Everyone knows the ocean is overrated. Especially since, sorry to break the news to you, the majority of beaches you find in Melbourne aren’t real beaches. Swimming holes, on the other hand, are very fun. They’re nature’s swimming pools, carved naturally out of rock and featuring some very refreshing waters that are ripe for splashing around in. Below are some of our favourites in Victoria.
The best swimming holes in Victoria
Up in Victoria’s High Country, where the air is clear and the mountains are craggy, you’ll find Ladies Bath Falls. When travellers used to arrive there in the early 1900s, men and women would separate, and this was where women would come to cool off. This cold mountain creek is located on the drive up to the summit of Mount Buffalo, about a 20-minute drive from Bright. The rock pools are a great respite from the summer heat, but be careful moving over the rocks as they can be slippery.
When you think of a swimming hole, this is probably what you envisage: a large volume of water cascading into a big, deep pond flanked by 20-metre cliffs. What we’ve described there is Turpins Falls, located about 15 minutes from the town of Kyneton in Victoria’s northwest. Turpins is a large billabong (an isolated pond left behind when a river changes course), and it’s bigger than an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Swimming is encouraged, but jumping from the top of the cliffs is not (people have been seriously injured after miscalculating the depth of the pool). We suggest parking yourself on one of the neighbouring rocks and dipping your head under when the temperature rises.
Swimming at MacKenzie Falls is strictly forbidden, but these thunderous falls aren’t the only spot in Grampians National Park where you’ll find cool, refreshing water holes. Take the 2.3km easy walking track from Halls Gap towards Venus Baths, where naturally formed rock pools await you. Keen to try some natural waterslides? There are a few smooth rock formations here that you can try slide down.
The Werribee Gorge circuit walk features a hiking trifecta: gorgeous views, rock scrambling and, depending on what time of year you visit, a refreshing swimming hole to wade into. As the path snakes along Werribee River there are half a dozen spots where you can stop and swim, but Blackwood Pool is the biggest and best. Keep an eye out for platypus, too, as they’re also said to be fond of Blackwood. If you do spot one, take a photo and show it to the park rangers, as they like to keep records of all sightings.
Free campgrounds around Victoria are becoming few and far between, but the Briagolong State Forest in east Victoria is a true winner. It boasts a crystal clear pool surrounded by natural bushland that’s easy to access and not too busy. The water is fresh, and it’s a nice reprieve from the stinking hot temperatures that often hit this area in the peak of summer.
Heading up to Sydney via the coastal route? Bring your camping gear and head towards the far-eastern coastline of Croajingolong National Park, found just below the border with New South Wales. It’s here you’ll find secluded coastal camping spots, plenty of beach walks and lots of native animals. Cool off after a hike with a dip in the many rivers, streams and beaches that call the coastal national park home.
Hot day? Head to our closest national park and enjoy the soothing wilderness of leafy Warrandyte. As far as Yarra River swimming goes, you won't do better than Pound Bend. In 1870, gold miners dug 145 metres of rock through a hill to divert the Yarra through a tunnel to dredge for gold. Nowadays, the mouth of the tunnel opens out into a calm, deep river oasis that the locals have been keeping secret. Take a quick dip, chill out by the banks or bring your blow-up tyre and just float.
About one hour west of the CBD is Lerderderg State Park, which as well as having a super fun name to say out loud, is also home to the meandering Lerderderg River. MacKenzie’s Flat Picnic Area is the perfect spot for a swim and lunch – just don’t forget to slip, slop and slap.