Always keen for an adventure, especially one involving water, Rachel and Andy Lewis have launched Wild Swimming Australia where they’re creating a comprehensive guide to outdoor swimming locations across Australia. Below are some of their favourite NSW wild swimming paradises.
If you’re reading this then you probably don’t need an excuse to go on an adventure, but having a swimming hole as a destination can open up a new area for exploration, add an extra element of adventure to your weekend bushwalk and allow you to literally immerse yourself in your surroundings.
When we find swimmable water, our mantra is, ‘Get in there’. And we’ve never regretted it yet.
Here are a few lesser-known swimming holes in NSW which we hope will lead you off the beaten track and inspire you to make water a regular feature of your adventures.
1. Nellie’s Glen
Nellie’s Glen is a beautiful bushland swimming hole with a picture-perfect waterfall in the Budderoo National Park. It is enclosed by vegetation with a rocky surround and lies just upstream from the incredibly impressive Carrington Falls.
You can get behind the waterfall at the far side and there’s a handy rock seat on which to take a seated waterfall shower. The river flows on down over the Carrington Falls and into Kangaroo Valley, which is home to many more idyllic swimming spots.
2. Mulligan’s Hut
A tranquil pool overhung with greenery and fed by a babbling brook right in the centre of a vast area of national parks and state forests. There are countless amazing walking trails, including the three day Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage Walk, and probably a million other swimming holes to discover.
This is an area tantalisingly pregnant with potential for secret swims as much of it is only accessible on foot and there are plenty of rivers and creeks running through it. A genuine NSW wild swimming paradise.
3. Scout’s Falls
A little known swimming spot just north-west of Coffs Harbour. Getting to this spot involves a fun scramble up the riverbed, which means that company, when you arrive at the deep pool under the waterfall, is likely to be limited.
To continue the adventure it is possible to climb with care up the left-hand side of the falls where there are several shallow pools and the scramble up the riverbed continues, leading to who knows where…
4. Tyagarah Tea Tree Lake
A must-do on a visit to the Byron Bay area, this tea tree stained lake offers plenty of space for a longer swim. The tea tree oil dropped into the lake from the surrounding forest gives the water a dark colour and is rumoured to be great for your skin.
There’s a path which lets you cruise the circumference of the lake. Once you’ve chosen your spot, settle down on the bank with a picnic and enjoy an afternoon of lazy dips.
5. Pool of Siloam and Lyrebird Dell
Although these falls and swimming holes are easily accessible from the centre of Leura (and the train station), the area is a bit of an overlooked gem in a tucked-away corner of the Blue Mountains. If you access them from the quiet track off of Carleton Road, the first part of the walk along the Leura Cliffs provides classic blue haze views and a great angle on the Three Sisters with hardly a soul in sight.
There is an easy 1.5km circular route joining the two swimming spots together with the Gordon Falls Picnic Area but the track opens up a world of possibilities for more adventurous hikes as it connects with several other routes covering a large area of the Blue Mountains.
The Pool of Siloam itself is only just deep enough for a dip and startlingly refreshing with a soft sandy bottom making it perfect for lying back and taking in the gorgeous little falls.
At Lyrebird Dell there is a cave by the falls which has been a shelter for local Aboriginal people for centuries and which continues to provide great protection from the elements today.
6. Lake Yarrunga
A pristine swimming spot about three hours south of Sydney in the beautiful Kangaroo Valley, above Tallowa Dam. Combine your swim with an overnight canoe adventure from Bendeena Campground, making use of one of the multiple campgrounds along the shore of the lake and ending at the dam wall the next day.
The view is an interesting one as you paddle amongst a flooded forest; a remnant of a time before the dam was created. As no powered boats are allowed on the dam, this is the perfect place to settle into the rhythmical peace of a long swim or paddle.
Canoes suitable for carrying you and your camping gear can be hired locally and can be dropped off and picked up at your start and endpoints. There is also interesting hiking in the national park with ruined buildings and roads from bygone years to discover, all of which can, of course, be punctuated by swims in the lake.
Campgrounds accessible on foot are at Acacia Flat and Beehive Point, both of which are very simple with just a drop toilet, lots of beautiful bush and easy access to the water to make going for a dip an integral part of your stay.
Making swimming the focus of our adventures has opened up nooks and crannies of the landscape that otherwise might have passed under our radar and has added value to many a bushwalk.
Like dipping into another dimension, immersion transports us out of the ordinary and gives us new perspective. And it opens something up inside us too, a sense of being fully alive (especially when the water is cold!) and of being fully present to the wonders of the Aussie landscape.
Maybe you already hike with swimmers and a towel in your backpack, just in case, or maybe this is the first time you’ve ever considered swimming outdoors. Either way, we hope we’ve inspired you to take the plunge and make your next adventure a wild swimming one.
For more info on each of the swimming spots mentioned here, and many others, visit www.wildswimmingaustralia.com.
All photos by Andy Lewis