Edith Falls is one of the most popular swimming spots in the Top End. The incredible natural swimming hole at the base of cascading falls is absolute heaven on a hot day in the Northern Territory. It consists of a series of pools and falls along the Edith River in the Nitmiluk National Park, which are a must visit while exploring the Top End.
With a kiosk and campground, it’s ideal if you can spend at least a couple of days there to enjoy the place even when the day trip crowds have gone back to Katherine. I’ve put together this essential guide to visiting Edith Falls, so you can plan your trip to this stunning place in the Northern Territory.
Where is Edith Falls?
Edith Falls is part of the Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory. It’s 50km or 1-hour drive away from Katherine in the Top End.
Read next: A Complete Guide to Nitmiluk National Park
About Edith Falls / Leliyn
The traditional home to the Jawoyn people, Edith Falls or Leliyn are on the western side of Nitmiluk National Park. The falls are one of the main tourist attractions inside the national park, which is dominated by Katherine Gorge.
Edith Falls is home to an incredible permanent water hole at the base of cascading water, with numerous tiers of pools and falls. It’s one of the most famous swimming spots in all of the Top End of the Northern Territory.
There are plenty of facilities there, including a peaceful campground, kiosk and plenty of picnic spots. There are also a few walks to do at Edith Falls to different swimming spots in the national park.
Edith Falls or Leliyn is also the finishing point of the Jatbula Trail. The 62km long distance walking trail begins at Katherine Gorge and concludes at Edith Falls taking hikers through remote sections of Nitmiluk National Park. This must be booked well in advance through the national park website or at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre. I was lucky enough to do the Jatbula Trail while exploring the Top End, you can read my guide to the Jatbula here.
Essential information for visiting Edith Falls
Entry: Edith Falls is part of the Nitmiluk National Park and is free to enter. There is no Parks Pass or entry ticket required.
Phone reception: There is limited Telstra phone reception around the kiosk but no Optus reception at all. There is roaming Wi-Fi available for $5 at the kiosk.
Road conditions: The road to get to Edith Falls is sealed and 2WD accessible.
Parking: There is a large car park area at the main pool area near the kiosk. There is some caravan and bus parking as well. It does get very busy in high season and during school holidays, but generally you will still manage to get a spot.
Leave no trace: There are no bins provided at Edith Falls so you must carry all your rubbish out with you.
Weather and safety: It’s damn hot in Nitmiluk National Park all year round. Even in the popular, dry season from June until August, the days’ top temperature can be 38 degrees. Ensure that you leave for any walks early in the day and drink plenty of water. I literally saw someone being carried out by paramedics because he’d collapsed with heat stroke, take it seriously because it can hit you when you least expect it.
Trail navigation: The walking trails are marked with large arrows which are colour coded depending on the walk you are doing. They are spaced roughly 50m a part, sometimes more or less depending on the section of trail. You do not need a special navigation device, as most trails are well marked, but it can help if you want to know how far you have to go. Consider downloading Maps.Me on your phone.
Swimming at Edith Falls
Seasonal swimming is allowed in the main pool at the base of the falls, as well as many pools up the river which are accessible on foot. Freshwater crocodiles inhabit the area and saltwater crocs can enter in the wet season. There are ample checks and practices in place to ensure it is safe during the dry season. However, you should check that it’s open for swimming before heading out, as closures are common between November and April.
There are signs warning people not to jump off rocks or climb the escarpment. Of course, there are always those who don’t listen to such signs, BUT it can be very dangerous with accidents having happened over the years where people have hit submerged rocks. If you want to walk out of Edith Falls, I wouldn’t try to jump from any high places!
The main pool area is huge and you can swim over to the falls across the other side. It’s a decent swim, which is why many people take a floating device like a noodle so you can relax a bit more. The upper pool has a smaller swimming area, underneath another waterfall. It gets more crowded at the upper pool in the middle of the day, especially on a weekend. So, if you want it all to yourself, go early in the day or late in the afternoon.
Edith Falls facilities
Kiosk cafe: The Edith Falls kiosk is a super nice spot to have a meal or drink. There’s plenty of seating undercover and out in the garden in front. The menu includes things like sandwiches, burgers, milkshakes and coffee. There’s not much in terms of gluten free options, but they can serve burgers without bread.
Shop: Next to the kiosk is a small souvenir and basic grocery shop. You can pick up some essential food and drinks if you’re camping or buy yourself a souvenir from your trip. The Aboriginal paintings for sale are extremely popular and reasonably priced.
BBQs and picnic areas: Scattered on shaded lawns between the car park and main pool area is a few BBQs and plenty of space for a picnic. You’ll see people relaxing in the shade post-swim.
Toilets and showers: There are two toilet blocks, one in the campground and one in front of the kiosk.
Edith Falls camping
Edith Falls Campground is conveniently located right next to the main car park and kiosk. The large, shaded area has over 50 unpowered camping spots and a large toilet and shower block with camp kitchen and basic laundry.
You can walk to the main pool of Edith Falls within 200m, which makes it a very nice place to camp for a couple of days near Katherine. The camp sites are allocated on arrival and cost $15 per adult per night. You can’t book a spot and must turn up on the day and pay at the kiosk.
The campground can be extremely busy in the high tourist season from June until August. It’s often that busy that people line up from 8am onwards to secure a site. However, if you miss out, you will see places back down the 16km road between the falls and the Stuart Highway where people free camp until they can secure a spot at Edith Falls.
Camper numbers drop quite dramatically at the end of August and when I arrived at 1pm on a Friday in September there were plenty of spots available.
Edith Falls walks
Heading off on the walks at Edith Falls enables you to reach more swimming spots further in the park. However, ensure you carry enough water and try to start early, as it’s hot all year round in the Top End and heat stroke is a real threat.
Leliyn Trail Loop Walk
The most popular Edith Falls walk is the Leliyn Trail Loop Walk. It can be completed in either direction, although clockwise is probably slightly better in my opinion.
Beginning from the car park, the trail heads up on a dirt track to the top of the escarpment. This is the longest hill of the hike and is best done early in the morning. At the top you will come to a track junction. The trail continues straight ahead to Sweetwater Pool, but you need to turn right towards the upper pool.
You’ll see a little viewpoint off to your right, but there’s a much better one later on in the walk. The trail then descends to the upper pool. As you get down to the waterfall and pool, you’ll have to navigate your own way across the rocks, with some stairs and metal bridges to help.
Stop for a swim here to cool off, before continuing on the Leliyn trail. Across the other side you’ll see the trail scrambles steeply upwards again for a short burst. It then crosses the escarpment with nice views. You’ll come to a detour to your right for a viewpoint – this is definitely worth doing! The view back towards the upper pool area is incredible, especially at sunset time.
The trail then begins to descend on a zig zag trail all the way back to the campground and car park.
Read next: How to Survive Hiking in Extreme Heat
Sweetwater Pool Walk
If you want to escape the crowds at the upper pool, then I recommend continuing on this walk to Sweetwater Pool. Technically the last section of the Jatbula Trail, it is an out and back walk from the car park at Edith Falls.
It starts the same as the Leliyn Trail above and climbs a steep hill to begin with. You’ll see the turnoff for the upper pool to your right but you need to continue straight ahead. The sandy trail is relatively easy as it continues across the escarpment to Long Hole Pool.
This is a nice spot to cool off, although it’s not as big or deep as Sweetwater Pool. The last 2km from Long Hole to Sweetwater requires a bit of climbing over rocks but nothing overly difficult, with a flat trail for the most part.
You’ll come to the Sweetwater Campground which is the optional last camp on the Jatbula Trail. From there, you should continue straight ahead and walk along the lefthand edge of the pool where you’ll find some nice spots to sit and put your daypack before you jump into the water.
This is an incredible natural swimming pool with very deep water and is usually much quieter than other spots in Nitmiluk National Park. There was only a handful of people the two times I walked there. You have to return the same way.
You don’t need a Jatbula permit to walk this section of the trail.
Read next: The Ultimate Day Hike Packing List
The Jatbula Trail is one of the most well-known multi-day walks in Australia. The 62km one way trail takes hikers from Katherine Gorge to Edith Falls through some of the most remote country in Nitmiluk National Park.
The highlight of the walk is having access to otherwise inaccessible water holes and waterfalls along the way. Each campground is located next to a natural swimming hole that eases the pain of walking through 38 degree heat (on average!).
It’s one of the most incredible experiences in the Top End and I was fortunate enough to secure a permit for a next day departure. Usually, the trail is booked out months in advance with walking permits required for all hikers. Each campground is restricted to 15 people, meaning you will only be sharing the trail with 14 other hikers at a time making it a very peaceful and secluded walk.
The 5-6 day hike finishes at Edith Falls, with the optional last night spent at Sweetwater Pool. Otherwise, those completing it in 5 days like myself simply walk past Sweetwater and onto Edith Falls in the same day.
Essential gear for Edith Falls
Where to next?
There are plenty of sights in the Top End to check out. Whether you plan on spending more time around Katherine or heading up to Darwin, here are some suggestions.
If you haven’t already explored more of Nitmiluk National Park, then you should head to Katherine Gorge, just 30km east of Katherine.
Darwin is also a wonderful city to spend some time and is highly underrated. There’s plenty of things to do in Darwin, especially in the dry season with markets and festivals on almost every weekend.