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Supplied - Jingga Water Hole at Dharawal
Photograph: Supplied

The best bushland swimming holes near Sydney

Connect with nature – and your besties – at these picturesque places to cool off

By Maxim Boon
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When the mercury rises in Sydney, 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 glorious nature, and thanks to the vast swathes of national parks and bushland just a stone's throw from the city, you won't have to travel very far to find such a dip. 

If you and your mates have well and truly done the beach thing, a visit to one of these little-known swimming holes is the perfect alternative. Round them up, pack some supplies and head off for a day at one of these stunning natural pools.

If you're not quite done with the ocean but you're over the crowds, seek out these top secret beaches in and around Sydney.

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Karloo Pools
Karloo Pools
Photograph: Natasha Webb

Karloo Pools

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.

Jellybean Pool
Jellybean Pool
Photograph: Shutterstock

Jellybean Pool

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. 

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Three people swimming in water
Three people swimming in water
Photograph: Dimitri Bong

McCarrs Creek Reserve

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.  

Upper Gledhill Falls
Upper Gledhill Falls
Photograph: National Parks

Upper Gledhill Falls

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.

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Jingga Pool
Jingga Pool
Photograph: Nick Cubbin

Jingga Pool

Tread with respect in Dharawal National Park: this landscape of forest, swamps, waterfalls and rockpools south of Campbelltown is of spiritual significance to the Dharawal 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.

Do go chasing waterfalls

The best waterfalls in Sydney and NSW

Attractions Parks and gardens

Load up the picnic basket and take a road trip to find these cascading falls around Sydney. You’ll find plunge pools you can swim in, waterfalls you can walk over and mountain walks so awe-inspiring they'll make you feel small.

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