If you’re on the hunt for a creek to explore with kids and dog in tow, Mermaid Pools makes for a great morning out. Roughly halfway between Sydney and Bowral, it’s a lovely, quiet spot and an easy walk.
- Stand within a natural sinkhole-shaped sandstone bowl
- Lots of shallow rivulets to cool your legs on a warm day
- Dragonflies x 1000
The Bargo River begins near Colo Vale and eventually flows into a confluence of the Nepean River and then on into the Sydney basin. However, just before it spills into one of Sydney’s main river systems, it swirls and eddies into a wide, sheer-sided sandstone gorge known as Mermaid Pools. This is a magic spot, accessed via an easy kid-friendly walk which follows close to the creek’s edge.
The walk begins at a small parking area just under the Rockford Road Bridge. Slap on some sunscreen before you set out as it’s fairly open and exposed, especially in the summer months. Passing under the bridge, a footpad hugs the right-hand bank of the creek along an undulating track. There are a few quirky trail markers to look out for: a ladder up a tree, an old rusty engine, painted arrows, and metal pennants nailed on a tree. Kudos to ‘Robert and Rosie’ for marking a tree with directions to the slightly easier ‘200m deviation for old folk’!
The trail veers up to follow a ridgeline for a little way, and soon you’ll start to hear the gush of water spilling 15 metres down into Mermaid Pools. This dark and mysterious pool looks impossibly deep – you’ve got to have a big pair to want to jump in (something which both the Council and Fire & Rescue strongly advise against).
Instead, kick around on the wide flat rocks that surround the pool, or float leaves down the rushing stream and watch them sail into the pool below. If you’ve arrived in the middle of the day there won’t be much shade, so cool off your feet in the creek and grab a snack before you head back up the creek, disturbing lots of giant dragonflies as you go. You can walk along either side of the gorge for a while, then it becomes clear that the way you came in is a little easier (and not so hot).
If you’re after something a little less tame, you can continue on past Mermaid Pools and explore Bargo River Canyon, which will take you the best part of a day.
A final note on safety – there have been multiple incidents here in the past due to the pool’s sheer-sided edges that are near impossible to get out of once you’re down in the water. That tattered old rope lying sodden under the waterfall seems like a pretty sketchy exit strategy.
If you’re really hanging for a swim, check out our top picks of other great wild swimming spots near Sydney.
- A bag for your rubbish – this isn’t in a national park but deserves the same respect, so hike out your own junk (and other people’s if you can)
How To Get There
Follow the Old Hume Highway towards Tahmoor and take the Rockford Road turnoff. Cross the bridge that marks the beginning of the walk then turn right into Charlie’s Point Road, and take an immediate right into the parking area. It can get busy so plan to go early.
- Dragonfly chasing – take a little butterfly net if you’re walking with kids (catch and release of course)
- There are lots of great photo opportunities too. Get your angles right and there’s no need to risk your safety for an epic waterhole photo.
Beginner – there’s a pretty clear path and lots of trail markers left by other walkers. Keep an eye on little kids around the sheer edges of the pool.
The Mermaid Pools walk is a little over 4km return. We spent two hours here, walking at a leisurely pace and playing on the rocks around the pool.