10 natural spas that won’t cost you a cent
Here are the thermal pools, waterholes and rock pools around Australia that you can swim in.
By Simon Webster
Fancy a soak in a spa bath? How about one that nature provided? Spectacular natural spas can be found all over Australia, so go on and take a dip.
Wyadup Spa, Margaret River, Western Australia
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. You’ll find the Wyadup Spa (also known as the Injidup Natural Spa) at Wyadup Rocks, a 15-minute drive south of Yallingup.
Bitter Springs, Northern Territory
Sometimes it’s not enough to float in the one spot; it’s nice to go on a bit of a journey. So hop aboard a gentle current down the warm, thermal-fed, clear waters of Bitter Springs, in Elsey National Park, near Katherine.
You can 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. Then climb out, follow the path beneath fan palms back to the beginning, and do it all over again.
Just the thing after an outback drive or bushwalk, Bitter Springs is the lesser-known neighbour of the famous Mataranka Thermal Pool.
Whalers Way, South Australia
There’s some stunning coastal scenery on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula (the seafood capital of Australia, no less), and it doesn’t get more rugged or dramatic than Whalers Way, a 14-kilometre (8.6-mile) track at the peninsula’s southern tip, a 30-minute drive from Port Lincoln. With 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).
To access the rock pools, you’ll need a permit and a key, since Whalers Way is on private land – a great excuse to get exact directions from locals. Head to the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre – they’ll supply you with everything you need. While there, find out about all the other things you can do on the Eyre Peninsula: cage dive with sharks, watch whales, swim with sea lions… and don’t forget to sample the seafood.
Wee Jasper Reserves, New South Wales
Just a 1.5-hour drive from Parliament House in Canberra is a world far removed from the cut and thrust of politics.
This waterhole can be found at Micalong Creek Reserve, one of five camping spots known as the Wee Jasper Reserves.
Just south of the village of Wee Jasper (named by a Scottish settler in honour of local gemstones), the reserves offer bushwalks (from 15 minutes to several days), stunning underground caves, and fishing – as well as the chance to take a well-earned dip to cool off.
There are plenty of places to set up camp in shady spots right by the creek.
Blairgowrie Back Beach, Victoria
Towards the end of the peninsula, the seaside village of Blairgowrie has the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay on its front beach and the wilder Bass Strait on its back beach, which is home to some turquoise rock pools just made for floating in. To find them, time your visit with low tide when they’re exposed. There are plenty of other things to do around the area while you wait – you can even create your own “picnic trail” along the cellar doors, fromageries, chocolatiers and producers in the region.
Douglas-Apsley National Park, Tasmania
Meanwhile, across the Bass Strait in the stunning east coast wilderness of Tasmania, waterholes are plentiful and inviting (well, depending on the time of year – they can be a bit on the chilly side in winter).
Champagne pools and more in Queensland
Fraser Island 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 swimming spots. The best places to get wet and cool down include some astonishing freshwater lakes and the saltwater Champagne Pools, which foam just like the drink thanks to the way waves crash over the surrounding rocks.
Over on the mainland, the most glamorous town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is without a doubt Noosa, home to high-end boutiques and dining. But you don’t need a cent to enjoy the Fairy Pools at Granite Bay in Noosa National Park.
The same goes for the natural beauty of Kondalilla Falls, just an hour from Noosa in the lush rainforest of Kondalilla National Park.
And to round off our tour of natural spas, let’s head to Queensland’s tropical north, where Girringun National Park, south of Cairns, is home to rainforest, waterfalls, picnic spots and the unforgettable Cardwell Spa Pool, where a depression in the creek causes the water to bubble and swirl. Plus it’s free of crocodiles, stingers and sharks – as all good spas should be.