Our wide brown land is often anything but. Dotted with emerald green gorges, deep blue canyons and grey gum waterholes, the varied Australian landscape is not only rich and colourful. It is also perfect for swimming. Head to these top five waterfalls and waterholes for a swim in nature. The perfect way to cool down and enjoy the Aussie bush.
1. Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT
Reducing this natural marvel to words is no mean feat. Basically, you’ll find yourself going for a swim in nature’s very own infinity pool. Oh, and you’re also atop a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by gum trees, with unparalleled views of the southern end of Kakadu National Park. You won’t believe your own eyes! Dive in to the main plunge pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Or work up a small sweat along the short Gunlom Lookout Walk to the rock pools at the top. The best access is via 4WD. You can stay close by in the Mary River Roadhouse or at Gunlom Campground. In the nearby Mary River region of Kakadu, there are excellent walking tracks, scenic drives and picnic areas. As with any swimming holes in the Northern Territory, it is important to be aware of crocodiles.
Read more: Top Aussie beach wildlife encounters
2. Millaa Millaa Falls, Atherton Tablelands, QLD
While you take a dip in Millaa Millaa Falls, keep your eyes peeled for a Ulysses Butterfly or even a platypus. This picture-perfect spot often features in postcards and calendars. In fact, it even made its television debut on a Herbal Essences shampoo ad! Right beside the small Millaa Millaa town, you’ll find the waterfall circuit of Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, Elinja Falls and Pepina Falls. Most of these have barbie facilities, toilets and lookouts, as well as picnic spots. Millaa Millaa Falls are the best for your swim in nature, nestled in among lush green rainforest ferns beside a grassy picnic area.
3. Mitchell Falls, WA
Accompanied by beautiful rock art of the Wunambal people, the thundering Mitchell Falls in the Kimberley sure are a sight to behold. The walk to the falls from the campsite is about 5 hours return. It is also not always well-marked, so is better for stronger, longer legs with more patience and experience. Swimming is not allowed in the pool at the base of Mitchell Falls. It is both a sacred site as well as occasionally the stomping ground for some unfriendly saltwater crocs. Above the falls and along the walk there are numerous other creeks, falls and swimming holes, including Mertens Falls, where you can take a dip. There is even the option of a helicopter flight from the top!
4. Wattamolla, Royal National Park, NSW
Wattamolla is a triple threat when it comes to swims in nature. There is a lovely lagoon, a brilliant beach and a wicked waterfall. It makes sense that ‘Wattamolla’ means ‘place near running water’ in the local Aboriginal language. Only 50 kilometres from Sydney city in the Royal National Park, Wattamolla is accessible on foot along a section of the Royal Coastal Walk. It can also be reached by car, with parking available right nearby. From the top of the Falls you can look over the lagoon and out to the ocean, both of which are reachable by a path from the parking area. There are no lifesavers on duty in the area. However the waters are fairly calm in both the lagoon and beach, so are ideal for littlies. The vast Royal National Park also boasts the Karloo Pools, Figure 8 pools and numerous other swimming holes for you to scope out.
5. Piccaninnie Ponds, SA
This is without a doubt a natural swimming spot unlike any other. The pristine waters have been filtering through the limestone for millennia, eventually forming the underwater miracles of The Chasm and The Cathedral. With a permit, you can snorkel or go recreational diving in the First Pond and The Chasm to view the awesome flora and fauna under the surface. With more experience, you can delve deeper into the mysterious secret world beneath. This is only suited to teens with extensive diving background. Even without a permit, it is definitely worth a visit to this conservation park for a peek from land. There are countless tracks that will take you through the wetlands, past ocean vistas, and along the sand past bubbling springs. You can also camp at Piccaninnie Ponds camping area and swim at Discovery Bay.
A version of this story first appeared on the website in September, 2017.