19-20 July: Bitter Springs brings the sweetest relief

Author: Mrs A

Location: from Daly River to Mataranka, Northern Territory

Thursday: Along with the masses we departed Daly River by 8.30am and continued our journey north. This time we were heading to Bitter Springs in Elsey National Park, just 2km away from the small township of Mataranka.

Before long we were pulling into the van park and booking a site for two nights, looking forward to the rest that comes with not moving on every morning. As we left the office to find ourselves a spot we looked behind us and saw a queue of eight caravans. Having just been told they have six sites left (no booking allowed for less than 3 nights) we could see there were going to be some disappointed parties.

It was so good to get properly set up on a decent patch of dirt. Yes, it is still dry and dusty, but there has been some effort at landscaping and sprinklers are on all day long to dampen down the particles (definitely no grass to water).

This area is known for its hot springs, but as we soon learn, there are none, just a beautifully warm and crystal clear river which wells up from deep underground, emerging a very civilised 33 degrees centigrade. We hired a couple of floating noodles and headed up to see what the fuss was about.

Arriving at Bitter Springs we found a beautiful crystal clear river, surrounded by water lilies, pandanus palms and melaleuca trees. Flitting around, despite the 30 or so people floating in the water, were kingfishers, paperbark fly catchers and white faced herons.After all the heat and dust of the past few days, this was just what the doctor ordered. We swam up the warm river about 20 metres and were soon away from the crowds and had a lagoon all to ourselves. Just bliss. This has to be a stop over if you’re heading this way.

Friday morning we decided to check out Mataranka’s hot springs, which are the more famous location. It was nowhere near as nice as Bitter Springs, much less natural with everyone confined to the same small area.We did a short walk along the river before returning to Bitter Springs for a dip in the serenity.Top tips for visiting Bitter Springs (Stay at Bitter Springs Caravan and Camping):

  • If you can stay three or more nights, book ahead
  • If you don’t need power, then book a riverside site – many birds, and more like bush camping with optional toilets and showers within a short distance
  • Don’t bother with Mataranka hot springs, save yourself the drive and just enjoy Bitter Springs
  • Bring along a noodle – the water is moving fairly quickly in parts, and it’s much easier to just float
  • Or if you don’t have a noodle then hire one from the campground – $5 deposit of which $4 is refundable on return – for as many days as you need it
  • Don’t just stay swimming in front of the steps into the water – swim up to the left to escape the crowds and find a little privacy

We concluded our stay with a catch up for Friday night drinks with some fellow Zoners, Scott and Jo, who had arrived for a few nights. As always we learned lots from these more seasoned caravanners and enjoyed a tour around their ‘Time Zone’.

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