Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs Park is a National Park located approximately 130 km from Katherine and 200 km from Darwin. Like everything in the Northern Territory, its a little bit remote, a little bit off the main highway. You kind of have to make the effort to go there especially. The outstanding feature of the park is the hot thermal springs in the Douglas River. The river is cold but bubbles of heat rise from the shallow, sandy bottom creating pools of lovely, delicious warm water. On a cool Territory morning this is just the ticket.
Picture a gentle creek meandering through the Aussie bush. Birds chirruping and darting over the natural watercourse. Clear blue skies and sunshine. And you can wallow and enjoy it lying in a bubbling hot patch of the creek. Magnificent.
So we decide to go. I had read on the internet a couple of weeks earlier that the park was still closed as it was early in the dry season (early June). We decide to check it out anyway just in case. There was no closed sign at the turn off so we keep going. A bit down the road we come to the next turn off. The sign was a bit ambiguous. Closed or open we weren’t 100% sure but we thought as we come this far we might as well have a look. We come to the gate. It was also a bit ambiguous – partially open, partially closed but it was unlocked. No further encouragement needed for us Aussies behaving badly. We keep going although we figured it was still closed. No harm in having a look.
At the end of the dirt track we come to a huge campground delightfully crowd free. There’s only a couple of European backpackers camped in a tent. Hooray, we think – that’s a good sign. It must be open.
“So it is open?” we ask them before we set up.
“Yar, yar we ave been svimink and there vas 4 other campers last night,” they reply cheerfully.
So we set up camp in the lovely sunshine. Then the magic moment. We have a wallow in the bubbling hot water ALL BY OURSELVES. It was awesome. Last time we were here many years ago the water was crammed with char broiled, wrinkly bodies all clamouring for a spot. No serenity in that. To have it all to ourselves was an amazing experience. So relaxing. For me anyway. Kevin was a bit on edge and only had a short dip then watched me blissing out.
Back in the campground I chat to the Germans again about how lovely it is in the thermal pool. I mentioned that we thought it might be have still been closed because of crocodiles. There’s a lot of them in the Top End and the Douglas River does have them in the wet season.
You know what he said? Very complacently at that.
“Yar, there is a croc trap in the creek just over that way a bit”
But no, he wasn’t kidding. I grab Kevin and we wander along the creek a bit for a look. Sure enough there was a big croc trap waiting in anticipation for its reptilian guest of honour.
Aussie’s behaving very badly indeed.
We packed up and got the heck outta there real quick. We don’t have ignorance is bliss as an excuse like the European backpackers.
So we drive out again and this time we headed right at the turn off, the opposite direction to how we came in. Sure enough behind us was a big sign. PARK CLOSED. We couldn’t see it from the other way.
Well, that’s our excuse….. There were many other signals that we deliberately chose to ignore. Because on this occasion we were bad Aussies. Don’t be bad like us. Be good Aussies.
So, Douglas Hot Springs? Highly recommended. Its a wonderful place. Only when its open though and that will be highly obvious. Do go – you’ll love it.
Will you get to have it all to yourselves like we did? Highly unlikely. In fact the chances are virtually zero.
So I intend to take the positive from the experience and remember how blissful it was when I was ignorant and wallowed in Douglas Hot Springs all by myself.
And I humbly promise to only visit parks that are open in the future. You European backpackers should do that too……
Check out another blog post where we saw them flirting with danger. We had learnt our lesson by then….( THE GIBB RIVER ROAD: Why the Kimberley’s should be on every bucket list. ) Stay well clear of those handbags with teeth…..