Last updated: October 1, 2020
Mermaid Pools is a beautiful natural water hole on the Bargo River at the start of Tahmoor Gorge, only 75 minutes south-west of Sydney.
If you love bushwalking, getting back to nature, swimming in rivers and chasing waterfalls, then this hiking adventure is for you.
You may have already read a few stories about Mermaid Pools and how awesome it is, but there is so much more to this part of the world than just that water hole.
While most people go there only to visit Mermaid Pools, it’s highly recommended to venture out a bit further and discover how beautiful Tahmoor Gorge on the Bargo River really is.
Do not jump into the water hole. If you’re planning to swim in Mermaid Pools, please note that the only way in is by jumping off a cliff (around 15m high) and the only way out is via a make-shift rope next to the waterfall.
Swimming in this hole is therefore considered dangerous and there have been injuries and even fatalities in the past. Do a quick Google search and you will find several serious incidents.
Jumping into the pool is NOT recommended and is entirely at your own risk. Also note that there is no phone reception in the area. There are other, smaller water holes along the track where you can safely go for a swim.
How to Get There
Getting to the start of the walking track that leads to Mermaid Pools can be a bit confusing.
Parking is available right next to the Rockford Road Bridge (see image below).
If you’re driving in via the Old Hume Highway, turn into Rockford Road, and turn right into Charlies Point Road just after crossing the bridge. Turn right again into a dirt road that takes you to the bridge.
If you’re coming in via the Hume Motorway, take the Avon Dam Road exit, turn into Anna Road and stay on this road until you turn left into Charlies Point Road.
Click on this link to find that parking spot and surrounding area on Google Maps.
Once you’ve parked your car, walk under the bridge and follow the track on the eastern side of Bargo River.
There is a sign at the bridge that indicates the start of the track.
Two Walking Tracks
Starting from the bridge, there are two options. You can just do the short hike to Mermaid Pools, hang out there, and return to your car. Or you can extend your walk by including a loop trail around Tahmoor Gorge.
The first option takes around two hours return and is a relatively easy walk. The second option can take up to six hours and is hard. It’s for experienced bushwalkers only.
I would recommend that you only do the second part of the hike if you’re feeling fit and you have brought enough water with you. A set of good hiking poles would also be useful for this tough track.
The map at the bottom of the page is a rough sketch of the walking track to Mermaid Pools and Tahmoor Gorge.
Signage Along the Way
The interesting thing about this hike is that it’s not officially documented on any council or state government websites. There is also no official signage and the track at times is very hard to follow.
Other bushwalkers have left their own markers along the way, which is extremely useful otherwise there’s a big chance you’d get lost. Look out for arrows and other brightly-coloured signals as you hike through the gorge. There are even maps pinned on trees here and there.
A big thank you to those that have helped marking this challenging walking track!
If you do feel that you’re lost, just go back to the last marker you saw and try and find the next one.
At times you may think you’re a bit lost, but then another marker pops up and you’re good to continue.
There is some confusion around the actual name of this natural water hole. Some call it Mermaids Pool, others like to call it Mermaid Pool, and then there’s websites that refer to it as Mermaid Pools. Google Maps names it “Mermaids Pool”, but the sign at the bridge at the start of the track says “Mermaid Pools”.
1. Bridge to Mermaid Pools
|Time:||2 hours (return)|
The hike from the bridge to Mermaid Pool is relatively easy and should take you around one hour (one way).
Not too long after the start of the track, you can choose between the upper path and the lower path along the river.
The upper path follows a ridge and is the easier of the two. The lower path stays right at the river and is more fun with a lot of rocks to climb over.
The two paths join again and become the Matilda Track which will eventually take you to Mermaid Pools.
See Through Pools
Before ending up at Mermaid Pools, it’s worth doing a little side-trip down to the water to have a closer look at the See Through Pools.
It’s a magical place with small waterfalls, water cascades and swirl holes. This is a great spot to go for a quick swim on a warm day.
The water can be quite deep in some places, but please be careful when swimming as there are lots of hidden rock formations under water that you can’t always see.
Please note, as one reader has pointed out, the water in the Bargo River may be polluted due to nearby underground coal mining. Therefore, swimming in the river is at your own risk.
Mermaid Pools literally is a deep water hole, surrounded by the sheer cliff walls of the Tahmoor Canyon.
As mentioned above, the only way into the pool is by jumping off a 15m high cliff. There’s also a 25m high platform, but that’s only for the true daredevils who have no fear in life.
A big yellow sign is painted on top of the lower cliff saying that it’s an unsafe spot to jump into the pool.
The irony is though that this sign feels more like an invitation to jump than it is to scare people away. Jumping is entirely at your own risk.
And if the jumping bit isn’t risky enough, then climbing back out of the pool via a make-shift rope right next to the slippery waterfall certainly is. Accidents have happened in the past, so please be careful.
The rock platforms above the pool are perfect to just sit there for a bit, have a picnic, and enjoy the serenity of the environment.
2. Mermaids Pool to Tahmoor Gorge Circuit Track
|Time:||4-6 hours (return)|
|Grade:||Hard (experienced bushwalkers only)|
If you’re feeling energetic and you have enough water, it’s a great idea to venture out further and see more of the Tahmoor Gorge/Canyon along the Bargo River.
Not too far away from Mermaid Pools, the walking track splits in two and essentially forms a loop.
It’s strongly recommended to do the lower track along the creek first, as this is by far the hardest section and involves a lot of climbing and crossing rivers.
The upper track is reasonably flat and will take you back to Mermaid Pools.
The path follows the Bargo River that you will need to cross a couple of times. The scenery here is absolutely amazing, and makes you feel like you’re going back in time as there are hardly any signs of civilisation.
The path along the creek is quite hard to follow, which makes you feel even more grateful for the makeshift markers.
If you haven’t had a chance yet to swim, there are quite a few nice spots here where you can dip your toes and feel one with nature.
After a couple of hours, the lower track transitions into the upper track. This is perhaps the hardest part where you need to climb up the canyon with some very steep rock steps.
Once you’ve made your way up, the track takes you back via the Sugar Loaf Pass on top of the Tahmoor Gorge.
There are some pretty amazing lookout points where you can rest up and take in the impressive views of the area.
At some point the path does a sharp turn to the left which kind of makes you feel like you’re going the wrong way.
But not to worry, from this point onward the track is an easy forest path that takes you back to Mermaid Pools.
Map of the Area
This handy map (courtesy of the Wollondilly Shire Council) is a hand-drawing of the walking trails and points of interest along the way, including The Potholes, See Through Pool, Mermaids Pool and Tahmoor Gorge.
Even though this map by itself is not enough to guide you through the area, it’s definitely a great source of reference. So by all means, print it out and bring it along with you. Please note though that the map was drawn upside down.