An Incredible Swimming Hole In The Royal Nation Park With A Picturesque Trail
Karloo Pools is one of the most popular swimming holes in the Royal National Park – and for good reason!
The swimming hole is accessible from Heathcote train station, is an extremely pleasant walk that is just the right amount of challenging and it’s even achievable for kids.
Once there you can sit on the rocks in the sun, rest in the shade on the other side of the pools and of course cool down by taking a dip into the pools. There’s even a submerged ledge that makes getting into the pool easy.
If you’re looking for one of the best tracks in the Royal National Park then look no further than Karloo Pools
Karloo Pools Key Information
Distance: 5.3 kms (return)
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (some rock scrambling/elevation)
Opening times: All year round
Best time to visit: Sunny days, winter or summer
Entrance fee: None – Park at Heathcote station
- Toilets at Heathcote train station
- No toilets near Karloo Pools
- No drinking water nearby so bring your own
- Muddy path in some section (quite a lot of mud after rainfall)
- Some rock scrambling required
- Decent amount of elevation
Where Is Karloo Pools?
Karloo Pools is located inside the Royal National Park, just 2 km from Heathcote Train Station.
You can get to Heathcote via the T4 Eastern Suburbs line as well as the SCO South Coast train lines. There are direct trains from Bondi Junction, Town Hall, Redfern and Central Station.
You can do Karloo Pools as a there and back walk which is what most people do but you can also do a through walk going to Uloola Falls and finishing at Waterfall train station. Read the full Uloola Falls Walking Guide for this longer walk through option.
One of the best things about Karloo Pools is that the parking is super easy, there’s lots of it, it’s 100% free and it’s not timed.
For Karloo Pools the best place to park is Heathcote Train Station on the east side of the train station – off Wilson Parade.
To get to the carpark simply turn left (heading south) immediately after the McDonalds on the Princes Highway.
Then simply follow the road right until the end. You don’t have to turn off to any side streets.
You’ll see a whole lot of street parking on both sides of the road and the Rural Fire Station on your left.
If this road parking is full try the larger car park for the train station. I’ve not once had trouble finding a park here, even in summer.
The road continues on to a football field so if you’ve reached that then you’ve gone too far. Don’t drive past the “DIP” sign, park before that as shown in the image above.
Things To Pack For Uloola Falls
There are no facilities are Karloo Pools – no drinking water and no toilet facilities.
There is a toilet at Heathcote Train Station which you can use before heading out on your journey and there is a small IGA in Heathcote you can walk to over a foot bridge if you need extra supplies.
It’s important you pack enough drinking water for the trip as you should not drink from the river. It’s a good idea to bring enough food for the day as well.
I recommend bringing the following supplies to Karloo Pools:
- Enough drinking water for the entire day
- Hiking Boots
- Insect Repellent
Getting To Karloo Pools
One of the great things about Karloo Pools is that getting to it is fairly easy.
The track is obvious, well marked and there are signs telling you where to go
Karloo Pools Direction Summary
- Park at Heathcote Train Station (east side of the train line)
- Enter the park just after the Rural Fire Station
- Follow the signs to Karloo Track
- Walk 2km descending down to Karloo Pools
Getting To The Start of The Track
The start of the track is right near where you park.
You’ll see a “DIP” sign as well as the sign for Karloo Track and arrows pointing where to go.
A slightly faster method to get to the start of the track is to go between the fence of the Rural Fire Station and bush.
There’s a gap you can fit through and you can walk down to the start of the trail from here.
Both ways will lead you to the same trail while leads behind the Rural Fire Station and goes along the back of some of the local houses.
The track is really wide here and has one muddy section at the start.
Eventually this wide track will lead to the beginning of the Karloo Track.
You’ll see a sign with clear indications of which way to go. This first part of the track is really nice with tree cover making you feel like you’re in a rain forest.
Most Of The Track Is Moderate and Pleasant
The majority of the track to Karloo Pools is quite easy and is either flat or has a bit of a decline.
If you’re going just after heavy rainfall expect the path to be muddy. Even when it hasn’t rained in a while some part of the path are still muddy.
After the beginning section you’ll come to a small stream which you’ll need to cross over to continue on the path.
The stream is small enough to be stepped over except after a lot of rainfall, in which case you’ll have to jump over it.
The path then becomes a bit more rocky with some ups and downs but it feels relatively safe.
If you have young children with you then you’ll want to hold their hands in some sketchier sections but for most of it kids can walk by themselves and they tend to love the challenge!
Some Of The Harder/More Dangerous Sections
While I personally wouldn’t classify Karloo Pools as highly dangerous there are some sections that feel a bit more dangerous than others and some sections are more difficult from a fitness standpoint.
The Slanted Rocks
In my opinion the most dangerous part of the walk is what I call “the slanted rocks”.
You’ll come to the first slanted rock which you’ll need to walk up.
It’s got quite a steep slope and can be slippery on the best of days, but especially if it’s wet. This spot is one where you’ll want to help your kids and make sure they don’t fall.
After the first slanted rock you come to the second one which is flatter and only feels sketchy to me when it’s wet.
There’s a bush that grows over it which makes the walkable section very narrow. Just go slowly and hold onto the bushes if you need to.
Towards the final quarter of the track the path gets a fair bit steeper as you get closer to Karloo Pools.
It’s not so steep that it’s difficult or dangerous but it’s got a fair bit of elevation gain and on the way back up the hill it can be extremely tiring, especially if you’re not particularly fit.
Scenic Stops on The Karloo Walking Track
One of the great things about Karloo Track is that there are a couple of interesting stops on the path which can make great resting spots to drink some water or have a snack.
At approximately the half way point the track diverges and you can walk off to the right to a nice lookout spot.
It’s only 10-20 metres from the main path so it’s not much of a detour but it’s worth stopping to enjoy.
There are a few rocks you can stand or sit on and enjoy some refreshments whilst overlooking the bush.
The trees cover the view a little bit so it’s not incredibly breathtaking, but it’s nice none the less.
Shortly after the path gets steeper on the right hand side of the path you’ll see this little cave inside a large boulder.
It’s right next to the path so you can’t miss it.
The kids absolutely love this spot and it’s a good place for them to rest and have a little crawl inside.
There is some artwork inside the cave, but it’s modern artwork – not ancient.
What Karloo Pools Is Like
Once you get down to Karloo Pools you can either cross the river and sit in the sun or you can sit on the other side in the shade.
The sunny side has a large rock shelf people spread out on in their groups and in winter almost everyone sits on the sunny side as it’s a great spot to get warm.
The shady side gets popular in summer with people relaxing and getting out of the sun.
Most people relax by the rocks and don’t swim. I totally understand why this is the case. in winter as the water is freezing but it shocks me that there aren’t more people swimming in summer.
Swimming At Karloo Pools
Karloo Pools is one of the best spots to swim in the Royal National Park.
The pool is large and shallow in some sections and deep in the middle.
Entering Into The Pool
Near where the river flows into the pool there is a ledge you can stand on which provides the perfect entrance into the water.
Depending on how much rainfall there has been will determine whether this ledge is ankle height or waist height.
Entering The Pool From The Shady Side
You can also enter the pool from the shady side. There are some shallow rocks you can walk along and then jump into the water from here.
Jumping Into Karloo Pools
I always prefer to just jump straight in rather than getting in slowly.
Whilst Karloo Pools is fairly deep in the middle there aren’t many deep section near the ledge.
However, that doesn’t stop me.
From the sunny side you can run and jump into a slightly deeper section of the pools. It’s a fun jump but you do need a fair bit of horizontal speed and make sure you don’t go deep into the water.
Obviously this isn’t advised and you do this at your own risk.
Other Waterfalls & Swimming Holes Near Karloo Pools
Most people go to Karloo Pools and stop there and while Karloo is nice there are some even better swimming holes and waterfalls nearby that are way less popular and crowded and well worth the visit if you can handle a longer walk.
Below are some of the best spots near Karloo Pools that you can visit to get away from the crowds.
Olympic Pool is named because it’s the size of an Olympic pool. This thing is huge!
In my opinion it’s a much better swimming spot than Karloo Pools but nowhere near as many people go there because it’s another 45-60 minute walk from Karloo Pools through an overgrown unmarked track.
To get to Olympic Pool:
- Start on the north side of Karloo Pools (the shady side)
- Follow the river for 45-60 minutes keeping the river on the right of you at all times
Uloola Falls is another great stop not too far from Karloo Pools.
This tall waterfall flows great after rainfall but can be fairly tame if there hasn’t been much rain recently.
You can sit up the top or do some rock scrambling to get down to the bottom. It’s also right near Krystal’s Waterfall which means you can visit both at once.
To get to Uloola Falls from Karloo Pools:
- Look for the Karloo Tracksign on the south side of Karloo Pools (the sunny side)
- Follow this track to reach Uloola Falls
Only 200-300 metres from Uloola Falls up Uloola Brook is the unmarked waterfall affectionately named Krystal’s Waterfall after the partner who first told me about it.
This spot is incredible and one of my favourite waterfalls and swimming holes in the national park.
To get to Krystal’s Waterfall from Karloo Pools:
- Follow the Karloo Track to Uloola Falls and Campsite
- Walk up Uloola Brook 200-300 metres keeping the brook on your right until you reach the falls