Australia's top swimming spots

Merewether Ocean Baths, Newcastle
Merewether Ocean Baths, Newcastle

For keen swimmers and those who just need to cool down after a day in the sun, some places are better than others ...

Here's a round-up of some of the best places to go for a dip in Oz:

Lake McKenzie

Where: Fraser Island, Queensland

Everyone has their own highlight on Fraser Island (driving along the beach, camping out in the open, dingo-dodging) but mine has to be Lake McKenzie, a big perched lake (ie. one that isn't connected to any rivers or streams — it's made from rainwater). Swimming in it feels like doing breaststroke through a giant bath of mineral water. How often is it that you actually want to drink the water you're swimming in? Well, here you can take a few gulps as you go — the water is kept super pure by the fine silica sand that surrounds it.

The only issue is the need to keep that water pure and this means no swimming in it with sun cream on — the oils from a coating of factor 30 can damage the lake. And this, of course, means that if you're planning on swimming for awhile, you can expect a nice red back afterwards if you don't wear a rashie.

Buley Rockholes

Where: Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory

Not all of us have the same ideas about going for a swim. Some like to plough mercilessly up and down an Olympic-sized pool while others prefer to meander around in spa baths, pretending this somehow constitutes exercise.

For those in the latter category, the Buley Rockholes in the Litchfield National Park are perfect. They're a series of rockholes, of varying sizes, which follow the river as it floats downstream. Of course, this means you can mooch about under miniature waterfalls in some of the holes and lazily flop along with the current in others.

All that's missing is those little bubble-making jets at the side, really. Oh yes, they're croc-free, as the somewhat unfriendly bitey green monsters find it a bit tricky to climb up this way.

Mataranka Thermal Springs

Where: Elsey National Park, Northern Territory

Of course, for real spa-type water in the Top End, Mataranka is the place to go. Consistently heated to 34 degrees Celsius by an underground spring pumping out over 30 million litres of water a day, the pool is easily the warmest swim in the Northern Territory.

It's a spa-type place in water temperature only, though. The pool (and it's fairly extensive) is next to a camping ground/caravan park and is surrounded by palm trees and a paperbark forest. It's a proper wild experience and you can fully expect to bump into interesting creatures such as turtles while you're swimming around.

Merewether Ocean Baths

Where: Newcastle, New South Wales

Right at the end of the Bather's Way, the walk that takes in Newcastle's undeniably scenic coastline, the Merewether Ocean Baths are a spectacular sight. And a welcome way to cool off, if you've taken on the walk.

There are two main pools, but it's the juxtaposition with the sea that really makes the scene. The Tasman thrashes against the rocks mere inches from the edge of the pool and on a clear day there are varying tones of blue as far as the eye can see.

Even when everyone fancies cooling off, there's always space to swim — these are the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Murchison River

Where: Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia

Sometimes it's not really about the cleanliness of the water or the serenity of the setting — it's how appreciative of the dip you are when you finally reach it that counts.

The Murchison River is hardly going to be raved about as a turquoise/azure paradise, but by God it's welcome when you finally get to it. The river is arguably what makes the Kalbarri National Park so spectacular. It creates the valley that all the rugged, rocky bits focus around. But it can be a hot, fly-blown walk getting down to the water's edge, past all the abseilers and rock climbers.

And thus it comes as no surprise to see people stripping off as soon as they arrive, then leaping into the water with a big "aaaaaaaaaaaaaah".

The Lagoon

Where: Cairns, Queensland

Most hotels in Cairns have a swimming pool as standard, which is hardly surprising given that the beaches around the city are hardly prime swimming territory (crocs and stingers aren't universally popular).

The city eventually cottoned onto this and when the rather tired shoreline got a much-needed revamp, a huge artificial lagoon was included as the key part of the makeover.

With saltwater filtrated through a state of the art system, the lagoon is arguably the country's most impressive public swimming pool, looking out onto the Trinity Inlet and Great Barrier Reef. At 4800 square metres, it's pretty damn huge. And with lifeguard patrols, it's also the safest swimming spot in the area by a long stretch.

Cataract Gorge

Where: Launceston, Tasmania

Just a 15-minute walk from Launceston city centre, Cataract Gorge is one of those spots that feels like it ought to belong in a national park. It's not, but that doesn't stop it being an idyllic little bolthole. For many, the attraction is the chance of a bushwalk close to the city or the world's longest single-span chairlift (take that, stat fans), but in summer, there's no contest.

Some parts of the gorge aren't particularly safe for swimming in, but the bits that are can be wonderfully refreshing. Rather pointlessly, there is a swimming pool right next to the River South Esk, but most take nature's own option. Just watch out for the daredevil kids leaping off the rocks into the water.

Be sure to check out our photo gallery of the best swimming holes in Oz by clicking here:

Keen swimmer? Tell us where you go for a dip below!

Related video: Gorgeous Cataract Gorge

User comments
Beautiful aqua blue water along a curved white sand beach. A wonderful natural rock formation in the middle of the water, good challenge for swimmers as the water gets deeper. Not too many waves and some good snorkeling spots near the shore. Near Esperance, WA.
Can't beleive Dalhousie Springs in SA didn't make the list. That would have to be my number two after Lake McKenzie.
Hi - I think you should have a closer look at Yanchep Lagoon in WA. It's only 55 kms from Perth CBD and has something for everyone. The lagoon as a great reef which is terrific for fishing, exploring or simply keeping something between you and anything that might be swimming on the other side. Inside the reef is the perfect pool like bathing for small kids. Just north is excellent body-boarding and surfing as the waves ride in and just south is a great dog beach. And when you've had enough of the beach - if ever, then you can pop in to the beautiful 4500 hectare Yanchep National Park and say hello to the koalas, go for a leisurely boat ride on Loch McNess or play a round of golf among the kangaroos. It's the most beautiful place to visit and to live.