The Five Best Waterfalls Near Sydney You Can Swim Under
Don't stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to — nor the crammed Sydney beaches.
September 15, 2023
Sydney may be well-known for its sand and surf — from beachy, bleachy Bondi to the Harbour's numerous secluded coves — but Sydney waterfalls don't often receive the same attention.
Our shores are home to some of the best, whether that's within a national park or set right along the coast. Here are five waterfalls in and around Sydney to tick off your swim list this summer. At each, you can cool off in crystal clear pools while marvelling at the rush of water above you. And, since many are lesser-known, you might just have it all to yourself.
RAINBOW FALLS, MACQUARIE PASS NATIONAL PARK
A two-hour drive south of Sydney in Macquarie Pass National Park, you'll find a hiking track scattered with waterfalls. Walk through the rainforest, eucalypts, Illawarra flame trees and ferns of Clover Hill trail to find a big waterfall — Rainbow Falls — and three smaller falls upstream on the Macquarie Rivulet, which you can swim under. But, bring a towel and a brave face — the water can be very chilly. The whole walk will take you about two-to-three hours, plus swimming time. Want to ignore the words of TLC and continue chasing waterfalls? A five-minute drive away, you'll find the easy Cascades walking track, which takes you along a creek to the stunning Cascade Falls
COLLINS BEACH WATERFALL, SPRING COVE
If it weren't for the occasional passing ferry, swimmers at Collins Beach could easily be fooled into thinking they were in the middle of nowhere. Located in Spring Cove (near North Head), it's one of Sydney's least-visited beaches despite being just 1.3-kilometres from the Manly Wharf. The trick is, it's only accessible on foot — or by boat. You can't exactly swim under the waterfall, but you can partake in the slightly surreal experience of standing in it — or behind it — while looking out at Sydney Harbour. Visit shortly after the rain to see the waterfall at its best. You may just catch a few fairy penguins sunbathing on the rocks while you're visiting the Sydney waterfall, too.
WATTAMOLLA, ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
As far as watery day trips go, Wattamolla has everything — not only a waterfall but a lagoon and a beach to boot. It's a bit of an adventure to reach the seven-metre high waterfall, requiring a 50-metre swim from the lagoon's edge to start. Some people attempt a shortcut by jumping straight in, but that's actually against National Parks and Wildlife regulations. After a swim, relax in the shade of cabbage tree palms, take a bush walk or spend the rest of the day looking out for sea eagles and oystercatchers. Set in the eastern section of the Royal National Park, Wattamolla has the added benefit of being about a one-hour drive from the Sydney CBD.
WINIFRED FALLS, ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
To reach Winifred Falls, you'll need to take the one-kilometre, occasionally steep Winifred Falls Fire Trail, which begins near Audley at Warumbul Road. This more difficult track might sound like a bit of an effort, but it's worth it. Seven metres in height, the falls tumble down a series of steps before hitting a deep, forest-green pool. If you want to continue your adventure, you can take the track the rest of the way (about another three-kilometres in total), continuing on to the South West Arm Pools and Anice Falls. We suggest you travel during the week, when there's every chance you'll have one of the best waterfalls near Sydney all to yourself.
NELLIES GLEN, BUDDEROO NATIONAL PARK
You'll find this misty, magical swimming hole in the Budderoo National Park, near Robertson in the Southern Highlands — about a two-hour drive from Sydney. Home to lush, ferny vegetation, brightly coloured orchids and satin bower birds, Nellies Glen is like a scene from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, a two-hour 'hike' (it's part bush-bash, part rock scramble) will take you to the base of the spectacular 50-metre-high Carrington Falls. Note that this trail is unmarked and therefore unsuitable for inexperienced walkers. For those that do not boast the experience, the other option is to drive to Carrington Falls picnic area.
Top image: Macquarie Pass National Park by Destination NSW
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