Australia is renowned for its breathtaking beaches, but it’s also home to other spectacular swimming holes. These include waterfall pools, turquoise lakes and private pools in remote national parks. Here are Australia’s best swimming holes.
1. Gunlom Plunge Pool
Gunlom Plunge Pool is located on Waterfall Creek, within the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. The serene and crystal clear pool is located beneath a seasonal waterfall, with sweeping views across the national park. Tourism Northern Territory says you can see three habitats from Gunlom Plunge Pool: stone country, woodland and riparian (riverine) areas. There’s also a shaded picnic area at the pool and a campground nearby.
2. Lake McKenzie
Found on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie is one of the most renowned and beautiful lakes in Australia. It’s known as a perched lake, which means it’s located above the water table and contains only rainwater. The water is so pure that it’s unable to sustain natural life. The sand surrounding Lake McKenzie is also pure silica. Combined with the lake’s blue and green colour palette, you won’t find a prettier lake in Australia.
3. The pools of Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park, in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, is home to a few superb swimming holes. A one-hour arduous walk will get you to Circular Pool in Dales Gorge. Then there’s Kermit’s Pool at Hancock Gorge (also known as the ‘centre of the Earth’). But the most renowned is Fern Pool, which is a 30-minute walk (bushwalking experience is recommended) from Fortescue Falls, Karijini National Park’s only permanent waterfall.
4. Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls are a part of the Far North Queensland Waterfall Circuit, which also includes Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls. Its known as Australia’s most photographed falls, so don’t forget the camera. The falls cascade into a perfect but refreshing swimming hole, which is home to platypuses. Millaa Millaa Falls is surrounded by lush green rainforest and a grassed picnic area.
5. Lake Argyle
Lake Argyle is the second largest man-made freshwater reservoir in Australia. It’s a part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme and the closest town is Kununurra, 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) away. To experience the best of this large lake, do a Lake Argyle cruise, hire a boat or bring your own. Although Lake Argyle is home to the world’s biggest population of Johnston River Freshwater Crocodiles, this species is not considered dangerous to humans. Another swimming experience to be had is at the infinity pool at Lake Argyle Resort & Caravan Park, which has unbeatable lake views.
6. Figure 8 Pools at Royal National Park
A six-kilometre (3.7-mile) return trip from the nearest car park, it isn’t easy visiting the Figure 8 Pools at Royal National Park. But enjoying this natural phenomenon for yourself is worth the journey. You’ll find the natural rock pools — one in the shape of a figure eight — on a coastal rock shelf south of Burning Palms Beach. Ensure you read these safety guidelines on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website before visiting. Another option within Royal National Park is Karloo Pools
7. Bitter Springs
Located in Elsey National Park, Bitter Springs Thermal Pool is fed by an underground spring and surrounded by tropical woodlands and palm trees. Sitting at a warm 32°C, Bitter Springs is a crystal clear swimming hole. Visitors can remain in the main pool, or float downstream to the second swimming area. There’s a walking path loop, access stairs, barbecue facilities and picnic tables as well. Mataranka Thermal Pool is more popular, and thus a more crowded option within the same national park.
8. Emma Gorge waterfall
Emma Gorge waterfall is found an hour’s rocky walk from Emma Gorge Resort, within El Questro Wilderness Park. It does cost $20 to access Emma Gorge, as you need an El Questro park pass, and it’s only open from April until October. But what’s waiting for you is a 65-metre waterfall, surrounding red sandstone cliffs, a pristine swimming hole and a secretive small thermal spring among the rocks
9. Cedar Creek Falls
Sitting at the base of Mt Tamborine in Tamborine National Park, Cedar Creek Falls cascades into three rock pools. There are lookouts at the falls, as well as a sealed pathway that takes you down to the swimming holes. To have the most enjoyable time possible, ensure you pay attention to all safety notices regarding slippery rocks, steep cliffs and prohibited areas.
10. Jellybean Pool, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales
With a wide sandy river beach surrounded by the rocky outcrops and thick bush of Blue Mountains National Park, Jellybean is a top spot to cool off on a summer day. The tea-coloured water provides plenty of shady corners, but at only an hour’s drive from Sydney it can get pretty crowded. Camp overnight so you can visit at sunrise or sunset and avoid the masses, or swim round the bend a bit to find a spot on your own. On the way back, check out Red Hands Cave, where ancestors left red, yellow and white hand silhouettes on the wall between 500 and 1600 years ago – they’re still vibrant today.