Mataranka Hot Springs
Elsey National Park
Directions - Mataranka is located about an hours drive south east of Katherine and the Hot Springs are a short drive from the centre of town. Take Homestead Road from Stuart Highway and follow this to the end, parking in the open area between the Mataranka Homestead and the Elsey Homestead Replica. The walk starts from the information board at the entrance to the Mataranka Homestead.
The Walk - With a day set aside to visit Mataranka and some walks in Elsey National Park, the main event that everyone was looking forward to was a dip in the famous Mataranka Hot Springs. With it being July School Holidays and peak tourist season, the town was busy when we arrived so we met up with Grannam and Guy and decided on a place to have lunch. Eventually making our way to the hot springs, we parked up at the Mataranka Homestead to see what was what.
With the area closest to the entry point of the hot springs being a campsite, day visitors must park between the the Elsey Homestead Replica (the We of the Never Never building) and the Mataranka Homestead. There is a large wooden information board to direct you where to go and this involves walking through the bar/restaurant area and across the road towards the national park sign. While everyone was getting into their bathers in the change rooms, I had fun photographing a bee/hornets nest on the underside of a palm frond, along with spotting a Black Kite on a nearby branch. With everyone ready to go we headed off towards the thermal spring, passing the large national park sign and information board. The 200m walk from here to the swimming area is a nice stroll through dense Cabbage Palms, giving it a tropical feel. Passing the short side trail for Rainbow Springs where the water bubbling up from underground is visible, I decided to check that out on the way back. Arriving at the swimming area, it was a bun fight to say the least with many tourists both in the pools and sitting along the stone walls.
We picked an empty spot to leave our things and headed down towards the water. This is more like a swimming pool than a natural spring as the area looks to have been concreted. This provides an area for people to swim without muddying up the distinct aqua colouring of the water. Entering the water via one of the stairs, the water was beautifully warm as we paddled around to try and find a spot to relax in. The pool is deeper than I thought it would be and in most places I couldn't stand (I'm 6ft 1) so that's why most people have pool noodles to help them float. Having an exploration of the pool, we eventually settled on a spot near the base of the stone steps and enjoyed this idyllic spot, as much as you can with a heap of tourists and children around. We were in the water for maybe 30-45 minutes but eventually we all got out and dried off. While everyone else changed, I decided to check out Rainbow Springs and the area around there. Managing to get in and photograph the bubbling spring while a vapid Instagram couple debated all the different poses and shots they could try, I walked a little further on towards Stevies Hole but it was mostly debris littering the ground from the abundant Cabbage Palms so I turned back and joined the others.
Final Thoughts – Famous for its hot springs, Mataranka makes for a great day trip if you're staying in Katherine. From what we saw, it was popular with the grey nomad brigade and families on holiday, so that meant the place for us was probably as busy as it will ever get.
Having a spot to cool off is fantastic, even if the water is a pleasantly warm temperature year round.
My suggestion is to pick a quieter time of year if you can and enjoy what is a relaxing place under the Cabbage Palms.
Get out there and experience it!
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