The best swimming spots in the Northern Territory, Australia

If you haven't been to the Outback before it might surprise you how many amazing water holes 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

Tubing in Ormiston Gorge

So 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.

 

The water hole at Ormiston Gorge

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.

 

The dried up riverbed on the trail to the water hole

The dried up riverbed on the trail to the water hole

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! 

Getting there: Ormiston Gorge is 2 hours (130km) East of Alice Springs, or 20 minutes from Glen Helen. All roads are fully paved so you won't need a 4 wheel drive.

Places to stay: Either the Double Tree in Alice Springs, Outback Glamping near Alice Springs or Glen Helen Homestead nearby.

 



2. Gunlom Falls, Kakadu

One of the best infinity pools you'll ever see

One of the best infinity pools you'll ever see

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. 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.

 

The water hole at Gunlom Falls

You will then reach a series of swimming 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. 

Getting there: Gunlom is 130km from Cooinda or 180km from Jabiru (between 3 - 3.5 hours). Ideally you want a 4x4 as the road off the highway is one of the worst corrugated roads we've seen in Australia. The effort is worth it.

Where to stay: If you want to do a Yellow Water Cruise (we highly recommend it) then stay at Cooinda Lodge. Otherwise, for more comfortable lodging, we recommend the Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru

 

 

3. Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park

Florence falls is a real beauty. 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.

 

The view of Florence Falls from the platform near the car park

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! 

Getting there: Florence Falls is 47km (approximately 45 minutes) from Batchelor, the nearest town. Alternatively, you could make it a very long day trip from Darwin (144km, 2 hours). All roads are sealed, so you won't need a 4 wheel drive.

Where to stay: Our choice is Rum Jungle Bungalows in the nearby town of Batchelor. Alternatively, Argus Hotel in Darwin is great value and very comfortable.

 

 

4. Redbank Gorge, Central Australia

A drone shot of 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.

 

Drone video of Red Bank Gorge

When you arrive the gorge is majestic. no other word for it, this one is a must!

Getting there Red Bank Gorge is 157km (2hr 15) from Alice Springs, so unless you want a very long day trip we advise stopping en route. It's only 25km (30 minutes) from Glen Helen. There's a small stretch of road that is unsealed, but you won't need a 4 wheel drive for this.

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 in Litchfield National Park

Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park

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 best place to be on a hot day

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!

Getting there: Wangi Falls is 68 km (1 hour) from Batchelor or 140 km (2hrs) from Darwin. All roads are sealed so you won't need a 4 wheel drive.

Where to stay: Our choice is Rum Jungle Bungalows in the nearby town of Batchelor. Alternatively, Argus Hotel in Darwin is great value and very comfortable.

 

 

6. Motor Car Falls (Yurmikmik), Kakadu

Once you've climbed over the rocks, the water hole is beautiful

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 beautiful coloured water of Motor Car Falls

The beautiful coloured water of Motor Car Falls

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.

 

One of the views from the walk to Motor Car Falls

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. 

Getting there: Motor Car Falls (Yurmikmik on google) is 160km from Jabiru (2 hours 40) and 114km from Cooinda (2 hours 10). You ideally need a 4x4 as the road from the highway has huge stretches of severe corrugations. It's on the same unsealed road as Gunlom Falls.

Where to stay If you want to do a Yellow Water Cruise (we highly recommend it) then stay at Cooinda Lodge. Otherwise, for more comfortable lodging, we recommend the Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru

 

 

7. Glen Helen Gorge, Central Australia

Glen Helen Gorge

Glen Helen Gorge

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.

A great place to go tubing

The waterhole is 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. 

Getting there: Glen Helen is 130km (1 hour 46) from Alice Springs. All roads are fully paved.

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

If you go early, you can get Buley all to yourself

Buley proves that big is not always best. this series of cascades with several small swimming holes is one of our favourites.

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.

 

A natural water hole that looks like a pool in an episode of Cribs

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. 

Getting there: Buley Rock Hole is 45 km (45 mins) from Batchelor or 142 km (1hr 45) from Darwin. All roads are sealed, so you don't need a 4 wheel drive.

Where to stay: Our choice is Rum Jungle Bungalows in the nearby town of Batchelor. Alternatively, Argus Hotel in Darwin is great value and very comfortable.

 

 

9. Ellery Creek Big Hole, Central Australia

Late in the day at Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ellery creek 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.

One of the best places to be at sunset in the NT

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. 

Getting there: Ellery Creek Big Hole is 90km (1 hour 15) from Alice Springs or 45km (45 minutes) from Glen Helen. All roads are fully paved.

Where to stay: Either the Double Tree in Alice Springs, Outback Glamping near Alice Springs or Glen Helen Homestead nearby.

 

 

10. Berry Springs, between Darwin and Litchfield National Park

The beautiful Berry Springs

Berry Springs is perfectly located between Darwin and Litchfield or Kakadu National Park. 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!

A great stop between Darwin and Litchfield National Park or Kakadu

Grab a homemade ice cream from the kiosk before you leave, it's delicious!

Getting there: Berry Springs is 48km from Darwin (approximately 40 minutes) and is en route to Litchfield National Park. The only way to get there is by car, but all roads are fully sealed so you won't need a 4 wheel drive.

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.

 

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.


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