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Karloo Pools & Karloo Walking Track: 17 Essential Things to Know

Karloo Pools & Karloo Walking Track: 17 Essential Things to Know

Karloo Pools is an incredible emerald-coloured swimming hole conveniently located in Sydney’s Royal National Park. By doing the Karloo Walking Track, you’ll reach this immensely beautiful natural pool.

In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Karloo Pools. We’ll cover all of the most useful things to know before you go, so you know exactly what to expect during this adventure. This will include loads of helpful information about the Karloo Walking Track.

On top of that, we’ll tell you about other natural attractions (Olympic Pool and Uloola Falls) near Karloo Pools worth checking out. That way, you won’t miss out on visiting any Insta-worthy spots.

Read about the best waterfalls in Sydney

Karloo Pools and Walking Track: The Ultimate Guide

Karloo Pools is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in the Royal National Park. For sure, when it comes to wild swimming spots in Sydney, it’s hard to beat! Thanks to social media, visitors to this amazingly coloured natural pool are on the rise.

Back in the day, most people visiting the Royal National Park would prioritise scoping out coastal attractions such as Wedding Cake Rock, the Figure 8 Pools or Curracurrong Falls at Eagle Rock. The surge in popularity of Karloo Pools brings more visitors to the inner part of the national park. Set far from the coast, the natural swimming hole is surrounded by dense bushland. Indeed, the Karloo Walking Track is a bush track and one that is being walked more regularly.

With this in mind, the wild swimming spot is more crowded than ever before. So, it’s definitely best to visit earlier or later in the day during the weekend. Or, if possible, it’s best to visit mid-week – that’s what we did. By visiting during the week, we had Karloo Pools to ourselves. This is just one important thing to know about visiting to ensure you have a more enjoyable trip. Continue reading, to find out other useful things to know about visiting Karloo Pools.

An emerald-coloured body of water called Karloo Pools is found along the Karloo Pools Track

1. What Is Karloo Pools?

Karloo Pools is an emerald-coloured body of water fed by both Kangaroo Creek and Heathcote Brook. At this junction of flowing water, you’ll find a large natural pool, around 20–30 metres long and 10 metres wide. This is the main pool at this junction and is called Karloo Pool. The area at the junction, as a whole, is known as Karloo Pools, which features various cascades and smaller pockets of flowing water.

In reality, most people refer to the main pool as Karloo Pools, as it’s this wild swimming spot that is the main attraction. Although, personally, Beck and I enjoyed the smaller cascades set around and slightly away from the main pool, just as much as the main pool itself.

Dan looks at a body of water called Karloo Pools that's surrounded by bushland

2. Where Is Karloo Pools?

Karloo Pools is located near Heathcote in Sydney’s Royal National Park. The quickest and easiest way to reach this wild swimming spot is to do the Karloo Walking Track, which starts in Heathcote.

A map showing where Karloo Pools is located
Karloo Pools map

3. Karloo Walking Track Details

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 5.3km
  • Time: 1.5–2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 190 metres
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Heathcote Station
  • Map: AllTrails

The Karloo Walking Track (AKA the Karloo Track and the Karloo Pools Walking Track) is the most popular walk involved in reaching Karloo Pools. But, if you plan on exploring nearby attractions, such as Olympic Pool and Uloola Falls, you’ll follow other trails.

To keep things simple, below, we’ll explain the Karloo Walking Track, on its own. Then, we’ll talk about the other walks involved, if you wish to explore other nearby natural attractions.

An empty sandy trail surrounded by trees called the Karloo Walking Track
Karloo Track to Karloo Pools

4. Karloo Walking Track Description

Below, we’ll talk about our experience doing the Karloo Walking Track. We won’t provide step-by-step instructions on the walk, as it’s fairly self-explanatory. Rather, we’ll talk through the most important things to know and what to look out for during the walk to Karloo Pools.

For help with trail navigation, feel free to use these GPS-guided directions.

Karloo Walk Track signage showing a map of the area and highlighting where Karloo Pools, Uloola Falls and Audley is located

Heathcote Station to Karloo Pools

Whether you plan on driving or using public transport, you’ll start the walk from Heathcote Train Station. That’s because the car park for the Karloo Walking Track is located just outside of the station.

Opposite the station, you’ll see signage for the Karloo Walking Track. From there, you’ll follow a trail past several properties. Soon, there is a fork in the trail, where you’ll follow the trail to the right to enter the dense bushland and continue along the Karloo Walking Track.

Along the gradually descending track, you’ll walk among beautiful bushland, passing over and walking by Heathcote Brook. This means the track can be wet and slippery, especially after rainfall. So, watch your step, especially as you descend rocky sections.

Along Karloo Walking Track, you’ll pass several unnamed and underrated natural attractions. You’ll walk by small rocky outcrops and overhangs, as well as large slabs of smooth sandstone. For some, it may be an uninspiring bushwalk that’s just necessary to do to reach the pool. But, for others, it’ll prove to be a fun and exciting trail, with moderately challenging sections that are enjoyable to navigate.

Soon enough, you’ll reach the end of Heathcote Brook, which meets Kangaroo Creek. This means you’ve reached Karloo Pools! If there has been reasonable rainfall lately, you may enjoy a series of cascades that flow from Kangaroo Creek down towards Karloo Pool.

Dan looks at Karloo Pools at the Kangaroo Creek end

Swimming in Karloo Pools

Near the cascades at Kangaroo Creek, you’ll see the prominent Karloo Pool. On a sunny day, the colour of the water turns a rich emerald green, which is one of the pool’s best features. Admittedly, when we first arrived at the pool, the sky was overcast, so the pool lacked a wow factor. Upon returning after visiting Olympic Pool and Uloola Falls, the skies had cleared, and the pool came to life with its vivid colour.

Surrounded by eucalyptus trees, the pool has a supremely natural setting. To the side of the main pool, there are large flat rock platforms, which are great for sitting and relaxing. Of course, on a nice day, Karloo Pools will be calling you for a swim. After all, this is one of the most popular wild swimming spots in Sydney. So, it would be rude not to go for a dip! The rock platforms create safe and easy entry points into the swimming hole.

It may surprise you that the main pool is quite deep. So, take care when you’re swimming. For those visiting with kids, bear this in mind!

Head to our FAQs for more information about swimming at Karloo Pools. For now, we’re going to look at other worthwhile attractions to visit nearby.

An emerald-coloured swimming hole called Karloo Pools

5. What to See Near Karloo Pools

By following other walking tracks from Karloo Pools, you can see equally impressive natural attractions with a fraction of the visitors. This includes another excellent wild swimming spot called Olympic Pool.

The water of the creek (Kangaroo Creek) reflects the sky located near the Karloo Walking Track

Olympic Pool: A Quieter Swimming Hole

To reach Olympic Pool from Karloo Pools, you’ll follow a less-defined track called the Bottle Forest Trail. Essentially, this trail follows alongside and downstream Kangaroo Creek. Compared with the Karloo Walking Track, the Bottle Forest Trail is narrower, overgrown and harder to navigate. Certainly, the Bottle Forest Trail is more suitable for experienced bushwalkers.

For those willing to follow the harder Bottle Forest Trail, you’ll be rewarded with another exceptional swimming hole. Olympic Pool is far less known than Karloo Pool, partly because it’s harder to reach. But, in terms of beauty, Olympic Pool is just as nice, and guaranteed to be less crowded. Sure, Olympic Pool is a smaller natural pool, but not by much – it’s still a decently-sized swimming hole for a paddle.

To be honest, there are other small pools that you can swim in between Karloo Pools and Olympic Pool. These other pockets of water that flow along Kangaroo Creek are unnamed but provide other wild swimming opportunities.

If you would like help with trail navigation, here is a map of the out and back walk from Heathcote Station to Olympic Pool via Karloo Pools. Otherwise, it’s possible to do a circuit walk, as the Bottle Forest Trail continues to Heathcote Station. Here is a map of the Karloo Walking Track and Bottle Forest Trail Loop.

Personally, Beck and I wanted to check out Uloola Falls. So, from Olympic Pool, we retraced our steps to Karloo Pools and then walked to Uloola Falls.

A narrow body of water called Olympic Pool near the Karloo Walking Track is surrounded by bushland

Uloola Falls

To get from Karloo Pools to Uloola Falls, you’ll continue along the Karloo Walking Track, walking around 2.3km. Uloola Falls is one of the most underrated waterfalls in Sydney. Overall, this walk adds another 4.6km of walking (assuming you’re walking back to Heathcote Station). Beck and I think it’s worth it. But, it depends on how much you like chasing waterfalls!

Read more: Uloola Falls – How to Get to the Bottom of This Epic Waterfall

A multi-tiered waterfall called Uloola Falls

6. Alternative Walk to Karloo Pools From Waterfall

It’s worth knowing there is another route option for reaching Karloo Pools. Instead of using the Karloo Walking Track from Heathcote, you can use the Uloola Walking Track from Waterfall Train Station. Personally, Beck and I didn’t complete this route. But, if you would like more details about the Uloola Walking Track option to Karloo Pools, read below.

A small and narrow creek called Uloola Brook
Uloola Brook

Uloola Walking Track

From Waterfall Station, you can follow the Uloola Walking Track to Karloo Pools via Uloola Falls. From Waterfall, you’ll follow the Uloola Fire Trail, which leads to Uloola Falls. You’ll then follow the Karloo Walking Track, passing viewpoints at Uloola Turrets, en route to Karloo Pools.

If you choose this option, you’ll want to complete a point to point (one-way) walk rather than an out and back walk. That’s because the point to point walk (from Waterfall to Heathcote) will be far shorter and more logical than doing an out and back walk. You’ll just need to get a train back to Waterfall from Heathcote. Or, do a car shuffle with your mates.

Here is a map of this point to point walk (Waterfall to Heathcote via Uloola Falls and Karloo Pools).

If your main aim is to see and swim at Karloo Pools, we don’t recommend the Uloola Track – do the Karloo Walking Track!

Views of the bushland from a prominent rock formation called Uloola Turrets
Uloola Turrets

7. How to Get to Karloo Pools

If you have a car, you can simply park for free at the roadside parking area outside of Heathcote Station opposite the NSW Rural Fire Service. There is also a car park at Heathcote Station (which we think is free to use) and more free street parking along Wilson Parade.

If you don’t have a car and want to drive there, we recommend hiring one for the day. Indeed, if you want to have ultimate flexibility and freedom with exploring more of the Royal National Park during a trip, it may be best to have your own vehicle.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

8. Public Transport to Karloo Pool

As mentioned, it’s also possible to use public transport to do the Karloo Walking Track. You’ll simply catch a train to Heathcote Station, where you’ll find the trailhead for the Karloo Walking Track. To reach Heathcote Station, from central Sydney, you’ll need to use the Blue Line (Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line) and take the train in the southerly direction. Use the Transport NSW website or app to plan your journey.

9. Karloo Pools Facilities

The swimming hole is located in a national park, so don’t expect much in the way of facilities or amenities. There are obviously no amenities such as toilets, changing rooms or water refill stations. Given the Royal National Park isn’t terribly remote, mobile phone reception is decent in the area. Although, your signal may drop around Karloo Pools.

Dan looks at a small cave shelter

10. What to Pack

As mentioned, there are no facilities or amenities along the Karloo Walking Track. So, you’ll want to be prepared. Make sure to pack enough water and snacks. Of course, you’ll want to pack your swimmers and a towel.

We also recommend wearing a hat, long sleeves, sunglasses and sunscreen. Although Karloo Pools is surrounded by bushland, the pools and surrounding rock platforms are quite exposed. So, you’ll want to protect yourself from the sun. Otherwise, here are some of our hiking gear essentials.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Karloo Pools FAQs

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about visiting Karloo Pools.

Small cascades at Olympic Pool

11. How Long Is the Walk to Karloo Pools?

From Heathcote Station, it’s an approx. 2.6km walk along the Karloo Walking Track to reach the natural pools.

12. Where Do You Park For Karloo Pools?

You can park at or just outside Heathcote Station along Wilson Parade. For more information, read the How to Get There section.

13. Can You Swim in Karloo Pools?

Yes, that’s why most people visit – to enjoy wild swimming.

14. Are Karloo Pools Safe to Swim In?

Yes, generally speaking, the pools are safe to swim in. The pools are usually quite calm and reasonably easy to enter and exit. Although, the pools are surprisingly deep. So, care must be taken, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer.

15. How Many Pools Are at Karloo Pools?

There is one main pool at the Karloo Pools that most people swim in. Around this main pool, there are cascades, streams and smaller bodies of water. There are also other pools further downstream along Kangaroo Creek.

16. Are There Opening Hours at Karloo Pools?

No, you can visit any time of day.

17. Is There Camping at Karloo Pools?

No, you can’t camp at Karloo Pools. The closest camping area is at Uloola Falls – the Uloola Falls Campground.

Ready to wild swim with your mates at this awesome spot? Share this guide with your friends on Facebook.

We acknowledge and respect the First Nations people as the Traditional Custodians of the land/water that we visited and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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