Where is Australia's best bush swim? After decades clambering through gorges, slipping down gravel and brushing aside
bracken, here is my compilation of our country's best. It only includes places that I have actually visited to confirm
conditions for swimming, and it may be updated when and if I encounter better spots. I've divided it into categories
for best camping spot with a swim, best rock slide into water, best waterfall pool, etc. as you can read below. As
tough as it was, I have restricted myself to a maximum top three in each category.
Click on the photo or the link to read more details about how to get to each spot
and what you can expect.
Best Waterfall Pools for Swimming in Australia
Once relatively unknown but now hugely popular in summer, this waterfall pool was home to a local swimming club back in the 1930s
before municipal pools came into vogue. Towering basalt rock walls on three sides create a cathedral around this
billabong on the Campaspe River, with entry at the bottom end after walking down a steep but short bush track.
The pool is just over fifty metres in length, and rumoured to have a depth up to eight metres in parts. It's not the
best in Australia due only to the poor visibility in the water.
You used to be able to drive most of the way to these falls down a one vehicle wide, perilously steep track, but the local
forestry corporation recently made it harder to reach by shutting down vehicle access. Even with a car, you still had
to then negotiate by foot one river crossing and a short walk through the bush to reach this spot. This pool is about forty
metres long, slotted into a fairly narrow gorge, with the waterfall spilling fresh, clear water into the top corner of the pool.
With the help of a map, you can still walk in to this beautiful spot.
At the start of the dry season, this spring fed waterfall feeds majestically into a huge pool for swimming.
It's about 60 metres in length from the entry steps to the rock wall. Due to its popularity, getting here is very easy
nowadays, with good facilities nearby, but apart from the hand rail and steps into the water, the bush setting has been
maintained. The water is crystal clear and the depth is just right for swimming. Swimming is limited
to the dry season, roughly from April to October, due to croc risks during the wetter months, so make sure you follow any
croc warning signs.
Best Rock Water Slides in Australia
This natural rock slide has a smooth ride with a perfectly angled lip at the bottom to launch you out into the small but
very deep pool below. The car park for the falls is at the end of a dirt road through the national park, with a relatively easy,
few hundred metre walk to the falls themselves. To reach the top of the falls (at your own risk and in dry conditions only),
you need to scramble up the few metres of rock face on the far side. The following video shows one of my slides into the water:
Ladies Swimming Holes in Australia?
Can you assign gender to a swim? Are these a quaint reminder of times gone by, or an anachronistic view of female seggregation
and objectification in need of revision? You be the judge of these two secluded swims associated female bathing in the bush.
This swim was a stopping point in the late 19th and early 20th century on the steep climb up to Mount Buffalo. It allowed
ladies to refresh themselves in the icy pool in a discrete location, away from the wandering eyes of their drivers and
chaperones. It is easily accessible by foot from the main road, but because it is located up and over a small ridge, and
is nestled into the side of the mountain, it maintains a high degree of privacy from passers-by. It also means that the
pool doesn't get a lot of sunlight, so it's pretty cold.
This bathing spot in the Grampians was publicised as early as the first decade of the 20th century. It appears to have been
named because of the rounded shape of the pools, and the elevated rocks in the pools that sit above the waterline. Early
postcards show women and children posing near the water's edge in various poses ranging from puritanical to seductive, but it's
unclear to me whether this was ever a women-only bathing area, as I have not come across any evidence suggesting that it was.
The pools are shallow, but the scenery here is wonderful.
Best Swag and Swim in Australia
Here are some of my favourite spots around Australia where you can camp next to a bush swimming hole.
With a party of six people, you have this lakeside campground all to yourself. It's compact, but has the advantage of being both
readily accessible from the city, even by train, but remote enough that most people will never want to walk here. It's about a 3-4 km
walk in from the nearest road, but the last few hundred metres of the track is narrow and overgrown, so you're unlikely to be
disturbed unless someone is deliberately searching for this place. The swim in the lake, with its own diving rock, can be as few as
ten steps from your tent.
I wouldn't classify this as pure bush camping, but it is unpowered and in a bush
setting with native riverside vegetation and thick bush on the opposite bank. At under 30 minutes drive from the centre of Canberra,
with clear water in a wide river, this spot fills up extremely fast on summer weekends. You can't book, but if you can secure your campsite early, it's
only a twenty metre stroll down the hill until you are in the water. There are also several other
deeper swimming holes within easy reach of this spot along the nearby Murrumbidgee River.
When the lake is full, this little roadside spot on the Western Highway in Victoria is a great stopover on any road trip around
the country. The facilities are basic, but the campground is large and close to the water, and far enough away from the highway for
it not to bother you. Depending on where you camp, you can
be in the water in a few seconds to a couple of minutes after leaving your tent. And best of all, it costs almost nothing, with
only a donation recommended to maintain and upgrade the facilities, that are getting better every year.
Comments on My Best Bush Swims
If you have any views on this compilation, feel free to let me know by providing a comment below. Please indicate
whether you consent to your comments being published on the website, remembering that city swims don't count.
© Brad Neal 2018. All rights reserved.