The world is divided into two kinds of people – those who have been to Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, and those who haven’t been to Lorella Springs… yet.
We caught wind of Lorella Springs not long before we got to Darwin. While we were only supposed to stay in Darwin for two months max, it was drawn out to 11 months and for the whole time, we had Lorella in the back of our minds.
Lorella Springs offers a remote wilderness for campers, hikers, 4WDing enthusiasts and everyone in between. The property is so huge, there could be 100s of people in the park but you’d never know, and you could easily spend weeks exploring all the natural features. The owner, Rhett Walker, has spent the last 30 years exploring Lorella Springs and says that he’s only explored about 20% of the ONE MILLION acres his property covers – his land is bigger than 29 countries!
Lorella is Rhett’s everlasting project – his labour of love. He opened the wilderness park to the public in around 1998 and he has put so much work in to creating over 1000km of tracks that access hot springs, swimming holes, waterfalls, rivers and gorges so that everyone else can enjoy the beauty of his country. Back in the early days, Rhett and his family pushed tracks through the bush with a couple of modified 4WDs. It would sometimes take them weeks at a time to reach the new areas and make the waterfalls and swimming holes accessible. Nowadays though, they’ve got a backhoe, but they still have to spend some time at the start of the each Dry Season re-clearing the old tracks.
The central campground sports a bar that offers delicious meals and Happy Hour between 5 and 6pm, a kiosk, laundry facilities and a book exchange. There is also Crusty Dick’s Bakery, which offers huge loaves of soft fresh bread, perfect for dipping into stews or with butter and jam. A recent addition to Lorella’s attractions is a selection of helicopter flights to meet every budget. Lorella Springs is closed during the Wet Season and reopens every year from the 1st of March until October.
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After 30km of shitty corrugated road that is owned by the council, we opened the gate to Lorella Springs and were greeted warmly by Marie, Rhett’s partner. After we got a rundown of the park and were given a few maps, we sat down and had a well-deserved drink at the bar. Dave spoke to Marie about park attractions and facilities while Juz chatted with Tim, one of the chopper pilots, about geckos and Lord of the Rings. The day was still young so we pre-ordered our dinner and decided to go and check out some of the features that were close by.
On our way to a series of pools, we crossed Crocodile Springs, a pretty creek crossing with a small lagoon filled with waterlilies. The turnoff for the pools was a few kilometres up and we decided to go all the way to the end of the track and work our way back to the campgrounds.
After crawling along in low range 4WD over the last 600m of very rocky and rough track, our first stop was Tawallah Pool. We both jumped in for some fast refreshment, and Juz put her snorkel on to check out the little fishies. We rock-hopped further down the gorge before heading back to the Troopy.
The next two pools were Fossil Fern and Emerald Pool. Fossil Fern is so called because some of the rocks by the side of the pool have fossilised ferns in them. While Juz was snorkelling in the water, Dave was trying to find the fossils. Eventually he called out to Juz, “I can’t find the fossils!”, and she said, “That’s because you’re standing on them!”
Emerald Pool was a crystal clear pool with a white carpet of sand between the hairy water weeds, and plenty of little fishies.
We continued on to Wildfire Gorge & Tristan Pool. The walk to Tristan Pool was along a rocky creek bed and marked with tape in the trees. Wildfire Gorge was further on and the reflection of red rock in the still pool was beautiful.
The last stop of the day was Inkspot Pool. While we didn’t go in, we could see how fun it would be to launch off the rocks. Because it was so close to the track that leads to other locations within the park, we ended up visiting Inkspot Pool several times during our stay with other volunteers at the park.
We made it back to the campground just in time for Happy Hour. Even though the drinks are marginally cheaper, it is a great social event and a perfect opportunity to mingle with staff and other campers. The dinner we ordered earlier was served at 6:30pm and both dishes were welcomed with wide eyes and hungry bellies. Dave’s T-Bone was satisfyingly good, tender with great flavour, while Juz’s stuffed chicken was big and juicy, and stuffed with cheese and garlic. Both meals came with crunchy hot chips, coleslaw, pineapple and beetroot. Super yum…
We started the day early and headed for the Waterslide. We were initially hesitant (Juz was afraid she’d graze her bum), but Dave was brave enough to go first and it ended up being super fun! We both went down the slide several times, giggling like schoolgirls. The rocky path continued beyond the slide to Indiana Falls. While the trail was overgrown, we eventually got to the top pool and were rewarded with a refreshing swim.
Next was the Musterers Cave, one of our favourite locations. It’s a short climb to the cave and inside it are old saddle parts from when the cave was used as storage during the wet season years and years ago. If you take a few more steps into the cave, you’ll be surrounded by the sound of crunchy wings flapping, as massive dragonflies hover around you every time you move. If you have a torch, you’ll be able to see the microbats too. We exited the cave and checked out the rock art and amazing views around to the left. We also saw a friendly Northern Spiny Tail Gecko with amazing eyes and a spiky tail.
Our next destination was the Arches, but the path disappeared in a dry creek bed and we got lost. We ended up climbing an escarpment to the left instead of heading right. Sure, we had nice views at the top, but it wasn’t the Arches, so we went back to the Troopy and started again. We eventually found the Arches, and after a rest, we found the (now obvious) path that brought us back to the Troopy.
Our last stop was the Valley of the Springs. Rhett told us great things about this place but we were so exhausted, we only got about 200m from the Troopy before we realised we didn’t have the energy to continue. We turned back and ducked into Inkspot for a refreshing swim before returning to the campground. When we got back and told Rhett, he said we only had to breach the hilltop and the amazing rock formations would have been there. Bugger…
That afternoon, we had a therapeutic dip in the Magical Spring that is only 30 meters from the bar. It’s a shaded, banana tree-lined pool with very friendly fish that will nibble on you if you give them the chance.
After we cleaned ourselves up, we went to the bar for a quick drink before attempting the Sunset Walk. About halfway to the top of the escarpment, we saw a rainbow, and then the dark clouds dumped a bunch of rain on us.
By the time we got back to the bar, we were soaked through. We did a quick costume change and returned for more socialising with the other campers. We met two fellow travellers – Mel and Kell – who had just spent the last few nights at Nannies Retreat. Mel is an entomologist and Juz loves critters so they had plenty to talk about, including that beautiful gecko that Juz spotted at Musterers Cave.
It was a rough start after the previous night’s revelry, but we were determined to complete another section of Lorella Springs and made our way towards Teardrop Falls. It was slow going for most of the way because of the rocky track, and we even burst a tyre on the way.
When we finally arrived, it was all worth it. Water sprinkled into the lower pool and the sun cast a rainbow in the spray. We climbed up the mountain to the top pools, one of which was down in a rocky basin. We scaled the sheer wall and had a refreshing dip in the clear pool, and even saw the reason why it’s called Teardrop Falls. This was definitely one of our favourite spots in Lorella, and is also a really popular destination for the chopper flights.
We checked out the Mountain on the Edge of the Clouds on the way back – a great lookout into Gateway Gorge and Little Rosie River below. We continued along the track to where the river crosses the track and there was a canoe waiting for us. Dave took control of the oar and paddled Juz down the river while trying to sing like a Venetian gondolier. Juz told him to shut up so that she could enjoy the tranquillity of their surroundings.
We briefly stopped by Hidden Pools – three cascading swimming pools, before setting up camp at Snapping Handbag Billabong. Juz cooked up some SPAM Turkey Burgers while Dave fished in the billabong. As we got ready for sleep, we could hear splashing and sploshing, which were probably cane toads, fish and/or crocodiles, and these noises continued throughout the night.