Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park, Northern Territory © Tourism Northern Territory
10 natural spas that won’t cost you a cent
Float around in Australia’s natural thermal pools, waterholes and rock pools in some of the most magical Aussie destinations.
By Bonnie Jackson
Ditch the indoor spa bath, and soak in a natural spa that mother nature prepared just for you. Sometimes located in the most unsuspecting places, you may spot a hidden rock pool 15 minutes out of town, or even a thermal river floating 200 metres (650 feet) downstream after a long day of hiking. Take a dip in some of the world's most magical natural spas.
Where: Western Australia’s Margaret River
The Margaret River region is famous for its world-class waves, but you don’t have to be a surfer to appreciate them. At Injidup Beach, near the town of Yallingup, there’s a certain spot where waves cascade through narrow gaps and over rocks into a clear rock pool, creating just the right amount of bubbles and foam to make you feel like you’re in the world’s most spectacular jacuzzi, all entirely natural – and unforgettable.
Until recently this was a locals’ secret, but now the word is out, so head on down and sit back, relax and soak in the tranquility.
How to experience it: You’ll find the Wyadup Spa (also known as the Injidup Natural Spa) at Wyadup Rocks, a 15-minute drive south of Yallingup.
Where: The Northern Territory’s Elsey National Park, near Katherine.
Pass a day in tranquility at Bitter Springs, a gorgeous waterhole heaven in the outback. Let the calm current carry you along, then climb out of the springs and follow the path beneath fan palms back to the beginning and do it all over again! Or head over to the famous Mataranka Thermal Pool for a soak in the rejuvenating water surrounded by the towering trees of the national park.
How to experience it: Rent a foam pool noodle from the local caravan park to help keep you afloat as you drift for about 200 metres (650 feet), perhaps dipping beneath the surface now and then to spot freshwater turtles.
Where: South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula
To get to Whalers Way, follow the 14-kilometre (8.6-mile) track at the peninsula’s southern tip. Here you will discover the sheer cliffs, caves, crevasses, blowholes and swimming spots including some serene rock pools. This is a wild and wonderful day trip, or longer for intrepid campers.
How to experience it: To access the rock pools, you’ll need a permit and a key, so head to the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre and they’ll supply you with everything you need.
Where: Queensland’s K’gari (Fraser Island)
K’gari is most famous for being the world’s biggest sand island. It’s home to dingoes, rainforest, a beach highway, great fishing, unique scenery and several incredible freshwater lakes. But the jewel in the crown has to be the saltwater Champagne Pools. These naturally formed rock pools create a collection of shallow swimming holes right on the edge of the ocean with a stellar view of its surroundings.
Just like the name suggests, with each wave, the pools are renewed with water, creating a bubbly seafoam that fizzes around you creating a natural jacuzzi. While the Champagne waters cause delight with each wave, visitors should keep an eye out for large waves.
How to experience it: When visiting take note of the tides during the time of the day. During low tide, the pools are much calmer and create the perfect place to soak in the salt water and enjoy the sound of the ocean.
Where: The east coast wilderness of Tasmania
Here, waterholes are plentiful and inviting in the summer, and a chilly refresh in the winter time. Gently stroll through open woodlands of the Douglas-Apsley National Park before you reach the surprising and lovely Apsley Waterhole. This tranquil pool begs you to stop and gaze into its pristine waters before taking a dip to cool off after your walk. The Douglas-Apsley National park is also home to wonderous gorges, heathlands, flowing waterfalls, eucalypt forests and wildflowers a plenty.
How to experience it: As you get closer to the water, the rocks can become quite slippery due to the flowing water so make sure you enter with a side of caution.
Where: Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast
Noosa is commonly known for its high-end boutiques and dining experiences, however, you won’t need a cent to enjoy the Fairy Pools at Granite Bay in Noosa National Park. Lying low between the basalt rocks at the tip of the headland at Granite Bay, you’ll see two natural tidal pools ready for you to make a splash. At high tide, the waves crash over the rocks to refill the pool and create a swell and a natural spa experience.
There are many ways to get to the Fairy Pools, one way to access the pools is a 30-minute walk from the Little Cove Car Park, where you will climb down a few rocks along the coastal path, past Tea Tree Bay and Granite Bay. Or around an hour from the Sunshine Beach side with a tranquil walk through the forest, with views out over the many coves and bays, (and it’s likely you’ll spot a koala). It is important to note that there are rocks to be negotiated at the end in order to access the swimming holes.
How to experience it: At low tide, you’ll want to have your snorkel ready to see several kinds of coral and sponges making for a beautiful display growing on the rocks.
Little Blue Lake
Where: Near Mt Gambier, South Australia
If you are driving on the highway between Melbourne and Adelaide, you will see a paddock with a large blue sinkhole right in the middle of it. You’ll want to pull over to stretch your legs and check out the Little Blue Lake. With a diameter of about 40 metres (131 feet), and cliffs approaching 8 metres (26 feet) above sea level, the Little Blue Lake is a not-so-little spot to cool off along the Limestone Coast.
How to experience it: Descend the stairs to the floating pontoon to enter the tranquil blue-green waters. To dry off, perch yourself on one of the large surrounding rocks and soak in the sunshine before you continue on your road trip.