Nitmiluk National Park, NT, Australia
It’s not difficult to see how Sweetwater Pool earned its name. Its still waters will still your mind as they mimic the sky in a spectacular display. The warm rich hues of the surrounding rocks are best experienced in the early morning and late afternoon light, as the red sun catches the edge of the horizon and spreads out across the area. If you’re lucky (and very quiet), you may even find some freshwater turtle swimming companions. The natural pool forms along the Edith River surrounded by warm flat rocks that invite you to dangle your legs. The final stop on the Jatbula Trail, it takes the cake for the most inviting – a quiet oasis at the end of your long journey.
How To Get There: The easiest way to access Sweetwater Pool is to drive 60km north of Katherine to Edith Falls, then take the 4km walking track east of the Leliyn camping ground. Sweetwater Pool is also the final stop on the Jatbula Trail, a five- or six-day trek following the western edge of the Arnhem Land Escarpment. The trail begins at the Natmiluk National Park Visitor’s Centre near Katherine Gorge, around 30km from Katherine itself.
Difficulty of Access: 5/10 – The 4km walk from Leliyn camping ground to Sweetwater is considered moderate to difficult, and some bushwalking experience is recommended. If accessing Sweetwater via the Jatbula Trail, you’ll reach this spot on the fifth day of the trek. As the Jatbula Trail is in a remote location, you’ll need to carry a pack with all supplies, including food and shelter.
Opening Times/Seasons: Sweetwater Pool may be closed during the wet season (October to May) due to dangerous conditions.
Entrance Fee: Entrance to the Nitmiluk National Park is free. However, if you decide to walk the Jatbula Trail camp fees, are $3.30 per person, per night.
Facilities Nearby: The campsite near the pool has toilets and drinking water.
Other Activities: Adventurers who’ve taken the Jatbula Trail will experience the rich, changing character of the national park during their hike. For day-trippers, there are a few interesting bushwalks and wildlife-spotting trails originating from nearby Edith Falls, offering three distinct habitats: the sandstone escarpment, a riverine corridor and an open eucalypt woodland.
Other Places of Interest Nearby: The Nitmiluk National Park is a paradise of interweaving gorges that can be walked, canoed, or even flown over by helicopter. The wider Katherine region boasts a smorgasbord of outdoor activities and adventures from caving to river cruises. The nearby town of Mataranka has breathtaking thermal pools. The Daly River is a popular spot for barramundi fishermen.
Wildlife: The Nitmiluk National Park offers a variety of native animals, birds and plants. You may also spot a buffalo or two. If you’re very quiet, you may even catch a glimpse of a shy native turtle sharing your swim at Sweetwater. While Sweetwater is generally a safe swimming spot, there are crocodiles in the area, so make sure you take heed of warning signs.
Places to Eat: Katherine is the closest regional centre and offers options from Chinese restaurants to poolside dining or an easy meal at the country club. Something unique to Katherine is Marksie’s Stockman Camp Tucker Night, serving up ‘gourmet’ Aussie tucker under the stars, while Marksie entertains you with outrageous stories and tall tales. The Finch Café and Cicada Lodge are also highly recommended.
Where to Camp: There is a campsite at Sweetwater Pool with some basic facilities. Alternatively, walk 4km to the larger Leliyn campsite at Edith Falls which has gas barbecues, hot and cold showers and a kiosk.
Other Places to Stay: Outside of camping, Katherine (about 50 minutes’ drive from Edith Falls) has the most options. Here you’ll have a range of motor inns, motels and beautiful resorts to choose from.
Nearby Towns: Katherine, Pine Creek, Venn, Barunga, Beswick, Elsey, Mataranka.
Other Swimming Spots Nearby: Northern Rockhole, Crystal Falls, 17 Mile Falls, Edith River Crossing, Sandy Camp Pool and Biddlecombe Cascade.
Comments: Bathe in the sky as stunning sunrises and sunsets are reflected on these still waters.