Nethercote Falls has a large, deep pool nestled in a rock gorge with a sizeable waterfall at one end. The pool is around 40 metres long and up to 15 metres wide, so there is
plenty of room to do some laps. When I visited on a hot summer's day during the holidays, when road access to the car park
was still possible, there were about 20 people dangling their feet in the water, a handful more resting under the shade next to the river, and half a dozen swimming in the water
at any given time. The water is quite calm away from the falls, so you can easily float around on a lilo if you are prepared to blow it up when you get there.
The pool at Nethercote Falls in full swing for swimming on a warm summer's day
(Order this image)
One of the most popular activities was jumping off the rock wall into the water below. Most people jumped off a ledge about 3-4 metres up.
There were warning signs advising people not to dive or jump into the water, and I know of one case reported in 2013 when a teenage girl fell unconscious into the water after
slipping on the rock ledge, nearly drowning and only regaining consciousness again in hospital.
If you are thinking of jumping, assess the risks on the day (including submerged rocks) and be very careful on the way up to the rock ledges, particularly if you have wet feet.
Having said that, when I visited, someone was jumping every few minutes.
Swimming downstream of the falls at Nethercote Falls
(Order this image)
Getting to the falls was harder than I anticipated, even when the road was still open. The link road in was quite narrow, so on a busy day, you could be facing other cars head on.
From the upper car park, the walk down to the lower car park is very steep, and it is even steeper on the way back up! Keep your load to a minimum - I was carrying a 12 kg child and it left
me gasping for breath most of the way up.
On the walking track from the lower car park there is one shallow river crossing. I managed to get across on the rocks and logs
placed in the river as a makeshift bridge and not get my feet wet, but it would have been much easier just walking through the water in sandals or thongs.
If you are planning to have a picnic here, there was a solitary picnic table at the falls, which may or may not still be there.
This is a fantastic swimming spot and definitely one of my favourites in New South Wales.
Here is a video that I took when visiting the falls in early summer on a hot day when the pool was full, road access was still available to the car parks,
and the falls were flowing strong. You will see a few cliff jumpers and lots of people chatting and playing in and around the water.
The road access to the falls car parks has been closed since my last visit, as described below, and far fewer people now visit the falls because of this. With less
road access, conditions for getting to the falls may have changed since I last visited.
Permanent Closure of Nethercote Falls:
NSW Forestry Corporation announced (on 17/8/2015) plans to permanently close access to Nethercote Falls. Here is
a copy of the media release
from NSW Forestry Corporation.
My public statement in response to this issue
has been published
online and in print in the Merimbula News Weekly, which is the local paper circulating in the area which first reported on this issue.
Reducing risks to public safety at the falls is extremely important, however in annoncing the decision,
NSW Forestry Corporation does not appear to have considered other alternatives, such as safety barriers, improved signage and widening of the access road to the upper car park. For the record,
I supported the closure of the very steep and narrow access road to the lower car park, but opposed the closure of the falls without evidence that other alternatives to improve
safety have been duly considered and trialled. This swimming hole is nationally significant, and all effort should be made to keep it open to the public by making safety
improvements at the site. A petition opposing the closure of the falls attracted over a thousand signatures, which pressured NSW Forestry Corporation to soften its stance and retain access by foot to the falls,
but to stop vehicle access. The last I heard (see below under prohibitions), access was prohibited, but the NSW Forestry Commission was not prosecuting anyone who walked to the falls.
Other Information Before You Go:
Nethercote Falls Link Road, Nullica State Forest, 470 km (approx. 6.5 hour drive) south-west of the Sydney CBD or 260 km (approx. 3 hr 15 min drive)
south-east of Canberra.
From the Princes Hwy immediately south of Pambula, head west along Mount Darragh Rd for 5 km then south along Back Creek Rd for 5 km until you
reach Pipeclay Rd. Head east into Pipeclay Rd then veer right into the Nethercote Falls Link Rd about 400 metres later. Follow the link road for 1 km until you
reach what used to be the upper car park. Once you reach this spot, there is a very steep 300 metre descent to what used to be the lower car park. From the lower
car park there is 300 metre walk to the falls including one river crossing. From the Princes Hwy south of Eden, head up the Nethercote Rd then Back Creek Rd until
you reach Pipeclay Rd then follow the directions as above.
When road access to the car park was still available, there were toilets, open fire bbqs, tables, and two car parks.
Maximum water depth:
Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required:
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
Unknown at the current time, as I haven't visited since the closure. Access
is prohibited, but according to an article in the local paper
after the closure (Merimbula News, 28/8/15
NSW Forestry Corporation are not prosecuting people if they visit the falls.
No shade on the water. Limited shade near the pool entry. Plenty of natural shade at the picnic tables remote from the falls.
Forestry Corporation of New South Wales
Magic Mountain in Merimbula if you want some water park fun.
Before you head out, make sure to read the
swimming safety information
and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions. Specific to this site there have been significant injuries caused
by jumping off the cliffs that overlook the pool.
The marker indicates the approximate location of the waterfall. If the map is not zoomed in locally, as can sometimes occur when loading, simply click or tap on "View Larger Map" below.
View Larger Map
Here are some personal accounts of visiting the falls, one of which illustrates the therapeutic value of the falls for the health industry and the
specific impact that the closure has had on local disabled members of the community. This is one of the many broader community benefits of
the falls that I have seen no evidence were taken into account in the decision to close the falls:
"I visit the falls probably 15 times a year and have done so for many years. I work in the disability field as a
carer and take some clients there. They love it. It makes them feel special to walk to the falls and see such a beautiful place.
Forestry NSW may close it, but keeping people from going there is not going to happen."
- M.Skitt, Merimbula, Australia 13/10/2015
"I just visited the falls. I mistakenly turned down Pipe Clay Road and followed it to what I thought was a car park before the road became a rocky link road.
I had some reception and eventually I reached the Yowaka River Trail and walked to the picnic area and toilets. The falls were not as deep as described but it was a
beautiful spot and in my exhausted state at sunset I saw a face in the rocks when walking back up the hill. I set off to walk further around to the turnoff where I
could have easily reached the picnic area. I was very glad to finally get back to my car. It was an interesting hike with some unusual wildflowers but I was glad
I had proper hiking boots as if I had sprained an ankle on my own it would have been a problem with poor phone reception."
- Michelle M, Merimbula, Australia 26/3/2023
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I am particularly interested in your experiences after visiting, and any changes in conditions, etc.
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