In 2017 my partner, Dillon, and I spent most of the year driving around the country, exploring the best places to swim for our book, Places We Swim. We found that one of the easiest conversations you can have with a stranger is about their favourite swimming spot. The topic elicits an immediate reaction from people, and brings up fond memories.

For many Sydneysiders – in fact, for most Australians – summer is dedicated to the water. So we asked a few locals where they’ll be swimming over the next couple of months, what summer feels like and what tune they’ll be humming in the water. The answers include a secret rock pool, Frosty Fruits and Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor.

BENJAMIN LAW – AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST
Law writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Guardian. His work includes Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East, the Quarterly Essay on Safe Schools, Moral Panic 101 and The Family Law, which is now an award-winning TV series. The third and final season premieres on SBS on January 12 at 8.30pm. It will make history as Australia’s first TV comedy about gay teens. benjamin-law.com

Where is your favourite place to swim in Sydney in summer?
Where do I even start? Bondi Icebergs is always a spiritual experience, as is Wylie’s Baths in Coogee. Then there’s the cinematic Andrew “Boy” Charlton and North Sydney Olympic Pool. Look, obviously this is a really difficult question given Sydney has the best pools in the world, but today I’ll go with Prince Alfred Park, an architectural marvel and oasis right next to Central Station, which is my local pool and constant go-to. It’s convenient and I bloody love it.

What makes it special?
I love that it’s built into a hill, as if it’s a pool made for hobbits. And that even though it’s right next to the busiest train station in Australia, it’s pristine, quiet, clean and always has room for you to spread your towels and cluster happily with mates.

What does summer in Sydney feel like to you?
It’s saltwater-crusted and sun-scorched skin, fruity ice blocks and waterlogged paperbacks. It’s big hugs from my mates’ kids after they’ve braved the surf, and feeling your muscles relaxing after finally clocking off work for the year.

Post swim dish/drink?
Ice-cream. Messina if you’re fancy, or an ice-burnt Frosty Fruit that’s probably been in the convenience store freezer for years; it doesn’t matter.

What is your 2018/19 summer theme song?
Claws, the new single by Washington.

JESSE MCTAVISH – HEAD CHEF AT NORTH BONDI FISH
At 15, Jesse McTavish started his cooking career at Byron’s Beach Hotel. Over the next 23 years he worked at some of Australia’s most renowned restaurants and cafes, and was co-owner of influential Melbourne eateries Top Paddock and The Kettle Black. His dad was legendary surfboard designer Bob McTavish.

What does summer in Sydney feel like to you?
Sunburns, sand, salty skin, long days and even longer afternoons when the sun stubbornly refuses to set. The whole east coast [of Australia], from Bawley Point to Noosa, feels very similar; it's something about the way the sun hits the ocean and the salty smell of northerlies.

Where do you go to swim?
There is a great rock pool around the corner in North Bondi under the cliffs of Ben Buckler. Past the tourists, past the boat shed, past the surge rock and topless backpackers, and past the fishermen on the point and you’re there.

That sounds tough to get to – any trick to it?
It needs to be low tide and a small swell with ideally north-east winds. Thankfully that’s the standard swell-wind combination in summer. It’s also special because it feels like you’ve escaped Bondi. It’s reminiscent of the rock pools at the north end of Garie Beach [in the Royal National Park] or Iluka Bluff [in Bundjalung National Park]. It happens to be full of urchin and delicious big barnacles (relatives of crabs and lobsters), so they usually accompany me back home.

And you follow your swim with a …?
I can’t ever go past a cold beer – Stone & Wood most of the time – and prawns.

What’s this summer’s theme song?
Gold Soundz by Pavement. The perfect windows-down, beginning-of-a-surf-trip song (yep I’m from that era).

NGAIIRE – MUSICIAN
Papua New Guinea-born Ngaire Laun Joseph, better known by her stage name Ngaiire, grew up in a small city on New Zealand’s North Island before relocating to Australia, and she’s now based just south of Sydney. She’s one of Australia’s most commanding performers and has appeared at Glastonbury Festival and Tasmania’s Mona Foma.

Where is your favourite place to swim?
The Gerringong boat harbour rock pool [Gerringong is 130 kilometres south of Sydney].

What makes it special?
It's the most beautiful rock pool I've ever swum in. I don't work a nine-to-five job so I'm usually there mid week when no one's around. The headland around it reminds me of somewhere in Scotland, and there are usually cows grazing up the top. Sometimes you might see a whale or some dolphins, and the water is always crystal clear and super refreshing. I've been living in Berry the last few years, so it's also nice having to drive only 12 minutes to the ocean rather than sitting in traffic for up to an hour just to get from [Sydney’s] inner west to the eastern suburbs for a swim.

What does summer in Sydney feel like to you?
I love when it gets super muggy. I'm like a pig in shit when temperatures start pushing into the thirties and I have to hike my skirt up and tuck it into my undies. It's the closest I'll ever come to being back in Papua New Guinea.

Sydney summers feel romantic and dirty at the same time. [It takes me back] to festival season when I was a single musician running around kissing boys and drinking too much off the rider. It basically makes me want to bathe in rosè and have a sweaty love affair.

So rosè is your drink of choice after a swim?
Sparkling rosè. The Charles De France Blanc De Noirs brut rosè is my favourite right now. They stock it at my local bottle-o, Justin Lill Wines in Berry, which is, in my opinion, the best little wine shop in Australia. Anything you buy from Justin is standout because he meticulously tries and sources every single bottle he sells.

What’s your theme song is season?
PJ Morton’s Feel Like Making Love.

NIKKI CAMPBELL – DIRECTOR, SIR THE LABEL
Established in Bondi in 2014 by friends Nikki Campbell and Sophie Coote, the linen label has had an impressive trajectory. After starting as an Instagram-only capsule, it was picked up by Barneys New York and is now a fully-fledged success story with a full range.

Where is your favourite place to swim in Sydney in summer?
North Bondi rocks – it’s the best place to swim in Bondi. We have spent all of our summers there; it feels like home. We perch up there until sunset some days. You can jump off the rocks and look back at Bondi, it’s always a lot quieter than the beach.

Are you a summer fan?
Summer in Sydney is the best place in the world; everyone is out and about and in a good mood. It’s all about those late-evening and early-morning dips; lots of seafood and rosè; amazing times with friends and family.

Where do you go for a snack after your swim?
Raw Bar [in Bondi]. We spend far too many summer afternoons that roll into evenings there. They have the best cocktails and fresh Japanese food.

What will you be singing along to this summer?
Murder on the Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis-Bextor. An oldie, but it has made a comeback for us this summer. It was definitely the theme song to the Sir Christmas party this year.

MARTIN PALFREY – AGE MANAGER, BRONTE SURF CLUB NIPPERS
A self-employed plumber, Palfrey has been a Waverley resident since 1987 and is an age manager at Bronte SLSC Nippers, a beach-safety program run for children aged five to 14. Palfrey currently looks after the under-six girls and has been a program volunteer for 25 years.

Where’s your number-one spot to swim?
Bronte, because l know it so well – especially around the reef. I like to body surf on the reef and always wear goggles. There’s a flat rock ledge out from the Bogey Hole where l can easily catch a wave when the tide is right, away from the board riders, which is pretty rare in Sydney.

What makes it so special?
There is always something to see. There’s lots of blackfish, [and] every couple of weeks l see blue or grey grouper. Once l saw a giant manta ray and last summer on the reef l swam over a shark about as big as me. I was heading north and it was heading south in about three metres of water. We eyeballed each other and to my relief it kept going.

Tells us about Nippers.
The highlight of my week in summer is doing Nippers with the under-six girls at Bronte beach. I began with the under-sixes about 15 years ago, so some of those kids are now adults. All nippers start as five-year-olds and it’s my job, along with my assistant Kirsty, to make the events a lot of fun and at the same time get the girls to become proficient around saltwater and the waves. Bronte is one of Sydney’s more dangerous beaches, being quite narrow and rough, with an ever-present strong rip.

Post-swim tipple?
I like to compete in the local ocean swims with a pile of mates through the summer, and we always celebrate with a few beers at the presentation clubhouse. So far this season we’ve had post-swim drinks at Balmain, Coogee, Bronte and Bondi. I also like the longer swims, having done 14 Bondi to Watson’s Bay races.

Summer theme song?
Men at Work or Paul Kelly; something to hum during the long swims in our beautiful ocean.

Caroline Clements is the co-author of Places We Swim, a book about the best places to swim in Australia.

Read the 2017 version of Where Sydney Swims.