Thinking of visiting Darwin during the wet season? You don’t have to miss out on freshwater swims, in fact, you’re much more likely to get these stunning swimming spots all to yourself.

 

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

 

It’s ironic that the most sweltering season in the Northern Territory’s Top End is also the time of the year when most of the waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes close due to heavy rainfall and crocs. 

But the operative word here is most, not all. During the wet season, there are still a handful of places to cool off within a few hours’ drive of Darwin, if you know where to look and don’t mind getting nice and sweaty on the walk in! Be sure to check the forecast before heading out to see whether there’s an electrical storm on the horizon. 

Please note! Both Saltwater and Freshwater crocodiles live in the waterways of the NT’s Top End. Although these swimming holes are relatively safe, there’s always a risk. 

Read more: How To Stay Safe in Croc Country

1. Florence Falls

Location: Litchfield National Park
Distance: 500m with lots of stairs or 1km
Duration: 10 minutes

Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park is one of the most popular waterfalls to visit in the NT due to its accessibility and it being open almost year round. 

Arriving at the Florence Falls car park, there are two directions to take to reach the plunge pool – a ~500m walk via the lookout and 160 stairs, or a 1km walk along an uneven path through monsoon forest. Both of these paths meet at the base of the falls, so it’s easy enough to take one route in and the other out. 

The twin waterfalls spectacularly drop into a large plunge pool that’s encompassed on both sides by cliffs and forest, meaning the pool is also often in shade. Don’t be surprised if you see dozens of people here cruising around on pool noodles (hey, maybe you’ll be one of them). 

It is possible for Florence Falls to close, but it’s generally only if there’s been such significant rainfall that the flow of the water is so strong, swimming becomes dangerous. 

It’s best to check the NT National Parks page before making the journey to the falls. 

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

 

How to Get to Florence Falls

To reach the Buley Rockhole car park is a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Darwin. Head out of the city onto the Stuart Highway for around 85km to reach the Litchfield National Park turnoff at Batchelor Road. Follow this road for around 55km through Batchelor and into the national park. Take the right hand turn towards Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole and follow the road to where it ends at Florence Falls car park.

2. Buley Rockhole

Location: Litchfield National Park
Distance: ~200m
Duration: 5 minutes

Buley Rockhole is a series of smaller swimming holes along the creek that eventually flows downstream to form Florence Falls. Just like its creek-counter part, Buley is open almost all year unless there’s been torrential rain.

Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls sit super close together and you can take the 3.2km return walk from one to the other. It’s popular with families as the main rock hole is a series of shallow cascades with one larger plunge pool at the bottom, so there are plenty of spots to make your own. 

The walk from the car park is only about 200m with no elevation gain, so it’s super easy to reach. 

To find one of the slightly more secluded swimming holes, take the path that leads towards Florence Falls and keep an eye out for little swimming signs and side tracks that lead to the creek. 

Read more: Road Tripping Litchfield National Park

 

How to Get to Buley Rockhole

To reach the Buley Rockhole car park is a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Darwin. Head out of the city onto the Stuart Highway for around 85km to reach the Litchfield National Park turnoff at Batchelor Road. Follow this road for around 55km through Batchelor and into the national park. Take the right hand turn towards Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole, then the first left hand turn to the Buley Rockhole car park. 

3. Southern Rockhole

Location: Nitmiluk National Park
Distance: 10km return
Duration: 3 hours

 

 

Southern Rockhole is one of the only swimming spots available in all of Nitmiluk National Park during the wet season. In fact, Southern Rockhole is best for swimming in the late wet season after a healthy dose of rain.

Tucked halfway between the top of the escarpment and the Katherine River that carves out the gorge below, Southern Rockhole is a gorgeous waterfall that flows into a decent-sized plunge pool. 

From the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, the walk to the rockhole is about 5km along up onto and along the escarpment, through Savannah woodland. The final 300 metres or so involves a scramble down a rocky cliffside to reach the base of the falls. 

There’s not a lot of space for spreading out here and the ground is quite rocky, but there is a little bit of shade to be found. 

The waterfall flows during the wet season and into the early months of the dry season, but dries up quite quickly leaving the water quite stagnant. So it really is best to visit this one after a decent stint of rain! 

If you’re visiting between December and March and not up to walking another 5km back to your car in the heat of the day, you can pre-book a boat ride back through Nitmiluk Gorge instead. The boat lands just 150 metres from the base of the falls, so you only have to take a small rock scramble to reach it! And for only $17 per person each way (yes you can take it there too but that’s cheating!) it’s definitely worth it!

Just make sure to time your hike and swim with the departure times of the boat.

 

Nitmiluk Gorge on the boat ride back

 

How to Get to Southern Rockhole

From Darwin, take the Stuart Highway three hours south to Katherine. Once in Katherine, turn left onto Giles Street and follow it for 25 minutes to the entrance to Nitmiulk National Park and the Visitors Centre car park. The walk begins at the car park.

4. Motor Car Falls

Location: Kakadu National Park
Distance: 7.5km return
Duration: 2 hours

 

Motor Car Falls in Kakadu is a Wet Season Must-do, Amy Fairall, Kakadu NT, waterfall, women, friends

 

Motor Car Falls is another stunning waterfall that’s at its best during the wet season, but can be visited year-round. This is the most difficult swimming hole to reach on this list, but it’s certainly worth it! 

Motor Car Falls is tucked deep into Kakadu National Park and begins at the Yurmikmik Walks car park. From here it’s around 3km walk through Savannah woodland to reach the creek and then a 500 metre rock hop along the creek bed to reach the base of the falls. 

There’s a massive boulder right by plunge pool that’s just made for picnicking, napping, and if the water is high enough, jumping into the emerald water below. Make sure to check before you jump as there are several boulders scattered throughout the pool. 

When you’ve had your fill of freshwater fun, take the same track back to the car park. 

 

How to Get to Motor Car Falls

From Darwin, Motor Car Falls is a 3.5 hour drive, the final 30 minutes of which is on dirt roads of ever-changing quality, so a 4WD or at least an AWD is recommended. 

Read more: How To 4WD For Beginners

Leaving Darwin, head south on the Stuart Highway for 2.5 hours to just pass the turnoff for Pine Creek. Take the left hand turn onto Kakadu Highway and follow the road for around 45 minutes, past the entrance of the national park. Take the right hand turn onto the dirt Gimbat Road and follow all signs leading to Yurmikmik Walks. The trailhead starts at the Yurmikmik car park.

5. Boulder Creek

Location: Kakadu National Park
Distance: 1.5km return
Duration: 30 minutes

The swimming holes that make up Boulder Creek in Kakadu National Park only appear after heavy rainfall and completely dry up once the storms stop. A true wet season swimming hole!

Quite conveniently, Boulder Creek is super close to Motor Car Falls and the short walk to the creek begins at the same car park, making it a perfect spot to refresh after the long walk back! 

Starting from the Yurmikmik Walks car park, the short trail winds alongside a creek and through open woodland, before landing you at Boulder Creek, lined with monsoon forest which offers a shady respite.

The creek itself is much as the name suggests, littered with boulders that create small, personal, freshwater pools to delight in, as well as a few small waterfalls to shower under. 

 

How to Get to Boulder Creek

From Darwin, Boulder Creek is a 3.5 hour drive, the final 30 minutes of which is on dirt roads of ever-changing quality, so a 4WD or at least an AWD is recommended. 

Read more: How To 4WD For Beginners

Leaving Darwin, head south on the Stuart Highway for 2.5 hours to just pass the turnoff for Pine Creek. Take the left hand turn onto Kakadu Highway and follow the road for around 45 minutes, past the entrance of the national park. Take the right hand turn onto the dirt Gimbat Road and follow all signs leading to Yurmikmik Walks. The trailhead starts at the Yurmikmik car park.

 

So there you have it! The best swimming holes to cool off in during Darwin’s wet season. Make sure you bring plenty of water and food with you and are sun safe.

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