The reason the Northern Territory got bumped to the top of our bucket list a few years ago was because of one place; Mataranka. I’d seen photos of the hot springs, and couldn’t wait to check them out. Of course, the Northern Territory has some truly unbelievable other places, and Mataranka is just icing on the cake.
There are two hot springs at Mataranka; Bitter springs, and Mataranka Hot springs. Both are vastly different, and although nice to see, one was a clear winner in our books.
Mataranka is 100km south east of Katherine, and is home to Elsey National Park, a few little shops, couple of fuel stations and realistically, not much else.
How do you pronounce it?
Mataranka is pronounced as you’d expect it to, but inevitably the t sounds like a D, so if you hear people saying Madaranka, you know why! Ma-tuh-rang-ka is the way its sounded out.
Where can you stay?
Little Roper Stock Camp
We really enjoyed our stay at Little Roper Stock Camp. It’s nothing like a Caravan Park, is very Australian and the owners are absolutely awesome. It’s a small property with lots of animals for the kids to watch, and even hand feed.
The owners cook Johnny cakes in the mornings, and it has a family friendly atmosphere like no where else we’ve stayed. If you have a young family, you’ll want to stay here for sure.
Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping
Just down the road from Bitter Springs itself is the caravan park, which is quite popular. We never stayed here and can’t give you a formal review, but it rates well online.
On the other side of town, within walking distance to Mataranka Hot springs lies the Mataranka Homestead. On the way to the springs we walked past this, and it looked reasonable, with plenty of people enjoying the camp sites.
Elsey National Park
We spent a few hours enjoying Elsey National Park, and really rated it. You can camp at Jalmurark, but generators are not allowed.
Territory Manor and Caravan Park
The last option is right in town, and also has reasonable reviews.
Our favourite hot springs so far would have to be Bitter Springs. These are located not far from the centre of town, and are the natural hot springs. They are absolutely huge too, with the ability to float down the ‘creek’ for several minutes before getting out, walking to the start and doing it again.
The hot springs are deep in sections too; and in many places you cannot stand.
There are comments online that it can smell, and that there can be lots of bats around, but we didn’t experience any bats, and the smell was fair mild. Being a natural environment, asides from the walk trails and the stairs to get in and out, it is as nature intended. We really appreciated this, and rated it very highly.
Mataranka Thermal Pool
The thermal pool in Mataranka is the complete opposite of the above. It’s still a beautiful place, but its much easier to get to, and couldn’t have much more human intervention if you tried. The walkway is entirely human mad, the paths are concrete, the stairs to enter are concrete, and even around the hot springs are concrete. It’s basically a hot swimming pool that gets very, very busy late in the afternoon with the grey nomads soaking it up.
It’s still amazing, and well and truly worth a visit and a swim, but in the words of a local, its very sterile.
I’ve heard good things about the Mataranka Museum. We didn’t have time to check it out, but you could!
Elsey National Park
Elsey National Park is an interesting place. It’s quick to get to, easy to drive around and worth a look. Of course, be wary of crocodiles here, and don’t be off your guard.
We did see a few people fishing here in the designated areas, and it looks like a decent place to catch a fish or two.
Is it worth staying?
We really enjoyed Mataranka, and will go back for sure. Our toddler made the stay a lot harder than we would have liked, and we didn’t spend as much time at the Mataranka hot springs as we’d have liked, but its certainly a very special place that everyone should check out.