Of all the watery cities in the world, Sydney has one of the longest coastlines. By the time you count up all the beaches, the entire harbourfront and the scattering of islands, you've a serious stack of kilometres behind you. So far, we've brought you secluded beaches, outdoor pools and waterfalls. Now we're adding a dash of adventure to the mix, with ten of the most unusual swimming experiences to be had in and around our city. A quick dip above a waterfall, with sweeping national park views? Check. An adrenaline-pumping frenzy in a wild, exposed ocean pool? Check. A deep plunge into a limestone gorge, bordered by steep marble cliffs? Check. Whether you want rapids, waves, rock scrambles, views, art, secrecy or nudity with your swim, we've got them. Right here.
FOR SECRETIVENESS: GLEDHILL FALLS
For a long time, the Gledhills were like ghosts. A few people said they'd seen them, but finding proof was difficult. These days, there's more information floating about, but the forest-encircled falls — and the 10 metre wide pool into which they tumble — are still tricky to find. First, pack your rock climbing shoes. Then, drive your car from Mona Vale Road, onto McCarrs Creek Road, until, after about 4.5 kilometres, you reach the teeny-tiny, easy-to-miss bridge that crosses McCarrs Creek. Initially, the track is clear, but, nearing the water, prepare to scramble.
FOR WAVES: MAHON POOL
Of all the rock pools wedged between the city and the mighty Pacific, Mahon is the most adrenaline conducive. From Maroubra's northern clifftops it's hard to spot, but make your way down the staircase from the Marine Parade car park, and you'll soon spy it among the exposed rocky outcrops. An intertidal position often means fierce invasions from the ocean: visit when the water's high and the wind's a-blowing for the biggest waves and the most fun. Flood-lighting means nocturnal dipping is doable, too.
FOR BEING INDIANA JONES: WOMBEYAN GORGE
If you've always fancied you could have done Harrison Ford out of a job, show us how it's done at Wombeyan Gorge, by plunging into the deep, emerald swimming holes surrounded by sheer marble cliffs. If that's not adventure enough, canyon your way 1.5 kilometres upstream, where you'll reach a secluded waterfall. Alternatively, if you're in scaredy cat mode, stick to wading in the nearby shallow pools. Or keep out of the water altogether by heading up to Tinted Cave, where you can view the action in comfort from a naturally formed balcony. Make sure you leave time to investigate at least some of the subterranean limestone network that makes up the Wombeyan Caves. You'll find all of this near the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve, about 180 kilometres southwest of Sydney. Camping, dorms and private accommodation are available.
FOR VIEWS: ELVINA TRACK POOL
Not only does this one occupy a rare position above a waterfall, it also affords stunning views of Ku-Ring-Gai National Park. And it's hemmed in by rainforest. The pool isn't huge, but it's definitely big enough to submerge yourself in. You'll find it along the 7 kilometre-long Elvina Track, which also takes in Elvina and Lovett Bays. The starting point is just off West Head Road, 1.3 kilometres from the Coal and Candle Drive junction. Being a service trail for most of the way, the walk makes for easy Sunday strolling.
FOR SECLUSION: RESOLUTE BEACH
Despite its 4 million strong population, Sydney is home to a number of secluded beaches. But Resolute Beach takes isolation and wildness to the next level. That's because the only way to reach it is by taking on the 8 kilometre Resolute Loop Track, which turns off many a lazy beach-goer. Those with the stamina to handle it are, however, amply rewarded, with an unspoiled, empty stretch of sand, surrounded by Ku-Ring-Gai National Park and affording uninterrupted views over Pittwater. The hike, which begins at Resolute Picnic Ground, takes in a couple of other remote beaches, as well as the Red Hands Cave, home to some impressive Aboriginal rock art.
FOR FRESHWATER: LAKE PARRAMATTA
Back in the 1930s, Lake Parramatta was one of Sydney's go-to water holes. But, decades ago, thanks to rising pollution levels, swimming and boating were banned. "You could see oil and chemicals on top of the water, let alone what was underneath," one-time local Angus Campbell recalled. Major clean-up programs have, however, restored the lake to its former pristine glory, and, as of January 2015, it's open for bathing, complete with lifeguards. Visit the leafy, sandstone-enclosed freshwater spot 2 kilometres north of Parramatta CBD. Just keep your eye out for wrestling red-bellied black snakes.
Thanks to Lady Bay's existence, you can be completely suited up in the middle of a work meeting at Circular Quay at 5pm, yet utterly naked amid all kinds of wildness by 5.30pm. Tucked into a calm cove near Watsons Bay, this beach is one of Australia's oldest nudist beaches and first went legal in 1976, thanks to Neville Wran's blessing. Keep your eyes on the skyline — the city views are excellent.
FOR RAPIDS: BENTS BASIN
Pack your lilo; Bents Basin has rapids. Spend your day throwing yourself down them, just the right amount out of control. Or keep to the still water — it's one of the deepest swimming holes in New South Wales. A dramatic, wooded escarpment provides the backdrop, which means there's ample views for picnickers. Bents Basin is part of a Nepean River gorge and lies between Penrith and Camden, about 50 kilometres from the Sydney CBD. Camp in the State Conservation Area if you want to stay overnight.
FOR INDIGENOUS ROCK ART: REEF BEACH
Best to make your way to Reef Beach after the tide has gone out. That's when Aboriginal carvings becomes visible in the rocks. In addition, it's an incredibly tranquil spot in Middle Harbour, offering excellent views of Manly and Sydney Harbour's northern section. Stop there while walking the Manly Scenic Walkway or drive to Beatty Street — Reef Beach is a short walk from the car park.