10 of the best waterfalls in the Northern Territory

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With the Northern Territory’s wet season almost upon us, we’ve discovered 10 of the best waterfalls and swimming holes to cool down in as the temperature rises

Actually, no matter the time of year, the Territory’s waterfalls and waterholes are a a worthy destination for roadtripping to. During the Dry Season (May to October), the Territory’s winter barely drops below temps in in the low 20’s, making it a perfect destination for the outdoor lovers amongst us. Rock hopping to a sun-kissed rock pool is the reward for working up a sweat on a hike.

Be aware that some waterfalls and waterholes are closed in the Wet Season for swimming (November to April), but these are the best months to photograph gushing waterfalls and flourishing wildlife, like on the flooded plains of Kakadu.

Bitter Springs, Katherine

A local’s favourite, Bitter Springs is situated two kilometres from Mataranka, Katherine in Elsey National Park. Set among palms and tropical woodlands, the naturally occurring spring-fed thermal pools are reminiscent of a tropical oasis and the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploration.


Bitter Springs swimming hole. Image Tourism NT/Mitch Cox

Bitter Springs swimming hole. Image Tourism NT/Mitch Cox

Edith Falls, Katherine

Located in Nitmiluk National Park, a 60-kilometre drive north of Katherine and also the finishing point of the 62-kilometre Jatbula trail, Edith Falls is the perfect place for a day adventure. Go on a challenging 2.6-kilometre Leliyn Trail to experience escarpment country and top it off with a refreshing dip in the series waterfalls along the Edith River, including the main pandanus-fringed plunge pool.


Rocky Top Pool, Edith Falls. Image Tourism NT/Katie Goldie

Rocky Top Pool, Edith Falls. Image Tourism NT/Katie Goldie

Florence Falls, Litchfield

Set in heart of Litchfield National Park, a short drive from Darwin, Florence Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Top End. The scenic viewing platform offers panoramic views of the valley and cascading waterfall, showing the contrast between the dry sandstone plateau and the surrounding lush, monsoon forest. Take the stairs down or venture on the moderate Shady Creek Walk, finishing off with a swim in the plunge pool’s crystal-clear waters.


Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park. Image Tourism NT/Shaana McNaught

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park. Image Tourism NT/Shaana McNaught

Wangi Falls, Litchfield

One of Litchfield’s most popular and accessible attractions, Wangi Falls is found near the park’s western boundary along sealed roads. There’s plenty of locations to watch the cascading waterfall, whether it be on the manicured lawns of the picnic area, the Treetop viewing platform, the three-kilometre loop walk through the rainforest or simply from above, in the deep plunge pool at the base.


Wangi Falls. Image Tourism NT/Dan Moore

Wangi Falls. Image Tourism NT/Dan Moore

Maguk Gorge, Kakudu

Nestled in World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, Maguk is an hour’s drive south from Cooinda, best reached from a 14-kilometre 4WD track off Kakadu Highway and 1-kilometre walk. Guaranteed a peaceful spot, Maguk is a dazzling, natural waterfall and plunge pool hiding between steep gorge walls and surrounded by monsoon rainforest. Maguk is also one of the only waterfalls that continues to flow ever when there is no rain and thus always makes a perfect photo opportunity. Rainbow pitas, emerald doves and spangled drovos often find refuge here.


Maguk Falls. Image Tourism NT/Kyle Hunter & Hayley Anderson

Maguk Falls. Image Tourism NT/Kyle Hunter & Hayley Anderson

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu

Whilst travellers must undertake a 3.8-kilometre trek on the Yurmikmik walks in dual World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park to reach Motor Car Falls, it’s well worth the photo. This small, pristine waterfall is one of Kakadu’s best kept secrets, with a shady cave nearby, and is also one of the more accessible spots in during the tropical summer, well photographed for its natural beauty. Go for a swim in plunge pool and sit under the spray of the waterfall, where you might spot turtles, fish and cherubin.


Motor Car Falls. Image Tourism NT/Jarrad Seng

Motor Car Falls. Image Tourism NT/Jarrad Seng

Gunlom Plunge Pool, Kakadu

Located on Waterfall Creek, Kakadu and a short distance from the carpark, Gunlom is one of nature’s most picturesque infinity pools, surrounded by idyllic tropical scenery. A short steep walk up the escarpment rewards you with breathtaking views of three habitats – stone country, woodland and riverine, and takes you to a series of rock pools and waterfalls, perfect for a relaxing swim.


Gunlom Falls. Image Tourism NT/Matt Cherubino

Gunlom Falls. Image Tourism NT/Matt Cherubino

Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu

Situated 45km south of Jabiru along the Kakadu Highway, Kakadu’s largest waterfall is accessible via a two-hour walk through monsoon forest and boulders, or an unsealed 4WD route. One of the icon’s most recognisable and photographed destinations, Jim Jim Falls is a 200-metre waterfall that cascades into a deep plunge pool and family-friendly beach, shaded by dramatic cliffs.


JJim Jim Falls. Image Tourism NT/Jarrad Seng

JJim Jim Falls. Image Tourism NT/Jarrad Seng

Glen Helen Gorge, MacDonnell Ranges

Located 132 kilometres from Alice Springs in the West MacDonnell National Park, Glen Helen Gorge is a site to behold – surrounded by towering sandstone walls. Accessible by car or by hiking Section 10 (Glenn Helen Junction) of the picturesque Larapinta Trail, the Gorge meets at the Finke River, travellers will enjoy a refreshing dip and have access to incredible views of the majestic West MacDonnell Ranges and Mount Sonder, one of the highest points in Central Australia, which beautifully changes colours with the light.


Glen Helen Gorge. Image Tourism NT/Mitchell Cox

Glen Helen Gorge. Image Tourism NT/Mitchell Cox

Ormiston Gorge, MacDonnell Ranges

Located 135 kilometres west of Alice Springs in the West MacDonnell National Park, Ormiston is one of the most popular and photographed places in the Red Centre and for good reason; showcasing the vast beauty and towering red cliffs of the MacDonnell Ranges. A permanent waterhole, the Gorge is an ideal swimming spot, with plenty of native fauna and flora nearby to photograph too!  The gorge is best accessed via sealed roads and is the Trailhead for sections 9 and 10 of the 231-kilometre Larapinta Trail walk.


Ormiston Gorge. Image Tourism NT/Jess Cardwell & Luke Riddle

Ormiston Gorge. Image Tourism NT/Jess Cardwell & Luke Riddle

More information: Northern Territory

About the author: Fiona Harper is a Queensland-based travel writer – follow Fiona at Travel Boating Lifestyle


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