Josephine Falls, Wooroonooran, Queensland
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In Wooroonooran National Park, at the base of Mt. Bartle Frere, the tallest mountain in the state, lies Josephine Falls. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the swimming hole at the foot of the falls is accessible year round. Water flows over a spectacular formation of granite boulders into two stunning pools. Take in the panorama of the upper sections from the viewing platforms or go for a bushwalk to the top of the falls and then make your way to the lower pool for a refreshing rainforest swim. Image: Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
Crows Nest Falls, Crows Nest National Park, Queensland
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The colourful seasonal wildflowers and plentiful birdlife around Crows Nest Falls, the main drawcard of Crows Nest National Park, attracts nature-lovers, keen hikers and birdwatchers. A 2.7 kilometre return track starts with the shallow Kauyoo Pool, a short walk from picnic area and the first accessible swimming hole. Further along, Bottlebrush Pool is a lovely place to swim and keep an eye out for local wildlife. Continue to Crows Nest Falls, then Koonin Lookout for a view of the impressive Valley of Diamonds.
Killen Falls, NSW
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The pool at the bottom of Killen Falls looks like a tropical oasis, fringed by ferns in a rainforest gully just 15 minutes’ drive from Ballina. Access involves a bit of fence-jumping and negotiating a slightly uneven embankment, but once you’re down by the water, you won’t believe you’re just a few minutes’ walk from your car. The best thing about this particular swimming hole is that you can access the cave directly behind the falls.
Wattamolla Lagoon, New South Wales
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Situated within the Royal National Park and just 50 kilometres south of Sydney, the cool and calm Wattamolla Lagoon takes in arresting views of the cliffs surrounding the eponymous waterfall and gives way to the golden sand of Wattamolla Beach and the ocean beyond. Pleasant for kayaking, snorkeling or just floating around, it’s the ideal family-friendly day trip, with easy short walks, including one to nearby Providential Point Lookout, a picnic area with parking, sheltered tables, toilets and running water.
Bents Basin, New South Wales
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Within the Bents Basin Conservation area, the calm waters of Bents Basin are great for swimming, watersports and fishing and the nearby campgrounds have myriad amenities. Though it’s a well-known overnight and day-trip destination, it’s especially well-liked by local families. The 2WD-accessible grounds include ample parking and two picnic areas with tables, flushing toilets, hot showers, drinking water and wood and gas barbecues. $8 per vehicle, per day. Free electric barbecues.
Millaa Millaa Falls, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
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Part of the Atherton Tablelands' Waterfalls Circuit, the picture-perfect Millaa Millaa Falls drop 18.3 metres into an equally picturesque waterhole surrounded by tropical greenery. If the waterfalls look familiar, it may be because they’re among the most photographed in Australia. There’s a picnic area to enjoy after your swim (keep an eye out for platypus) and the site is easy to access with plenty of parking and basic facilities.
Buley Rockhole, Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory
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Pitch a tent in the red-rock beauty of Litchfield National Park by the cool, refreshing waters of Buley Rockhole. It’s easy to find a secluded spot at Buley, a series of waterfalls and clear pools, in which to wallow and soak up the sights, smells and sounds of the pristine surrounds. The best way to get dry? Lay a towel over a warm rock and let the sun do its work.
Dalhousie Springs, Witjira National Park, South Australia
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Amid the desiccated Simpson Desert an oasis of lushness can be found in the form of an enormous, tree-fringed hot spring. Fed by mineral-rich water that bubbles up from underground, Dalhousie Springs’ water temperature is an average 40 degrees. The unlikely abundance is caused by a “supergroup” of 60 freshwater springs that merge to create this enormous pool, the only source of water for 150 kilometres around. As a bonus, a trip to Witjira after a deluge will reward visitors with fields of blooming wildflowers.
Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge, Tasmania
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In the height of summer, locals head to Douglas-Apsley National Park to swim in its clear-turquoise waterhole despite ready access to the gorgeous white-sand beaches of Tasmania’s east coast. One look at the freshwater pool, fed by cascades, explains why. Take a hike through the park’s dramatic forests filled with Tasmanian blue gum, rare Barbers gum and endemic Oyster Bay pines, rugged hills and cascading waterfalls before arriving at Apsely Waterhole to cool off. Bring a picnic for memory-making perfection.
Ellery Creek Big Hole, Northern Territory
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This spectacular waterhole cuts through a gorge in the MacDonnell Ranges, an unexpected expanse of blue among the red of the Alice. In the early morning, the desert is chilly and the water a cold grey sheet but as the sun rises and the air warms, Ellery Creek – and the soft, inviting sand surrounding it – becomes a very appealing option. A warning: crocodiles won’t get you here, but the icy water will!
Fern Pool, Karijini National Park, Western Australia
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Paddling beneath stunning waterfalls at the almost too-beautiful-to-be-real Fern Pool is a serene experience. The spring-fed pool is a short walk from the torrent of the park’s only permanent waterfall, Fortescue Falls. The waterhole is a sacred place to local Aboriginal people, and the sense of wonderment – red rocks, turquoise water and blue skies – it evokes is keenly felt.
Gunlom Plunge Pool, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
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Depending on the time of year, the waterfall that feeds the pool beneath may be a raging torrent or a feeble trickle. Either way, a swim in the Gunlom Plunge Pool is one of the most spectacular experiences in Kakadu National Park. There are no saltwater crocs to worry about here, and tall gums shade a handy picnic area. It’s possible Mick Dundee himself feasted here – the spot was made famous in Crocodile Dundee.
Jellybean Pool, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales
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If the kidney-shape of this waterhole is responsible for its name, the cooling waters are behind its popularity. On a hot summer’s afternoon, Jellybean Pool can resemble peak tourist season at Bondi Beach. Don’t be deterred. Downstream from the main fool are some boulder-hidden mini pools where some peace and solitude can be found.
Mitchell Falls, Mitchell River National Park, Western Australia
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A series of majestic waterfalls have been carved into the sandstone of the Mitchell Plateau. The sound of thundering water accompanies the approach to the four-tiered falls that flow into natural pools. It’s a fair hike to reach the falls from the Mitchell Falls campsite but save the swimming for smaller waterholes along the way – this is saltwater crocodile country.
Turpins Falls, Kyneton, Victoria
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A cooling billabong surrounded by sheer rock walls on three sides, Turpin Falls on the Campaspe River is somewhat isolated – all the better for a private swim. The waterfall is most impressive after heavy rainfall and in drier times it splits into two separate waterfalls. The pool is reached via a series of somewhat elderly steps down to the pool from the top of the falls.
Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory
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The Wangi Falls waterfall descends to earth from a height of 52 metres at its highest point. It’s reached via a walking track that winds through monsoonal rainforest. The deep green pool at its base is one of Litchfield Park’s most popular attractions, but swimming is generally off-limits during the wet season thanks to our reptilian friends – crocs move around when water levels are high, and six crocs are caught on average in the park each year.