Our first port of call after the mighty Kakdau NP was back to
Katherine for some much-needed washing, and I don’t just mean laundry! We also had a quick look around town and checked out some places we had missed on the way through to Darwin, such as the Thermal Pools. Basically we had a nice two-day chill out session.
I was looking forward to the last couple of places in the NT we
planned on visiting before turning in the direction of Queensland.
The first place we visited was Mataranka, well-known for its
thermal pools and being the setting for the Jeannie Gunn autobiographical novel
‘We of the Never Never’, telling of her arrival in the town and the hardships
of living in the outback at this time.
Throughout the town there are statues of various characters from
the book and near the thermal pool is a replica of the homestead Jeannie Gunn
and her husband lived in upon arriving in Mataranka. This replica was used during the production of the ‘We of the Never Never’ movie and contains some of the memorabilia used in the movie.
There are two thermal swimming areas in Mataranka and our
favourite was Bitter Springs. Here, the water was a lovely 32 degrees and there
is a spot that you get into the water and then float along with the current for
about 100 metres to a ladder where you jump out and walk back to the start
again. The caravan park we stayed at had noodles for hire (as in the swimming
aid, not the vermicelli variety) and these definitely made it easier to relax and
go with the flow, so to speak. It had been recommended to us to take along some
swimming goggles and I am really glad we did as the kids had a ball watching
the fish swimming around and the boys spotted some fallen tree trunks that they
just HAD to swim under.
The other swimming area is the thermal pool the other end of town.
I think this is generally the more visited of the two. The first thing that we
noticed here was the smell! This was largely caused by the huge population of
Little Red Flying Foxes in the Livistonia Palms that surround the pool. There
were thousands!! The walkway to the pool is undercover in an effort to keep the
pooh off of visitors, but it’s everywhere. The pool is much smaller than we
expected and we did enjoy our short swim but our tip would be to head to Bitter
Springs (if you were only doing one of the two). The pool is set in concrete
unlike the natural setting of the springs.
Another activity we enjoyed was the barramundi feeding at one of
the caravan parks in Mataranka. This park is not situated right next to a
thermal pool/spring like a couple of others but it really did look like a
decent park and if you weren’t fussy about being within walking distance of a
swim this one did look like a good option. For a gold coin donation you can
listen to a very interesting talk about barramundi and even get the chance to
hand feed one. There are two feeding sessions a day and the man running the
talk said that in the afternoon the barras are a little bit more cooperative
and he can often catch one with his hands!
The next place we headed to was one I was really looking forward
to – The Daly Waters Hotel. This is The Northern Territory’s oldest pub and the
original township was the location for Australia’s first international airport.
We had heard of the pub’s beef and barra meals and the large amount of
memorabilia spread around both the inside and outside, largely left by visitors
from around the globe. It was such a cool place! Every surface of the pub was
covered with all sorts of bric a brac, from bras and t-shirts to drivers
licences and thongs
An overnight stay here was a very reasonable $24. There was water
available for use but due to lack of pressure we were unable to hook up to it.
Sites were powered and there was a freezing cold pool which the kids happily
We met The Williams family from Emerald in Queensland here and had a great time. We all had a meal together – the beef & barra was nice (small steak, though) and the kids had a great time playing with some of the toys the pub had set up. There is the promise of nightly entertainment although the usual artist had actually stopped performing the week or so previously. Luckily for the owners, one of the guys passing through with his young family was a singer on his way to Darwin for some gigs. He stayed on for a couple of days and did a great show, he even managed to sell some copies of his CD’s to the punters.
A few hours further down the road we pulled into Banka Banka station for what was possibly our last night in the NT. The kids were happy to
receive an icey pole on arrival and happier still when the station manager came
over and told them to turn on a sprinkler to cool off under. They didn’t need telling twice!! There was a bit of information around about the stations history as well as some old machinery, tools etc on display and in peak season there is a nightly campfire sing along. There was a $30 fee for us to stay here overnight.
From Banka Banka we should have been heading south along Stuart
Highway for about 100 km before turning left at Three Ways and making a run for the Queensland border. But seeing as we travel in a flexible (some would say
indecisive manner) we ended up continuing south towards Alice Springs and the
amazing Uluru – a destination that left me speechless (thus Paul suggesting we
come back annually!).