Forget sizzling on a strip of sand between the other thousands of beach-goers this summer. Instead of scouting for that piece of unclaimed sand on which to lay your beach towel, why not skip the surf altogether and embark on a journey to find these gorgeous secluded waterholes. Just think rainforests, waterfalls, jump rocks, natural infinity pools and waterslides – Australia’s home to them all, but most Aussies don’t even know they exist. These could possibly the 12 best, yet secret, swimming holes in Australia.
12 secret swimming holes in Australia you’ve probably never heard of
Figure 8 Pools (Sydney Royal National Park, NSW)
Ah, the coveted prize of all Instagram queens, the Figure 8 Pools. It was formed by two sinkholes which merged together to create this perfect figure 8 shape, with a degree of symmetry that could make any nature photographer envious. The pools are on a rock ledge located at the south end of the Sydney Royal National Park, and though the photos may look effortless, it’s no breeze to get there. You’ll need sturdy walking shoes but it’s totally worth it – there are plenty of photo ops along the way as you trek through bush, beach and around rocky headlands.
Photo by author
The nearest carpark to get to the pools is at Garawarra Farm off Garie Road (the one to Garie Beach). Take the track marked with “Coast Walk” in the direction of Burning Palms Beach – from there it’s a steep 2.5-kilometre hike. Facing the ocean, turn right (southwards) and follow the beach around two headlands. The Figure 8 Pools are located at the second headland, close to the base of the cliff.
Check the Bureau of Meteorology for surf conditions, as you can only reach the pools at low tide.
Killen Falls (Ballina, NSW)
Just ten minutes out of Ballina and twenty minutes south of Byron Bay is the area’s most sacred of swimming spots. This charming beauty sits in a basin within a rainforest gully under the lively Killen Falls. It’s a refreshing spot for a swim, especially after some rainfall. The waterhole is quite shallow, but the middle is deep enough for swimming.
There’s even a cave behind the waterfall to retreat in and watch the water gush down in front of you. The entire basin is rather flat and the ground is perfect for finding a spot to nap, lay down with a good book, or even bring friends along for a picnic.
How to get there
There is a carpark in close proximity with a track leading to the top of the falls. Once there you’ll see a walking track leading all the way down to the waterhole.
Gunlom Falls (Kakadu National Park, NT)
Enjoy a refreshing dip in nature’s very own infinity pool. Gunlom Falls in Kakadu National Park sits among a number of swimming holes and waterfalls. Gunlom is part of Waterfall Creek at the southern end of the park and is also a famous scene from Crocodile Dundee. Being one of the most popular places in the national park it’s known to get crowded at the base.
For those seeking a more secluded experience, a steep 10-15 minute climb will lead you a number of small swimming holes at the top of the falls. That’s where you’ll find the well-known, crystal clear Gunlom plunge pool, providing sweeping views of Southern Kakadu.
The top of the falls is also the perfect spot for a picnic, with a number of cool, shady spots under the big red gums of the outback.
Gunlom Falls is easily found driving through the southern entrance of Kakadu National Park. The park charges a $25 entry fee.
Millaa Millaa Falls (Millaa Millaa, QLD)
Some may recall this stunning spot from a Herbal Essences commercial, and just like that ad, this lush rainforest setting is guaranteed to sweep you away from reality. This swimming spot is within easy reach of Cairns and Innisfail and is the first stop of three waterfalls in a walking track circuit.
The plunge waterfall is 18.3 metres high with the base of the falls being the ideal place for a swim. Being surrounded by tropical ferns and vibrantly coloured flowers, this a great area for some lunch with barbeque and picnic facilities available. Those wishing to hang around until late afternoon may even have the chance to spot the odd platypus or two.
Keep in mind
The Millaa Millaa Falls can be accessed by a sealed road off the Palmerston Highway, just five minutes from the township, with plenty of parking available.
Fern Pool (Karijini National Park, WA)
Found in Australia’s North West, the famous fern pool is a peaceful haven tucked away in the Karijini National Park and is the perfect swimming hole for one of the country’s warmest regions. Being a significant Aboriginal site, the area has a very spiritual feel.
The swimming hole is surrounded by ferns, trees and other native plants. If you’re lucky you may see some flying foxes and other native animals feeding on the fruits of the rock fig trees.
The Fern Pool is just one of many pools and waterfalls to be found in the park, but this is definitely the local favourite.
Find your way
Once in the national park, head towards the Fortescue Falls. Then follow the 300-metre-long class 4 track upstream until you reach the spot.
Cedar Creek Falls and Rock Pools (Mount Tamborine, QLD)
Experience natural freshwater pool surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Even the entire journey is a sight to behold, as you walk through the mountains, canyons and rainforest to reach an abundance of cascading waterfalls and rock pools.
The best time to visit the falls is after some heavy rainfall and the gushing streams in the rock pools can feel just like a cold outdoor spa. The water can be rather chilly year-round so it’s better to visit during the warmer months.
Most people tend make a day trip out of the visit with parking, picnic tables and toilets nearby.
Drive along Tambourine Road and turn off to Cedar Creek Falls Road. The end of the road will lead to a carpark. From there it’s a short walk to the falls and rock pools.
Florence Falls (Litchfield National Park, NT)
Nothing beats sitting at the base of a gushing double waterfall. Florence Falls is the ideal spot to take a refreshing dip in a natural pool, while enjoying the best the Northern Territory has to offer. It’s a good idea to allow a bit of time to spend in this stunning national park. You can also take the scenic walk up from the base to the viewing platform at the top of the falls.
Once at the national park, follow the signs to the carpark. From there, it’s just a three-minute walk to the lookout and a further walk down 160 steps to the base of the falls.
Babinda Boulders (Babinda, QLD)
For those seeking the ideal spot to combat the North Queensland heat, head no further than Babinda Boulders in the south of Cairns. This glorious gem is surrounded by lush rainforest, with the water being surprisingly cool year-round.
Not only is it a popular place to swim, but the area also holds a great deal of significance to the local Aborigines. It also goes by the name Devils Pool and is believed to be cursed. The public swimming spot is right next to a carpark and has a number of facilities, including public toilets, showers, picnic tables and barbeques.
Drive down Boulders Road from the town of Babinda for about ten minutes until you reach a public carpark and swimming area.
Wattamolla (Sydney Royal National Park, NSW)
If a simple swimming hole just isn’t enough, Wattamolla is the place to visit! This spot in the Royal National Park has a large freshwater lagoon on one side and a small saltwater beach on the other. Wattamolla is a favourite hang-out for a number of reasons. It’s perfect for all outdoor activities such as swimming, snorkelling, fishing, hiking and sunbathing, as well as having a picnic or a barbeque. The cove also has a small cliff face, popular for jumping.
The Sydney Royal National Park is within reach from both Sydney and Wollongong. Follow the Grand Pacific Drive until you see a sign for Wattamolla. There is an $11 entry fee into the national park but there is free parking available right at the lagoon.
Josephine Falls (Wooroonooran National Park, QLD)
In a national park 75 kilometres south of Cairns, you will find nature’s own water fun park. The Josephine Falls are ever flowing with rainfall from Queensland’s highest peak, Mount Bartle Frere.
The site is of course most famous for its slippery granite rocks that act as natural waterslides. Not only is there a swimming area, but also rainforest walks and hiking tracks with viewing decks, perfect for those who like to keep active.
Close to Babinda
This spot isn’t too far from the Babinda Boulders. Head south to the town of Mirriwinni and take the turn off at Mount Bartle Frere. Follow the signs for about 8km, until you reach the carpark at Josephine Falls.
Karloo Pools (Sydney Royal National Park, NSW)
Unlike Wattamolla, this pool can’t be reached by car. In fact, you really need to work for it. This very popular swimming and picnic spot can only be accessed by taking an 11-kilometre-long walking track. Although it sounds like a lot of hard work, the trek is definitely worth it as the Sydney Royal National Park treasure is beyond impressive.
The Karloo Pools are perfect for a swim and are surrounded by a large rock platform with plenty of room to pull out a towel or a picnic blanket. If you walk a little further you will reach the Uloola Falls, which is another gorgeous place to relax and take in the surrounds.
Both the Uloola Walking Track and the Karloo Walking Track will lead you to Karloo Pools. These begin at Heathcote and Waterfall railway stations on the opposite side of the Princes Highway.
Nethercote Falls (Pambula, NSW)
Nethercote Falls is a swimming spot for all friends and family to enjoy. It comprises a series of cascades and small rock pools, with a larger, deeper pool nestled in a valley. The large pool is long, wide and deep enough to do laps in and the small rock pools are perfect for children to play in.
Considering there is an impressive waterfall leading into the large pool, Nethercote Falls is relatively calm. The water is clean and cool and the nearby carpark has picnic and barbeque facilities on offer, making it the ideal spot for a day out in the sun.
Head 12 kilometres south of Pambula down Mt Darragh Road and Back Creek Road. The way to the falls is clearly signed and leads to a picnic area and carpark. You can either walk from here (keep in mind it’s a little difficult), or drive if you have a 4WD. From the 4WD parking area take the walking track that leads to the creek. Crossing the creek will take you on a track to the falls.