"We of the Never Never" is the title of a classic Australian novel written by Jeannie Gunn.
One of the first european women in the Territory when she came here in1902 from Melbourne, Jeanie never forgot her experience, though it lasted only a year.
Her husband Aeneas was the manager of Ellsey station. Unfortunately he died from malaria related dysentry after which Jeannie returned to Melbourne and wrote about her experiences in her book. It was published in 1908 and gives good descriptions of the life on a station.
It was made into a movie in 1981 and the house constructed for that movie is today preserved on the property with period furniture and clothing inside.
If you arrive from the northern end of town, chances are you'll head to Bitter Springs first, which is what I did.
Here you will find an idyllic palm-surrounded location with crystal clear waters feeding a narrow creek.
You can choose to wallow at the entry site or drift 200 metres downstream to the exit bridge and walk back again.
Either way it's a pleasant experience in the warm spring-fed waters. Though water clarity may be good for vision, there is a taste of sulphur inherent in the water due to its origin.
I can also promise you you won't be alone.
One thing you get in the Australian bush is wildlife. In fact, the more you look, the more I guarantee you will see.
Sometimes you don't even notice them until you get you picture blown up, like the dragonfly on the leaf in pic 5.
Out the main rivers there are lots of archerfish (pic 4) and there are also freshwater crocs around though, on this occasion, I didn't spot any.
One thing you won't have trouble seeing though is apostlebirds. There's a group of them scavenging around the main caravan park. When I asked the manager what they were she said they were "the seagulls of the bush".
There's also some lovely plant life and none is more prominent than wattle when it's in bloom (pic 2).
The main place to stay is Mataranka Homestead but there's also another caravan park near Bitter Springs.
From here there are a couple of walks you can do but the main thing that attracts tourists is the springs. Set amongst towering palm trees they are in a lovely location.
Of course, this attracts crowds and I can assure you you won't be alone.
The area has been landscaped and is very user friendly. It's only 100 metres or so from the edge of the caravan park.
One thing you should do in Mataranka is try their famous pies. WARNING - one is enough for two people - they're huge.
I was unaware of them when I arrived but took a punt and tried one. They're definitely worth their repuation.
The photos here are just some leftovers showing some things you might see. The lily ponds in particular attracted me as you will notice and I got a laugh out of the signs when they're read in conjunction with each other.
Mataranka Homestead has it's own Thermal Pool just a short walk through the palm tree forrest. I loved this thermal pool! Water was lovely and warm.
The other Thermal Pool is at Bitter Springs just down the road. That one is bigger and you can swim down the nice warm river.
A daily barramundi feeding show is held at the Territory Manor.
....What?... you say?..... feeding the fish?!!..... usually it's the other way around....the fish feed us ;o)
Anyway, I enjoyed the show.... even thought these ugly fish were quite cute.... the way they knew the handler and let him hold them :o)
I quite enjoy walking through Cemeteries and reading the grave plaques. The Elsey Cemetery was very interesting and my imagination ran riot as I read the entries.
The Cemetery is a tribute to the original pioneers to the area and the charactors in the book We of the Never Never by Jeannie Gunn.
I am ashamed to say that I havn't read the book. Hubby and I bought it back at the Homestead and I'm looking forward to reading it and especially more so now after having been here and experiencing it first hand.
If you are travelling the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory, no matter if you are heading to Darwin or going downwards - please do not pass by Bitter Springs without having a bath in the Bitter Springs. You would miss out on one of my most favourite spots in Australia!
It is located in the Elsey National Park.
The Roper River begins within the boundaries of the 13,840 hectare Elsey National Park. Numerous springs within the Park feed the Roper River which, in the Dry Season from April to September, flows gently through large waterholes and then tumbles over rocks and tufa dams. During the Wet Season, flood waters cause the river to swell and rage on its journey to the sea.
The most comfortable months to visit the Park are from May to September. The wet season causes the Roper River to flood, which may restrict access to some facilities in the Park.
Oh yes - if you have aracnophobia - this is not a place for you to go. When you swim around the pool there will be huge spiders above your head - they are harmless but you might get scared.
From the homestead follow the boardwalk and you will get to the thermal pool. It is crystal clear and lined with pandanus and very beautiful.
The water is 34 degrees and more than 16000 litre come out of the ground a minute.
Unfortunately the place can get a bit crowded.
Very close to the Mataranka Homestead you find the replica of the Elsey Homestead. It was made for and used in the film We of the Never Never. You can walk around for free and see the historical displays inside.
At Mataranka Homestead you can see the film - they show it every day at noon.
The Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort (MHTR) has two-person canoes for hire on the Waterhouse River. I did not get a canoe, so I do not know what it costs. I do know that you hire the canoe at the MHTR Reception Kiosk, and that the Waterhouse River is beautiful and looks like a great place to sightsee or fish.
For the Yangman and Mangarrayi people, Korran was created by Red-tail Black-cockatoo spirits: "One cockatoo jump in and then another one pull him up... make holes to make the water come out... That's the way we say that 'dendemern wurrwurr menyka' (black cockatoo dreaming)." The Bitter Springs name came from a worker, Steven King, on the Overland Telegraph Line in 1871, because of the bitter taste of the water. John Gilruth thought the name might discourage people about this land which he hoped to make a major agricultural center, so he renamed the area, Mataranka.
Now Bitter Springs is part of the Elsey National Park. It was opened in 1999 to reduce crowding pressures on the Mataranka Thermal Pool and to provide alternate swimming access during peak Little Red flying fox migration periods. Bitter Springs visitor numbers show that it has become the most highly-visited site in the Park. Less developed than the Thermal Pool, Bitter Springs provides the opportunity for swimming in a more natural setting. On average, the flow from Bitter Springs is ~300 liters/second (Rainbow Springs is ~130 liters/second), and the water temperature is ~33 C (~91 F).
Swimming is allowed north of the first viewing platform down to the bridge at the lower end (east). The current can be strong. There are entry/exit steps in three places. There is an exit ladder on the lower end bridge and some round exit steps near the bridge. No fishing is allowed.
The Bitter Springs Loop Walk (500 meters return) is an easy circuit around the springs, complete with viewing platforms and interpretive panels. I believe that it is also handicapped accessible. Toilet and picnic facilities are provided at the site. See also a travelogue with views on the Loop Walk.
A movie based on Jeannie Gunn's "We of the Never Never" was shot around Mataranka and at Pine Creek in the early 1980's. A replica of the old Elsey Homestead was erected for the film at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort. The site is next to the free day parking and it is open to the public. The Replica includes the main house and some outbuildings. A video of the movie is shown daily at noon on the covered, open-air patio of the resort. See also an off-the-beaten-path tip about the original homestead site.
During World War II, one of the many soldiers who visited the thermal pool fed by Rainbow Spring, Victor Smith, saw its potential as a tourist spot. Returning in 1946, Smith setup a resort close to the 1916 homestead erected for the sheep station and by 1949 he had erected 17 cabins for travelers. The resort has since changed owners several times but has become one of Northern Territory's most popular spots. The thermal pool itself is actually in the Elsey National Park. It is open to the public. There is free day parking next to the Homestead replica. From there it is ~250 meters to the Elsey National Park entrance and another 200 meters on a walkway to the thermal pool. The water is not that hot (34 C) but is quite comfortable. Because of its convenience, the thermal pool stays pretty busy. The staff at the resort recommended going at dusk, which I did, and there were only a few people there. See also a videoclip and a travelogue with more pictures.