Kakadu National Park, NT, Australia
Rooftop pools atop five-star hotels ain’t got nothing on this breathtaking natural infinity pool. Located in the southern region of Kakadu National Park, Gunlom is a popular swimming spot of unrivalled beauty. A huge emerald plunge pool sits at the base of a seasonal waterfall, while the calm pool at the top of the cliff features crystal clear waters and a panoramic view over the Kakadu woodland that stretches for miles. As the sun sets, colours come alive, lighting up the escarpment in a magical display.
How To Get There: Gunlom can be accessed from the Bowali Visitor Centre in Kakadu, a three hours’ drive from Darwin and 3km west of Jabiru. Gunlom is now 2WD accessible, as the road has been recently upgraded. It is an unsealed road, however, so ensure you check access and conditions from the Kakadu website or information centres. (It’s also worth noting that hire car companies won’t allow you to drive 2WD cars on unsealed roads.) After wet season rains, the road can become 4WD-only if wash outs occur. The road to Gunlom also crosses over the South Alligator River, which usually closes for the wet season in late November/early December and re-opens in May.
Difficulty of Access: 5/10 It’s only a short distance from the visitor centre but it is a steep climb up the escarpment, so a basic level of fitness is helpful to reach the top pool. The plunge pool, however, is wheelchair accessible.
Opening Times/Seasons: The waterfalls dry up in the middle of the year, but the pools usually remain open for swimming between May and October. The pool on top of the cliffs remains open for most of the dry season, but the bottom pools can occasionally close due to crocodile sightings. The road to Gunlom will usually close in the wet season.
Entrance Fee: A 14-day pass to Kakadu National Park costs $25 per person and can be bought here. Northern Territory Residents gain free entry when they show their NT driving licence. Children under 16 can also enter for free.
Facilities Nearby: The camping ground has some basic facilities, including flushing toilets, an ECD (emergency call device) and even solar-powered hot showers to warm you naturally.
Other Activities: Gunlom offers ranger talks, picnics areas and bushwalks. The 1km round-trip Gunlom look-out walk is very steep and challenging, but unparallelled views across Kakadu make it more than worth the effort.
Other Places of Interest Nearby: You’re on the doorstep of billabongs, beautiful lookouts and peaceful walks. Yurmikmik is a network of tracks which will lead you to the waterfalls and plunge pools of the Marrawal Plateau. Bukbukluk can be reached by a short 2WD-accessible drive and offers views across the escarpment – it’s a great place for a picnic.
Wildlife: Depending on the time of year, you’ll see reptiles as small as the poywek (northern knob-tailed gecko) and as large as freshwater crocodiles. Rangers check for saltwater crocodiles before opening the area at the beginning of each season, but be aware that they can move into the area undetected, so proceed with caution.
Places to Eat: To fully embrace the Kakadu experience, there’s nothing quite like a camp tucker meal, and luckily, the camping ground has barbecue facilities. For a (relatively) more formal dining experience, take an excursion to the town Pine Creek, a two-and-a-half hours’ drive away. Here you’ll find homemade pizzas and hearty Territory steaks at the Lazy Lizard Tavern, or head a bit further up the Sturt Highway for some reef ’n’ beef in a tranquil setting at the Emerald Springs Roadhouse.
Where to Camp: There are numerous camping grounds within Kakadu. Large groups can comfortably camp at Merl, Muirella Park, Margudal and of course Gunlom. A small camping fee of $10 a night is for all sites and camping areas are split between ‘generator’ and ‘non-generator’ areas.
Other Places to Stay: For a non-camping option, both the Wirnwirnmila Mary River Roadhouse (open during the dry season, tel: (08) 8975 4564) and Cooinda Lodge (open year-round) have motel-style rooms. You’ll find a wider range of accommodation options at Pine Creek.
Nearby Towns: Pine Creek.
Other Swimming Spots Nearby: Yurmikmik, Maguk (Barramundi Gorge)
Comments: With uninterrupted panoramas across Kakadu, it’s easy to understand why this is one of the most photographed locations in the Top End.