UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Put on your bathing suit and pack lots of sunscreen because we’re taking you to some of the best swimming holes to escape Sydney’s sweltering summer heat. Get ready for some idyllic secret spots that'll allow you to avoid crowds, stay cool, and soak it all in. See you out there!
Wild swimming in Sydney doesn’t get better than taking a plunge in the natural rock pools located within the Royal National Park. Karloo Pool, the namesake and largest of the lot, is breathtakingly beautiful, with its glistening emerald surface reflecting the leafy backdrop of the surrounding bush. If you’re afraid of deep waters, then it’s best to stick to the rock ledges on the side, and if you’re lucky, you might just get to spot one of the resident yabbies hanging out in the area. Fitt Tip: if you’re not ready for a post-swim snooze at the nearby campground, then get the legs shuffling on the Karloo Walking Track, which will lead you to the Uloola Falls.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that yet another beautiful bushland swimming hole can be found within one of New South Wales’ iconic national parks. Nellies Glen, a natural rock pool in Budderoo National Park near Robertson, offers crisp relief (the water is quite chilly) from the scorching heat, with plenty of depth for a proper swim. Make your way to the far side, where the small but powerful Carrington Falls will offer you a massage and offer cover from the sun inside the small cave right behind it. Combine your trip with walks around the nearby Kangaroo Valley, which also happens to have other swimming spots for you to enjoy.
The iconic Figure 8 Pools, located on the coastal headlands in Sydney’s Royal National Park, are every Insta-crazed adventure-seeker’s dream. Embark on an hour-and-a-half hike to the pools (3.5km one way) starting from Garrawarra Farm car park. Once you’ve made it there, be prepared to have your mind blown — the perfectly circular baths carved into the rock, the panoramic views of the coastline, and the crashing of the ocean waves are absolutely dream-like... and just freaking gorgeous. But, be warned: going on a whim to these naturally formed rock pools is most definitely not the right call to make. Plan your trip in advance to figure out when the tide and swell are at their lowest — many people have gotten seriously injured (and even drowned) in the past due to the sudden crash of waves at high tide.
It may not be your candy of choice, but we know you’re most definitely going to scream ‘Jellybean’ with joy when you get to the famous Jellybean Pool (so-called for its shape) in Blue Mountains National Park, just two kilometres from the Glenbrook entrance. Don’t be put off by the large crowds that gather here in the high season — the gorgeous sandy beach next door more than makes up for the large number of day-trippers coming for a visit. Bring your picnic basket along, too, because we all know swimming can work up an appetite. If a day isn’t enough, set up camp at the Euroka Campground and take out time for a dip in the nearby Blue Pool as well.
This 25-metre-long rock pool, located at the end of the North Curl Curl Beach, is one of the most gorgeous secret spots in Sydney and a true local favourite (for those who really know the area well). Beware, though — access to the pool can be difficult when the tide is high, where taking a coastal walk across the headland may be the only way to get to it. However, if you’ve made it to the pool, be prepared for falling in love with its natural beauty: the stunning rock formations surrounding the pool and the cooling effect of the water under the hot sun will instantly take your breath away.
So, here’s the thing: we’re about to reveal another local favourite swimming hole far enough from the CBD that it’s almost unknown to outsiders. Mahon Pool, located to the north of Maroubra Beach at the base of Jack Vanny Reserve, isn’t just tucked away at the far end of a beach — it has a place of its own. It’s sheltered from the hubbub of city life, carved into a rock flat at the bottom of a steep hill, yawning into the ocean. The ocean pool, larger than most found across Sydney, is a rugged and charming sight on a glorious summer day — taking a plunge among the local sea life doesn’t get better than this.
Clarence Dam, also known as the Dam Cliffs of Dargan Creek, is tucked away in the outskirts of Blue Mountains National Park and fenced by 10-metre-high cliffs that are perfect for jumping off into the water below (make sure you’re buddied up and not going at it alone). If you’re into cheeky lilo-lays among the bushland, rock climbing, and canyoning, your trip to Clarence Dam may become WAY more than just a way to cool off on a hot day.
The spectacular Limestone Gorge, located just a 30-minute stroll from Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve’s visitor centre, offers a natural swimming experience that your crew will reminisce about for a long time coming. The chilly water coupled with the marble-wall surroundings of the gorge are a welcome relief from the glaring rays of sun. You can take in the views from the Tinted Cave, which offers a natural balcony sitting high above the water, and once you’re done, take a canyoning adventure by working your way upstream to a stunning waterfall.
Get ready for another bushland experience. The Little River Pools, nestled in the Bargo State Conservation Area in Buxton, may not have the wow factor that other swimming holes on this list offer, but guess what — it’s still a stunning green setting with very few people around to disturb the peacefulness of the area. Enjoy the waterfall, take a bushwalk, watch the birds, and maybe even enjoy reading a book on the rocks.
Gordons Bay, a secluded oasis reminiscent of an European fishing village, can be accessed via the popular coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee. We suggest taking your snorkeling gear with you (or renting it) in order to enjoy the sea life (you’re likely to spot starfish and blue groupers) as you take a plunge in the crystal blue waters. Once back out in the sun, relax on the sandy shore and let the sea breeze take you to your happy place.
Don’t get bummed with the word ‘beach’ in the name because this item on our list isn’t your typical crowded Bondi or Manly destination. Resolute Beach, despite its location within the famous Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, is hardly visited because of the 8km trek that many lazy beachgoers refuse to make. However, the beauty of the turquoise blue waters, the surrounding forest, and the empty stretch of sand can hardly be argued — it’s the perfect sanctuary for anyone looking for a quiet getaway.
Get the latest news on Sydney’s fitness scene.