Swimming and Waterholes

The Red Centre is full of swimming holes which fill up after the rain. These inland "beaches" can afford wonderful day trips spent basking in the sun and cooling off in the ice-cold water. There are some safety precautions which must be taken into consideration when visiting such destinations and some waterholes are sacred, which means swimming is not allowed.


Tjoritja / West MacDonnell Ranges

Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ellery Creek Big Hole is located in the West MacDonnell Ranges. It is accessible via two-wheel drive and camping is permitted. The waterhole is full all-year round which gives it spiritual significance to the local Aranda people. 

Birthday Waterhole

Birthday Waterhole is a semi-permanent pool located in the West MacDonnell National Park. Camping is permitted, yet sites are only accessible via four-wheel drive. There are no facilities at the waterhole, so ensure you bring your own water and supplies with you.

Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ellery Creek Big Hole

Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge is similarly located in the West MacDonnell Ranges, 135km West of Alice Springs. Several short walks exist in the gorge, as well as some half day and overnight walks. The gorge is accessible via sealed roads, so two-wheel drive vehicles are appropriate to use in order to access the area. The gorge itself is near permanent, with the best swimming time being after rain when it is freshly topped up.

Redbank Gorge

Redbank Gorge is located 156km West of Alice Springs on a 4WD track. The gorge itself is located a 2km walk from the carpark located off Namatjira Drive. Swimming is possible in the waterhole, but the water is very cold, so sessions should be limited to a short duration. Basic camping facilities are available at two different nearby locations: the Woodland and the Ridgetop campgrounds. Basic facilities are available at these locations and a fee applies. Redbank Gorge is also the base camp for the Mount Sonder hike, with the waterhole being the perfect spot to relax your muscles after a difficult hike.

Glen Helen Gorge

Located in the western end of the West MacDonnell Ranges, Glen Helen Gorge gives way to the Finke River. This means the gorge is a permanent waterhole, and it is also the biggest body of water in the region. It is home to nine species of fish and several species of waterbird. There is a carpark and campsites at Glen Helen Gorge. 

Redbank Gorge portrait

Redbank Gorge

Glen Helen floaty 129044 Mitchell Cox

Glen Helen Gorge

Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge

East MacDonnell Ranges

John Hayes Rockhole

Visitors to Trephina Gorge Nature Park who have experience hiking rough trails can complete the Trephina Ridgetop Trail to access John Hayes Rockhole. The Rockhole is also accessible by a 4 wheel drive track. John Hayes Rockhole is a part of the connecting Chain of Ponds, which is also a separate walk available from the end of the 4WD track. The water in the rockhole is extremely cold, even in summer. The water is also not permanent: after long periods without rainfall, the waterholes may have dried up or become stagnant.

Chain of Ponds WAE Renae Saxby

Chain of Ponds / John Hayes Rockhole

Tennant Creek / Barkly region

Tingkkarli / Lake Mary Ann

Lake Mary Ann is a manmade body of water which was designed to supply water to the nearby town of Tennant Creek. The area is scenic and offers a pleasant picnic grounds for visitors and locals alike. Swimming and canoeing are possible and there are short walks between the lake and the town.

Old Police Station Waterhole

The Old Police Station Waterhole is located in the Davenport Ranges National Park on the Frew River and is accessible all-year round, except following periods of heavy rain. It is home to seven species of fish and several unique species of waterbird. 

Davenport Ranges Old Police Station Waterhole

Frew River in Davenport Ranges National Park

Davenport Ranges Old Police Station Waterhole river

Old Police Station Waterhole

Sacred Waterholes 

Along with the waterholes scattered across the Central Australia region, there are a few sacred pools which can not be swum in under any circumstances; due to their spiritual significance to the local indigenous community. 


Mutitjulu Waterhole

Mutitjulu Waterhole is one of the few permanent water sources around Uluru. The waterhole is a sacred place where you can sit quietly and listen to the sounds of birds chirping. Wallabies may be seen around the waterhole, depending on the time of day, and there are plenty of bush foods in the area. The waterhole is protected by a fence.


Watarrka National Park

Kathleen Springs

An easy walk from the prolific Kings Canyon is the Kathleen Springs Walk. It is a 2.6 km (1.5 hour) return walk to a delightful spring-fed waterhole. Signs along the track tell the story of the local indigenous people and the cattle stations which sprung up following colonisation.

Garden of Eden

Similarly located in Kings Canyon, the Garden of Eden is a lush oasis teeming with birdlife and other native animals. The permanent waterhole can be accessed via a 6km hike from the start of Kings Canyon, along the Rim Walk. The pool is a sacred men’s place in local Indigenous culture and must not be swum in.

Alice Springs Desert Park

Mutitjulu Waterhole, Uluru

Kathleen Springs

Kathleen Springs, Kings Canyon

Outback Ballooning sunrise landing

Garden of Eden, Kings Canyon

Tjoritja / West MacDonnell Ranges

Serpentine Gorge

Serpentine Gorge is part of the West MacDonnell Ranges and is located 100km West of Alice Springs. The Gorge is a permanent water source and can be accessed with a two-wheel drive vehicle, but may be made difficult after rainy weather. The road is certainly not traversable via bus or caravan. The path into Serpentine Gorge is a short, easy 1.3km walk.

Simpsons Gap

Simpsons Gap is located just 18km from Alice Springs and is one of the most accessible springs in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Black-footed rock wallabies call the area home and the area is home to 40 species of unique plants. The area can be accessed by two-wheel drive or bicycle.


East MacDonnell Ranges

Emily and Jessie Gaps

Emily and Jessie Gaps are the first noteworthy features observable by travellers heading East out of Alice Springs; towards the East MacDonnell Ranges. There are two semi permanent water holes at the Gaps.

Simpsons Gap

Simpsons Gap


Alice Springs Aquatic Centre

If you’re staying in Alice Springs and the heat gets the better of you, there’s no better way to cool off than at the pools at Alice Springs Aquatic Centre. There are five pools designed to cater to visitors of all ages, two water slides and barbecues for hire. The aquatic centre is located a ten-minute walk from the CBD and entry costs $7 for adults and $4.50 for children after 8:30am.

Tennant Creek Swimming Pool

Tennant Creek Swimming Pool is open from 10am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Entry costs $6 for adults and $3 for children.


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