The Paralana Hot Springs in South Australia areisone of only a few active radioactive hot springs in the world. Not suitable for swimming, visitors can instead view the radioactive pools and enjoy the landscapes of the Flinders Ranges.
Far from the beaten path, the remoteness of the hot springs means that not many tourists know of their existence.
Certainly one of the more unique destinations in South Australia, those who do travel to the Paralana Hot Springs will journey through time. View the ancient geology of the rocks and creek, as well as the extremophile life forms living in the pools.
Toxic and Radioactive Hot Springs (no swimming)
Originally created by fractures in the rock and formed more than 1 billion years ago, the area around the springs dates back to the Proterozoic period (2.5 billion to 541 million years ago). The Paralana Hot Springs are the only remaining pools of water from the Paralana Fault’s hydrothermal system.
Water seeps from an underground aquifer beneath the surface and comes bubbling to the surface in the pools. Heated by granite rocks, high levels of uranium keep the water at a temperature of 134.6-143.6°F (57-62°C) as it goes through radioactive decay. Although radioactive, the water is not acidic and it is considered to have a neutral pH between 7 and 8.
Often, the pools at the Paralana Hot Springs can be seen bubbling. The bubbles contain radioactive radon gas, as well as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and helium. The only life forms that have been able to survive in the pools are extremophile algae.
The green algae can be seen growing in the pools and it is suited to live in the extreme environment of the pools. Scientists consider the algae to be some of the earliest life forms and typical of what would have been living on earth during the Proterozoic period.
Historically, the pools were used as a health spa from 1926-1928. This was during a time when radioactivity was considered to be healthy. Now, scientists know that this is not the case and radioactivity is deadly.
Visitors at the Paralana Hot Springs must take various precautions when staying in the area. The radon gas that bubbles to the surface is considered to be a health hazard. Heavier than air, the gas sits close to the ground and the surface of the water.
Tourists should not visit the Paralana Hot Springs on windy days because high winds can pick up and spread the deadly radon gas. Additionally, guests shouldn’t spend too long at the site because prolonged exposure to the mixture of gasses is a hazard to human health. Swimming, touching, or drinking the water at the Paralana Hot Spring is not permitted.
Nearby Camping and Lodging
There are no overnight accommodations at the Paralana Hot Springs. Camping overnight in the area is also not permitted because of the deadly radon gas that hovers on the surface of the water and around the pools. Instead, tourists can stay in the nearby village of Arkaroola.
The closest camping area to the Paralana Hot Springs is Arkaroola Caravan Park. Located 21 miles (33.7km) away from the hot springs, the caravan park is set on 300 hectares of land. There are 50 powered sites at the campground, as well as a few unpowered sites, a bunkhouse, and cabins.
Facilities at the Arkaroola Caravan Park include showers, toilets, coin-operated laundry facilities, camp kitchens, and an in-ground swimming pool. Swimming in the nearby water holes is not permitted because of the high saline content.
Tourists may also choose to stay at the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary (affiliate link), which is 20.6 miles (33.2km) away from the Paralana Hot Springs and right next door to the Caravan Park. The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary has a small shop, restaurant, bar, fuel supplies, and a swimming pool.
Guests staying at the sanctuary can sleep in cabins and bunkhouses.
The Paralana Hot Springs is located in the remote Outback of Southern Australia. Arkaroola Village is the closest community to the springs. Still, both Arkaroola Village and the hot springs are very secluded. Visitors should be prepared to travel to areas of Australia’s Outback where there is no water, food, or cell reception.
Roads in the area and going to the hot springs are all dirt. The main road leading to the springs is the Stubbs Waterhole Track. Most of the roadways are maintained around Arkaroola Village, but they can get quite rugged when heading to the hot springs. A 4WD vehicle will be required to get to the springs and around the Flinders Ranges.
Address: Arkaroola Rd, Arkaroola SA 5732, Australia
Coordinates: 30°10’30”S, 139°26’29”E
Season: Year-round (avoid visiting on windy days)
Age Restrictions: None
Pets: Not permitted
Swimming: Not permitted, water is radioactive and deadly