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The best swimming holes of the Kimberley

After seasonal rains, from April to early June, rumbling rivers and tumbling falls generate rainbows that hang in the mist. Swimming holes are rimmed by bushland sprouting new growth which lures wildlife. Blooming wildflowers bathe sandstone escarpments in colour. It’s an exciting time to cruise the Kimberley!

Aboriginal clans recognize this time of seasonal change as harvest time when bush mangoes and white currants are ripening and the fruit from river figs fall into flowing rivers providing a food source for turtles and fish.  Here’s our pick of some of the best (and safest) Kimberley swimming holes where you will enjoy a respite from the tropical heat.

Depart from either Broome or Darwin with Coral Expeditions onboard Coral Adventurer or Coral Discoverer to cruise Australia’s remarkable northwest coast and discover these natural Kimberley swimming spots.

Crocodile Creek

One of our favourite Kimberley swimming holes is Crocodile Creek. The Pandanus-fringed freshwater billabong is accessed by clambering up a ladder next to a small waterfall from the tidal pool at the end of an inlet. Despite its formidable name, it’s a safe place to cool down as the swimming hole is not accessible to saltwater crocodiles due to the rugged nature of the terrain and its near-vertical rock face.

From the Expedition Log: “Guests were amazed at the clarity of the water. Some of the more athletic guests climbed the waterfall face and went for a swim in the top pool. Others enjoyed just sitting on the rocks dabbling their feet in the cool water.”

Red Cone Creek and Ruby Falls

Red Cone Creek flows gently downstream until it meets the small but impressive Ruby Falls on the Sale River. Named by local mariner Capt. Chris Trucker after his daughter, Red Cone Creek is carved through rock formations stacked atop each other like building blocks.

These rock walls are great for climbing and clambering over before reaching a series of freshwater swimming holes and waterfalls. Depending on the time of the year and the extent of seasonal wet season rains, the waterfalls may be a gurgling torrent or a gentle trickle, depending on the time of the year.

From the Expedition Log: “We travelled to the end of the creek and used ropes to climb up to Ruby Falls and swam in a beautiful freshwater pool. There were plenty of birds around the waterholes and guests were enthralled watching Variegated Fairy-wrens and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes. These species had not been seen by our guests before, so this was very special!”

Camp Creek

A small pool fed by a waterfall surrounded by paperbark trees, Camp Creek is a good spot for spotting birdlife and photographing flowering water lilies.

From the Expedition Log: “We had morning tea which went down well and then cruised against the tide back down the river to Camp Creek. We had an hour to wallow in the rock pool where there is still water gently flowing. Many guests wandered among the paperbarks taking photographs. Aidan (crew) took other guests for a cruise looking for crocodiles and saw a small one”

Mitchell Falls

Tumbling down the Mitchell Plateau in a series of tiered waterfalls and swimming holes, the Mitchell Falls are the photogenic poster child for the Mitchell River National Park. Accessible only by a scenic helicopter flight (additional cost), the Mitchell Falls, known as Punamii-unpuu to the local Wunambal Gaambera people, are fed by the Mitchell River.

The parks tropical savannah and wild escarpments are home to significant numbers of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and bird species which are lured by a year-round water source. Sandstone terraces beside tiered rock pools make Mitchell Falls a terrific place to cool down while admiring the ancient Kimberley landscape.

From the Expedition Log: “There was lots of birdlife getting a drink or trying to find a food source and monitor lizards were moving in and out of the shallow pools. A juvenile Peregrine Falcon was feeding on the other side of the falls.”

King Cascade

More a waterfall misty drenching than a swimming hole, King Cascades is a hanging garden type of falls that tumble down a terraced rock face on the Prince Regent River (we don’t recommend swimming at the base of these falls due to saltwater crocodile dangers). The river itself is somewhat irregular as it runs in a dead straight line, carved through a fault line in the rock.

From the Expedition Log: Juvenile saltwater crocodiles, little egrets, striated herons and nice afternoon tea were all enjoyed at the base of King Cascade. The run back down the river in the Xplorer tender was so pleasant that some guests even fell asleep!”

Talbot Bay

Early in the season, Talbot Bay is home to over 10 unnamed waterfalls. We make no promises about the possibility of swimming in a waterhole, but if the conditions are right, and with our guests’ safety a priority, we will do our best!

From the Expedition Log: “… we awoke in a bay surrounded by cliffs near the Horizontal Falls. We had crossed over the imaginary line separating the relatively flat-lying rocks of the northern Kimberley from the folded and faulted strata we will see for the next two days.”

Visit the Kimberley as Coral Expeditions 35th Anniversary Circumnavigation of Australia celebrates the small ship expedition company’s 35th year, takes a pioneering voyage along Australia’s west coast with Ningaloo & the Bluewater Wonders of Australia’s West and on ten-night Kimberley voyages between Darwin and Broome.

Note: These are just some of the swimming holes that we may visit during Kimberley expeditions. Swimming at freshwater swimming holes is subject to safe group size and local conditions.