Dalhousie Springs: Australia’s best known oasis
As a child, I saw pictures of people swimming in a tree-lined spring on the edge of the Simpson Desert, and instantly wanted to go.
The thought of visiting somewhere remote AND going for a swim in a hot spring, a real desert oasis, got me hooked.
There are few things better than having a swim in the hot springs and then watching the sun set over the Simpson Desert with a red wine or cool beer.
In this section of the site, we introduce you to one of our favourite places in the Outback.
You’ll find plenty of insider tips, secrets and tricks to make sure that your visit to Dalhousie is one of the most memorable of your life.
Where is it?
Dalhousie Springs is located in Witjira National Park, on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. It’s about 180 kilometres north east of Oodnadatta and about 500 kilometres south of Alice Springs.
The nearest food, fuel and supplies are at Mt Dare Station, about 70 km away.
The springs are sacred to the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru Aboriginal people. In Arrernte, the name of the springs is Irrwanyere.
Map of Dalhousie Springs.
View Dalhousie Springs Travel Guide in a larger map
You’ll need to purchase a SA Desert Parks Pass to camp at or visit Dalhousie Springs.
There are three main ways to get to Dalhousie Springs:
- From the north, via Mt Dare
- From the south, via the Oodnadatta Track through Hamilton Station and Bloods Creek
- From the east, via the French Line/Simpson Desert
The most popular way in to the springs is from Mt Dare Station. This track can be very corrugated . It also gets slippery and muddy after rain!
The Hamilton access track (from the Oodnadatta track) is a lot more interesting as it goes through the sand dunes of the tiny Pedirka Desert.
However, this track is totally inaccessible after rain and can be rough at the best of times.
Hints, Tips and Tricks
Dalhousie Springs is one of those places where a 4WD is recommended. I’m not sure I would want to drive standard two wheel drive car in across the access track from Mt Dare, which is RARELY graded.
If you have an off-road camper trailer or caravan, you’ll easily be able to get to Dalhousie via Mt Dare (provided you don’t mind corrugations!).
We towed our camper trailer with our 4WD in during the record rains of 2010 and had no problems!
If you’re planning to cross the Simpson Desert, then Dalhousie is on your way in or out of the desert. Every single Simpson Desert tourist seems to stop and camp overnight at Dalhousie.
There’s an awesome campground at Dalhousie, and we’ve written more about camping at Dalhousie here.
We will warn you that the campground gets very crowded, but if you visit the link above, we’ll share our secret to avoiding the crazy winter crowds!
So what’s to do at Dalhousie?
Well, there’s swimming in the hot springs of course!
The spring water bubbles up from deep underground. The water temperature varies around the pool, so if you’re getting too hot in one place, you can swim to another.
The water temperature ranges from 38 to 43 degrees Celsius. Although the water is highly mineralised it is drinkable, but it’s not the tastiest water in world!
The pool is easy to get in and out of, as the rangers have built some excellent visitor facilities here to help you out.
Even if the carpark is crowded, the main spring is large enough to swim away from other people and find a little bit of desert peace.
You may also get nibbled by tiny fish that live in the water. Don’t worry they won’t eat much!
One thing to be aware of when you’re swimming at Dalhousie is dehydration headaches and nausea.
These ailments are caused by swimming in very warm water for too long. If it’s a warm day (over 30 degrees C), make sure you get out of the water often and have a cool drink.
There’s a couple of walking tracks at Dalhousie Springs. There’s also a couple of Geocaches hidden around the area, too.
One goes from north of the campground, near where you get into the main spring and travels in a loop around the two main pools. Look to the left and head up the hill (there’s a couple of little sheds).
It won’t take you any longer than about half an hour to do at a slow walk.
The other walk is a little longer (but well worth it) takes you out to Kingfisher Springs. Allow an hour and a half (return) and take water with you.
This walk leaves from the eastern end of the main pool. Head to the right, and look for the signs.
Camping facilities at Dalhousie are great but don’t expect much shade. There are a series of loops and a couple of shelters and some individual or group campsites.
Please note that campfires are no longer allowed in Witjira National Park.
For more info visit our camping at Dalhousie page.
You might have guessed that we love this part of the outback. That’s because it’s an area of outback South Australia full of little-known, fascinating places: Abminga, Eringa, Charlotte Waters, Purnie Bore, Perdirka and others.
So take our advice and spend some time exploring the area. It’s full of history, stories, Aboriginal culture and the desert’s unforgettable magic.
To learn more about the SA Desert Parks Pass, visit this page.
And if you meet Tony the ranger, tell him that Gary and Amanda from Alice Springs said g’day!