With its alleys of pines and acres of vines, the Mornington Peninsula is the secret stomping ground of well-heeled citysiders. Along with its beautiful beaches and gourmet scene, there are also some stunning spots for wild swimming. Relax in the indoor and outdoor natural hot springs at Peninsula Hot Springs where you can indulge in more than 20 globally inspired bathing experiences, including a cave pool, reflexology walk and Turkish steam bath, and enjoy a diverse range of spa treatments while you’re there. Be sure to soak in the hilltop pool for 360-degree views over the peninsula to the coast.
The Northern Territory is an adventure-seeker’s mecca, with a myriad of dive-right-in swimming spots, being home to majestic gorges, waterholes and plunge pools. Some of the top spots are found in Kakadu National Park, where soaring cliffs birth dazzling waterfalls, wetlands bulge with bird life and golden escarpments arc under cotton-wool clouds. Go for a splash in Gunlom, where a network of infinity pools (which you can swim in, of course!) sit perched high, looking out upon cinematic vistas of the tree-lined terrain below. These pools give way to Gunlom Falls in a stream that drops 100 metres through a saddled copper escarpment, falling to a base pool encircled by eucalyptus trees. Heaven.
Nitmiluk National Park, a 3.5-hour drive (or short plane ride) south of Darwin, near the town of Katherine, is a water-laden wonderland – a breathtakingly beautiful wilderness reserve featuring Katherine Gorge, a network of 13 canyons through which the Katherine River flows. Here you can picnic, camp, cruise, canoe, gaze at cultural rock art and, of course, swim. On the Nitmiluk bucket list? A hike and swim at Butterfly Gorge, where you can float beneath towering cliffs, accessed via a 12km loop walk from the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre. Or for the ultimate swimming experience, head off on the Jatbula Trail, a stunning five or six-day hike that sees each day’s campsite matched with a different, glittering waterhole. Following the trail with your guide, you’ll trace the steps of an ancient songline of the Jawoyn Aboriginal people – expect to see thousand-year-old rock art and learn important details about their cultural heritage as you walk. This walk - and swim! - is often considered an unsung gem of Australia.
No Australian wild swimming round-up would be complete without highlighting one of the country’s ultimate bucket-list must-dos - snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Go for a swim here and the kaleidoscopic colours can’t fail to impress, with fish and coral in every hue of the rainbow, swaying in harmony with the gentle ocean swell. It’s an international icon for a reason: Queensland’s prime World Heritage Area is the world’s largest coral reef system, containing some 3,000 separate coral reefs and more than 900 islands. You can snorkel over sea stars and giant fan coral, spot turtles and hover over clownfish, or even swim with dolphins, whales and more. Can we come too?
A hop, skip and jump from mainland South Australia, you’ll find the beautiful Kangaroo Island. As you’d expect of an Australian island sanctuary, there are some spectacular beaches to be found on KI, with Vivonne Bay, Pennington Bay and Stokes Bay topping the list. At Island Beach you’ll also find translucent waters and sheltered swimming areas. Want something more serene and off the beaten track? Western River Cove in the north is sheltered by towering, rocky cliffs and has warm, clear water. As well as the awesome wild swimming opportunities, the island is also a wildlife haven and foodie heaven.
Drive north from Tasmania’s capital of Hobart up the eastern coastline, and you’ll find sandy stretches that rival those of the tropics - including one of the world’s top ten beaches, dazzling Wineglass Bay. Hidden by the spectacular Freycinet Peninsula, it’s one of the state’s most recognisable natural sights, and is also home to dolphins, wallabies and sea eagles - you may even spot a Tasmanian devil. Alternatively, The Tasman Peninsula coast – approximately 80 minutes’ drive south-east of Hobart – isn’t just for looking at. On this three-hour trip, you can also slip on a wetsuit and swim among seals, and other marine life from a sea-view platform.
Those venturing just a short hop out of the city soon see that Canberra’s ‘bush capital’ moniker is well-deserved. Within minutes, the cityscape is replaced by open bushland, with quiet country roads criss-crossing the Murrumbidgee River and providing a rewarding day trip. First stop is the Cotter Reserve, where picnic grounds, barbecues and peaceful swimming spots abound; locals love Casuarina Sands – but just keep an eye out for strong currents. Make sure to also leave plenty of time for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a few kilometres further on and a fantastic spot to see koalas and emus in their natural environment, before taking the 40-minute drive back to the city. Then, either double back or complete a loop by stopping off at Kambah Pools – a lovely spot for a swim.
Pic courtesy Flickr CC-BY Allan Sharp
Western Australia's coastline is dotted with glittering white beaches, but inland you’ll also find some magical waterways. The billion-year-old Kimberley region is like nowhere else on the planet, with towering red rock formations, gushing waterfalls and bottomless gorges that capture every adventurer - and swimmer’s - heart. Just a 90-minute drive from the outback town of Kununurra, which you can fly to directly from Perth, Darwin and Broome, you’ll find the El Questro Wilderness Park, a huge outback property in the East Kimberley, home to a surprisingly long list of water-filled activities: there’s boating between the sunburnt cliffs of an ancient gorge; lazing in the thermal waters of palm-lined Zebedee Springs; and hiking through the bush for a swim at the deep waterhole of Emma Gorge.
The coastline of New South Wales is literally bursting with glorious beaches and swimming spots, stretching from the Sapphire Coast through Sydney and the Central coast to Coffs Harbour and bohemian Byron Bay in the north. But don’t miss a visit to the state’s beautiful national parks for wild swimming in some of the world’s most pristine watering holes. Two hours to the west of Sydney, you’ll find the Blue Mountains National Park, part of one million hectares of bushland, escarpments and waterholes, protected by a UNESCO World-Heritage listing. A shallow pool awaits you at the bottom of the spectacular Wentworth Falls. The views on the way down to this spot are incredible as they extend out over the gorge which is populated by the Blue Mountains’ trademark gum trees and the blue haze that gives the area its name. There’s also the Kowmung River, in the Kanangra-Boyd national park, one of seven rivers in New South Wales that have been declared as wild rivers thanks to its near-pristine condition; Erskine Creek is a pretty 200m pool right next to the bush, surrounded by a sand bank; and Nayook Creek is a canyon that offers several rock ledges for brilliant jumping opportunities, and its high plunging waterfall sends mist across the cliff faces, creating rainbows.
Take a hiking trip to Wilson’s Promontory for some of the best wild swimming spots in Victoria. Known as ‘The Prom’ by locals, it’s the insider’s spot for beautiful outdoor adventures. The 50,000-hectare wonderland offers a spectacular back-to-nature sojourn with mountains to climb, eucalyptus forests to admire, fern gullies to hike, pristine beaches to explore and lots of Aussie animals to see in the wild. (Keep an eye out for emus at the aptly-named Emu Plains). The crowning beauty here is Squeaky Beach, so named because its talcum white sand squeaks underfoot as you walk. But for an oasis of calm, take a trip to the majestic and secluded Fairy Cove. Bring a picnic and spend the day here, before heading back to your nearby retreat.