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Australia's most amazing waterholes

Australia is home to some incredible natural swimming holes, from the falls of Kakadu National Park to rock pools on Fraser Island. 

By Paul Chai

When people think of swimming in Australia it is usually the beaches that spring to mind. But there are amazing natural swimming holes all over the country that are worth discovering. You can swim in Australia's deepest lake, snorkel above a huge underground cavern, or take a dip with twin waterfalls as the backdrop in the Northern Territory.

Champagne Pools, Fraser Island

Champagne Pools, Fraser Island, Fraser Coast, Queensland

A short ferry ride off the coast of Queensland lies Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island. Covered in thick forest that helps hold the sand together, the island has huge stretches of beach along which you can 4WD, and has a large dingo (Australian wild dog) population. The many places to take a dip include the Champagne Pools, swimming holes worn into the rock that got their name because they foam with the crashing of each new wave.

Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park

Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

These stunning falls, also known as Waterfall Creek, are among the most popular spots in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The huge falls plunge into a deep, emerald green pool surrounded by gum trees. It's one of the best waterholes in Australia and a popular spot for tourists to cool off. If you want an even more amazing view, and more space, take the one kilometre (0.6 mile) walk to the top of the falls, where there are more pools in which to cool off.

Millaa Millaa Falls, Cairns region

Millaa Millaa Falls, Cairns region, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Bursting through the rainforest and tumbling into the pool below, the Millaa Millaa Falls are about an hour and a half south-east of Cairns in the lush rainforest of Wooroonooran National Park. Drive the Waterfall Circuit before parking and walking to the falls. After a plunge in the pool, which has appeared in TV commercials and music videos, cook up a feed on the nearby barbecues. Millaa Millaa means “plenty of water” in the local language of the Mamu people, the site's traditional owners.

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory

In Litchfield National Park, also near the city of Darwin, are Florence Falls. One of the best spots at this double waterfall is the lookout that provides panoramic views of the surrounding monsoon rainforest. Those keen on a swim can descend into the forest and dive in. The twin streams of water will be your backdrop in a huge lagoon that is as refreshing as it is beautiful.

Mitchell Falls, Kimberley region

Mitchell Falls, Kimberley region, Western Australia

This massive, four-tiered waterfall is remote – an adventurous 500 kilometre (310 mile) drive north of Broome, in Western Australia's Kimberley region, and a four kilometre (2 1/2 mile) hike through the bush from the Mitchell Falls campground. But diving into the dark green water is worth the trip. You can also take a helicopter flight here with several tour operators, which not only saves time but gives you an aerial view of the tumbling water.

Piccaninnie Ponds, Limestone Coast

Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park, Limestone Coast, South Australia

In South Australia, a six hour drive south of Adelaide brings you to Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park, which has such clear waters that it is not only a popular spot for swimming but scuba diving, too. Divers have discovered a massive underwater cave due to the excellent visibility, which can be up to 30 metres on a good day. Swimmers can grab a snorkel and turn a quick dip into a serene float, observing the underwater world below.

Lake St Clair, Cradle Mountain-lake St Clair National Park

Pumphouse Point, Lake St Clair, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania

Lake St Clair, in Tasmania's famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, north-west of Hobart, is Australia's deepest lake. It has been carved out of the rock by glaciers over several million years. Swim, fish or kayak on the clear waters, or stay at an unusually located hotel, Pumphouse Point, which sits on top of the lake, at the end of a long pier, in a reclaimed, Art Deco hydro-electric station. Sit on the banks of the lake and indulge in a bit of wildlife spotting - this national park is one of the best places in Australia to see wombats in the wild - or take one of the many walking trails around the water's edges.