When the mercury rises this summer, leave the city behind and head for the hills. There's nothing quite like a relaxing swim in a cool, clear swimming hole surrounded by nature. If your mates have well and truly done the beach thing, a visit to one of these little-known swimming holes is the kind of outing they won't forget in a hurry. Round them up, pack some refreshing Lipton Ice Tea, and hit the road.
Before you head off for an outback adventure, always check for closures and fire bans on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website and check the air quality rating. Extreme weather conditions and catastrophic bushfires have led to the closures of many national parks in recent months.
This oasis in the bush of the Royal National Park is one of the best natural swimming spots near Sydney. Located a reasonably short hike (roughly three kilometres) from Heathcote train station, this collection of rock pools – the largest reaching 20 metres in length – is flanked by flat, rocky outcrops, ideal for a lazy arvo of sun-worshipping between dips. The nearest facilities are at Heathcote, so make sure to pack provisions if you’re planning to make a day of it.
Just an hour west of Central Sydney, a sharp meander in the Glenbrook Creek has created a beautiful swimming spot where the flow of the water is gentle and the surrounding gum trees create ample shade. Just half an hour’s walk from the Glenbrook Trail Visitor Centre, where there’s access to toilets and drinking water, this is one of the most easily reached swimming holes near the city, with the trail’s forgiving terrain remaining passable in all weather conditions.
This reserve is a perfect destination for a Sunday drive with friends, and the views over Pittwater are spectacular. McCarrs Creek Reserve is good for a picnic, or a stroll, a barbecue or some general contemplative 'me' time. The reserve is also an underrated fishing spot where you can land whiting, bream and flathead among other finned goodies (don't forget your licence). Got a furry friend? Dogs are welcome here off-leash Monday to Friday.
Cascading into a natural amphitheatre, the 10m wide pool at the base of this bush falls in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is about as tranquil a swimming spot as you’ll find, despite being relatively close to a busy road. In fact, proximity to civilisation is definitely a plus: unlike other falls that require a trek to reach, Upper Gledhill is a fuss-free drive, less than 30 kilometres from the city centre. If you want to explore more of the area, we suggest you make the five-kilometre hike to Church Point Wharf and ride the ferry to beautiful Palm Beach.
Tread with respect in Dharawal National Park: this landscape of forest, swamps, waterfalls and rockpools south of Campbelltown is of spiritual significance to the Daharawal people. Jingga Pool is part of O'Hares Creek and safe to swim in; a challenging 2.4km walk along the Jingga track will reward you with a freshwater swimming hole at the end. Keep an eye out for potoroos, the local marsupials.
Beaches have their charms, but nothing beats a freshwater swim surrounded by the Australian bush. A secluded place to splash around in the great outdoors with friends makes summer that much better.