Australia’s coastline is lined with beautiful beaches and plenty of fantastic swimming opportunities.
But these aren’t your only options for a dip.
In fact, some of the nation’s best water experiences can be found inland in the Northern Territory.
Incredible fresh water rock holes, natural infinity pools with a view and waterfalls offer the perfect refreshment in the tropical climate of the NT.
Many of these fall within two national parks: Kakadu and Litchfield. Both within a few hours drive from Darwin, the state’s capital.
Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest terrestrial national park and covers almost 20,000 square kilometres. Featuring flood plains, rocky cliffs and major river systems, the park is home to a huge diversity of plants and wildlife, including more than one-third of Australia’s bird species and one-quarter of its freshwater and estuarine fish species and roughly 60 mammal species.
It is a great place to start your wild swimming exploration.
Jim Jim Falls is one of Kakadu’s most spectacular falls, with water gliding 150m over red cliffs into a pool below.
It’s this pool that marks our first stop on this wild swimming adventure. The cold water is a refreshing treat after the fairly challenging 1km walk from the car park.
From Jim Jim, it’s an hour and 40 minute drive to the next watering hole at Maguk – though you may wish to spend the night at Cooinda Lodge in between.
The Lodge offers camping, glamping and Lodge rooms with a bistro and lagoon style pool – for some less wild but equally lovely swimming.
It’s also the perfect base to take a cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong, where you might spot saltwater crocodiles, an array of birdlife and beautiful native plants and trees. Though not a swimming spot, it’s absolutely worth including in your visit to Kakadu National Park.
A note on water safety:
Saltwater crocodiles live in the Northern Territory and can be found in Kakadu, Litchfield, Nitmiluk and Elsey National Parks. R
angers patrol the parks and check pools for crocodile activity, so before you swim, check signage and make sure it is a designated swimming area and is currently open.
Freshwater crocodiles also inhabit many waterways but are not considered dangerous to humans.
Check the Northern Territory Tourism website for more info.
Maguk is also located at the bottom of a waterfall, though a much smaller one than Jim Jim.
In fact you can swim right under the cascading water for a relaxing massage. It’s also worth bringing a snorkel or some googles to this pool, as below the surface are a number of fish species to spot.
This pool is also reached via a 1km walk, that passes through monsoon rainforest and a bouldered river section.
Next up is Litchfield National Park. Located about two hours drive from Kakadu, Litchfield is a swimmer’s paradise with beautiful rock pools to bathe and relax in.
It’s much smaller than Kakadu and can easily be visited in a day, with many people making the day trip from Darwin. However, if you stay the night you can head to the pools early and have them all to yourself.
Less than 30 minutes drive from the parks southern entrance is Buley Rockhole. This spot has pools for all requirements. Whether you want to swim, wallow in shallow water or jump off rocks into deep water holes, you’ll find it at Buley.
The cascading freshwater pools are a very short walk from the car park meaning it’s a great place to bring a picnic and set up on the rocks. You can also spend the night at the nearby campsite.
A five-minute drive from Buley is Florence Falls. You first see the falls from above, via a scenic viewing platform before beginning your descent down the 160 stairs to the pool. It’s deep and clear and the perfect swimming spot, shaded from the sun by the towering rocks around it.
If you don’t fancy taking the stairs back up, there is a more leisurely 1km track that loops back through the forest to the car park.
Wangi Falls is the final stop in Litchfield National Park and it’s a good one.
The largest of the pools, Wangi is a great spot for some proper swimming. The waterfall drops from 84 metres into the pool and if you look carefully, you’ll spot a few mini water filled pools in the rocks alongside the waterfall.
There are a few short walks here for different viewing points of the falls, which you can take before or after a dip and you’ll also find a cafe and large picnic area.
From Wangi, it’s an hour and a half drive back to Darwin.
Litchfield and Kakadu aren’t the only spots for wild swimming in the Northern Territory. If you have more time, continue south to Katherine where you’ll find another great selection of swimming holes including:
Located in Nitmiluk National Park, the pool is surrounded by pandanus plants at the base of the beautiful waterfall.
In Elsey National Park, Bitter Springs is a spring fed thermal pool, with bright blue water. The perfect spot to relax and unwind.
Where to stay in the Northern Territory
Kakadu National Park
Cooinda Lodge is an outback retreat with camping, glamping and lodges and has a big lagoon-style pool. Prices from £83 ($149 AUD) for lodges and glamping or £17 ($30 AUD) for unpowered and £22 ($40 AUD) for powered sites per night.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield Outback Resort is located just outside the entrance to Litchfield National Park and has motel style rooms and camping as well as a restaurant and bar. Rooms from £73 ($130 AUD). Camping from £11 ($20 AUD).
Beagle Motor Inn is an affordable motel within driving distance to both Nitmiluk and Elsey National Parks. Rooms start at £47 ($85 AUD) per night.
How to get to the Northern Territory
Singapore Airlines fly London to Darwin via Singapore from £740 return in economy.
Hayley Lewis is a travel writer, blogger and producer. For a Clare Valley itinerary head to alovelyplanet.com or follow Hayley on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook.
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