For many grey nomads, seeking out a place to relax in the soothing waters of a natural hot spring after a hard day’s travelling is one of the great joys of the Big Lap.
Happily, Australia is blessed with an abundance of places to enjoy the special properties of warm water produced from the internal heat of the earth. From Zebedee Thermal Springs in WA, to Queensland’s Innot Hot Springs, and from Victoria’s Peninsula Hot Springs to Dalhousie Springs in South Australia, springs-seeking travellers are spoilt for choice. But however many of these natural wonders a weary traveller luxuriates in, a visit to the iconic Douglas Hot Springs in the Northern Territory is one that will never be forgotten.
The Tjuwaliyn/Douglas Hot Springs Park is found about 130 kilometres north of Katherine and, while the last seven kilometres into the park is via unsealed road, it is normally fine to tow a caravan or trailer into. Obviously, heavy rains during the wet season (October-April) may cause road closures but most people visit in the dry season. The fallen timber that can be seen in the river bed is proof of just how powerful wet season floods can be.
Located on the Douglas River, the thermal pools here are the major drawcard … but be warned they are called hot springs because they can be genuinely hot. Before visitors plunge into the waters they are warned to test the waters by tentatively dipping a toe in first. There is a warm stream and a cold stream and, with a little testing, visitors can find the perfect spot where the temperature is just right for them. Just as grey nomads are drawn to the water so too are a variety of wildlife and birdlife. Bandicoots, quolls and flying foxes are all dawn to this amazing oasis and add to the visitor experience.
The area is jointly managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service, and traditional Aboriginal owners, the Wagiman people. The park is an important place for women’s business ceremonies and they ask that visitors respect sacred places during their stay. Wagiman women also retain the right to close the park should they wish to carry out ceremonies on their land. The water quality in the park’s swimming areas is also closely monitored and may be closed at short notice for health reasons.
The camping area, which sits above the river, is huge and there area toilets and showers, as well as barbecues, picnic tables and water. There is no power but generators are allowed in the generator use area. While there are basic amenities, Douglas Hot Springs has the advantage to many of not being as ‘developed’ as some other hot springs.
It’s a special place to rest, relax and rejuvenate for the rigours of the road ahead.