Bitter Springs Walk
Elsey National Park
Directions - Mataranka is located about an hours drive south east of Katherine and Bitter Springs is a short drive from the centre of town. Follow the signs off Stuart Highway and turn onto Martin Road, continuing until you reach the Bitter Springs car park and the end of the road. The trail head for the Bitter Springs Walk is on the southern side of the car park.
The Walk - Mataranka is home to a couple of popular hot springs that bubble up from underground at a rate of 34 million litres a day. Having visited Mataranka Hot Springs in the morning, the last visit of the day would be reserved for Bitter Springs and we were hoping it would be a little quieter. After finishing the Botanic Walk located nearby, we found one of the last parking spots in the main car park and made our way to the information board for the area.
With the pleasant view of Cabbage Palms lining the trail, I was keen to see how Bitter Springs compared to Mataranka Hot Springs, hoping that it wouldn't be as much of a bun fight. Passing a few lots of tourists returning to their cars with various pool noodles, towels and bags, we made our way along the path to the main swimming area. It isn't long until you reach the first set of stairs leading into the water and it was nice to see that the creek that flows as a result of the springs has been left in a more natural state (i.e. not concreted over). It was still popular but the much bigger space didn't make it seem crowded. There is a little wooden platform on the edge of the creek so Caris and I checked out the views while I took a few photos of the Paperbark lined creek. The water was the same aqua colour as Mataranka Hot Springs and the place looked to have a more relaxing vibe. Moving on, we continued along the pavement as it headed towards another access point to the creek. Along the way Caris spotted a little lizard in the leaf litter and it turned out to be a Gilbert's Dragon, quite content to pose for photos and give us a bit of a stare back at times.
Buoyed by that little find, we soon reached a metal bridge that crosses the creek fed by the hot spring. Right next to the bridge is another set of stairs to access the water and this quieter spot had a lot more tree cover thanks to the sloping Paperbarks. Picking up a dirt path from here back to the start, it felt like a much more natural space as we meandered along, seeing the main swimming area from the opposite banks. Heading away from the creek, you walk through an area between the Cabbage Palms and surrounding woodlands that presented us with some Wattle and a little skink. There is an optional side quest along some boardwalk to reach another viewing platform, with some interpretive signage explaining a little about this little ecosystem fed by the springs. It was a really nice spot overlooking the aqua waters with overhanging Paperbarks shining green in the afternoon sun. The last section takes you through the Cabbage Palms back to the start. As it was getting late in the day and we still had to drive back to Katherine, we didn't have time for a dip but I'm sure I'll be back in my lifetime.
Final Thoughts – While still as popular and busy as Mataranka Hot Springs, Bitter Springs is a much bigger place with room to spread out and find a quieter spot if that's what you're after.
A more natural setting to have a dip in the 34C waters emanating from the spring with the Paperbarks providing a pleasing visual as you soak in the warm creek.
It may be touristy but it's well worth a visit if you're passing through or staying in Mataranka.
Get out there and experience it!
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