Leliyn (Edith Falls), Nitmiluk National Park – Swimming in Paradise

If you love swimming in crystal-clear fresh water, surrounding by red rocky escarpments then Leliyn (Edith Falls) is a must-visit destination. Located in Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory, Leliyn is breath-takingly beautiful.

This is a picture-postcard landscape, classic Northern Territory. Edith River is a spring-fed river and flows all year around. Over millions of years it has cut a gorge through the escarpment, forming magical plunge pools under a series of small waterfalls.

Upper Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
Upper Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).

The Jawoyn people have lived here for thousands of years, carefully managing the resources provided by the precious water of the river and caring for the country. Keep in mind you are on Jawoyn Country and respect their land accordingly.

Getting There

Leliyn (Edith Falls) is easy to get to. Travel about 40km North of Katherine on the Stuart Highway. Then turn right and follow a tarred road for 20km.

On arrival, you can park in the day parking area or drive to the cafe and book into the magnificent campground for a night or two. We chose to camp overnight, which we quickly extended to 2 nights. After a day of swimming, we just had to stay and do it all again!

What’s at Edith Falls?

Whether you’re a keen bushwalker, love escaping the heat in a pool surrounded by incredibly beautiful scenery or a bit of both, Leliyn has something for everyone.

1. The Leliyn Trail and Upper Pool

The Leliyn Track starts at the carpark then rises quickly, up and over the escarpment. After a few dips and rises, follow the signs to the Upper Pool. As you start to descend, the magnificent Upper Pool unfolds before you.

Upper Pool from Leliyn Trail, Leliyn (Edith Falls)
Upper Pool from the Leliyn Trail.

What an extraordinary place! The Edith River has cut its way through the escarpment, plunging over huge rocks and plunging into the Upper Pool. Pandanus palms provide the greenery, contrasting perfectly with the red rock.

The hot dry walk is soon forgotten as you glide into the beautiful water. Watch out, the rocks are pretty slippery underfoot. Swim up to the falls then let the current carry you back downstream.

Upper Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
What a brilliant reward after a hot, dry walk!

You won’t be alone. The Upper Pool is popular, especially among the intrepid backpacker fraternity. You’ll hear languages from all around the world here. But it’s also unlikely to be packed. There’s plenty of room for all to enjoy this incredible place.

Upper Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
The falls at Upper Pool.

When you are finally able to drag yourself away from this beautiful place, you can return the way you came or continue the loop. We suggest you continue. After all, you’ll be rewarded with another swim at the end!

Climb up out of the gorge. You’ll have to clamber over lots of rocks here, plenty of fun! Once up on the escarpment, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Middle Pool (no public access).

Middle Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
Middle Pool.

This walk twists and loops along the escarpment and is quite exposed. You’ll walk amongst large rock formations and through the vegetation that’s tough enough to survive this hot, dry landscape.

Sparse country, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
This is forbidding country once you’re away from the water. This tree provides some much-needed greenery.

Pretty soon, you’ll drop down the escarpment. After a short walk, the equally beautiful Lower Pool beckons. Of course, after a hot walk your reward is a cooling dip in the Lower Pool.

2. Sweetwater Pool Walk

If you’re up for a challenge, this walk should fit the bill. Nearly 9km return, this walk branches off the Leliyn Trail and follows the river upstream. You’ll need a permit from the cafe for this walk.

Be prepared. Take plenty of water, good walking shoes and wear sun protection. Once on top of the escarpment, temperatures can soar due to the hot rocks reflecting heat back up at you.

Walking from Upper Pool to Lower Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
The walks are quite exposed when you get up onto the escarpment. Take care.

We didn’t take this one on. However from all account it’s worth the walk.

If you’re really keen (or slightly insane) there’s a 60km walk which starts at Katherine Gorge and comes in at Sweetwater Pool. For safety reasons (recording who is on the walk), this can only be started from the Katherine Gorge end. 

3. Lower Pool

The Lower Pool is easily accessed from the carpark or the campground. A small waterfall drops into a huge pool with a beautiful escarpment backdrop. Lower Pool is always popular.

Lower Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
The Lower Pool provides respite from the heat.

Poor swimmers or grey nomads tend to use pool noodles so they can just chill out and float around. What a great idea! Others use them as assistance to the waterfall, which is a 150m swim across Lower Pool. Once there, you’re rewarded with a luxurious natural waterfall spa.

The Campground

Leliyn Campground is fantastic. Lots of grass, private with space between campsites, shady trees and plenty of wildlife.

Campground, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
Love this campground!

Blue winged kookaburras appear early morning and curlews come out at dusk. Curlews are strange birds, seemingly in a hurry wherever they go. With their long legs, they run from here to there rather than flying. All sorts of other birds come and go during the day, providing free entertainment as you relax under a shady tree.

Watch out for green ants. When you find a trail, follow it. The ant trail will meander up a tree, leading to their nest. Green ants build nests from leaves, curling them around to form a cocoon. Fun fact. Green ants are actually edible and taste quite sweet. Just don’t attempt this here, as the ranger may not be too happy about you sampling the wildlife.

Green ants' nest, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
A green ants’ nest.

From the campground, it’s just a short walk to Lower Pool. So you can be incredibly lazy at the campground if that’s your thing. When you get hot, wander across to Lower Pool for a refreshing dip.

Wander across to Lower Pool near sunset. The escarpment cliffs face West, picking up the colours from the setting sun and reflecting them onto the water. As a bonus, we were at Leliyn during a full moon. Simply stunning.

Sunset at Lower Pool, Leliyn (Edith Falls).
Lower Pool sunset. Mesmerising.

Now you know why we decided to stay an extra night!

In Summary

Leliyn (Edith Falls) is absolutely beautiful. And so easily accessible from the Stuart Highway. If you’re looking for relief from the NT heat on your journey along the Stuart Highway, Leliyn is an ideal stopover.

Oh, and the caramel slices at the cafe are pretty good too…

Leliyn (Edith Falls) is on Jawoyn Country.

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