Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon travelled around Australia in search of the country’s most distinctive, remarkable swimming spots. It’s all documented in a new book that’s part travel guide, part photo essay, and part cultural study called Places We Swim.
Another day, another peninsula. South Australia’s shoreline spreads its tendrilled fingers into the Southern Ocean, each swathe of coast offering an entirely different experience. The Fleurieu Peninsula is just south of Adelaide and stood out to us as the most hospitable of the lot, offering a welcome mix of indulgence and wilderness. Popular Maslin and Aldinga beaches mark the northern limits, and to the south the land gets exponentially more dramatic the further you travel. Rolling hills hide small farms and historic towns, not to mention the beloved McLaren Vale wineries. It was a tremendous surprise to us when golden fields abruptly ended at black cliffs. Below, the calm blue waters hardly stirred but for the splash of swimmers and divers at Second Valley.
This is the place that really cemented South Australia as the cliff-jumping capital of the country. To be clear, we are by no means adrenaline junkies and you don’t have to do any jumps to appreciate Second Valley. Kangaroo Island blocks most waves from reaching this coast, so on a windless day the ocean appears to be a glassy lagoon. Perfect for any type of swimmer.
To get here, walk downhill from the Second Valley Caravan Park car park to the jetty (stop at the kiosk for all of your lunch needs). White-sand patches shift around this little bay and a lot of young families stop to play in the shallows. You can do a few low-key jumps from the jetty, and there is good snorkelling off the rocks. To continue to the main swimming hole, walk south beneath the cliffs to the next headland. There is a well-worn path and on a hot day you will be able to hear voices and/or music. It’s a bit of a scramble, but a lot of people do it in thongs (we prefer something more covered to protect our feet when we climb and jump).
We’ve seen this place at different times of the year in all sorts of conditions, but the initial reveal is always priceless. Expansive views extend for kilometres down the coast and the exquisitely clear water beckons below. Sometimes you feel like you are discovering a secret spot, while other days it feel like a schoolies party. You have to climb down to the water and swim across the narrow channel to get to any jumps.
Sit on the rocks and people-watch for a while, noting where to jump from and gauging reactions. There are always some who obviously don’t want to jump and our hearts go out to them as they stand, frozen in terror, while their friends hoot and cheer encouragement. There are various ledges up to about 10 metres, and they all have reasonably safe landings. We don’t stray beyond these, but you will see plenty of heroes flying from much higher up. This is a world-class place and a lot of fun. However, be very careful: we don’t want to read about you in the newspaper.
Best time to visit
November to April (very busy on hot weekends)
How to get there
Follow Main South Road south from Adelaide for about 90 kilometres. Turn right on Finniss Vale Dr and take it all the way to the coast, where it dead-ends at the Second Valley Caravan Park. Walk downhill to the jetty and follow the rough path on the left for about 800 metres, traversing up until you see the cliff cutout and jumping pool below. Descend and swim across to reach the jumps.
Moderate. It’s not a far walk, but you do have to use your hands in places and you can feel a little exposed scrambling around.
Second Valley is the site of some of the state’s best diving and snorkelling. Around the rocky shoreline of this peninsula you may be lucky enough to sight the mysterious leafy seadragon, which looks more like a colourful piece of seaweed or coral than marine life.
Please note this area is not patrolled. Proceed with caution and take a buddy for safety.
Images and copy from Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Hardie Grant Travel, RRP AUD $39.99. Available in stores nationally and online. For more follow Caroline and Dillon on Instagram via @placesweswim.