My Top 10 Freshwater Swimming Holes

After visiting hundreds of swimming holes around the world, primarily in the southern hemisphere, here is my current top 10 list of the best swimming holes that I have swum in. Unlike many other top 10 lists, I have personally verified swimming conditions at each of these places to test whether they deserve to be in my top 10. This list will be updated when and if I encounter better spots. It was tough to compile, and there are many that were really close to making the cut that I wish I could have included. I'm an Australian, so you will detect the obvious bias to my home country in this list.

Click on the photo or the link to read more details about how to get to each spot and what swimmers can expect. In reverse order, counting down to my current favourite: With 25 beaches either side of this small town in rural New South Wales, this spot offers the best swimming along the mighty River Murray. The sand is fine and clean, and piled up on every bend. The current and the snags can be treacherous, even for experienced swimmers, so stay in calmer water on the inside bends unless you know the conditions well. The summers here are hot, long and dry but the Murray keeps on giving the whole year round. This spot is upstream of most of the major irrigation drains, so the water quality here is much better than areas downstream. For one of most unique outdoor swimming pool experiences, the A.E.Lind Pool at the Buchan Caves Reserve is fed in one corner by the icy waters from the Dukes Cave outlet. Naturally refrigerated, it makes for a refreshing swim that is a rite of passage for anyone staying in the reserve campground. The water itself is wonderfully clear, with a slight tang on your lips to remind you of the mineral properties of the water. Perfect for when the mercury is nudging forty degrees Celsius.
The best riverside bush camping spot next to a high quality swimming hole that I've come across is at Lake Eckersley Campground in the Heathcote National Park south of Sydney. It's accessible enough that you can easily walk here in a couple of hours, but remote enough that it doesn't attract the crowds, and if you bring five friends or family, you can book the place out for yourselves. It's literally a few steps from your tent to the water's edge, then it's a walk out along the sandy path to a deep pool with it's own diving rock. This is the best hot spring complex that I have visited for winter swimming. Pool temperatures range from 28 degrees Celsius in the 25 metre lap pool up to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) in the sulphur pool. There are restrictions on putting your head under the water in most of the pools, so breastroke is the order of the day. After freezing the soles of my feet on the icy paths between each pool, I loved plunging them into the water, sitting back and taking in the views of the snow capped mountains in the distance. For its diversity of swimming experiences in the one location, Berry Springs on the outskirts of Darwin comes in at No. 6. The natural spring water is slightly warm, so there's no chill getting into the water, but it's not hot enough to be uncomfortable in the tropical heat, so it's still refreshing. There are two large, deep pools with a variety of aquatic life to explore with a snorkel mask, as well as an interconnecting channel that you can crawl along in the water. At the upstream end of the pools, near the spring source, there's a little waterfall that provides a great shoulder massage. I normally search for swims with crystal clear water, so this swimming experience took me by surprise with how enjoyable it was to coat myself in mud, run around on the grass to let myself bake in the tropics until my skin was a little crusty, then wash it off in a series of gradually cleaner hot pools. Most of the pools are big and deep enough to swim around in, despite the high sediment load. And was my skin rejuvinated at the end of the process? I don't know but it was so much fun that I definitely felt younger. Mud, glorious mud. For the best government sanctioned skinny dipping location that I have come across on my travels, Kambah Pool is hard to surpass. It's close to the city, readily accessible from the car park but also secluded, and has a long history of being visited by naturists. In amongst the swirling eddies running around the rocks in the Murrumbidgee River, under the shade of the Casuarina Pines, it's hard to not feel connected to nature here. You can also visit the sizeable main pool, directly upstream but separated by dense bush, for a clothed swim. A freshwater lake with brilliant azure blue water on a bed of white sand, Lake McKenzie is an other-worldly swim that is immediately pleasing to all of your senses. It takes a ferry ride and some 4WD vehicles to get there, but it's well worth the trip across from the mainland. Best of all, because the water is slightly acidic, there are virtually no little critters in the water to worry about for anyone squeamish about swimming in the outdoors. (Photo Source: By Sensenmann - Own work, Public Domain, Link) Despite the best efforts of the local forestry corporation to close this swim down, with a bit of effort you can still walk in and experience once of the best natural lap pools I've encountered. This swim includes a long, deep pool with elevated spots on the cliff from which locals launch themselves into the water. The waterfall in the top corner provides added aesthetic beauty for this swim in a natural gorge in bush surrounds. There have been a few emergency rescues at this spot in the past, so don't destroy the serenity with unnecessary risk taking on the cliffs.
This huge natural pool in the Litchfield National Park, south of Darwin in Australia, boasts crystal clear water with unbelievable visibility, and a reliable waterfall feeding into the pool at one end. Concrete steps make entry into the water easy, and because you can see the pebbled pool bed, you can walk out confidently in chest high water before deciding to swim. In the tropical heat, this pool really hits the spot. Swimming is limited to the dry season, roughly from April to October, due to croc risks during the wet season, so make sure you observe any croc warning signs.
Comments on My Top 10
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