With crystal clear and warm water, Bitter Springs has become a top attraction in Australia’s Elsey National Park. Tucked into the palms and tropical woodlands, the pool emerges like an oasis from the treeline.
The breathtaking clarity of the water means that you can see straight to the bottom and along the length of the pool. Deeper than it looks from the surface, Bitter Springs is the perfect place to swim, walk, camp, and picnic.
The spring is located a short distance away from the minuscule town of Mataranka in Australia’s Northern Territory. However, the breathtaking beauty of Bitter Springs has increased tourism to the area from larger towns and cities like Katherine and Darwin.
A perfect spot to relax and unwind away from large urban areas, Bitter Springs is guaranteed to amaze. Visitors can enjoy all the perks of swimming in the pool, as well as exploring the greater area around the springs in Elsey National Park.
The Bitter Springs
Deep underground, a thermal spring fills Bitter Springs with 8,057,247 gallons (30.5 million liters) of heated water each day. Constantly keeping the water warm, the pool stays heated throughout the year. On most days the pool is about 93.2°F (34°C).
Using the ground as a natural filtration system, the water in Bitter Springs is exceptionally clear. The deep turquoise hue of the water is picturesque and it boldly stands out from the surrounding brown and green landscape.
Even though you can see to the bottom of the pool and it appears to be shallow, Bitter Springs is quite deep and most visitors will not be able to stand on the bottom and keep their head above water. Visitors with children are encouraged to use flotation devices for safety.
Hoping to keep Bitter Springs as natural as possible, there aren’t many facilities in the area. Most of the spring is bordered by a jagged shoreline and pandanus palm trees. There is a single entry point where a set of stairs combined with a ladder has been built to make the pool more accessible to visitors.
Looping around Bitter Springs is a 1,640-foot (500-meter) long trail. The trail takes visitors to Bitter Springs and through the surrounding forest. Walking the loop takes about 20 minutes and the path has been set as a Grade 1 (easy or suitable for most people). The wide path also ensures that Bitter Springs is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
According to the Australian Government, Bitter Springs is safe to swim in, but there are crocodiles living in Elsey National Park. Bitter Springs is one of the few thermal pools in the national park where crocodile sightings are extremely rare. Visitors should still be cautious and keep an eye out for any crocodiles in the area.
Park rangers consistently monitor Bitter Springs and if a crocodile is found in the area, the springs will be closed. During the rainy season, which begins in November and lasts until May, Bitter Springs is often closed due to flooding. Visitors can check with the park rangers by calling their number or visiting the website to find out if Bitter Springs is open or closed.
Nearby Camping and Lodging
Staying overnight at Bitter Springs is not permitted. There are no campsites or overnight facilities around the spring. The closest established campground to Bitter Springs is the Jalmurark Camping Area in Elsey National Park.
The Jalmurark Campground has no electric power and generators are not permitted. Facilities that are at the campground include toilets and showers, barbecues, and picnic tables. Visitors must use the campground’s government website to reserve a campsite prior to their arrival.
Visitors who wish to stay in nicer accommodations and closer to Bitter Springs should make reservations at the Mataranka Homestead. Privately owned, the Mataranka Homestead has cabins, motel rooms, and powered campsites. There is also a bar and restaurant.
Pets are permitted at the Mataranka Homestead; however, visitors will not be permitted to take their animals to the spring.
Bitter Springs is a mere 1.2m (2km) outside of Mataranka, Australia. Mataranka is a small town of about 350 people in Australia’s Northern Territory. Most of the town’s residents are Indigenous Australians.
To the north of Mataranka, the town of Kathrine is the next largest urban area. Katherine is just over an hour away from Mataranka. Some visitors may also travel from Darwin, which is the capital city of the Northern Territory. Darwin is about 4 and ½ hours away from Mataranka.
Travelers coming from Darwin or Katherine will simply follow National Highway 1, south to Mataranka.
To get to Bitter Springs from Mataranka:
- Take National Highway 1 northwest to Elsey Street.
- Turn right onto Martin Road.
- Continue on Martin Road until you reach Bitter Springs.
Also located within the Elsey National Park is Mataranka Hot Springs, so this lucky park offers a twofer on mineral waters.
Address: Mataranka, Northern Territory 0852, Australia
Coordinates: 14.9000°S, 133.0833°E
Phone: +61 (08) 8975 4560
Season: Dry season, often closed during wet season
Age Restrictions: No
Entry: Free for daytime, camping fees apply