Garawarra State Conservation Area, Stanwell Tops, between Helensburgh and Stanwell Park, Illawara, NSW, Australia
At the bottom of this stunning waterfall lies a compact but deep pool bathed in spray. There are several flat rocks in front suitable for changing and enjoying the view up to the top of the falls. The whole scene is framed by beautiful bushland and verdant ferns which are watered by the spray. On the left of the waterfall it is possible to climb up using the rope someone has installed to access a higher platform from which you can jump into the pool (after checking for depth and debris). There is also a secondary platform halfway up the falls, accessible from the right, although this is very slippery. The simple picnic area and car park car park at the top of the falls gives no clues that there is such an awesome swimming hole not far away. Although the pool is visible from the lookout at the top, the footpath down is not marked, so this is an unofficial swimming spot, although it can get quite busy on summer weekends.
How To Get There: Turn off the Princess Highway and exit the roundabout onto Lawrence Hargrave Drive towards Helensburgh. After 1.5km you will pass the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple and then see a left turn signposted Garawarra State Conservation Area which takes you to the Kelly’s Falls car park. From here take the Princess Marina Track down some wooden steps. You will soon see a track split off downhill from the main track. Follow this downhill where you will find a steep section with makeshift ladders and rope. Check them carefully and descend if you feel they will bear your weight. ALTHOUGH IT IS CLOSE TO THE CAR PARK, ACCESS TO THIS SWIMMING HOLE REQUIRES SOME AGILITY. The track continues directly to the swimming hole below the falls.
Difficulty of access: 7/10 It’s only about a 15 minute walk down to the falls but it is extremely steep and requires some climbing as well as a little skirting around ledges. There are sections with a makeshift rope and rope ladder and after rain it can be very slippery.
Opening Times/Seasons: The park is open from 7am to 8.30pm daily.
Entrance Fee: Free
Facilities Nearby: There are picnic tables in the car park but no other facilities at the spot itself. Nearby Helensburgh has more facilities including a petrol station, toilets and cafes
Other Activities: Bushwalks to Stanwell Tops and Illawara Escarpment from the picnic area. There are also mountain biking and horse riding trails in the area.
Other Places of Interest Nearby: The Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple just up the road from the entrance to Kelly’s Falls is an incredible piece of architecture and one of the most revered Hindu temples in the southern hemisphere, in part because of its proximity to the water at Kelly’s Falls. The Symbio Wildlife Park is also closeby.
Wildlife: Several species of damselfly an dragonfly feed in the pool whilst Red-browed Firetail Finches, Satin Bowerbirds, Honeyeaters and Wattlebirds may be seen on the trails in in the picnic area.
Places to Eat: There are several options in Helensburgh including Red Nectar for fine dining and Big Sister Horsie for a more casual brekkie or lunch. There is also a canteen serving authentic Indian food at the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple.
Where to Camp: Closeby there is drive-in beachside camping with good amenities at Coledale Camping Reserve. For those looking for a quiter bushland experience there is a tiny walk-in campground at Lake Eckersley with its own swimming hole or a walk-in beachside campsite at Bonnie Vale in the Royal National Park.
Other Places to Stay: Stay and dine in luxury with sea views at the Tumbling Waters Retreat further down Lawrence Hargrave Drive, or carry on to the end of the road and find the Stanwell Park Beach Cottage which is one of many private rentals and B&Bs in the area.
Nearby Towns: Helensburg, Stanwell Park, Stanwell Tops, Coledale Beach, Royal National Park.