Walks and Icons #4 – BITTER, BERRY, BEST SPRINGS

There are several famous thermal springs in the region, in fact in the Northern Territory. Approximately 15km off the main highway, Mataranka has a reputation and well-designed pool for up to about 30 people, or 50 at a squeeze. The house from an author has also been recreated on the grounds and a campsite is available, as well as a restaurant and some entertainment.

But just off the highway, with room for perhaps 100, is Bitter Springs, where you all get in the water by platform or riverbank, and most float down the stream in their swim noodles. Out you get at the other end and walk back up the path to do it all again. There are rocks close to the surface, or tree roots and trunks that enable you to get a hold if you need to rest on your journey. Both the spring mentioned are in Elsie National Park.

In half an hour you would be in Katherine and the hot springs run through the town. So accessible. Try to get there at the quiet times – early in the morning, to feel the bubbles frothing up from underneath somewhere, and the current taking you downstream, the salts soaking into your skin and a faint cloud of steam settling over the water.

Now let me take you some many 130km up the Stuart Highway, into Litchfield National Park, and Berry Springs. Now that is the monster spring! The sign at the start of the carpark says if the carpark is full then the springs are full. We went on a day when there were maybe another 10 parks and 5 bus spaces. There were plenty of people but plenty of room to swim and I think 3 levels of pools from which to choose, or start at the top and float or swim your way down. The water was cool and refreshing, and on a hot day with a gentle breeze, when you got out of the water it was very pleasant. Not that floating in it wasn’t great. Turquoise pool, draped at the edges with palms and trees, birds chirping and chattering or hooting at you until, on every brave or thirsty hombre dives into the pool, grabs a drink and dashes out again. I truly think I found paradise.

Take a hat, sunscreen and water. A noodle is definitely the fashion. Keep an eye on your gear and an eye out for hanging spiders.

Walks and icons #2 – low level nature reserve and hot springs, Katherine NT

You could be based at one of the accommodation options in town, or just passing through and see the’hot springs’ turnoff from Victoria Highway, which will take you about 100m to a carpark and reserve. There’s currently a popular coffee popup,too. From here, there’s a moderately steep, but short, zip zagging stairway to the springs.

They are unbelievable and warm and soothing. Very popular, we found that early in the morning around 7, maybe one other person was there and you could delight in the faint steam, the effervescence of the bubbles from the mini waterfall. Unmissable. People take noodles upon which to float, but we had no trouble floating or standing up.

Platforms and steps help you in and out.

Grab your towel and take the path back along the Springs up to the back of a caravan park, where another sign says ‘lower level nature reserve 1km’.

This is a very easy bitumen path that leads to the other crossing of Nitmiluk/Katherine River. It’s the original one and now has a lovely area for recreation. There were birds, lizard tracks, snake tracks, fish and who knows what else. Up the steep hill is another caravan park and public toilets.

You could possibly swim here, I didn’t see any warning signs, but as it’s crocodile territory, I’d be mighty cautious.

Head back to the Springs for another dip and you’ll feel like a new person.

Take your hat, water and sunscreen and keep an eye on your towel and gear.