I always find natural hot springs to be pretty impressive, particularly when they’re Douglas Daly Hot Springs, the hottest spring in the Northern Territory (as far as I know). While Bitter Springs offers a pleasant warmth, Douglas Daly Hot Springs comes with warning signs, cautioned looks, and a few first-degree burns for good measure.
We camped at the Douglas Daly Hot Springs on the second night of our little ‘Explore the NT with Poms’ trip. We’d tried to prepare our guests for what was coming, but how can you really explain the wonders of nature? Intrepid whole-foot splashes quickly became more cautious toe dips as they realised just how hot these hot springs really were. Let me paint a picture for you.
At dawn, when the sun is rising slowly above the paperbark and the pandanus palms, the Douglas Daly Hot Springs are already steaming. In the dry season, when the air is cool, the steam resembles more of a fog, thick above the river. At the origin points, and there are many, water literally boils out of the ground, bubbles rising so prolifically that the sand itself seems to be breathing. The water is a haven for thick green algae, flourishing in the steaming temps. Fish stay well away from the boiling upstream part of the river, preferring the slightly cooler territories down the way. We attempt an outdoor bath, but end up instead at the convergence of the hot and cold rivers, moving back and forth as it becomes too much to handle.
There weren’t any other options within our budget for the Douglas Daly Hot Springs except camping, but a word of warning for those camping in September or later. It’s hot. The water is hot, yes obviously. But the campsites are oppressive, particularly when all you have is a tent and the hope of a cross-breeze. After sweating our way through the longest night ever it wasn’t exactly easy to enjoy the hot springs, but it helped that we were among only two other camping groups, with the entire river system to ourselves.
Tips For Douglas Daly Hot Springs
- The Springs: Be very, very cautious when swimming at Douglas Daly Hot Springs, particularly upstream where the water is at it’s hottest. Here the water temperature could seriously burn you, particularly if you step on a spring (look for bubbles as a warning sign) or fall into the water. You’re safer swimming more downstream, where the cold water meets the hot.
- Access: Douglas Daly Hot Springs is accessible via a sealed road for all but the last 7km of the journey. This is on an unsealed road, which can be a bit rough or muddy after rain. There is also a small creek crossing, which can become swollen after rain. Check road conditions with Parks and Wildlife NT prior to travel.
- Drinking Water: At Douglas Daly Hot Springs the water isn’t potable without boiling, so either bring your stove and be prepared to drink your water freshly boiled, or have enough water with you for all your campers. Remember, swimming in the hot springs will cause you to sweat quite a bit, so take extra water to ensure nobody gets dehydrated.
- Campfires: Unless otherwise noted, campfires are allowed in designated areas. You can collect firewood on your way into Douglas Daly Hot Springs, along the access road.