Tucked away in a valley in the Kosciuszko National Park, about a three-hour drive from Canberra on the Snowy Mountains Highway, is Australia’s only geothermal pool in an alpine area.
Yarrangobilly is better known for its caves, including one that lights up like an empty warehouse in a movie, thanks to sensor lights that pick up visitors walking through it, but due to seemingly idyllic posts on social media in recent years, it’s also become known as a place where you can soak in the steam and the mountain views while surrounded by snow.
Kind of like Iceland. Maybe.
“It’s not famous – it’s not at that level – but it is certainly well known, definitely among locals and people who regularly come to the Snowy region to visit,” Yarrangobilly Caves manager Bernadette Zanet says.
“A lot of people really want to see the pool in steam, and whenever the air temperature outside is cooler than the water, the mists do come off the water. And then once or twice a year, we’ll get a sprinkle of snow down around the pool as well.”
Fed by a natural spring around one kilometre below the surface, the subterranean waters are mildly mineralised and remain at a balmy 27 degrees Celsius all year.
“It’s very constant, although it can feel cooler in some spots,” Bernadette says.
It was discovered by European explorers in the late 18th century, but the pool as it stands today was built by prisoners from the Cooma jail in the 1970s. The main structure measures 25 metres long, while another towards the end is for the kids and comes up to most adults’ knees.
“We say it’s open dawn to dusk, and that’s only because there is no lighting at the pool.”
However, not everyone is sold.
In January last year, a TikTok user with more than 40,000 followers shared her experience visiting the site.
“I saw this picturesque, bountiful, beautiful paradise on TikTok and thought I would go there,” Lena shared in a story.
“Little did I know … it would cost me three hours out of my way in the middle of nowhere with no reception.”
Over the course of the short video, she cited the crowds of people and the rough hike to the pool as reasons it’s not worth the hype.
Comments were mixed, from “this is why you do some research” and “thank you for saving us the trip” to “it’s beautiful and absolutely a recommended day trip … it’s in the Snowy Mountains – of course there are climbs” and “it’s actually really nice to go in winter – much less people and since it’s a thermal pool, it’s very warm”.
Bernadette admits the walk is tough and people with mobility issues may struggle, but she says it’s all worth it.
“I can almost guarantee that by the time you’ve had your swim and walked back, you’ll feel fully alive and really feel as though you’ve done some good exercise in a beautiful natural environment. ‘Invigorated’ is probably the word for it.”
The Yarrangobilly Caves Visitor Centre is open daily, from 9 am to 5 pm. A $4 per vehicle per day charge applies at Yarrangobilly Caves for motor vehicles without a Kosciuszko National Park day pass or NPWS All Parks annual pass. There is no additional fee to use the pool.
Visit the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website for more information.