Swimming in Elsey National Park

Elsey National Park

Elsey National Park is a beautiful site filled with warm, crystal-clear pools of water for swimmers to enjoy. Located 8km away from Mataranka, Elsey National Park is on a main tourist route. It is considered one of the Northern Territory’s more popular tourist destinations because of its opportunities to swim in a natural setting–Elsey’s spring fed waterholes. Shade is provided by the native Livistona fanned palms that cover Elsey National Park.

How to Get to Elsey National Park + Where to Swim

Elsey National Park is:

  •  434km away from Darwin
  • 120km away from Katherine
  • 1,083km away from Alice Springs
  • 8km away from Mataranka


If you’re travelling from Darwin, take National Highway 1 in Holtze from the A15, follow National Highway 1 to Homestead Road in Mataranka, and then drive to John Hauser Drive in Elsey. 

From Katherine, take Giles Street to National Highway 1 and drive to John Hauser Drive in Elsey. 

To get to Elsey National Park from Alice Springs, be prepared for an 11-hour drive. Take the Stuart Highway/A87, follow it to Homestead Road, and then turn right onto John Hauser Drive. From Mataranka, head southeast on National Highway 1 toward Warloch Street, turn left onto Homestead Road, then go to John Hauser Drive. 

There are only two places in Elsey National Park you can swim in: Bitter Springs and Mataranka Thermal Pool. Swimming and canoeing are no longer allowed in the Roper and Waterhouse Rivers; make sure to observe all posted signage.

Mataranka Thermal Spring crystal clear blue water
Bitter Springs young man swimming underwater clear water

Bitter Springs

To get to Bitter Springs, take Martin Road from Stuart Highway. The site opened in 1999 for the sole purpose of reducing the crowds at Mataranka Thermal Pool. Bitter Springs also provides an alternate swimming area during peak Little Red flying fox migration period. There is a loop trail you can go on that is 500 meters around the spring called the Bitter Springs Loop Walk. It is a relatively easy circuit that includes viewing platforms and interpretive panels. There are toilets and picnic facilities available at this site. The site is also wheelchair and pram accessible.

Mataranka Thermal Pool

To get to the Mataranka Thermal Pool, take Homestead Road from Stuart Highway. The Thermal Pool is supplied with water by the constantly bubbling Rainbow Spring, and the water overflowing from the Thermal Pool flows into the nearby Waterhouse River. It also has a 500m loop trail that gives you easy access to the pool, as well as magnificent views of Rainbow Spring and the Waterhouse River. However, access to the start of the loop track is owned privately by the Mataranka Homestead Resort. Visitors who want to visit during the day are required to park their cars on the far side of the Mataranka Homestead Resort before going to the Park entrance. However, the entrance to the Mataranka Thermal Pool itself can be reachable from the site’s carpark, and there is a handrail leading visitors down to the water in a few steps. This site is not wheelchair accessible. There are no toilets available at this site.

Mataranka clear swimming water palms shade

Accommodation + Experience

Unfortunately, there are no formal tours that can take you to Elsey National Park. However, you can plan your own day-trip to this site. 

At Elsey National Park, visit both Bitter Springs and Mataranka Thermal Pool on the same day. First, start at Bitter Springs–it’s closer to the town of Mataranka! Take a relaxing dip and swim in the beautiful water at this spot. After your visit to Bitter Springs, dry off and take a quick break to eat lunch at any of the several restaurants/hotels close to the park! 

  •  Territory Manor Motel and Caravan Park: 51 Martin Rd, Mataranka (14km from the park)
  • Stockyard Gallery – Cafe: Stuart Hwy, Mataranka (14km from the park)
  • Malukas Bar: Homestead Rd, Mataranka (7 km away)
  • Leap Hotel: Homestead Rd, Mataranka (7 km away)
  • Mataranka Road House: Roper Ter, Mataranka (14 km away)
  • Mataranka Rodeo: Roper Ter, Mataranka (13 km away)
  • Daly Waters Pub: Roper Ter, Mataranka (14 km away)


A direct trip from Bitter Springs to Mataranka Thermal Pool is an 11-minute car ride (11.8km). Make Mataranka Thermal Pool your second stop after a lunch break. Enjoy your swim here as well because the water is warm all year long. After these two stops, you can visit Stevie’s Hole (in the same area as Mataranka Thermal Campground) and Mataranka Falls. The best time of year to visit Elsey National Park is sometime between May to September because the swimming sites overflow during the wet season (November through April). 

You can camp in Elsey National Park at Jalmurark Campground. Fees are applicable at the campsite, and change is required to pay the cost. In Mataranka, you can stay at Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping (18km away from Elsey National Park) or Mataranka Roadhouse (19.5km away from Elsey). Book Jalmurark Campground at the Northern Territory Government’s website.

northern territory elsey national park thermal swimming hole
Elsey National Park by @carmz_joey_travelling


Visitors must swim in designated areas and follow all rangers’ indications at all times. If the water doesn’t feel safe, don’t swim. Exercise caution and swim to the condition you feel comfortable with. Depth and currents can be overwhelming to new and/or young swimmers, so children should always be supervised. Glass is not allowed within ten meters of the water, so leave all glass in your car.


Covid Restrictions

There is no mask mandate in the Northern Territory. This applies to Elsey National Park, including Bitter Springs and Mataranka Thermal Pool. Enjoy the swim and walk to the location for both spots in the park mask-free.



Nikita Kamath, born and raised in California, is a high school student by day and a travel blogger by night. When Nikita grows up, she aspires to travel for work and earn frequent-flyer miles from her favorite airline. She spends her free time in dance studios, and she can always be found rehearsing her next routine. Catch her on Medium writing blogs for fun or on Instagram posting about her life.

Picture of Norther


NORTHER ® provides encouragement for travellers to value, enjoy and explore the NT in a one-of-kind way so they can honour and respect culture through care and integrity.

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