Highway One: across the Top End

By Catherine Lawson 7 November 2013
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Catherine and David cross the Top End on Highway One as they continue their adventure on the world’s greatest road trip.

Catherine Lawson and David Bristow, along with baby Maya, are doing a lap of Highway One, the road that circles Australia. 


AT MATARANKA SPRINGS, TRAVELLERS run the gauntlet of little red flying-fox poo to reach translucent pools of clear, limey spring water that simmer at around 34ºC.

Few can resist a warm soak after tough travels on the Stuart Highway, especially since the pools are located right on Highway One at Mataranka, 105km south of Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Protected as part of Elsey National Park, Mataranka Springs is a dynamic spot that provides habitat for a colony of little red flying-foxes that at times number up to 250,000.

The little reds stake out the sagging canopy of the world’s largest stand of Livistona rigida palms, and spectacularly fill the skies at sunset as they take off in search of food.

Hot springs in the Top End

Less than 100m from the hot pools where the spring empties into Waterhouse Creek, freshwater crocodiles are often spotted swimming and basking on sunny logs.

Popular with travellers, Mataranka Springs lies a short walk from the campground at Mataranka Homestead which many use as a base while exploring other sites in Elsey National Park.

These include Bitter Springs, a few kilometres to the north where you can don a snorkel, slide into the water and float downstream in the current to check out turtles, fish and slimy green algae.

Both hot springs provide wonderfully warm, good fun and a place to safely swim on the journey north to Darwin.

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