So what is wild swimming? The simple pleasure of swimming outdoors in rivers, lakes and oceans. It’s a fantastic way to explore and discover your local area, to combat stress and to reconnect to the wild. Taking the plunge releases natural feel-good chemicals called ‘endorphins,’ which is what makes it addictive. Regular dipping strengthens the immune system and increase mood and well-being. Due to its unique geography, Sydney has the best wild swimming in Australia, and some say even the world. Sydney is surrounded by beautiful national parks and wilderness. Dramatic canyons and serene rives flow through pristine bush to meet a coastline of white sand and tidal pools. This book will guide you to the best that Sydney has to offer while also celebrating the sheer joy of wild swimming. It will ignite your sense of wonder, exploration and fun, and it will embolden you to get out there and jump in! Sally Tertini spent much of her childhood exploring the bay that was her backyard in suburban Sydney. Steve Pollard grew up on a farm amongst the rolling hills of Dartmoor, UK. When they met in Sydney every spare moment was spent discovering wonderful new places to swim. After five years of research they have produced this beautiful guide book.
The water here is so fantastically clear and appealing that you’ll want to fling yourself into its green sparkling depths mid-way down the many steps that lead to it! Stowed away inside the entrance to Pittwater and shut in by steep bush, the west-facing beach is lapped apathetically by calm water. This is a little paradise, but arrive early if you want it to yourself! Follow West Head Rd, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (vehicle entry fees apply), for 12.6km, then park in signed car park on right. Take the track signed Resolute Beach. After 400m this passes Aboriginal engravings. After 950m turn left at fork. After 1.95km turn left off fire trail down steps to beach. After 2.1km with the beach in sight, turn left. Alternatively it’s a 30-min walk north from ferry at Mackeral Beach.
Swan Lake is a tranquil and truly magical spot. There really are swans here, and it’s completely overlooked by tourists! The lake is backed by bush and a thin ribbon of beach that tapers gradually into the water. It’s decorously calm, and as it’s brackish you’re guaranteed no sharks. In the full light of day the water is an intense lime colour, and as you dive under you’re suddenly jolted into the world of technicolour. Walk-in: 1 min, 20m, easy. Via end of partly unsealed Medlyn Ave, Sussex Inlet. -35.1759, 150.5685
Bob Turners Track
Bob Turner’s Track is by far the easiest way down into the pristine and rugged Colo Wilderness. This sleepy bend on the Colo River is bounded by wide sandbanks, bleached white by the sun, with pockets of shady casuarinas. There’s also the option of exploring smaller pools up and downriver. From the service station at Colo Heights, continue north for 700m, then turn left, signed Bob Turners Fire Trail. Continue for another 2.7km to car park (not at the trail head). Take the steps signed Bob Turners Walking Track. This well-made track descends moderately, crossing several small gullies, and leads directly to the river. -33.3739, 150.6657
Here you can rock-hop and search for scuttling crabs, leap from boulders into the turquoise water, spy darting cuttlefish as you swim, or brave the cave as surging waves crash over and into the pool. On calm days the water is sparkling and every crevice on the rock floor is visible. When a swell is pumping, it takes all your energy just to resist being swept back towards the shore! Walk-in: 5 mins, 200m, easy-moderate. From end of Baden St, Coogee, walk 2 o’clock across reserve and descend steps on the beach side of headland. -33.9201, 151.2605
South West Arm Pool
There’s nowhere like this in all of Sydney: it’s a picturesque setting, with thickset, pink angophoras spilling over the surrounding rocks. This remarkable pool is also well enough off the beaten track that as long as you don’t mind drying off next to a prehistoric- looking water monitor, you’re likely to have it to yourself. Follow Warumbal Rd, Royal National Park (vehicle entry fees apply) 400m from junction with Sir Bertram Stevens Dr and park on left. Take track 40m back on opposite side of road, signed Winifred Falls Fire Trail. This starts off flat, but then descends steeply. After 1.4km arrive at T-junction. Turn left. After 30m more you arrive beside Winifred Falls. Continue downstream along path adjacent to creek for another 300m to pool. -34.0893, 151.0785
Should you be so taken with wild swimming that, on your return home, you find yourself with a yearning to get wild and wet then read on as we look at some UK watering holes that will satisfy your soul. Although the water temperature may be a tad lower than you have been used to!
Kelmscott, River Thames, Oxfordshire
Above Oxford the Thames valley winds through some of the most undeveloped countryside in southern England. Here you will find kingfishers and otters, and mile-upon-mile of open fields and meadow. This is a lovely place for a secret swim from the reedy banks, and only a mile upstream is the fun pool at Buscot, where you will find several rope swings. Three miles east of Lechlade. There is parking in the field near Plough Inn (GL7 3HG, 01367 253 543). Follow the track to, and then beyond, Kelmscott Manor, to the river.
Lacock Abbey, Avon, Wiltshire
In Lacock village you will find a little known meadow with a river beach, with a view back to the glorious abbey. Further along is a leaning tree with rungs up its trunk helping you to climb up and over the river to jump down into the pool below. Check the depth first! From main National Trust car park turn right and continue 500m on the lane to find a footpath on the left, between the two bridges. 51.4146, -2.1150
Avon actually means ‘river’ in old English, so don’t confuse the Warwickshire Avon with those in Hampshire, Somerset or Devon. A line of thatched cottages leads down to a riverside path, with a weir and lush green banks upstream. From here you can follow a river path all the way to Shakespeare’s Stratford and take your pick of places to dip. 4 miles W of Stratford. From the Bell Inn (CV37 8EB, 01789 750353) pass the church and follow Boat Lane.
Crummock Water, Lake District
Crummock water is the perfect wild swimmers lake: motorised boats are forbidden and it’s well away from the tourist crowds. For a quick dip, the silvery beaches below Wood House, at the south of the lake, are perfect. For a longer expedition, follow the river path from Buttermere village, head to the mighty waterfall of Scale Force, and continue along the western lake shore, swimming wherever you please – though Low Ling Crag is my favourite place. Set off from the behind the hotel and car park in tiny Buttermere and follow the footpath alongside the campsite.
Achmelvich, Lochinver, Scotland
At Achmelvich the shell white tropical sand is brought in drifts by the Gulf Stream ocean currents. The water here is a perfect blue, and even on the dullest days the sand manages to glow beneath the waves. For absolute seclusion bear right and continue on foot for 20 minutes, where you will find several more sandy coves. Four miles from Lochinver and signed off the B869. Turn left and left again to find parking and the campsite (IV27 4JB).
Sally Tertini is the author of Wild Swimming Sydney Australia: 250 Best Rock Pools, Beaches, Rivers and Waterholes (Daniel Start is author of Wild Swimming, Hidden Beaches and the Wild Guide series.