Blue Waterholes
Experience | camping | caves | hiking | Walking | Kosciuszko National Park | New South Wales

Blue Waterholes

Stunning camping in Kosciuszco National Park

by Susie Baber  |  15 April 2022

When most people think of Kosciuszco National Park they think of ski fields, alpine hiking and Australia’s highest peak. Kosciuszco is however, NSW’s largest national park and its northern end has even more to offer. Between Tumut and Cooma runs the Snowy Mountain Highway crossing the High Plains area with a multitude of camping, walking and horse riding adventures to explore. Long Plain and Cooleman Plain are not for those who crave a soft bed and fine dining, but rather those who crave adventure and wide open spaces. Nor is it a destination for the winter months, the roads into Long Plains are closed between the long weekends of June and October (Basically the same as the ski season)

My attention had been captured by images of Clarke Gorge and the waterholes along Caves Creek, and when I looked at camping options in the area I was spoiled for choice. Not having explored the High Plains before, I chose the Blue Waterholes based on its proximity to the walks I wanted to do. The consensus between us and other campers we spoke to was that next time we would choose somewhere a little further from the gorges. The limited camping area at Blue Waterholes is very popular with day trippers and ends up looking more like a carpark than a camping area during the day. Although once the sun goes down and the hoards of hikers and cavers leave, it is very pleasant. The number of camp sites here has already been reduced and from what we saw I wouldn’t be surprised if this area is changed to day use only some time in the future. 

Once you turn off the highway the roads through the plains are all unsealed. The road down to Blue Waterholes is doable in a two wheel drive when the weather is good. If it was wet it might be a different story as the last section is a little steep and windy. We had no problem towing our little off road camper trailer but anything bigger could be a bit challenging – there is not a lot of room to pass oncoming traffic.

The next closest camp area to the walks is Magpie Flats, just up the hill. Magpie Flats had a pretty good choice of flatish grassy areas, much better than the sloping or dusty choices at Blue Waterholes. Further afield there are half a dozen camping areas scattered over Long Plains that we are yet to explore.

Many of the sites are set up for camping with horses. Those with a hankering for equine adventuring have a range of trails to choose from, up to several days if that is your thing. If you would prefer underground adventures there are 4 caves you can explore without a permit. Murray Cave, Cooleman and Right Cooleman Caves and Barbers Cave.


The first of the waterholes along Clarke Gorge walk

The Waterholes

Cave Creek runs through both Nicols and Clarke Gorges, often underground before appearing magically back above ground to feed the waterholes near the camp area and along Clarke Gorge. An underground spring pours water through a hole in the cliff face into pools which are the most fabulous blue. The colour is caused by high calcium carbonate levels in the water, dissolved from the surrounding limestone. The creek and the pools are invigoratingly cold, even in summer, and while they look very appealing for swimming the weather would have to be much warmer for me to take a dip. On our walk we saw a few hopefuls fly fishing, and there are reportedly trout in the creek, but we didn’t see anyone have any success.

Down onto the plain, Nicols Gorge walk


The two main walks from here are Clarke Gorge and Nicoles Gorge. Each of these is about half a day, if you were very energetic you could get them both done in a day, but it would be a pretty big effort. We did Nicols Gorge the first day and Clarke Gorge the second day which worked perfectly. Nicols Gorge is a fabulous walk with numerous caves to explore and some beautiful views over the heath covered High Plains. But Clarke Gorge is by far the more spectacular and I think if we had done the two walks the other way around I would have been a little disappointed with Nicols Gorge. As it was we enjoyed both days and I would highly recommend both of the walks. Another good reason to do Clarke Gorge second is the water crossings. If you are planning on leaving your boots on to walk through the creek, you might struggle to get them dry for the next day.


A couple of km’s back from Blue Waterholes is Coolamine Homestead. This beautifully preserved homestead, set in an open grassland clearing, dates from the early 1880’s. You can walk in and around the buildings and imagine what it would have been like for the early graziers to live in such isolation, particularly during the snowy winter months.


There are over 200 alpine huts scattered around the Australian high country, some that have been standing for over 150 years. Built by graziers, gold miners, foresters and the like to provide protection in the winter months, they are now available as emergency shelter for the adventurers of today. Camping in them is not encouraged but if you are caught out in a storm they can provide protection from the elements and are often stocked with matches and kindling to get you warm. Volunteers work hard to maintain the huts and preserve this slice of Aussie history.

Over 20 of these huts are dotted along the High Plains. a few within easy reach including Long Plains Hut, Coolamine Hut, Currango Homestead and Oldfields Hut. The huts are generally left unlocked and are fascinating to have a poke around in.


Back on the other side of the highway is Kosciuszco’s most famous Karst area – Yarangobilly Caves and thermal pools. There are several caves that you can tour, both guided and self-guided, walks to be done and the natural thermal pool. 

It is a bit of a walk down into the valley to get to the to the pools (and back up when you are finished) but worth the effort. Pack a picnic (no shops) and spend some time relaxing on the lawn between dips in the water. The current pools were built by prisoners in 1969 and are fed by a natural thermal spring. At a pleasant 27° they are warm, but not hot, not as hot as thermal pools we have visited in New Zealand. The deeper pool overflows into a shallow children’s wading pool. There are toilets and change rooms available. The road into Yarangobilly can be done with 4WD or 2WD but no caravans are allowed so if you are towing you will have to leave the van somewhere or give this one a miss.

Share this story