It gets hot up top, real hot. When things start to get sweaty around the collar in the Northern Territory, the only thing for it is to spend the day near a refreshing swimming hole or three. Our Explorer Tiffany Hulm shares a few turquoise Top End wild swimming gems from around Darwin way.


  • Mataranka Springs
  • Bitter Springs
  • Leliyn/Edith Falls

The Lowdown

If spending the day diving in and out of shimmering emerald springs and swimming in a cavernous pool at the bottom of a gushing waterfall isn’t your idea of a day well spent, then you may as well stop reading here. However, if some Top End wild swimming sounds like a day in paradise, then you’d better clear some room in your schedule quick!

1. Mataranka Thermal Pool,  Elsey National Park

It’s believed that Mataranka translates to ‘home of the snake’ in the now unfortunately dying language of the local Yangman Aboriginal people. While there is always the risk of crocodiles and snakes in these waterholes, as soon as they are detected the parks will shut them down until they are safe again.

The beautiful turquoise water at Mataranka Thermal Pool, shaded by tropical plantation overcrowded with noisy flying foxes is just so darn inviting! In the forty degree heat, it takes the bite off but fails to completely refresh as it is naturally a little warm.


2. Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park

Conveniently located about a five minutes drive from Mataranka Thermal Pools, you’ll find yourself at Bitter Springs in the lush Elsey National Park. This was my favourite spring as it felt a little wilder than the others in the area and was a touch more refreshing.

It is an absolute picture perfect way to spend the mid-morning floating amongst the small fish in a pool of clear, emerald water. There is a bit more room to move around too so bring your goggles or snorkel & explore the depths.


3. Leliyn/Edith Falls, Nitmiluk National Park

Edith Falls (known as Leliyn in the Aboriginal Jawoyn language) is about two hours north towards Darwin. Depending on how fit you are feeling, and if that beaming sun has not already taken your breath away, there are several options for some beautiful bush walks here:

  • 2.6km Leliyn Trail which is a loop via the falls
  • 9km Sweetwater pool trail for a tranquil swimming spot
  • 1.3km return trail to the falls

I opted for the latter, as the quicker we could get ourselves underwater in this hot humidity, the better. The falls are well worth the walk and plunge down to a gorgeous big and refreshing pool. If you’re as lucky as me, you might even see two freshwater crocs checking you out… needless to say, that was the end of my swimming here.


4. Berry Springs, Berry Springs Nature Park

If you’re heading towards Darwin you could complete your day of Top End wild swimming with a third spring: Berry Springs. However, be aware that due to the close proximity to Darwin it’s a huge hit and always packed. I’d definitely recommend exploring the area and then heading into Kakadu National Park or Lichfield National Park to camp if desired.

If you’re still not done with Top End wild swimming then pair this adventure up with another awesome microadventure to Robin Falls.


Essential Gear

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Sun protection
  • A car
  • Snacks
  • Joggers

How To Get There

Mataranka Thermal Pools are 4 hours south of Darwin along the Stuart Highway. The other pools are closer to Darwin.


Skill Level