yourself. We had seen hundreds of photos before arriving at Wangai and can honestly say nothing prepares you for the real thing. they are startlingly beautiful.
The water is blissfully cool on a hot day and there is no walking whatsoever to reach them so if you are feeling a little lazy this one is for you. The croc signs may put a few people off but we heard that the freshwater crocs are pretty harmless if you leave them alone...
Due to the presence of freshies as the Aussies say, this was one water hole experience we weren't too keen to do alone so came in the middle of the day and happily enjoyed the feeling of safety in numbers!
6. Motor Car Falls (Yurmikmik), Kakadu
Not to far from Gunlom Falls, Motor Car Falls is another great swimming spot in Kakadu. This waterfall in Kakadu National Park is a little harder to get to than many of the others so we didn't encounter anyone else there, despite visiting in the middle of the day.
The walking track is around 8km return, it's a flat and easy if uninteresting trail but you definitely get a worthwhile reward at the end. The colour of the water is breathtaking and it had an off the beaten track feel to it which we loved.
If you get to the creek and wonder what all the fuss is about you haven't got there yet, scramble up and over the rocks and then you'll see why this just had to make our list.
7. Glen Helen Gorge, Central Australia
If you're looking for a swimming spot near Alice Springs that's a little more wild, then Glen Helen is probably the best place for you. The water hole here has reeds and vegetation near the edge, but then opens out to a stunning gorge with huge cliffs either side.
We are so glad we decided to stay at Glen Helen. it is such a beautiful and peaceful area and a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside.
The water hole is another beauty and there was no one else there anytime we visited despite it being the busy Easter period.
It's just a few minutes walk from the resort. If you do stay at Glen Helen, make sure you take a look at the night sky, you can see the whole milky way on a clear night.
Where to stay: We really enjoyed staying at Glen Helen Homestead. The accommodation was fine and the food was really good. There was live music in the evenings.
8. Buley Rock Hole, Litchfield National Park
Buley proves that big is not always best. This series of cascades with several small swimming holes is one of our favourite swimming spots near Darwin.
We came early morning because we had heard after 9am they can get busy and that would definitely spoil the atmosphere as there isn't a lot of room.
This is more of a spot to dip than actually swim so there's plenty of time to take in the surrounding scenery and watch the birds and butterflies flit between the bushes. Sounds like paradise?
We thought so too! The falls are right beside the car park so no walking trail for this one though you can walk to them from Florence falls.
9. Ellery Creek Big Hole, Central Australia
Adding to the very long list of stunning swimming spots near Alice Springs, Ellery Creek is guaranteed water all year and a good bet. It has a certain feel to it (we've heard it call spooky) but for us it felt magical.
If you visit in the late afternoon stay around to watch sunset, the twilight colours really add to the atmosphere.
It's another one with only a very short, 5 minute walk from the car park. There's also a great campsite and both times we visited we wished we were pitching up in this glorious spot.
10. Berry Springs, between Darwin and Litchfield National Park
Just a short distance outside of the city, Berry Springs is a great swimming spot near Darwin, conveniently located on the highway between Darwin and Litchfield. The water really is that blue and it's warm too!
We spent the morning watching the colourful bee eaters fly in and out of the trees as we slowly turned into prunes. Can you blame us? You will never want to leave!
Grab a homemade ice cream from the kiosk before you leave, it's delicious!
Where to stay: Berry Springs is an easy day trip from Darwin and we'd recommend Argus Hotel for a comfortable and good value stay.
If this has you wanting more, then you might like the following blogs:
- Best swimming spots in the Northern Territory
- Best things to do in Alice Springs
- Our guide to Kakadu
- The best things to do near Darwin
- When is the best time to visit Australia
- The best places to see wild animals in Australia
- 12 reasons you should go to Coober Pedy
Like it? Pin it!
Where is your favourite water hole? We definitely want to go back to these areas so we'd love advice on other spots we might enjoy. Let us know in the comments below.