Mataranka & Bitter Springs

Bitter Springs and Mataranka Hot Springs in Elsey National Park are truly an oasis. With water temperatures of around 28C year round, make sure you pack your bathers. 

An hours drive south of Katherine takes you to the amazing thermal pools of Bitter Springs and Mataranka Hot Springs in Elsey National Park. The Stuart Highway between Darwin and Katherine has overtaking lanes spaced throughout the drive. Once you head south of Katherine, there are no over-taking lanes, but the road is still good and an easy drive.


The pools truly are an oasis in the middle of nowhere. With water temperatures of around 28C year round, make sure you pack your bathers and pool noodles. My recommendation would be to visit Mataranka Pools before Bitter Springs. The two are similar but quite different. 

Mataranka Thermal Pools

If diving from Katherine, you'll see the turn to Bitter Springs in the township of Mataranka.

The turnoff to the Mataranka Thermal Pools is located 1.5 kilometres drive further south after passing through the township.


There's a walk of about 10 minutes from the car park area to the Pools.

You'll pass through the Mataranka Homestead where there are toilets if you need them. There are no toilets at the pools themselves. 


As you enter the pool area, you'll see a sign warning of Freshwater Crocodiles. To be honest, you'd be very unlucky to come across a Freshwater (Johnson) Crocodile. These guys are more likely to run from you. They are nothing like the Saltwater Crocodiles found in other areas of the Top End.

Please do not let this put you off visiting the pools.


The pools have a built up stone wall around the top. There are a couple of spots where you can enter the water using steps and a handrail. 

To get a real feel of the walk from the carpark to the Mataranka springs, and the springs themselves, have a look at this short video.

Mataranka - Elsey Park - Image Gallery

Click on any image to see the full size photo. 

Bitter Springs

Mataranka is part of a flowing river, but it's more like a pool. Within Bitter Springs, you're more aware that you're in a flowing river. The water in Bitter Springs is clear - so clear that it's actually deceptive when it comes to the depth. It's deep and the only way I could stand with my head above water was to stand on parts of a submerged tree. 

Bitter Springs

The bottom of the river is around 6 feet below my feet. The only way I could stand with my head above water was to stand on the tree roots you see in the image below my feet. 

My recommendation is to make sure you bring a pool noodle to really enjoy Bitter Springs. You can enter the water, and let the flow take you further down stream. 

Bitter Springs - Elsey Park - Image Gallery

Key Points

  • BYO Pool Noodle, & Snorkel Gear
  • If you plan on having a picnic, bring your own chairs if have them (just in case).
  • Bring Insect Repellent if you plan on visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Bring your own water, drinks and food. 
  • Respect the area, and clean up after yourself - use the bins provided.

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About the site

I'm Sharon McKenzie and I’ve always loved spending time in and around water - which is not always easy when you live in Darwin. Living in the Northern Territory certainly poses some interesting challenges.

I enjoy swimming, snorkeling and Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and the weather in the Top End lets me do this year round.  

Darwin and the Top End of Australia is such a unique place. Many Aussies who usually travel overseas are exploring Australia at the moment.

I hope that if you're planning on visiting the Top End, that you'll find some useful information on this site so that your adventures are fun, safe and enjoyable.

Sharon McKenzie

Sharon McKenzie