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Dive into Australia's best waterholes

Published March 1st, 2016

Australia has spectacular and largely publicised beaches, and countless watering holes (a.k.a. good-old Aussie pubs), but often overseen is our country’s bevy of fresh waterholes. We’ve got tonnes of ‘em out there in the wild, waiting for you to pay a visit and soak up all of their natural goodness. With this in mind, here are some Australia’s best waterholes for you to dive into on your next break.

Laidback like a lizard at Gunlom Falls. (Image: Getty)

Northern Territory

Views

After a one-kilometre trek, be rewarded with some of the best views of Kakadu’s diverse landscape as you cool down in the Gunlom rock pools that sit proudly on top of an 85-metre waterfall. Don’t feel like a hike? Try the plunge pools below.

Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT

Off-road + art

You will need to drive 90 kilometres from Alice Springs, another 11 kilometres off-road in a 4WD then hike for 30 minutes (about one kilometre) to reach N’Dhala Gorge – but it’s worth it. Not only can you camp and bask in the shade and glory of this gorge, but you also get the privilege to see some 6,000 ancient rock carvings of the the Eastern Arrernte people. Some are estimated to be 10,000 years old.

 N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park, East MacDonnell Ranges, NT

Birds + birds

Animals abound here. Not crocs (we think, but don’t take our word for it), but a plethora of waterbirds that come here to cool off and rainbow fish, frogs and other aquatic critters. Soak and observe in this palm-shaded swimming hole hidden underneath the 300 metre-high cliff faces of Kings Canyon. Located at the start of Section 5 of the infamous Larapinta Trail, camping facilities and hiking options are also at your fingertips.

Birthday Waterhole, Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges

Freshwater bliss at Lake McKenzie on Fraser. (Image: Getty)

Queensland

Easy access + happy crowds

A favourite local hangout on the Gold Coast, Currumbin Rock Pools is a great place to cool off and chill out on the grass, climb rock ledges and take a dip in the spa-like pools.

Currumbin Rock Pools, Gold Coast, Qld

Vivid colours + island bliss

Enjoy the jaw-dropping beauty and vivid greens and blues of this lake consisting completely of rainwater. Share with travellers (and the occasional dingo) on Fraser Island. And while you're there, thank the white soft sands for their contribution to holding the rainwater in place (it forms an impervious layer with organic matter).

Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island, Qld

New South Wales

Water slide + bottomless pools

Invigorate yo’ self on a natural rock waterslide that will land you in deep water. Literally. Mumbulla Creek Falls is deep and you can’t see or touch the bottom. Pack a picnic or barbecue for this day adventure and enjoy/pay respect to the stories of the Yuin people – this is their site and often used as a place of quiet reflection.

Mumbulla Creek Falls, Biamanga National Park, NSW

Chasing waterfalls at WA's Mitchell Falls. (Image: Getty)

Western Australia

Get high

Unless you want to pay for a chopper, you have to push yourself to be rewarded with this spectacular four-tiered waterfall and equally spectacular red rock landscape. Travel some 500 kilometres north of Broome, hike bush tracks for the remaining four kilometres and take in the cool waters and desert view of the region’s most photographed landmarks.

Mitchell Falls, somewhere north of Broome, WA

Suspect name - amaze snorkelling ops at Piccaninnie Ponds. (Image: Juan Moro/Getty)

South Australia

Snorkel + underwater cavern

The limestone-filtered waters of Piccaninnie Ponds are an underwater explorer’s dream with visibility up to 40 metres. Snorkel or dive the clear waters and find what lies beneath, including a white-walled underwater cavern known as The Cathedral.

Piccaninnie Ponds, near Mount Gambier, SA

It doesn't get fresher that Lake St Clair. Literally. (Image: Getty)

Tasmania

Chill with echidnas

Brave the cold waters of Australia’s deepest lake (in one of Australia’s coldest states) Lake St Clair. Look out towards snow-capped peaks, around you for echidnas, wombats and wallabies, and take a swim in this 200-metre deep lake formed by glaciers millions of years ago.

Lake St Clair, Tasmania

Soak up the natural hot spring goodness at Peninsula Hot Springs. (Image: Peninsula Hot Springs)

Victoria

Pamper + heat

It’s a day spa on top of a natural thermal mineral spring just an hour from Melbourne. Enough said? It’s also close to vineyards. Relax, rejuvenate and take in the spectacular views of the Mornington Peninsula.

Peninsula Hot Springs, Fingal, Vic

Jolee Wakefield

A seasoned backpacker and travel writer, Jolee has spent the past decade wandering the globe in pursuit of good vibes, unusual conversations and unforgettable adventures like cave diving in Mexico, mountain climbing in Borneo and learning (failing at) local dances in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.