A Guide to the Best Swimming Spots in and Around Sydney
Slip, slop and slap your way to these local swimming holes.
December 09, 2022
in partnership with
Friends, the time has come. Summer has, at last, arrived. La Niña has given us in Sydney a break from the endless barrage of rain, so it's time to dust off the sandals and cossies and enjoy the sun. There are activities galore to explore this summer season now that we can finally live large the way we've been aching to.
When the weather for a banging beach day comes around, you might be looking for something free from a crowd. Don't worry, together with Sheridan — the expert purveyor of luxe beach towels — we've got you covered with a shortlist of only the finest swim spots in and around Sydney.
SOMERSBY FALLS, SOMERSBY
If you fancy a drive up to the Cenny Coast, Somersby Falls is a local summer favourite. Somehow it's secluded, while only being a quick hour up the freeway and turnoff from the Pacific Motorway. You'll find an all-day carpark (which requires a small fee) and a short (but steep) journey down rocky stairs of all shapes and sizes.
Only 100 metres into your journey, you'll reach the larger of two pools, with the second waiting for you at the bottom — delightfully, both are great spots to cool off. Like all waterfalls, they're best after a bit of rain, just be careful not to slip. Ideal for a day trip, the journey in and out will take 20 minutes all up.
AUSTINMER OCEAN POOLS, AUSTINMER
Down south, approximately 90 minutes drive from Sydney, is the village of Austinmer. Easily reached by car, cityslickers can also jump on the South Coast train line to get straight to the seaside destination. It has two of the best ocean pools in the greater Sydney region, sometimes overlooked due to the legendary ocean drive to the north and The Gong's easy-breezy hub to the south.
Famous as an entry-level ocean swimming spot, Austinmer's twin beach-pool design means strong swell can roll over the walls during high tide and create a natural wave pool. And when calm, it's as flat as a pancake. The southernmost pool is shallow and popular with kiddos, so if you're looking for some quiet laps, head for the longer pool.
UPPER GLEDHILL FALLS, KU-RING-GAI CHASE NATIONAL PARK
If you've ever driven along McCarrs Creek Road on a drive up to the West Head Lookout or an intimate lunch at Cottage Point, you've passed within a stone's throw of this Northern Sydney favourite — Upper Gledhill Falls sits just below the road. You can park on the roadside near the bridge and make the short-but-tricky walk over – but fair warning, there are a few rocky outcroppings and big boulders to clamber over.
The falls collect into a picture-perfect swimming pool — about 10 metres from end to end – that pulls in a crowd on most sunny days. It's perfect for cooling off after a long hike. A short stretch of sand offers a less-rocky alternative to sunbathing spots, and if you're in an adventurous mood, there's even a rope that swings out over the water. Just be careful to aim for the water and not any spectators.
KARLOO POOLS, ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
Tucked away in the massive Royal National Park, the green realm that separates Sydney and Wollongong, Karloo Pools is one of the largest swimming pools in the greater Sydney region. It's either a 50-minute drive from the CBD or a similarly long train ride to Heathcote station, followed by a brief walk to the Karloo Track. It's a long journey, but one that's not that difficult and more than worth it.
The bushy journey is accessible for all ages and most experience levels, but it's unpaved and sometimes overgrown in places. The track — which is a six-kilometre return trip — takes you directly to the pools. The largest is the most popular and, with a rim of shallow rock ledges, is easy to dip in and out of. Be warned: the hike out is uphill, so save some strength.
WHALE BEACH, NORTHERN BEACHES
In the other direction, far into Sydney's locally dubbed 'insular peninsula', there's a beach often ignored by visiting swimmers. Whale Beach is sandwiched between Palm Beach and Avalon Headland, and can be easily passed if you're breezing up Barrenjoey Road searching for a dip. So, go there with intent or directions, otherwise you'll probably miss it.
The beach is 600-metres long and feels quite secluded despite its location, which is no surprise considering it only became a residential suburb in the 1950s. If you fancy a surf, you may have heard of 'the Wedge', a famous break on the north side of the beach. But if you forgot the board, no stress. There's plenty of sand and a 25-metre rock pool at the other end (if you prefer your oceanic exposure to be cool and calm).
VICTORIA CREEK CASCADES, BLUE MOUNTAINS
In the magical splendour of the Blue Mountains, there are more than a few famous walking tracks that'll take you to creeks, cascades, falls and pools. But our pick of the lot is Victoria Creek Cascades, where a creek turns into falls and falls into a swimming pool. Plus, it's just under two hours out of Sydney.
Be warned, this is a Blue Mountains track: it's going to be steep and mostly dirt. From the carpark, it's a one-hour walk to the pool at the base of the falls, which is the perfect place to soak your tired bones. The water stays cool even on hotter days, and it's mostly shallow and sandy, so your toes will remain unstubbed.
Once you find your new favourite swim spot, elevate your summer game even further with a Sheridan beach towel. To make your pick, head to the website.
Top image: Karloo Pools by Aiden Casey via Flickr
Introducing Concrete Playground Trips
Book unique getaways and adventures dreamed up by our editors